The service SeeClickFix was supposed to make it easier for people to report potholes, graffiti and other issues to the city of Raleigh. Mission accomplished: As many as 100 people per day are using smartphones to tag problems.
However, there has been more seeing and clicking than fixing. Raleigh has a backlog of roughly 2,000 unresolved SeeClickFix reports on the service’s website.
The city pays $16,000 a year for its use of the Internet service and is trying to speed up response times.
In some cases, a complaint might sit for months without resolution or explanation. Some people, unsurprisingly, have taken to SeeClickFix to ask for a fix to SeeClickFix.
“The City of Raleigh has decided NOT to dedicate sufficient resources,” to the program, one post reads. Eleven people voted their agreement.
The trouble, according to chief of staff Lou Buonpane, is that the city hasn’t had the right staffing in the last half-year to keep up with the service. (The town of Cary has also had problems with the site, even encountering an impostor of itself.)
“Once you put that up there, people come to expect to use it,” Buonpane said.
Previously, someone in the city manager’s office had to review every one of those thousands of monthly issues, routing them to the proper department.
Assistant manager Dan Howe had been running the program, and when he left, the city really started to lag on SeeClickFix, which it has used since 2011, Buonpane said.
The service now lists more than 2,000 “open” posts about Raleigh, meaning they haven’t had a definitive answer, dating as far back as 2013.
One man wrote to Raleigh City Council members that, initially, “the response was very quick,” but has slowed significantly.
In many cases, the city acknowledges the post and promises to return with an update but never does.
However, there are some mitigating factors. Not every post on the system is really the type of problem the city would fix. Users can also inflate the count by re-opening closed issues. In some cases, the city has fixed the issue, but not marked the complaint as complete.
Change is coming
The city is in the middle of a plan to catch up with its complaints.
Early in December, the city hired three new staffers to the City Council’s office. They’ll act as liaisons between residents, council and city staff – and that includes SeeClickFix.
The jobs were created from vacant positions, two in the council office and one transferred from another department, Buonpane said.
Secondly, the city has connected SeeClickFix to its internal work-order system, allowing complaints about parks, for example, to go straight to parks staff. Lastly, the city has asked SeeClickFix itself for help.
The city hasn’t set a goal for how quickly it should respond to SeeClickFix complaints, but Buonpane expects significant improvements within six weeks.
At its best, he said, the service is a way to “put more eyes out there.”
“Somebody with a smartphone can take a picture of graffiti and send that into SeeClickFix,” he said.
Still, he noted, anyone having trouble with the system always has another option: Pick up the phone or type out an email.
“People are frustrated, yes, but at the same time, it’s not the only way,” he said. “Before 2011, we resolved the same issues every day.”