July 5, 2008

How to better your chances of getting results from City Hall

We get lots of complaints from readers about the lackluster response, if any, they receive from city hall and the Sheriff's. So we thought we would create a guide for the first time city hall "contacter". These are simple rules and if followed might get you somewhere. No guarantees but it sure will help when you use these rules and later follow up at a city council meeting on the staff's lack of response.

1. It is good to have a conversation with the city first about the issue. Try to be knowledgeable about the codes on line first before you call (if applicable) and make sure you talk to the right person and get their direct extension and full name (make sure the spelling is right).

2. Feel free to use the city's on line contact form here but beware...you have no way to track it from that system and it seems very unreliable. Many users have complained to LAAG that their so called "e" complaints "got lost".

3. If you want to use that system fine but we suggest either faxing in a letter with a summary of the conversation/complaint with the city employee after the call. The city's fax is (562)866-0505. Also if you have email use that. Get the full name and email of the person you contacted. Check the spelling. Also get the full name of the dept. head and cc them as well. Then also cc at least one council person and "service1@lakewoodcity.org" as that will make sure the request gets logged into their system via the general email system. I think all the on line complaint forms go to that address.

4. if you do not follow up the call promptly in writing I can pretty much guarantee that your "phone conversation" will be conveniently forgotten within 15 minutes as well as any responsibility of the city to follow up. You will also have no "proof" you ever made a complaint or what it was.

5. All these rules also apply doubly with the Sheriff's Department as they are even worse than city employees as far as follow up. All complaints to them must also be cc'd to the city safety people in charge of LASD so there is at least some political pressure for them to respond or take action.

6. LAAG can help route your request to the right people. Make sure you cc LAAG in your email by typing "Lakewood Accountability Action Group" updates@laag.us in the "cc" or "to" line so that we can see the request and track the city's response or lack thereof (or lack of timeliness) with you as well. Email also helps by adding a date to the request for tracking. Also use a descriptive subject and add phone numbers and property addresses at issue. Add in the same info as you used on the Lakewood service form.

7. Always keep in mind that the less you contact city hall the happier they are. They get paid whether working on your problem or not. So quite frankly there is a lot of incentive to "loose" or ignore your request or to pacify you with some sort of a "don't bother us we are busy" type of "lip service" response, while of course being courteous. It is called the polite city brush off. Most who have dealt with the city know what I am taking about. They are also really good at not following through on anything that requires effort, thought or making people follow the law.

The main thing to remember is that city council people want to get re-elected. If they make city employees go out and enforce laws they will be unpopular and not get reelected. They don't care about the complainers just the people that get complained against.

This is why Lakewood does not enforce any codes at all. It is a so called "complaint driven system" which is unlike many "normal" cities who do things like actually enforce parking laws without resident complaints. But that is another story.

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Lakewood, CA
A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™

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