Something’s gone wrong. Let’s say your email is down for the tenth time this month, or the morning paper failed to arrive for the seventh day in a row.
So you make a call and go through the punishing, mind-numbing, soul-zapping, head-splitting process known as the phone tree. And the phone robot says those irritatingly disingenuous words--“OK” and “got it” and “hmmm, I didn’t catch that”--in hopes you’ll vent all your frustration to a machine.
But, no, you’re going to keep your own counsel. You’re going to wait until you reach a real live person, someone of flesh and blood, no matter how long it takes.
Finally, your persistence is rewarded; you’ve clawed your way up to the live-operator queue. A queue with long hold times and looping music that has no beginning and no end.
Then at last a human being comes on the line. “Hello, my name is Matt,” he says. But you’re pretty sure his name isn’t really Matt. Because Matt has a tinny voice, a voice compressed into digital packets to make its way across the ocean to your living room at the least possible expense to the company. In other words, not only is Matt located overseas, he sounds likes he’s talking from the bottom of the ocean.
Welcome to outsourcing. It’s an old story by now. We’re accustomed to pouring out our tales of woe to someone far, far away. And we know the drill; Matt will attempt to solve the problem; Matt can’t solve the problem. We just bide our time until we can ditch Matt and escalate the matter to the Holy Grail–someone local.
I have learned to live with this when it involves personal services such as cable, phones, and the like.
But I’m not so forgiving when it comes to outsourcing our local government.
Which Local Governments?
Today, Tuesday, our County Board of Supervisors is discussing which 22 cities they are each going to represent in the future. They’re going to cut the cake. As to how Altadena is sliced or on whose plate it falls, I can’t see that it makes much difference.
Our current rep, County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, has been a nice enough fellow. He’s an animal lover, and, as I understand it, likes the great outdoors. And when we get a big enough group together, scream loud and hard enough, he hears our voice above those of his other 2 million or so constituents, from time to time.
But face it. The guy has a lot on his mind. Altadena is not the only fish in his sea–he supervises a huge geographical area.
And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Our supervisor, whichever one we end up with, will probably neither live nor work here in Altadena.
Which means, whoever is in charge will not personally understand what it is we need. Additional four-way stops on our wonky streets, for example. Clean up at vacant houses and lots. An . He or she will likely not be a guru who can wade through codes and zoning laws, allowing a couple of community-building projects–like a Farmer’s Market on Mariposa Street or a block party.
If Antonovich, for example, had lived here, maybe he would have asked what’s up with that . Or why fees from film companies filming in Altadena do not go towards Altadena improvements. Or why we couldn’t .
Perhaps, if he had lived in Altadena, he would have questioned whether Altadena is carrying more than its fair share of "group homes,” and, when early release programs are put in place at California prisons, will Altadena have even more.
Maybe if we had a local government that was, you know, local, the powers-that-be would have intimate knowledge of our town, our desires and aspirations; have a vested interest in making Altadena, not less than what it is, but more of what it can be.
I don't know, I just don't know. Because we’re all on hold, with that looping music; the same old song.