Butkovitz, Negrin disagree on 311 merits
City Controller Alan Butkovitz thinks the 311 city services system is a worthless “PR stunt.” The city managing director says that assertion isn’t true.
Call 311 to ask for city services and you get treated to a taped spiel from Mayor Michael Nutter, Butkovitz told members of the Frankford Civic Association Oct. 4.
“But nobody gets any service,” Butkovitz told the association’s members during their meeting in Aria Health’s Frankford campus. “It just doesn’t work.”
The system, which originated in Nutter’s first term, is supposed to drive non-emergency calls away from the 911 police emergency system, the controller said. It doesn’t, Butkovitz said, adding 911 calls have decreased just 1.4 percent since 311 started up
The 311 system is supposed to make the city accessible, the controller said, but it closes at 8 p.m. and there is no staff on weekends..
“That’s insane,” he said.
City Managing Director Richard Negrin said he’s familiar with the controller’s comments.
“He’s beating the same drum he has been,” Negrin said in an interview Oct. 10. “He hasn’t liked 311 from the beginning.”
It’s true 311’s live staffing ends at 8 p.m. and there is no staff on weekends, Negrin said, but budget cuts forced that to happen. He added that 311 was 24/7 when it began operating a little more than three years ago.
The system went to its current operating hours in April 2009, said Rosetta Lue, 311 control center director.
During emergencies, 311 is staffed past 8 p.m. and on weekends, Negrin said.
Negrin said people can leave messages or contact 311 online. Besides, he said, the real measurement of 311’s success is the satisfaction of callers.
Lue said a third party, the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation, measures the satisfaction rate.
It’s “well north of ninety percent,” Negrin said.
The managing director is proud of a new smartphone app that’s been available for about a month that allows callers to connect with 311 and even send photos of the problems they’re reporting.
A caller can send in a photo of graffiti, he said, and in two days, it will be cleaned away.
“It’s City Hall in your hands,” Negrin said.
But on Oct. 4, the controller, who also is the Democratic leader of Oxford Circle’s 54th Ward, and aide Bill Rubin told the Frankford association’s members they can call his office for help at 215-686-8888.
“You can think of us as a resource,” he said.
Board member Rose Zimmerman responded immediately with a request. Association members had complained over the past two years about a sidewalk flea market they said had been operating illegally on the 4100 and 4200 blocks of Torresdale Ave., she said. The vendors were causing traffic and sanitation problems, and the city had chased them away within the past year.
“They were told to leave, but they’re starting to sneak back,” Zimmerman said.
Rubin took the information and said he would check it out.
“He thinks he has a say in constituent services, but he doesn’t,” Negrin said of Butkovitz.
The association also heard from a local entrepreneur who wants to expand his business.
Bassam Salaheldein operates Millennium, a limo service on the 4600 block of Darrah St. He wants a zoning variance so he can repair cars and do body work for the general public, not just his own business, and he asked association members to support his variance application. The business’ property includes a small garage and a large paved lot.
Association president Pete Specos said he had believed Salaheldein needed a variance to repair cars from his limo fleet, not anyone else’s. Nothing on the businessman’s variance application says anything about offering repair service to the general public, he said.
Salaheldein’s attorney, Jack Bernard, said the application had been amended, but he didn’t have a copy with him at the civic meeting.
Bernard said his client has operated a successful business on Darrah Street since 2007 and will create jobs if he is permitted to expand.
Since the applicant is not scheduled to go before the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment until Nov. 16, civic association board member Al Rose suggested that Salaheldein return at the civic group’s next meeting, Nov. 1, so members can review his amended application.That November meeting begins at 7 p.m. in Aria Health’s Frankford campus conference room, 4900 Frankford Ave. ••