Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bloomberg gives Atlanta $3.4 million to fund 311 system, curb panhandling

Posted By on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 at 12:02 PM

For years, Atlanta's 911 center has been burdened with non-emergency calls that clog the system — Stupid calls like people asking the time or complaining about potholes. And the city's efforts to address homelessness and panhandling problem — which at one time was combated with pay meters (!) — have struggled.

The city just received a little help addressing the two issues. The Associated Press reports that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's philanthropy foundation has awarded $24 million to Atlanta and five other cities to develop certain city-specific projects. And a long-overdue 311 system is on Mayor Kasim Reed's list. Via the AP: Â

... The money will pay the salaries of teams operating outside of city governments, who will help cities carry out and manage their plans with set goals to measure success. The project will also identify groups of cities interested in working together on particular issues to share best practices.

Each city chose two initiatives and will have three years to tackle them. Reed said Atlanta will use its $3.4 million to create a 311 phone system to improve customer service and to address homelessness and panhandling.

"After we really faced the challenges of getting our fiscal house in order, I wanted to focus on issues that have to do with the quality of life and how people think and feel and experience the city," Reed said in a telephone interview.

Ernie Suggs quotes the mayor as saying the 311 system's timeline will depend on the person tasked with running the service. A 311 system has been on Atlanta's to-do list for a while now. According to an article last year, the city set aside $500,000 to develop a hotline to handle specific non-emergencies. We're sending some emails to see how much that cash accomplished, if it was allocated at all.

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