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What We Got Here Is a Failure to Communicate!

Strother Martin's word never rang quite as true as they do in Geneva.

Communication! It’s what we’re all about!

We may not manufacture anything any more, but we sure as heck know how to facilitate communication. There are smart phones, instant messaging, email, texting, Twitter, robo-calls, blogs, Facebook, YouTube, and let’s not forget that tried and true traditional land line.

For better or (mostly) worse, our stream of consciousness can now literally move at the speed of light. If you’re not connected 24/7, then you’re nobody.

Unless, of course, if you’re the city of Geneva. Their motto is, “Don’t worry your pretty little head—we’ll tell you everything you need to know. Isn’t life better that way?”

Because whether it’s straying methane, , or the real reason for , the the folks headquartered at First Street firmly believe that knowledge is power, and they aren’t about to share it.

What they don’t know won’t hurt them.

The only reason we got wind of those fascinating tidbits is the aforementioned information superhighway makes it very difficult to keep anything a secret. Just ask all those former Arab despots how well it worked out for them.

To be fair, the city, specifically City Manager Mary McKittrick, did provide somewhat of a power outage play by play on Twitter, but that specific medium is fraught with all kinds of peril.

For example, when I discussed this lack of communication with my favorite alderman, Ron Singer (sorry Craig), he referred me to “The Tweeter.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making fun of Ron—I like that appellation so much I’m gonna use it from now on—but with our median age sitting at 36, there’s bound to be a plethora of older folks who think Twitter is the sound a sparrow makes.

Not only that, but it tends to be difficult to access a social media website when your power’s out. Yes! I know! You can get tweets via text message, but only 46 percent of Genevans have the required smart phone and the other 54 percent probably think those devices are something that sasses you back.

And call me curmudgeonly, but as scintillating as McKittrick’s power outage conversation can be, I’m not willing to pay the going rate just to get those texts. While some folks might acquiesce to their teenagers’ demands for unlimited texting, I ain’t one of them.

While I’ll give Ms. McKittrick some credit for attempting to keep us informed, her first tweet didn’t come until 2.5 hours into the last blackout, by which time the police were well on their way to fielding 3,600 calls.

Considering the challenges a long-term power outage presents, the last thing the needs to be doing is taking a boatload of calls.

One alternative I suggested in an ongoing Patch commentary was to have a couple of on-call Public Works Department managers come in and field the inevitable calls on the rare occasion we’re off the grid for more than an hour.

Of course, our suddenly fiscally conservative mayor’s City Council response was to say we can’t afford pay the additional cost!

Pay??!!

Puhhhllleeeeaaasssse! The Wall Street Journal recently noted that the average private-sector professional now works at least 50 hours a week. So, you know what? When they’re too busy not stealing from us, perhaps a couple of those six-figure (pay and benefits), salaried, non-union public works managers could manage to get their butts into the office and field some phone calls.

God forbid we should have to resort to something that drastic, and thankfully, we don’t.

One alderman noted that whenever Downer’s Grove embarks upon something as simple as mosquito abatement, they inform their citizenry via robocall. If every politician on the planet can manage to issue those heinous automated commentaries, then the city of Geneva can do it to.

An even easier option—and one that I understand we’ll soon be undertaking—is to regularly update a recorded telephone message. If they have time to use Twitter, then they have time to do that too.

After all of this is said and done, to this date, no one from the city has made any public proclamation as to why we west siders are suddenly enduring three-plus hour power outages. They’d rather—literally—keep us in the dark.

Alderman Rich Marks told me the last one was the result of a feeder line problem, which really doesn’t really explain anything and only means it’s gonna happen again. We all know ComEd has no incentive to improve their infrastructure as evidenced by the facts that the first outage occurred well after the storm had passed, and the second one hit 10 minutes before the storm.

And if it is ComEd that’s screwing things up, then why not give ‘em what for right here on Patch? If our generally hyper-communicative mayor had time to run the city while blogging about his county chair campaign, then he could make even more political hay by letting the rest of us in on exactly what he’s doing to get us better electrical service.

But no! Rather than take the direct approach and nip citizen frustration in the bud with a simple step, they’d rather wait until everyone explodes during the next major outage so they can then swap stories about how unreasonable we all really are.

Perhaps our city motto outghtta be “Why make it simple when making it difficult is so much more fun!”

They could even put it out on The Tweeter.

Beth Bales August 13, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Leave it to me to pick the most important part! I'm curious as to why you're against unlimited texting. It's probably because today is the unofficial anniversary in our house of the foray into unlimited texting. I know this only because the middle kid called as we were moving Daughter No. 1 into her dorm at ISU sophomore year. No, I couldn't discuss unlimited texting with my arms full of boxes. Today, five years later, is the day we move daughter No. 3 into her dorm at ISU for her sophomore year. Gone are the days of having to police who was using how many texts under the then-limited text plan. I grant you, my kids were than 14, 17 and 19. I don't know how old your kids are, though I know they're younger. It just seems that it would be, say, forward-thinking of you.
Chad Baker August 13, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Jeff –great article. I sent an email to Dan Dinges, Mary McKittrick, Ron Singer, & Dorothy Flanagan asking many of the same questions you are asking the day after the power outage. I received no response. I only seem to ever receive a response when I ask “acceptable” or “comfortable” questions.
Jeff Ward August 13, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Beth, I think that's a great question! Remember my column on the school bus stop habits of high and middle schoolers? If you recall, the high school bus stop is at our corner and every weekday morning it consists of a group of about 15 kids who, for the most part, don't even acknowledge each others presence. Instead, they all have their cell phones thrust directly in front of them as they receive or issue texts. I want to scream, "Talk to the fricken' real person right next to you!" Thus, like all things in life, I think texting is fine in moderation. Jeff
Jeff Ward August 13, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Chad, It's baffling. But you're dead on! They don't want to discuss anything that they think reflects poorly on them or the city. Jeff
Beth Bales August 13, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Jeff -- I think a lot of that is the age. The time I'm returning from Sunset in the morning is generally high school bus pickup time and I pass a couple of stops. In 15-plus or 20 years, I'm pretty sure I have seen kids conversing with each other very, very rarely. On one stop the two or three kids stand like soldiers, staring straight ahead. One girl always is listening to her iPod. Our driveway is a middle school stop (well, I'm sure the intersection is, but the driveway is right there and that's where they all stand). No one talks. No one. Last year, they didn't even talk to me when I invited them all to stand in the garage in the pouring rain. Not sure texting is to blame, though I share your annoyance with a trend of not talking to the person you're with in favor of "talking" to someone you're not. So rude. Go out to dinner and watch adults do this...
Jeff Ward August 13, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Beth, You may be right about the age thing, but it still drives me nuts. Thankfully, my high schooler has no interest in texting. As far as adults behaving that way in restaurants, there are time I almost had to call you for bail money. Jeff
Cora August 14, 2012 at 10:25 PM
You need to go away, far away. You really know how to ruin a good thing...aka The Patch. Heard you're looking for a job. I can see you with a headset on in a number of customer service call centers. I mean, you have the answer for EVERYTHING.

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