Monday, February 22, 2010

The Kathy and Dave Show

Round One of the latest dispute over the 9-1-1 dispatch center goes to Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas issued a temporary restraining order late last week, that prevents County Executive Kathleen Falk from implementing a phone-tree system for non-emergency calls.

It’s the most public spat the two elected officials have ever had, in a relationship almost always characterized by genuine friendship and a work-together-for-the-common-good ethic.

If you’re not following closely, Falk wants to charge Madison taxpayers about 30 grand a year to continue dispatching calls about parking violations. Mayor Dave says the ultimate decision on that rests with the Public Safety (9-1-1) Board, which has already voted to delay implementation of the charge. Not that Cieslewicz disagrees with the concept; he says in essence you can’t just spring this change on the city and wants more than a week’s notice. The judge agreed.

Cieslewicz says the flap should be sorted out by the 9-1-1 Board and the County Board; Falk thinks she’s got the juice to “just do it”, saying the idea was approved in a consultant’s report long ago.

And, just so you know, the status quo has been in effect for over two decades: the 9-1-1 Center dispatches City of Madison parking complaint calls. Cieslewicz says the city and county need to work together on a 3-1-1 system for non-emergency calls. He wants it up and running in 2 to 3 years.

Well, Amen to THAT!

People call 9-1-1 for the most stupid and inappropriate reasons. When does deer hunting season start? Who do I talk to about getting a building permit for a new porch? Who won the hockey game at the Kohl Center tonight? Where can I go to get a good hamburger?

Think I’m making this stuff up? Ask any dispatcher about some of the wacky calls they get on every shift, from people who apparently have confused the 9-1-1 emergency call center with some sort of telephonic Google.

I’ve got an audio file from a friend in St. Louis of a call to the 9-1-1 center from some woman asking where she could find out what shade of lipstick a local TV anchor was wearing that night.

I’m not so sure that if Dane County manages to get a 3-1-1 center up and running that the number of idiotic calls to 9-1-1 will decrease one bit. There are a lot of really stupid people out there.

As to where our story stands now, Mayor Cieslewicz says if County Exec Falk is willing to settle the dispute outside of the court system, he is, too.

It’s a start. But I suspect a few more lawyers will be running a lot of billable hours over this spat in the next few weeks.

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