EDITORIAL – By Joanne Lewis
Say the word government, and it immediately evokes negative connotations – corruption, unaccountability, waste of tax dollars. We see it every day all around the Government Center – frustrated individuals who know what they need to do, but find it impossible to find out where they should go or who to talk to in order to achieve it. Finding a government worker to point you in the right direction may involve standing in line for hours, only to find out you are in the wrong line and the person at the end of it does not even have the information you need. It is easy to see government bureacracy as a source of endless frustration designed to infuriate any innocent member of the public who dares to hope they can complete their neccessary business in a simple and timely manner. It should not require a day off work to file a document or get an answer to a simple question, but it can if you are unsure about how to proceed. The information the public needs is out there though, you just need to know where to look and who to ask. The various governments of Los Angeles offer innumerable services and programs that are designed to help the public, to give you the service and assistance that you need and deserve – as a taxpayer you have already paid for them – why not use them?
The most pertinent source of public frustration with the government that we witness here is a lack of information. County’s 2-1-1 tollfree, 24 hour a day, seven days a week information lines. The operators are trained to provide you with any information you require and to transfer you to the place you need, in English and in Spanish. One quick and free phone call before you leave could save you hours of frustration and confusion at the Government Center.
I hope this issue of The Government Center Gazette highlights many of the positive services provided by the government. If you are stranded on the freeway place a call to them and help will be on its way. They provide government workers and the public with the vital service of high quality and affordable child care. Van Nuys Public Library is now open longer. The library is a wonderful and I feel underappreciated service to the public. As a member of the Library, if there are any materials you want that are not in stock they will order it in from another branch for you for free. Their website, www.lapl.org allows you access to the library’s entire catalog, and now has over 400 audiobooks you can download for free. Did you know that if you are a teacher you can check out up to 50 items at once?
Government workers are not to be maligned. They have chosen to work in the field of public service over private industry in order to help our community run smoothly. They are not perfect and everything does not neccessarily run as well as the public demand, but they do their best. Do not forget that police, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters, and paramedics are all government workers who risk their own lives daily in service to the public and they deserve our respect and gratitude.
Many people of all professions dedicate time as volunteers to offer public services. Through the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, many lawyers, paralegals, law students and lay people volunteer their time to help in the administation of justice, helping the public to navigate the complicated legal system through Self Help Legal Access Centers. Many people who would not otherwise be able to obtain legal advice are helped by these dedicated volunteers.
The government has many many faults and flaws when it comes to serving the public, and there are just as many opinions on how it needs to improve. It can not and will not, however, improve if the public simply complains about what needs to be done without actually doing anything about it. Take advantage of what the government does offer us – use the library, use the telephone service centers, use the internet and wealth of information on government web pages. If you still don’t find what you need, or don’t like what you find, do something about it. Ask Government George, or write a letter to the editor and have your voice heard. Vote. Volunteer. Participate actively in your government and become a part of the solution and just maybe you will be a part of changing things for the better.