Saturday, October 21, 2017

Baltimore City Government Services: A Comedy of Errors

I don't publish in this blog as much as I could, but frankly I think I am becoming immune to the bullshit of life that you have in Baltimore, Maryland.

However, three events in the past three days, ALL, interconnected seem to be the perfect example of the inefficiencies and absurdities of life in this place I have to call home for about the next 15 years.

First some background.  Usually, garbage pick up in this city is second to none.  So is recycling. For that, they get an A+++++++++.  They do it right and it always gets done.

But neighborhood departments do not work well with one and other and they seem to have always had this problem.  I have reviewed some historical papers regarding the street maintenance and drains departments that show that the two work, not in cooperation, but against one and other.

The other two things you need to know is that we are supposed to have our streets swept on a once a month schedule, AND, this is done to keep street crap from flowing into the Chesapeake Bay.

So we "usually" get our streets swept on the third Thursday of month, March through November when the machines will work and their is no ice or snow and the water they clean down the streets won't freeze.

So this past week, this happens:

WEDNESDAY - It's the third Wednesday of the month.  The street cleaning machine comes down our street once on the south side.  Then it goes back up the street on the south side.  Then up and down the same side three or four times, going back and fourth several times, backing up, moving forward on the block to west, but never getting to the north side of the street.

So at 5pm, I call 311, Mayor's Action Line, and ask what is going on.

ME: What exact day of the week is the street supposed to be swept?
OPERATOR: I don't have that information, but we would like all residents to move their cars on the day of the street sweeping.
ME: That's great, what day do we move our cars?
OPERATOR  I don't have that information, but we would like all residents to move their cars on the day of the street sweeping.
ME: How do we know when when to move our cars if the city doesn't post signs or you have no idea of the schedule?
OPERATOR: Well, if you would allow me to finish, we don't post signs, but we ask that all residents move their cars so the street can be swept.
OPERATOR: Have I answered your question?
ME: No, You still haven't told me what day of the month the street is to be swept.
OPERATOR: I don't have that information, but we would like all residents to move their cars on the day of the street sweeping. AND REPEAT...

So the operator files TWO reports.

Report ONE: Asks that the street on the north side be swept.  "That will happen within 30 days."
Report TWO: Asks that the street drain - don't use the phrase "catch basin" because they have no idea what language it is or what it means - at the corner be cleaned.  Same 30 day promise.

That was at 5PM.

At 5:42PM, the street sweeper appears and cleans the street, after everyone has moved their cars back into curbside parking.   So the street can't be swept.  But they have fulfilled their obligation to sweep the street, even though its after logical, sensible business hours.   But the street drains are still full of crap.

THURSDAY: A crew in a orange truck shows up.  They hook up a hose to a fire hydrant, get out their brooms and proceeds to sweep and wash all of the leaves and street crap that the machine missed down into the storm drains.

That's right, they move all of the crap that the street sweeper is supposed to have swept into its bin to keep it out of the bay into the storm drains where we, the residents, have been told not to dump anything.

I call the city and ask "What the hey?" 

Well, I am told, they are cleaning the streets per your call.

Well, I tell them, they are doing it incorrectly.

Well, I am told "Our professionals follow protocol."

Well, I say to myself, fuck me!


A BLUE truck shows up in the morning and six guys hop out of the crew cab and they look down the drains.  I approach.  What's up guys.

They ask, do you live here and I explain that I live in the neighborhood. 

Well, they tell me, residents must not fill the drains with leaves and street debris.  Now they have to send for a sewer vacuum to clean out the street drain, which is clogged up with stuff that could flow into the bay.

Well, I explain, that a city truck was here yesterday, not the residents, and this is what happened...

The gentleman looks at me and says "They shouldn't have done that."

No shit.

SO NOW a fourth truck and crew will have to come out to suck that crap out of the city drains because guy No. 1 didn't do his job, crew No. 2 didn't do their job correctly, meaning crew No 3. couldn't do their job at all.

So evidently, this is why things are so fucked up when one simple thing should have taken care of everything.

Inefficiency. THIS is what I hate about Baltimore.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Rude ass people

So the other day - and yes, I am posting to this rotting corpse of a blog for the first time in a year and a half - I am in the local Eddie's picking up some stuff for dinner and there is a line of people at the register.  Normally, Eddies never makes you wait more than a person or two, but today, it was busy, and early.

One of the cashiers was told to close her line for a break and she did, but as she walked past the longer line, she came upon the older white man in front of me who was buying a USAToday.  Now there were about four people in front of him, so she very nicely, very gently tried to him:

Cashier: Excuse me sir, but I can ring you through on my register.
Man: (gives her a dirty look)
Cashier: "I would be happy to ring that up for you."
Man: "Get away.  Leave me alone."
Cashier, to me: "Can I help you on my register?"
Me: "Sure. Thank you."

Out in the parking lot, Mr. Crabass was getting into his big old ugly Cadillac, going on his ugly ass way, opposite of my direction.

The point is that she was trying her best to help the guy.  Instead of saying "no thank you," it was "Get away," and "leave me alone."

I understand that you are going to find crabby people, anywhere.

People wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

People may have had a bad morning.

People can have a lot on their minds.

People can even dislike people.

But being an asshole to someone who is trying to help you, its just rude.

Down right rude.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

This man in an Audi parked at Graul's in Ruxton

So I know that it's been awhile, but stuff has been going on, you know?

So now I have the time to revisit this issue about What I Hate About Baltimore.

And today's rant is this guy in an Audi - a ridiculously expensive Audi, parked at Graul's in Ruxton.

Now, I love me some Graul's - sometimes you need a market that can pamper you, and it's all that.

But I pulled into its lot the other day and parked my car in one of their parallel spaces.  Now I am an expert parker when it comes to parallel spaces.  I had two great teachers of parallel parking.  The first is my father, who ran me through the deal every time he took me to his office in downtown Cleveland.  Walked me through the alignment, the wheel cutting, everything.

My second teacher was the city of Washington, D.C.  Folks, parking in DC is sink or swim.  You have to be good at it.  And I got very good at it.

So I get out of my car and it is 6" from the curb.  The people in back and front each have three to four feet from the back of my bumper to the front of there's.  I am equidistant from each of my bumpers to the forward aft lines of my spot.

The the driver of the Audi behind me opens up his door and tells me to move my car forward because I have boxed him in.

So I look.

The man has over three feet between my bumper and his in the front, and about four feet between the tail of his car and the bumper of the suspiciously macho Ford 250 truck behind him.   So I point this out.

He gives me a dirty "Nevermind," and a blow off wave, backs up, cuts his wheels, and pulls out, and drives away, slipping me the finger.

Now, had I pulled up those few inches, because he was "boxed in", then I would have boxed the car in front of me in.   This would have also set me up to be boxed in in the rear because drivers in Baltimore seldom park within the lines.

And the more I thought about it, the more reasons I came up as to why this guy wanted me to move my car for his convenience:

1) He was planning on using the space I took to pull forward when he was good and ready.
2) He was too lazy to turn his head and look to see how much space he had.

And my favorite:  "This is Ruxton, and you are making my life inconvenient."

I think the last reason is it.

Still, it speaks to larger problem.  These idiots who go out and buy these obscenely expensive cars, with all these parking assists - like active backing assists that sound alarms when you get too close to a bumper or object behind you, or the satellite parking assists that park your car for you because you never did figure out how to parallel park like you should of.   Never mind that we have necks that allow us to turn our heads except in cases where we have a legitimate injury of condition.

Now had I parked wrong, if I had parked sloppily. Had I parked in such a way, even, that I would have damaged his vehicle, then yes.  I should move my car and fix the parking as not to inconvenience others.

But I was perfect in my space.

This guy's only problem was that he has too much money and is too lazy to drive his own car.   To fix that, the jerk wanted me to put myself out.

And that is what I hate about Baltimore - people are lousy at parking, and lazy about getting out of their own spaces.

Monday, January 26, 2015

White death, part XII

People, this is their idea of certain white death.

Well, here I sit, alone in my house with the dogs on a planned day off, and wouldn't you know it but Baltimore is under siege, again, with Winter Storm Janis.  Janis is bearing down on us, dropping three or maybe four inches of snow.  And WHITE DEATH is upon us, AGAIN, as if it were the first time we have had snow this season.

C'mon, people - grow some balls, already.

It is January 26th, and we are one week until Groundhog Day, but the feeble minded people Baltimore are acting as if Stephen King has scripted another Storm of the Century.  And I can hear them now, worried that Andre Linoge has arrived and wants to claim someone's child in order for the snow to stop!

"Sweet Merciful Jesus, what we going to now?"

We were supposed to get walloped on Saturday.  Then they said Friday.  Then they said Friday really bad.  THEN they added in Sunday.

So the people who didn't get that extra gallon of milk on Friday are jamming the stores today, clearing the shelves of everything from Maypo to capers preparing for the BIG dig out.

Even our councilman, Bill Henry (who is the biggest jerk-off in a city of jerk-off's) sent out a missive about keeping walks clean for the postman, with a warning that if we fail to clear the walks within THREE HOURS of the snow we will be FINED!  Because God forbid that postmen who tramp through our snow covered yards care about the walks.

Hells Bells, even the Baltimore public school system went into today on a two hour delay (when we had no snow) and have already decided that they are releasing at least an hour early, when we might have two inches of snow?

Meanwhile, up in New England they might get two feet.  Now thats what I call snow.

"But, but, but," say the pansy asses around here, "they're used to getting snow up there.  We get ice and ice is more dangerous than snow..."

True dat.

The great ironies are many:

1) Yes, we get ice.  And ice is dangerous.  But you, as a city, do not maintain the roads.  AND you as a population do not slow down when its icy.  No instead you speed up.  What the fuck, seriously.

2) We get snow here.  This isn't a one time event.  The dogwood is not in bloom, covered in a tuft of snow,  THIS HAPPENS EVERY WINTER, and THROUGHOUT the damn winter.   Yet like bunch of simple beings it snows and they greet it with all the wonder of "what is the Lord doing to us now?"

Seriously, for these people, EVERY FUCKING SNOW STORM is just like Bill Murray's Groundhog Day.  With one important difference: Baltimoreans have incredibly short memories of what happened the week before.

Looking at a calender, we have about six weeks until the spring thaw begins to set in.  And February and March are cruel months to be sure.  But when the next snow blows in, at least I won't be hiding under the bed like the rest of them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

"Oh, LAW! It's SNOWING and we're all going to DIE"

From the looks of things, the picture above is a tell tail sign that certain DEATH is headed our way as its SNOWING for GOD'S SAKE.  Said the woman in the line at the market this morning, even before the snow started falling: "Oh, Law! This snow from the global warming is going to ruin my Thanksgiving!"

If its one thing that people in Baltimore and Washington can't handle, it's snow.

And I'm not talking a lot.  I mean some on the cars, the roofs, but melting when it hits the ground. Maybe a fraction of an inch.

You'd think its the end of the earth.

And how do they react?

  • Because they think that snow will harm their fine automobiles, they drive even worse than they do when the roads are dry, its sunny out and 70 degrees.  Traffic lights, speed limits and lines on the roadways be damned.  Add 20mph to your speed if the roads are icy, just to be safe. 
  • Bad parking becomes worse, because not only can't they see the lines, but it means they can park any old way they wish.   Never mind if they know that the spaces at the Target go one direction.  If there is snow in the air, it's every man for themselves. 
  • They panic buy, everything when a 1/4" is forecasted.  One need only visit the TERRIBLE Giant Food on York Road, south of Towson to see this idiocy in action. 
  • They close the schools if 1/4 is forecasted in November, because November snow must do something evil, like dissolve the children. 
  • They close the schools if a 1/2 is forecasted in December - because they don't want children trapped in a school for Christmas, even if Christmas is still three weeks away. 
  • The News bulletins and the out doing of the Dual Doppler Radar.  Nothing elicits panic like second by second calling of the SNOW falling.  All this does is draw Baltimorians to the place where the snow falls. 
  • "It's snowing - quick we have to get to the beltway, NOW!" They jam onto the beltway even if traffic is at a standstill while secondary roads remain open and passable. Nevermind that Putty Hill Road will take you from East Towson to Bel Air Road in 20 minutes at; they have to clog up the beltway where they sit for HOURS so they have something to bitch about. 
  • If it snows at BWI, that's it.  No one is going anywhere.  Why?  Just because; that's why.
And this just isn't a one time deal, it's all freaking winter, so in the spring, they can complain about the total snowfall, usually about 8", and bitch about "the climate change". 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Way WBAL Credits Tim Tooten

FIRST, and FOREMOST, let me say that I respect WBAL-TV reporter Tim Tooten.  He's an awesome reporter, very thorough, and he's a great communicator.   At WBAL-TV, the local NBC affiliate, Tooten covers education stories.  Tim Tooten is a-OK in my book.

When he's not a reporter, Tooten is a minister, and he has earned - through very hard work and with purpose - his Doctor of Divinity from Virginia Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia.  And to Rev. Tooten, I tip my hat.

What what makes me nuts is the way the station credits him when he is on air, which is as Dr. Tim Tooten, DdM.

See, I am old school on reporting.  I hate what has happened to new reporting - where the talking heads espouse their opinions.  To me, news should be news.  You report the facts as objectively as you can, which is what Tooten does.

But that "Doctor" in front of his name has no business in front of his name as a reporter, and I mean no disrespect in saying that. Titles are used when one is guest on the news for an interview -OR- one is reporting on their area of expertise.

But in broadcast news, it isn't Mr. Tim Tooten, its Tim Tooten.  It isn't Mr. Bryan Williams, its Bryan Williams.  If he is reporting about Medicine, then he is Dr. Sanjay Gupta, MD because that is his field of expertise.  But if the person is an unaccredited weather person, its not "Mr." or "Ms." someone, its just their name.

I asked a native Baltimorean about Tooten's degree being added to his name.  "Well," she said, "in the African American community, having that Doctor of Divinity degree really signifies that he is a leader - that he has worked hard to obtain something of meaning and wisdom."

OK, says I, but does it seem affected when he isn't reporting on his field of expertise?

"Honestly, I think that white people see it as a hurdle, but it doesn't taint my opinion one way or another."

What then would she think if Rabbi Sam Plotnik left the Temple to become a news anchor?  How would "Rabbi Sam Plotnik with the news, at six and eleven" sound?

She saw my point.  "Maybe Dr. Tim Tooten would do a story on that."

And that, we both agreed, would be the right time for his degree to come into play.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The one where I bitch about the speed cameras

For the uninitiated, Baltimore (city) has the largest red light and speed camera system in the Nation, with Washington D.C. a close second.

Actually, Baltimore HAD the largest red light and speed camera system in the nation.   They don't have it anymore because of a number of screw ups, too many to list, but lets just say the blame, like manure, gets spread around generously.

When we moved here, we were warned by neighbors that the cameras got you speeding or not.  We thought they were joking.  They weren't.

About four months after we moved here, the Baltimore Sun, our daily newspaper of record, started publishing a scathing series on the program, showing that the Xerox monitored system was, more often than not, identifying too many people who were well within the speed limit as speeders, and that the review officers at the Police Department weren't reviewing the pictures so much as they were eating Cheetos and pushing the button to certify the speeding and send the ticket.

The system was even issuing tickets to people who were going above the posted speed limit sign, even when they were stopped.

The Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, responded to questions by the Sun by saying, and I am paraphrasing, "Yes, we know that there are problems, but your continually asking questions isn't helping anyone solve the problem."

So the city knew they had a problem, but they chose to do nothing to solve it until the newspaper revealed the problem, but in doing so the Sun wasn't helping matters for the city.

So the city is running a scam by bilking drivers out of money that they may, or may not owe.  It now the city is feeling put upon.

Pity party time!

So what did the city do to fix it?  They Terminated their contract with Xerox and hired a company named Breckford, of Columbia, Maryland to run the program.

Well day one, Breckford goes to turn on the system, and lo and behold, when Xerox left, they took their proprietary software that they developed to run the system.   And Breakford didn't have a thing that worked with the Baltimore system, despite saying that they did.

And the city fathers?  They were outraged!  How dare Xerox take the software!  And how dare Breckford say one thing and do another!

Does the city of Baltimore have a legal department? Does the legal department read contracts?  Do they share what they have read with other departments?

Because Xerox said that they would take their software when the contract was not renewed, and there was NOTHING in the Breakford contract that said that they would fix any problems for free.

But somehow, all of this escaped the city.

So, here we are, eight months with no system, and what does Baltimore do?  They cancel the contract with Brekford and and pay Breckford $600,000 to go away.

With the highest real estate taxes in the entire state of Maryland, I am offended that the city is so cavalier with the money that they throw around.

But as they say "This is the way the city has always done things."  Marry in haste, repent at leisure.