Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I will be your tootsie wootsie...

Round Up time! St. Louis style...

Remember that guy who broke into The Wire's studio in Columbia? Well, it turns out it was all an accident. Kinda. See, he wasn't an obsessed fanboy trying to score Omar's duster jacket (not that I've considered breaking the law, but whenever I pass their studio I think longingly about all the treasures inside); No, he was on an "urban adventure," in which kids (these days!) break into old, usually-vacant buildings just to look around. Back in my day, we didn't need some highfalutin title or lame attempts at quasi-legitimacy for our curiosity-driven trespasses; we just found a creepy, interesting or nearby building...

By "we" I mean "people I knew," naturally.

Ask and it will be yours: Calls for an ombudsman in the Department of Planning and Zoning have been answered. It'll be interesting to see how, if at all, this new position changes the dynamics between citizens and the government.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Isn't wandering onto private property (ie trespassing at Hell House) a little different than using a blowtorch and screwdriver to pry open a warehouse trash chute? Isn't being 16 and being busted for with a group trespassing a little different than being 25 and getting caught with this stuff?

I'm all for exploring and breaking the laws when cool things lie on the other side of the fence, but anyone in their mid-20s should know better than to break into a building. Even being busted for trespassing over the age of 21 is a little sad.

Hayduke said...

Yeah, you're probably right, though some, obviously, take a little longer to grow up.

Anonymous said...

Have the calls for an ombudsman been answered? An ombudsman is charged with hearing and investigating complaints from citizens regarding government officials or agencies.

Yet, the article quoted Mr. Ulman referring to the position, citing the importance of having "someone who can focus on community outreach and keeping our citizens well informed". That sounds like a public relations role, telling the public how it is or will be, instead of an ombudsman who listens to the public, hearing from them how something in the process has gone awry and then investigating to get it corrected. The urban planning credentials and experience of the new Deputy Director will be of good value to competently deal with the subject matter, but the PR credential may be of less value than investigative skills. This position needs to make sure the department functions well, not just look good.

Further, the ombudsman, having the title Deputy Director of the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning, implies the position will report to the Director of the very department for which this ombudsman role exists. Best practices for an ombudsman call for independence, impartiality, and confidentiality, none of which are truly possible if that position reports to the head of the department for which they're doing ombudsman work.

Ombudsmen need a reporting structure outside of the departments with which they'll be charged to investigate from time to time. This Deputy Director role shouldn't be within DPZ itself. It should instead be within a separate department that reports directly to the County Executive, with that same independent department also having ombudsmen serving to provide similar ombudsman services for other County departments, too.

If even that proves to be insufficiently independent, then ombudsmen should be in a reporting structure that falls under the County Council instead, in much the same way that the GAO is an agent of Congress.