Government workers get a bad rap. We’re supposedly all lazy, unhelpful, want to give people the run-around, etc.
My experience has, for the most part, been the opposite. I confess personally to some minor irritation when someone from outside the government wants some sort of help from me, but that’s because they are generally on the phone and I hate talking on the phone. (Want something from me? Send me an email. Or ask via Twitter.)
But I’ve had two experiences recently that, while not implying laziness on the part of the other people involved, are worth sharing for their shake-my-head-ness.*
Remember, I’m trying to figure out the effective status of old Mayor’s Orders. (And doing so by organizing them by agency with additional information.) This is my job. But in some cases, I need to know what’s actually going on as a practical matter, and for that, I have to go to the agencies.
So. Experience one. There is a Mayor’s Order from 1984 regarding proceeds from vending machine sales. Back in 2007 I heard a rumor that proceeds from the vending machines in the Wilson Building operated as described in this Order, with some going to the Mayor’s Office and some going to the Council, depending on which floor the vending machine was on. But I had no empirical proof that this is the case. So I emailed my contact in the Chief Financial Officer’s office to ask as a practical matter what happened with vending machine proceeds, citing the Mayor’s Order. Her response? OAG can tell you if the Order is still in effect. Well no, actually I’m the one who can tell you if the Order is still in effect but I can’t!**
Experience two. Rulemaking from 1981. Refers to the Department of Recreation (this is two name changes ago). I want to know if, again as a practical matter, the rulemaking is still in effect. (Not a DPR rulemaking. Another agency.) I send my question, and the response I get? “Attached are the sections of the DCMR that respond to your question.” No, I told you what sections of the DCMR I wanted to know about! I have them already.
So please, if I ever ask you for information, please do not just parrot back what I’ve told you I know.
*It might be that I don’t know how to ask questions.
**It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that an Order can be technically still effective but so far out of date that no one pays attention to it. There’s an Order that requires everything to be submitted to the Mayor on floppy disk. I doubt that anyone in the Mayor’s office even has a floppy drive on their computer.