Chicago residents are told to contact 311 for help with everything from abandoned vehicles to pavement repairs and broken streetlights. But getting someone from the city to fix the problem is not as easy as picking up the phone.
That is what WGN Investigates found after a review of public records and interviews with residents citywide.
The findings showed wait times for basic city services can be weeks or months or, in some cases, more than a year.
Arielle and Salomon Moreno are among the residents who had a lengthy wait. The problems for the Back of the Yards couple began when the temperatures tanked and caused a pipe to pop in their property. Their landlord called a plumber. But the plumber couldn’t get the water flowing because the shut-off valve, outside the Moreno’s home on city property, had collapsed.
“We were told by a plumber that the city needs to come out first,” Arielle Moreno said. “Before we can even get started and get our actual water, here in our house, up and running.”
The couple called 311 to request that repair. But days turned into weeks and the problem still wasn’t fixed, leaving them with limited access to water.
Data shows they’re not alone.
The city fielded more than 2,300 calls last year to service or locate a property’s water valve. On average, it took the city more than a month to “fulfill” that request.
“I just don’t want this happening to anyone else,” Arielle Moreno said.
But that’s exactly what’s happening. While the city responds quickly to certain requests, such as graffiti removal, other calls linger for weeks, months or even years, records show.
“They have a right to be frustrated because they’re paying taxes for services,” 15th Ward Ald. Ray Lopez said.
He says his office receives dozens of calls weekly from residents who need services but can’t get them through 311.
“The city has a very archaic way of delivering city service,” Lopez said. “It has a two-tiered system where if you’re in the 311 queue, you have to wait in the order you called.”
After our interview and more than a month after they first called 311, the city finally fixed the Morenos valve.
They’re now in the process of getting their full water service restored.
Asked to comment, a city spokeswoman said operators immediately route requests to the appropriate city departments. But it’s up to those departments to fulfill them in a timely manner. Lopez said the entire system needs an overhaul to make it more efficient and effective.