Have you’ ever wondered why New Orleans lags so far behind in the “recovery”? Ever wonder why nothing seems to get done in New Orleans? Ever wonder who is in charge in New Orleans? Ever wonder why the public education system is so poor? Ever wonder why people are leaving New Orleans?

The answers to all your questions can be found in the letter below. If the situation wasn’t so pathetic, it would be humorous.

The letter is real and from a real person that I know who is very civically involved in New Orleans and has been the president of her neighborhood organization for many years. Besides, you can’t make this stuff up.


April 25, 2007

C. Ray Nagin
Mayor of New Orleans
City Hall – Room 2E04
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, LA 70112

Dear Mayor Nagin:

I just had occasion to telephone your office to leave a message on three issues. I spoke with someone named “Sandra” who answered the 658-4900 number.

I opened the conversation by telling her that I had called Sanitation (658-3800) about some garbage that had not been picked up in the neighborhood and that the automated system instructed me to call Metro Disposal at 520-8331. I called that number 5 times and kept getting another automated system that requested that I enter the extension of the person I was calling. When I was unable to do that, the system advised that no number had been entered and the system could not be accessed through a telephone without touchtone capabilities. At that point the call was disconnected. I explained that the Sanitation Department should have someone answer the calls.

“Sandra” proceeded to tell me that “(I) need to call my councilman. That’s who (I) elected. This is not the mayor’s job.”

I then told her that I also wanted to let you know that I had been leaving messages on the Sanitation Department’s automated system for Veronica White asking her to return my call and advising that I wanted to speak with her about addressing our neighborhood association regarding the new trash system. “Sandra’s” response to this was, “Maybe she’s not interested in speaking to your group.” I told her that may well be the case, but Ms. White could at least do us the courtesy of having someone call and tell us that and that I thought that was all part of her job. If she does not have time to return calls, the least she could do is have her secretary call with regrets.

Finally, I told “Sandra” that I also wanted to speak to Ms. White about the message that is on her department’s automated system. It says, “Thank you for calling the City of New Orleans, Department of Sanitation. All of your calls is important to us….” I told “Sandra” that this grammatically incorrect message should be changed ASAP. This is not the image that I would think the city would want to put out to the public. “Sandra’s” response was that she had already told me I needed to call my councilperson. It’s his job.

First, let me say that I find it very discourteous for a telephone operator to be so flip with callers, especially when she had no clue as to whom she was speaking. I could have been calling from the governor’s office for all she knew. I just wanted her to write down the message and give it to someone who might recognize that there is a problem that needs to be addressed when:

– callers trying to reach a city department can only get a machine that sends them to another machine without giving them sufficient information to make the second system work,

– a city government head does not take the time to, at the very least, have someone call a civic group back in response to a request to speak at its meeting and

– automated systems have grammatically incorrect messages and no one in City Hall seems to either notice it or take the time to see that it is corrected.

We need a Sanitation Department that isn’t too good to have a real person answer the phone and operators who can take messages and resist the temptation to insult the callers.


Marie Marcal

cc: The Hon. James Carter
The Hon. Arnie Fielkow
The Hon. Oliver Thomas