There is a lot at stake in government service. We might face severe penalties or even possibly jail time for wrongdoings, and even see our current elected officials lose their jobs and livelihoods if we don’t get our way.
One way to let agencies know that people are not happy with their work is to file a complaint. If that is how you want to tell the government that something needs to be changed, you can head to the local 311 site, fill out a form, enter in some information, and get your complaint filed.
To be clear, you don’t need to enter in your address — the agency will just find it and run your information through the system. This is very user-friendly, and you can now file a complaint, add a comment, and even track where it is up to date in the system, all in the same handy location.
This is a great way to get your grievances out and also to see where things are at and what are the resolutions.
However, just as not all complaints should be filed, not all forms or forms of complaint are necessary. Some agencies just like to ignore things, but here are three other steps that might help you get your point across:
1. Go ahead and email the agency if you see something that needs to be corrected. Email addresses or phone numbers can be found online or filed under the appropriate categories.
2. Contact the agency directly, not just make a complaint on 311. Use your agency’s contact information, or you can ask to speak to a human being by calling the number provided on the form you filled out.
3. Instead of filing a complaint, just make a formal letter asking a specific question. The form is the place to do that, and often a general letter will do as well. Even better is to go to the agency directly and explain in writing what you are trying to achieve.
There are lots of directions you can take. When you want to make a complaint, go ahead and file one — but don’t take the above steps and you just might find that your complaint gets ignored and you lose sleep over it. Make the complaint but don’t take these steps; eventually, the agency will realize they have to respond.
If you find that your complaint does not seem to be taken seriously, submit a formal letter that does get a response. If that doesn’t get your point across, consider other forms of protest — you can contact your congressional representatives, and maybe even write a letter to the editor in a local newspaper. Call your state’s legislators and talk to them to let them know what is going on. Whatever it takes.
Your advocacy is both meaningful and possibly effective. No matter what you are complaining about, there is likely to be an agency that could make improvements. Just try to be as polite as possible — and do it in writing.
Helena Andrews-Dyer writes about Washington on a regular basis. She can be reached at [email protected]