LA Mayor: Striking when the iron is cold

From LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s twitter page, the Mayor linked to an announcement that the city took in $17,000 from “hundreds of donors” who helped defray the cost of the Michael Jackson memorial service.

While the Mayor was encouraging people to continue to donate to help make up the estimated $4 million service (now estimated to be $1.4 million), it was noted that the reason the city only took in approximately 0.00425 percent  (now estimated to be 0.0121) of the total cost was because:

[T]he City’s Information Technology Agency could not handle the high volume of traffic or adequately respond to frequent and prolonged server crashes. Consequently, the City was unable to receive contributions for several hours Tuesday afternoon. The server also failed for at least 12 consecutive hours Tuesday evening, from 8:00 PM (PST) through 8:00 AM (PST) the next day, and periodically throughout Wednesday morning.

Let me say, that it was a valiant effort on the Mayor’s part to ask the world for micro-payments. I think it was very forward thinking of the Mayor and his staff. And while the plan was mocked on national media (one news anchor likened it to the donation plate at a church), I’m glad that Los Angeles City Government wasn’t afraid to ask the public.

That being said, IT DIDN’T WORK. You had one, maybe two, days of free coverage for the Kiva-like project. But your technology couldn’t handle the thousands-maybe millions- of people going to a website to click a link so they could donate via Pay-pal?  So now after the memorial, when people are starting to finally go on to new business, @Villaraigosa is asking people for donations. Talk about striking when the iron is cold.

What’s going to happen during a city-wide emergency? What happens after the big-one? What’s going to happen to the computer system that shares vital information with the millions and millions of residents of the greater Los Angeles area? How will you lead online? Via twitter?

Is this in the future: “E-quake. Stay calm. If house fell dwn, seek shltr” ?

My proposal is, once you recoup the money for the countless number of overtime hours for LAPD, city workers and more (haha!), take the $4 million spent making Staples Center as secure as it was during the 2000 Democratic National Convention and invest that money in new servers that can handle emergency situations. Had the system worked as it should have, steady servers could have saved the city millions of dollars in unexpected ways.

The old adage strikes again, “Technology is great when it works.”

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