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Old 02-14-2019, 02:11 AM
Wesley Clark is offline
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How have you made government 'work for you'


Voting is important, and benefits that almost everyone gets (heavily subsidized education, social security and medicare in old age, the ability to call the police and fire department when you need them, etc) are important too.

But have you found ways to make the government work for you that go beyond the common, well known tropes?

For me I've had good luck with the following:

Contacting the county health department when my apartment wouldn't fix a plumbing issue. The department got my apartment to finally hire a plumber.

Contacting the state attorney general when I had a bad run in with a business. The AG helped me resolve the issue.

Reporting potholes in my city, so the DPW knows to fill it (they usually fill it within a couple weeks).

What have other people experienced? I'm sure there are lots of ways to get government to work for you that aren't taken advantage of or well known.
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Last edited by Wesley Clark; 02-14-2019 at 02:12 AM.
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Old 02-14-2019, 02:41 AM
Wesley Clark is offline
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Another (minor) way. When the library doesn't have a movie or book, I ask the library to purchase it or get an interlibrary loan and then I use it when it arrives.
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Old 02-14-2019, 03:11 AM
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As a veteran, many years ago I took advantage of a VA journeyman program that paid me about $80.00 a month while I was in training for a new career. The extra $ came in very handy at that time in my life.
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Old 02-14-2019, 09:41 AM
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When I was recently homeless, I was put into a homeless shelter run by the state government. The building was built to be a homeless shelter, and is a prototype for how to run one. I had a good stay there for six weeks, until I found and moved into my present place.
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Old 02-14-2019, 09:50 AM
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I'm in the middle of a Cash For Grass program in which the city gives me money for taking out my lawn and replacing it with low water use landscaping. I also have my application in for the equivalent state program. Yes, double dipping is allowed.
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Old 02-14-2019, 09:51 AM
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Two things come right to mind.

(1) There is a shallow drainage ditch along the frontage of my property. The ditch is County right-of-way and therefore the County should keep it open. But I want it done a certain way so I've been doing it myself for many years. When the County mower comes along the crews spend whatever time they would have taken on the ditch to mow around my egress point to the road.

(2) The California DOT (CalTrans) is a big organization. But I wrote to the local office and asked them to do a bit of weed clearance along the State Highway that runs adjacent to my place. Six weeks after writing the work was done. That was a winner.

I don't use my Super Power too often, but politeness and patience pays off when it comes to faceless agencies.
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Old 02-14-2019, 09:56 AM
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I make calls to the City for egregious neighborhood violations. Like the guy down the street that hung a sign and opened an auto repair business on his driveway. Also weed-strewn blighty houses and such.

I recently called because our local street signs were so faded they were useless. We got all new ones, thank you City!
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Old 02-14-2019, 09:57 AM
Shagnasty is offline
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I have had good luck with state Attorney Generals offices. Lots of people threaten to sue and get a lawyer when a business does them wrong but that is usually unnecessary. I just file a complaint with the state Attorneys Generals office (multiple states so far). They are free and carry more weight than a fly-by-night lawyer. It always gets action in my favor because I don't do it unless I have unambiguous evidence and documentation.
  #9  
Old 02-14-2019, 11:34 AM
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Not sure if this is what the OP had in mind, but I have had a number of research grants. First from the US and then from Canada as well as Quebec. They have certainly eased my life as a mathematician.
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Old 02-14-2019, 12:16 PM
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It's over 20 years ago, pretty much, but we in public employ liked helping people. It justifies our jobs. And we especially like it when they write to thank us.
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Old 02-14-2019, 12:30 PM
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I was on disability for a couple of months last year; the state payments came through without any trouble. (Although it was a bit confusing to get set up initially)
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Old 02-14-2019, 12:47 PM
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If a sign is down or a streetlight is out, Public Works wants to know. There may even be a reporting form online, if you don't want to talk to anyone. If the missing or unreadable sign is a Stop, Yield, One-Way, or other safety sign, there's usually a 24 hour emergency report line. They'll have at least a temporary replacement out within hours.
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Old 02-14-2019, 01:01 PM
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Because of my health disaster, I've recently qualified for disability, SNAP, and free health insurance. It's made things a lot easier.
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Old 02-14-2019, 01:35 PM
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I needed a letter from the Office of Personnel Management confirming certain details of my former federal employment. I sent the request forms in and waited for 6 months (they tell you up front it can take that long). When I still hadn't received anything by that time, I dug up some phone numbers and after several calls finally managed to find someone who could check in the computer to see if my request was in process. They couldn't find anything.

I contacted my Congressman's office and faxed them the paperwork along with a cover letter explaining what I needed.

A week later the long-awaited letter was in my mailbox.
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Old 02-14-2019, 01:50 PM
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I got Kansas City to force a business owner who was parking trucks on the sidewalk to finally stop. Took two years. I don't know if they were towed, but I hope they were.

I had reported them to the police dozens of times, and they just ignored it.

Last edited by gaffa; 02-14-2019 at 01:52 PM.
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Old 02-14-2019, 01:54 PM
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I had a wooden utility pole in my alleyway just a few yards from my property that was badly rotted and also damaged from some impact from an unidentified vehicle. Had it collapsed, power for the area would have been disrupted. One phone call to the city offices and they said they'd look into it. Less than 20 minutes later, I see a utility truck parked by the pole and a worker inspecting it. The worker then knocked on my door, thanked me for reporting it and offered me a coupon for $10 off my next utility bill. 48 hours later, the pole was replaced.

I can't argue with that service.
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Old 02-14-2019, 02:01 PM
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Back in my old house my oil boiler was dying. To replace would have been thousands of dollars and at the time I was paying hundreds of dollars a month for oil. A friend let me know about a program where if you upgrade from Oil to Gas heat you would get a zero interest loan and a subsidy. I called and asked about it and it was for real.

With very little effort on my part (the company doing the work did all the applications etc.) I was able to get $15,000 of work done for a zero interest loan of $10,000.

They replaced my oil boiler with a gas furnace.
Added a tankless gas hot water heater (no more running out of hot water!).
Insulation in my basement and attic
And they removed the old oil tank and equipment.

And I was able to take a deduction on my taxes that year for it.

It was a great deal and all it costs me is $83 a month for the next few years. I don't live in that house anymore but I still own it so it is still worthwhile to me. All because of a government program.

Last edited by Quimby; 02-14-2019 at 02:02 PM.
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Old 02-14-2019, 02:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alpha Twit View Post
I had a wooden utility pole in my alleyway just a few yards from my property that was badly rotted and also damaged from some impact from an unidentified vehicle. Had it collapsed, power for the area would have been disrupted. One phone call to the city offices and they said they'd look into it. Less than 20 minutes later, I see a utility truck parked by the pole and a worker inspecting it. The worker then knocked on my door, thanked me for reporting it and offered me a coupon for $10 off my next utility bill. 48 hours later, the pole was replaced.

I can't argue with that service.
You saved them a lot of money and even more grief from their constituents if the pole had fallen. People could have been injured or even killed by the downed power lines.
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Old 02-14-2019, 02:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gaffa View Post
You saved them a lot of money and even more grief from their constituents if the pole had fallen. People could have been injured or even killed by the downed power lines.
No kidding. That $10 coupon vs. the cost of an emergency repair after the pole collapsed. That's not even close.
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Old 02-14-2019, 02:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quimby View Post
Back in my old house my oil boiler was dying. To replace would have been thousands of dollars and at the time I was paying hundreds of dollars a month for oil. A friend let me know about a program where if you upgrade from Oil to Gas heat you would get a zero interest loan and a subsidy. I called and asked about it and it was for real.

With very little effort on my part (the company doing the work did all the applications etc.) I was able to get $15,000 of work done for a zero interest loan of $10,000.

They replaced my oil boiler with a gas furnace.
Added a tankless gas hot water heater (no more running out of hot water!).
Insulation in my basement and attic
And they removed the old oil tank and equipment.

And I was able to take a deduction on my taxes that year for it.

It was a great deal and all it costs me is $83 a month for the next few years. I don't live in that house anymore but I still own it so it is still worthwhile to me. All because of a government program.
My brother sells heating and air conditioning and was formerly a plumber. He specializes in that program, which in Missouri is called the HERO program, an acronym for Home Energy Renovation Opportunity. He can get people financed with it even if they don't have particularly good credit ratings, as long as they are up to date on their property taxes and have not been late on their mortgage payments.
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Old 02-14-2019, 05:36 PM
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Where I live, there is a county organization that maintains all roads, curbs and sidewalks in the county as well as all road signage. Several times I've called them about low hanging tree limbs obscuring street and traffic control signs. They get the offending limbs trimmed back within a day or two every time. (I have a driving job so visible signage is important for me)

More personally, a few years ago, our neighbor across the street was an elderly gent suffering from dementia, and the local police came to know me by name and rely on me to let them know when a health and welfare check was needed until his family could get him into more appropriate quarters. (His only living family was a sister living in San Diego) so, I guess that was a two way deal on that.
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Last edited by DorkVader; 02-14-2019 at 05:38 PM.
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Old 02-14-2019, 06:18 PM
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It took a act of Congress to get my brother's disability claim approved. Well, an action, not an Act. But once a U.S. Senator's office made an inquiry with the Social Security administration the application my brother had made was suddenly found after allegedly being "lost" repeatedly.

And then it took a local judge, who was a family friend, to make it clear to the lawyer from Social Security who was opposing my brother's application for benefits that the judge's personal relationship with our family was not going to be a problem. Right?

Cancer sucks bad enough without also facing financial ruin and homelessness due to lack of disability benefits.

And then Congress actually acted to keep other families from having to go through the same agony. There is now a Compassionate Allowances Conditions list where people with a diagnosis of one of those horrible medical conditions are presumed to be disabled unless proven otherwise. Reverses the burden of proof in disability claims based on those conditions.
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Old 02-14-2019, 06:50 PM
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There was a rental property across the street from where my ex-wife and I lived. Someone new moved in and they had many friends start visiting for very short periods. It was not uncommon for someone to stay in the car with the engine running while someone else went inside. I'm not saying it looked like a crack house...oh wait, my ex and I were saying exactly that. My ex worked with a woman whose husband was the community policing officer for the area. The message got passed along and suddenly we started seeing a lot more police presence on our block. The new neighbors moved a couple weeks later.

I accidentally got discharged when I tried to transfer from the National Guard to the Army Reserve. There was boiler plate language that mentioned resigning my state commission in order to transfer; National Guard Bureau(NGB) didn't read the whole sentence and thought I quit. I was able to get NGB to amend the orders but that still didn't put me back in the admin systems. I couldn't figure out who to even contact on the Reserve side to fix the issue. As soon as my Senator started looking into it I got a lot of very personal, and high level, attention. Problem solved.
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Old 02-14-2019, 06:54 PM
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I work for county government. I have for 26 years. Often, my department (GIS) gets questions that others can't answer. We do mapping and have all the hook ups to property information, assessor information, deed and clerk information and even tax info.

Location is everything.

The 'Contact Us' email link on the GIS web site that I wrote comes right to my desk. I love being able to send a response within 10 minutes with an answer, or at least information on who they should get in touch with. It surprises many folks to get any response at all. It's fun for me though. It's part of my job.
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Old 02-14-2019, 11:06 PM
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I use my mother as a proxy.

She's a social narcissist. Well-connected, well-perceived by anybody who hasn't seen her ugly side, ridiculously influential among a social circle comprised mainly of mothers and grandmothers, including those of local politicians. And whenever she's part of an organization, she tends to gravitate to the kind of jobs which require someone to look importantly ladylike, graciously get other people to do most of the grunt work, and hold negotiations with the local and regional governments and the diocese. If I can get her to consider that Issue X is important and should be Like This, she'll convince enough people into the same side that eventually those who only give a shit about the polls will do it.
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Old 02-15-2019, 11:12 PM
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Some years ago, I couldnít get through to the unemployment office on the phone for over a month. My state senatorís office happens to be around the corner, so I strolled in and told them of my issue. A couple of says later, the unemployment office called me, and my problem was resolved immediately.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nava View Post
I use my mother as a proxy.

She's a social narcissist. Well-connected, well-perceived by anybody who hasn't seen her ugly side, ridiculously influential among a social circle comprised mainly of mothers and grandmothers, including those of local politicians. And whenever she's part of an organization, she tends to gravitate to the kind of jobs which require someone to look importantly ladylike, graciously get other people to do most of the grunt work, and hold negotiations with the local and regional governments and the diocese. If I can get her to consider that Issue X is important and should be Like This, she'll convince enough people into the same side that eventually those who only give a shit about the polls will do it.
She sounds like quite a character, but what does that have to do with this thread?
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