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Editorial: ABQ’s fireworks hot line produces a sad little fizzle

Setting up a hot line where Albuquerque residents can report illegal fireworks on the Fourth of July sounded like a great idea.

It was. And it is. But even the best ideas can be scuttled by a lack of attention to detail.

In this case, the detail in question was whether anyone would be available over the holiday to pick up the hot line phone, much less forward the concerns. During a news conference to promote a safe Fourth of July, Mayor Tim Keller had urged the public to use a special app or call 244-FIRE to report illegal fireworks. But it turns out Albuquerque Fire Rescue routed 244-FIRE calls to the city’s 311 informational line, unaware 311 call-takers were out of the office for the holiday.

And some wonder why government has the reputation for being out of touch. Right hand, meet left.

Sure, the 311 line has been staffed on the Fourth in years past – but you know what they say about assuming anything. And perhaps 311 didn’t need to be staffed, though with many Albuquerque residents off work over the long holiday weekend you would think more would be reporting litter or checking BioPark hours.

There’s no doubt this was a self-inflicted burn.

To be fair, the firework reporting app and website worked just fine, resulting in 1,630 reports of illegal pyrotechnics. But believe it or not, there’s an entire segment of the population that does not have a smartphone with unlimited data – be they low income, not technically inclined or just creeped out by the data mining that is part and parcel with using the technology.

Albuquerque Fire Rescue Chief Paul Dow deserves credit for owning up to the gaffe in short order and assuring the public the disconnect won’t be repeated. But communication takes two, and it is essential City Hall gets on board.

Because of all days, government shouldn’t be a dud on the Fourth of July.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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