Sunday, December 07, 2008

Dear Santa…Here’s My Christmas List…

Santa...I know you’re really busy trying to offset this worldwide economic crisis and all…but I’ve been a really good citizen this year, and I’ve trimmed my Christmas list to 5 items. Five is a good number, don’t you think? So here goes...
  1. I want to go to and type in my zip code and pick a couple of topics – housing and health – and find out everything the government (federal, state, and local, if possible, please) has to offer me. Then I want to click on a link and have an online real-time chat with a knowledgeable government employee who can answer my questions and give me objective advice about my options, even if that means giving me information from multiple agencies. And I’d like to be able to do that day or night, any day of the week.
  2. I want to go to Facebook (because I spend time there every day) and - if I choose to be a “fan” – see “status” reports (NOT spin-ettes put out by Public Affairs) from agencies that interest me. Like “today we’re thinking about new public policies on student loans.” And I can choose to “comment.” Or not. Or enter an online discussion with agency experts, outside experts, and other citizens. If I do comment or offer an idea, I’d like to trust (that’s an important word) that a government employee actually will read it, consider it, and – hope springs eternal – take it into consideration. And if it’s not too much trouble, I’d like to know what happens to my comments and ideas.
  3. I want to be able to call a government agency and get the same answer that I get from a government website...and I want to be confident enough that there actually is some internal coordination that I (as a citizen) don’t have to a) check to be sure it’s the same and b) write to that/some agency to tell them they aren’t the same so I need to know which is right.
  4. I’d like to read 10 simple words instead of 100. I’d like to have the 3 best options instead of 20. I’d like to know where to start the process, instead of confronting 25 links listed in alpha order. I’d like some help – like a decision tree – so I can figure out what government program might be best for me. I’m not stupid. I just don't have time to read a library of government information from umpteen agencies, sort it out, analyze it, and try to figure out what the heck it all means. I’d rather have expert government analysts do that. I paid a lot of taxes last year…I think I deserve that service, don’t you?
  5. I want all government websites to look alike. I honestly don’t care which one is prettiest. I honestly don’t care if one is an award winner (I'd like all government websites to be "award-winning" quality). I just want to figure out where the topics are and what the words mean one time, and I want to be able to navigate all over the government with that knowledge. I want to be able to recognize a government website in one quick glance – because it looks like all the other government websites I visit. Then I know I can trust (there’s that important word again) it.

I’ll understand if you can’t bring me everything this year, Santa. If you could bring one or two, I'd be really happy. And whatever you can’t get me this year, that’s OK…I’ll just put it on my list next year. I figure if I keep asking, maybe I'll get what I want, one day. Thanks for listening (there's another one of those important words), Santa.


Anonymous said...

Bravo! Santa needs to find his way and not get lost too. Duckling #8.

Alex said...

Did Santa bring you what you wanted? Can you tell us if there are any good examples out there?