Mayor James K. Hahn, continuing his campaign to improve city services, launched a new 311 telephone system Thursday, aimed at reducing the number of nonemergency calls to 911 and improving access to city government offices.
Trouble is, the new phone number is not accessible from some business telephone systems, a quirk that city officials said they are working on.
Many large organizations have blocks on their internal telephone systems, and those restrictions often prevent callers from successfully dialing 311. As a result, Los Angeles city officials said they will work with the Chamber of Commerce and others to encourage changes in those business phones. Dialing 311 is free, so city officials said they don't expect any resistance from firms.
Los Angeles would be the largest city in the country to have the system, which connects callers to about 1,400 services, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Additionally, the service is accessible on the Internet at www. lacity.org to locate city departments and services.
"We know our constituents want better service; we're committed to giving it to them," Hahn said.
The mayor said the 311 system will allow him to finally stop carrying a tattered 3-by-5 card with city department telephone numbers.
The mayor acknowledged that the new phone system probably won't reduce police response time, but he said he hopes it will reduce the number of 911 calls. Cutting response time, Hahn said, will require hiring more officers -- not just creating new technology.
Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton said, however, that he believes that the department will be able to "free up a significant amount of police resources" by having fewer nonemergency calls through the 911 system.
Sitting at a console at the new 311 center across the street from City Hall, Hahn took the first call -- from Tommy Lasorda, the former Dodgers baseball team manager.
"You did it again, mayor," Lasorda said, as television news crews surrounded Hahn.
The launch of the system came a day after the mayor helped defeat secession efforts in the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood. Having won that contest, Hahn said he is committed to responding to some of the impulses behind it, and he wants Los Angeles to serve as a model for efficient and accessible municipal services.
Hahn said he will roll out several other initiatives next week.