Posts tagged ‘DMV’

Police Officers and Patents of Nobility

I read this today in our local paper.  It is written by a local police sergeant and is entitled "Safety tips: How to talk to an officer if you're pulled over"

First, be polite. No good will come of the situation if you are immediately argumentative or uncooperative. Tell your passengers to do the same. You may not agree with the reason for the stop or the outcome, but the side of the road is not the place to debate this. If issued a ticket, you will have your time in court to present your case to a judge or hearing officer....

Do not address the officer with any slang terms or comments. Treat the officer as you would like to be treated, with respect.

Being polite is a nice thing to do.   But no one would write a "safety tip" article about being polite to your Starbuck's server.  Everyone knows the above guidelines are good safety tips (though Chris Rock said it better), but no one mentions the real elephant in the room:  That if you are not polite or not obeisant or somehow "disrespect" an officer, he may well arrest you on a trumped up charge or even physically abuse you.  The stories of this are ubiquitous, and everyone has heard them.  Essentially, the officer writing this is saying to the rest of us that "beware, some police officers are thin-skinned, short-tempered jerks and will abuse you if you do not kowtow to them like some Mandarin emperor."

I guess there is something to be said for the truth in advertising here.  Next week I suppose the DMV will write an article on getting a drivers license that emphasizes bringing a book because their process is so slow and horrible that you are likely to be there all day.

More Arizona DMV Madness

My daughter is ready for her final (in-car) driving test to try to get her driver's license.  But it turns out that the AZ DMV only gives driving tests before 3PM each day.

This is yet another policy designed for the pleasure of government workers (who want to get home nice and early) and not customer-citizens.  Ask yourself:  Who are 99% of the people who take the in-car driving test.  Answer:  16-year-olds, also known as high school sophomores.  And what are they doing up until 3PM weekdays?  Why, they are going to school!

So I have to pull my daughter out of school to take the driving test.  But it is worse than that, because we can't just show up at 2:30, missing perhaps her last class.  The AZ DMV has this insane process that is essentially a series of chained queues.  One waits in line for the receptionist, who gives the "customer" a number based on what task they want to complete (license, tags, etc).  One then waits endlessly for this first number to come up, only to find that the person who calls you up can only complete half the task (at best), so you then have to wait in line for the next person to complete the next task, etc.

Well, reports from all the other parents tell us that if you show up two hours early (e.g. at 1PM), there is a very good chance you will not get the driving test.  If all the prior queues one must work through cause one to show up at the driving test queue even at 3:01 -- Sorry!  You have to come back another day and start all over.

This is obviously insane.  The chained queue process is nuts.  The fact that the one portion school age kids must complete ends before school is out is nuts.  The fact that the person who performs the last step in the chained process goes home first is nuts.

Until last year, and with my previous kid, we did not have to do this.  AZ had a very sensible law that allowed private licensed driving schools to give the driving test.  You could still go through the DMV, but for a $100 or so one could get this done via a high service, no-queue, work-on-the-weekend private company.  But of course our legislature ended this sensible service last year, ostensibly over concerns about quality, but likely because the DMV folks didn't like competition from outsiders who actually gave a sh*t about customer service.

Sequester Madness

If the Republicans are supposed to be the voice of fiscal responsibility in Washington, then we are doomed.  They are absolutely as bad as Obama, running around in panic that the trivial cuts required by the sequester (not 8% this year or 5% or even 2% but 1% of Federal spending).  I have never seen a private organization with a large administrative staff that could not take a 5% reduction and generally be better off for it.   I absolutely guarantee that I could take 5% or more off the top of every agency's budget and you would never notice it.

This includes the military.  In fact, this includes the military in particular.  The military is never asked to prioritize.   We still have armored divisions in Germany.  It is always incredible to me that Republicans, who doubt that the government can ever manage or spend wisely, suddenly cast aside all these doubts when it comes to the military.   I understand the honor that folks accord to front-line soldiers vs., say, DMV workers.  But they are not the ones spending the money.  I am tired of such honor for the troops being used to bait and switch me from a very reasonable focus on DOD spending and waste.

When it comes to the military, Republicans use the same "closing the Washington Monument" tactics that Democrats use for social programs, essentially claiming that a 5% (or 1%) spending cut will result in the cessation of whatever activity taxpayers most want to see continue.  This process of offering up the most, rather than the least, important uses of money when spending cuts are proposed as a tactic to avoid spending cuts is one of the most corrupt practices imaginable.  No corporate CEO would tolerate it of his managers for a micro-second.

About two years ago at Forbes I imagined a hypothetical budget discussion at a corporation that followed Congressional budgeting practices.

Insane Reverse-Privatization at the Arizona DMV

Arizona has always had a pretty intelligent rule that driving schools that have been certified by the state can actually give kids their written and driving tests.    They get a certificate they take to the DMV where they then get issued the physical license.   Kids who can't afford the school can certainly go into the DMV to take the tests, but since our DMV is swamped with insane waits, it is nice to have an alternative.

Until now.  Apparently, for reasons that entirely escape me except perhaps to pander to state employees' unions, all kids must now take their tests, written and driving, at the DMV.  So, the DMV's solution to insane waits is to... increase demand on their services.  Awesome.  Sounds eerily similar to Obamacare's solution to ER waits.

David Brooks Big Idea: Learning About Self-Reliant Productive Culture in the DMV

Apparently, the gap between the productive and hard-working and those with less productive habits is growing larger.  David Brooks suggests that the productive be forced into a couple of years of government servitude.  The idea, as I understand it, is for the productive to teach the less fortunate how to be more diligent and productive in the context of a shared experience in an unproductive government make-work program.  Sort of like teaching your teenager good work habits by putting him in DMV internship.

Seriously, I suppose I understand how class-mixing at the point of a gun might expose the wealthy to classes and cultures they have never encountered.  But how is working together in some service brigade with a post office-trained manager on a government paycheck going to teach the welfare-and-food-stamp set anything new about productive work and self-reliance?

Public vs. Private Privacy Threats

I am always fascinated by folks who fear private power but support continuing increases in public / government power.  For me there is no contest - public power is far more threatening.  This is not because I necesarily trust private corporations like Goldman Sachs or Exxon or Google more than I do public officials.  Its because I have much more avenues of redress to escape the clutches of private companies and/or to enforce accountability on them.  I trust the incentives faced by private actors and the accountability mechanisms in the marketplace far more than I trust those that apply to government.

Here is a good example.  First, Kevin Drum laments the end of privacy because Google has proposed a more intrusive privacy policy.  I am not particularly happy about the changes, but at the end of the day, I am comforted by two things.  One:  I can stop using Google services.  Sure, I use them a lot now, but I don't have to.  After all, I used to be a customer or user of AOL, Compuserve, the Source, Earthlink, and Netscape and managed to move on from those guys.  Second:  At the end of the day, the worst they are tying to do to me is sell me stuff.  You mean, instead of being bombarded by irrelevant ads I will be bombarded by slightly more relevant ads?  Short of attempts of outright fraud like identity theft, the legal uses of this data are limited.

Kevin Drum, who consistently has more faith in the state than in private actors, actually gets at the real problem in passing (my emphasis added)

And yet…I'm just not there yet. It's bad enough that Google can build up a massive and—if we're honest, slightly scary—profile of my activities, but it will be a lot worse when Google and Facebook and Procter & Gamble all get together to merge these profiles into a single uber-database and then sell it off for a fee to anyone with a product to hawk. Or any government agency that thinks this kind of information might be pretty handy.

The last part is key.  Because the worst P&G will do is try to sell you some Charmin.  The government, however, can throw you and jail and take all your property.  Time and again I see people complaining about private power, but at its core their argument really depends on the power of the state to inspire fear.  Michael Moore criticizes private enterprise in Capitalism:  A Love Story, but most of his vignettes actually boil down to private individuals manipulating state power.  In true free market capitalism, his negative examples couldn't occur.  Crony capitalism isn't a problem of private enterprise, its a problem of the increasingly powerful state.  Ditto with Google:  Sure I don't like having my data get sold to marketers, and at some point I may leave Google over it.  But the point is that I can leave Google .... try leaving your government-enforced monopoly utility provider.  Or go find an alternative to the DMV.

A great example of this contrast comes to us from Hawaii:

There may be some trouble brewing in paradise, thanks to a seemingly draconian law currently under consideration in Hawaii's state legislature. If passed, H.B. 2288 would require all ISPs within the state to track and store information on their customers, including details on every website they visit, as well as their own names and addresses. The measure, introduced on Friday, also calls for this information to be recorded on each customer's digital file and stored for a full two years. Perhaps most troubling is the fact that the bill includes virtually no restrictions on how ISPs can use (read: "sell") this information, nor does it specify whether law enforcement authorities would need a court order to obtain a user's dossier from an ISP. And, because it applies to any firm that "provides access to the Internet," the law could conceivably be expanded to include not just service providers, but internet cafes, hotels or other businesses.

Americans fed up with Google's nosiness can simply switch email providers.  But if they live in Hawaii, they will have no escape from the government's intrusiveness.

Kudos to the AZ DMV

No, that headline is correct -- some crazed hacker has not taken over Coyote Blog.  Having been relentlessly critical of government organizations in general and the DMV in particular, I think fairness demands I post exculpatory evidence when I have it.

This morning we thought my son lost his driver's license (later found).  Dreading the all day trip to the DMV to get it replaced (and no, nothing has changed my opinion that that experience sucks), we checked online for the procedure.  It turns out that we could have applied for a new license over the Internet, and, best of all, if we got the application in by 3:00 today we could have had the license in our hands by noon tomorrow, on a Saturday no less, via express delivery.  That's better than my credit card company does.

Yes, such service is a virtual necessity given how central the government has made the driver's license in so many routine activities (except voting of course, that would be racist!).   But it is still a breath of fresh air to see any state institution match their service to such necessities.  Now, if we could only get the passport process sorted out, but that one is just getting worse.

I Am Sure We Will Be Seeing These Civil Rights Suits Any Day Now

I try not to get into the voting rules arguments between Republicans and Democrats because at their heart, most of these are totally political.  However, I am fascinated by the claim by Democrats that producing an ID to vote discriminates against blacks, presumably because obtaining such ID puts an undue asymmetric burden on African-Americans vs. whites.

This seems like a crock to me -- I am not sure why obtaining an ID is harder for blacks than whites, though I will observe that the highest profile black man in the country had trouble producing his birth certificate so maybe there is some racial thing here I don't understand.

But if we take the claim at face value, why aren't the TSA and airports being sued by the NAACP?  After all, there is an ID entry requirement and if that is discriminatory for voting, isn't it also discriminatory for flying.  Why isn't the DMV, or the highway department being sued of its ID requirement?  Ditto the federal government, which required ID to enter a federal building.

Update: James Taranto has similar thoughts.  He thought of several I missed, including requirements to show ID (part of the I-9 form) in order to get a job.

Public Employee Compensation Packages

I am with Megan McArdle in confirming that the non-pay portions of the typical public employee compensation package is at least as important, and as potentially expensive, as the money itself.  In particular, two aspects of many public employee compensation packages would be intolerable in my service business:

  • Inability to fire anyone in any reasonable amount of time
  • Work rules and job classifications

From time to time I hire seemingly qualified people who are awful with customers.  They yell at customers, or are surly and impatient with them, or ruin their camping stay with nit-picky nagging on minor campground rules issues.  In my company, these people quickly become non-employees.  In the public sector they become... 30 year DMV veterans.  Only in a world of government monopoly services can bad performance or low productivity be tolerated, mainly because the customer has no other option.  In my world, the customer has near-infinite other options.  And don't even get me started on liability -- when liability laws have been restructured so that I am nearly infinitely liable for the actions of my least responsible employee, I have to be ruthless about culling bad performance.

The same is true of work rules.  Forget productivity for a moment.  Just in terms of customer service, every one of my employees has to be able to solve customer problems.  I can't automatically assume customers will approach the firewood-seller employee for firewood.  All my employees need to be able to sell firewood, or empty a trash can when it needs emptying, or clean a bathroom if the regular cleaner is sick, or whatever.

For those who really believe state workers in Wisconsin are underpaid, I would ask this question:  Which of you business people out there would hire the average Wisconsin state worker for their current salary, benefits package, lifetime employment, work rules, grievance process, etc?  If they are so underpaid, I would assume they would get snapped up, right?  Sure.

Bonus advice to young people:  Think long and hard before you take that government job right out of college.  It may offer lifetime employment, but the flip side is that you may need it.  Here is what I mean:

When people leave college, they generally don't have a very good idea how to work in an organization, how to work under authority, how to manage people, how to achieve goals in the context of an organization's goals, etc.   You may think you understand these things from group projects at school or internships, but you don't.  I certainly didn't.

The public and private sector have organizations that work very differently, with different kinds of goals and performance expectations.  Decision-making processes are also very different, as are criteria for individual success within the organization.  Attitudes about risk, an in particular the adherence to process vs. getting results, are entirely different.

I am trying hard to be as non-judgmental in these comparisons as I can for this particular post.  I know good people in government service, and have hired a few good people out of government.  But the culture and incentives they work within are foreign to those of us who work in the private world, and many of the things we might ascribe to bad people in government are really due to those bad incentives.

It is a fact you should understand that many private employers consider a prospective employee to have been "ruined" by years of government work, particularly in their formative years.  This is simply a fact you will need to deal with (it could well be the reverse is true of government hiring, but I have no experience with it).  That is why, for the question I asked above about hiring Wisconsin government workers, the answer for many employers would be "no" irregardless of pay.

Forced Invasions of Privacy

I was navigating around the Kentucky property tax forms site (one of the really tedious tasks for our company this year is to fill out zillions of personal property tax forms listing virtually every pencil we own in any number of counties and states).

While we run campgrounds, we do not run long-term trailer parks, but this requirement caught my eye as fairly onerous.  Apparently trailer park owners must fill out this form and report on the detailed description, owner, and address of every trailer renting space on their land, so that the state can come after these folks easier for property taxes on their personal property.

For those who may shrug their shoulders, this is not materially different than the owner of an apartment complex reporting on all the large assets his tenants own, or walking through his parking lot taking down car descriptions and tag numbers so the DMV can make sure there are no violations by any of his tenants.

I don't like when the government forces me to be their busybody.

Single Best Reason To Live In Arizona

Well, maybe the second best reason... the first best is that it was 75F today.  But the second best reason is that my son got his driver's license today, and it expires in the year 2059.  I kid you not -- get your license at 16 and there are no more renewals until you are 65 years old.  Have fun at the DMV.

Let's Make Sure To Put These Guys In Charge of Health Care

I suspect many of my readers also read Megan McArdle, but in case you missed her story, its pretty funny (as long as you are not the person experiencing it):

While consuming my one (1) beer, I was apprehended by agents of the
Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.  They called my parents, fined me,
and made me attend a class on the horrors of underaged drinking (did
you realize that drinking can lead to uncontrollable vomiting?)  It was
during that class, with the errors of my ways now readily apparent,
that I made a pledge to myself to quit underaged drinking with all due
speed.  And on January 29th, 1994, I honored that pledge....

The
problem, you see, is that at the time of my conviction, I did not have
a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Driver's License.  Indeed, I had no
driver's license at all, being one of those benighted city people who
get their first driver's license at the age of 23.  The laws of the
State of Pennsylvania, however, say that the Department of
Transportation is entitled to suspend the driver's license of anyone
arrested for underaged drinking.  And the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Department of Transportation is, apparently, determined to exercise
this privilege.  Thus, the spectacle of a 35 year old woman being
informed that she is about to have her driver's license suspended for
underaged drinking.

To add insult to injury, I am expected to
fill out a form and, at my own expense, mail it to the DOT in order to
commence this suspension.

This would be funny and mildly
annoying if it were not for the fact that until they clear the
suspension, I cannot get a DC driver's license, because states are
required to scan for violations from other states before they issue a
new license.  (No word on how I got one out of the State of New York).
And until I get a DC driver's license, I cannot register the car I just
bought.  The DMV here, after much wrangling, gave me temporary tags,
but it looks like I'm going to have to garage the thing for three
months unless the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania relents.  Which, at this
time, they show no evidence of doing.

Just When You Thought the DMV Couldn't Get Any Worse

Arizona required emissions inspections of vehicles, but only for vehicles in the cities of Phoenix or Tucson.  So, as you can imagine, they only have testing stations in Phoenix and Tucson.

Our company is headquartered in Phoenix.  That is our legal address and the address on all our titles and registrations and licenses and such.  Because all of our vehicle registrations show the company headquartered in Phoenix, then the state of Arizona treats all our trucks as being located in Phoenix.  As a result, we are required to get emissions tests each year on about 20 vehicles.

But wait.  None of our vehicles are actually in Phoenix.  In fact, none have ever even crossed into this county.  They are all in places like Flagstaff and Sedona and Payson that have no emissions requirements, and therefore, no testing locations.  As a result, I am apparently required to, once a year, have all of our trucks driven to Phoenix for an emissions test that they are not actually required to have based on where they operate.  In additions to the cost of the test itself, and any repairs mandated by the test, it costs us 400 miles x $0.55 per mile gas and depreciation plus 8 hours x $12 hour labor for the driver or $316 per vehicle to get them to the test site and back.  A sort of annual pilgrimage to worship at the alter of mindless bureaucracy.

Recognize that none of this was obvious to me at 8AM this morning.  I spent my entire morning not worrying about my 500 employees and not improving productivity and not pursuing some projects we are considering for expanded customer services, but trying to figure this situation out.  All because some state legislators didn't realize that maybe corporate vehicle fleets are not necessarily registered in the location in which they are used.

I still think there must be a legal way to show my vehicle domiciled at one physical address but have the mailing address be my corporate office in Phoenix.  But if there is, I have not found anyone who will admit it.

Due Process? Not When There Is Money in it for US

One of the worst violations of due process on the books today is law enforcement's ability to seize cash and assets from people only suspected to be drug dealers, with no due process whatsoever.  In fact, the only process involved is that, once seized, the private citizen from which the assets were taken must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the money or assets are legitimately theirs, rather than the other way around.  This was a great case in point.

Along the same lines, the city of Washington DC has decided that all that due process stuff is getting in the way of their harvesting the maximum amount of cash from drivers:

In an attempt to stem the loss of revenue from motorists contesting
parking tickets, cities are effectively eliminating the traditional due
process rights of motorists to defend themselves at an impartial
hearing. By the end of next year, Washington, DC's Department of Motor
Vehicles (DMV) will not allow anyone who believes he unfairly received
a citation to have his day in an administrative hearing.

"DMV
will complete the phase-out of in-person adjudication of parking
tickets in favor of mail-in and e-mail adjudication by December 2008,"
the Fiscal Year 2008 DMV plan states.

The move is intended to allow automated street sweeper parking ticket machines
to boost the number of infractions cited well beyond the 1.6 million
currently handed out by meter maids. As one-third of those who contest
citations in the city are successful, the hearings cut significantly into the $100 million in revenue tickets generate each year.

Under
the DMV's plan, motorists will only be able to object to a ticket by
email or letter where city employees can ignore or reject letters in
bulk without affected motorists having any realistic recourse.

Thanks to Radley Balko, who also found this little gem:

In Boston and other cities in Massachusetts,
motorists cannot challenge a $100 parking ticket in court without first
paying a $275 court fee. If found innocent, the motorist does not
receive a refund of the $275.

Getting the Government's Permission to do Business

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we recently won the concession for Elk Creek Marina on Blue Mesa Lake, Colorado.  For the last week, I have been scrambling to take the steps necessary to take over this business without disrupting service to customers. There are a lot of things to do from a customer service standpoint to get the business up and running, but there is a staggering list of permissions and licenses we need from the state of Colorado and other government bodies to be able to conduct this business, particularly since this is our first entry into Colorado.  Here is what we know we need so far, though I caution that this list continues to grow at the rate of 2-3 more items a day as we learn more:

  • Our corporation must register with the Colorado Secretary of State as a "foreign" corporation, foreign in this case meaning that we are registered in another state.
  • To register as a foreign corporation, we need to hire a person to be a "registered agent" to be a contact with the state.  The only real purpose of this person I have ever found is to provide an avenue for mail to get lost
  • We have to register to pay Colorado unemployment insurance tax
  • We have to register to withhold Colorado income taxes from our employees
  • We have to register to pay state corporate income taxes and franchise taxes
  • We have to register to collect sales taxes
  • I think we have to get a special license for collecting electricity taxes, since we sell power to boats at some of the docks
  • We need to go through an extensive application process to transfer three current liquor licenses into our name.  I wrote about liquor license hassles here.
  • The person on the phone today told me a corporation in Colorado cannot own more than two liquor licenses.  If this is true, we will have to form a second company in Colorado, repeating all the tasks above plus the initial work just to form the company
  • I need to fly to Colorado to get fingerprinted for my FBI background check that is needed for the license.  This despite the fact that I have been fingerprinted and background-checked for liquor licenses in several other states.
  • Since the company will hire out fishing guides from the marina, the company has to have a Colorado outfitter license, which includes a 13 page application and very detailed regulations and required contract terms I must use to provide the life-and-death service of helping people find fish.
  • The outfitter license requires that I post a bond, which in turn requires I submit detailed financial and background information to get the bond approved
  • Our managers need to attend food handlers training in Colorado.  Of course, they have attended the exact same course in California, but Colorado wants them to sit through it again within their state's borders
  • We need to fill out a pretty elaborate application to sell Colorado fishing licenses, and may need to post another bond to do so. (Update: Confirmed, we need a $4000 bond).
  • We will likely need an occupancy license from the county
  • We will need a health department inspection and license for the two retail stores, since they sell packaged foods, and a more detailed inspection for the restaurant
  • We will need a fire inspection of the restaurant
  • We will need Coast Guard inspection and certificate for the docks
  • We will need to change the registration of all 45 boats that are kept at the marina for boat rentals  (imagine standing at the DMV to register 45 cars).
  • We will need Coast Guard inspection of all the boats

75 days until we open.  Eeek.