Friday, March 28, 2008


I've gotten two parking tickets in the past month. The first, on February 28, was a deserved overtime ticket. The second, two days ago, was at a broken meter (it took my quarter, but didn't give me any time).

The parking ticket has written instructions to file complaints at the Tax Assessor's office. Yesterday I went to the Tax office, stood in line, and was told to fill out the form located on the wall behind me. I tried explaining that there were no forms on that wall, but the woman at the window insisted that the sheet bearing step-by-step instructions (to write down my complaint) was indeed the form to fill out. When I asked if I could write down my complaint and hand it to her, I was told that I had to do exactly what the "form" said, which meant mailing in my complaint to the office I was currently standing in. I think this is an excellent example of bureaucracy making life absurdly complicated.

Today I received a letter from the city Tag Division (which I'd never heard of before) notifying me that I am delinquent in paying my ticket from February 28 and that my fine has doubled. Except that the total amount I now owe is exactly the same as what I owed on February 28. The real kicker, however, is that I mailed in the check for that ticket the same day I received the ticket--February 28. The tax office didn't process the check until March 19, so the city's computer system automatically generated my delinquent notice. So, for a $10 fine that was paid as on-time as possible, the city spent 31 cents on postage, plus the cost of the mailing envelope, plus the cost of the return envelope, plus the cost of the letter, the ink used to print it, and the time it took someone to mail it. Also add a few cents for the time spent answering my phone call! Small amounts, sure, but they eat into overall profits. And, of course, as a routine operation, these delays lead to things like the city losing out on the F&S tax payment of $44,000. (Come to think of it, I bet they get a lot of bounced checks because it takes them so long to make the deposits--a lot of people forget to leave money in their bank accounts for checks written three weeks earlier!)

I think it's time for a complete overhaul of the city's Tax office. Anyone operating a business will process and deposit all incoming checks within three days' time (within 24 hours for a smaller retail business). Can you imagine any successful business waiting three weeks to deposit a check?

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