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At the RMV, some driving-test applicants more equal than others

The New England Center for Investigative Reporting reports on the driving-test pay-for-play system at the Registry: Auto schools pay for guaranteed time slots for tests, and their students get in ahead of people who somehow managed to get the same time for tests.

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from the government. The Beacon Hill and Pioneer institutes along with the Mass GOP believe this type of arrangement is the solution to running an efficient government. This is the honest goal of the charter school movement as well. People with the money get the service. I get mine and screw you.

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In 2008, a year after civilian registry examiners took over road test duties from the state police, the wait for a road test for the general public was, on average, two weeks, according to a Boston Globe report. In 2012, it was a five-week wait, according to the same article. Today it can be months, but an accurate wait time is impossible to ascertain because the Registry system only books 45 days out.

Charlie Baker hasn't even been in office a year and is already hiring more examiners. The only time the RMV operated at peak efficiency was during the Republican Weld-Cellucci years, particularly under Dan Grabauskas as Registrar. Almost no waiting and for a short time, no fees for registration renewal. As for "paying for preference" the same can be said for AAA membership which allows members to conduct many RMV transactions at their local AAA office if their dues are paid.

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The infrastructure is duplicated at the AAA office, in large part. The driving test scam is just cutting the line - only so many tests a day, and some are held back for those who pay. Totally different than renewing a plate/license.

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Don't you get a break on your insurance if you have a driver's school certificate? Why wouldn't you go through a drivers school? (I guess not owning a car is one reason).

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Also, we don't have an automatic. Also, adults don't have time to drive around with kids and drivers ed is crappy and expensive and too many kids in the class.

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You should take a look at the article. The issue is not just students who have been through the driving school course getting priority, it's people who are paying the driving school an additional fee for access to reserved test times and off-site test locations.

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When privitization zealots get their way as in "school choice" the inevitable will happen. There will be a modest fee to get your child into the school of your "choice". Then there will be private placement companies that you can pay additional fees to that will help you jump the "choice" line. Those fees will be defended by the libertarians as reducing the administrative burden of government administration. Those with the resources win. You, well you lose.

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The reason people try to pay for more is that the lovely government-furnished baseline you're so zealously defending is often complete crap. Trapping everyone in the same mediocrity is probably the worst possible solution for the greatest number of people.

Having people with means leave the system (for suburbs, for charters, for private) is the next least worst.

Having everyone leave is the best. There's two ways to do that: privatize it all, with adequate competition in place so that you're not trading one incompetent monopoly for another at slightly more cost, or "fix" the public monopoly.

Either way you choose to set course is going to step on the toes of some entrenched political interest or another, so it won't be fast and it won't be done right if it gets done at all.

So you're right back to option 0: mediocrity for all (quite egalitarian of you, I must say), or option 1: having some people attempt this thing called upward mobility for their children and move to the suburbs (lowers municipal tax base) or send their kids to charters (evil privatization) or private schools while continuing to pay school taxes (mainly for the rich, dear boy, can't get more pay-to-play than that).

Chew on that for a second and feel free to keep frothing at the mouth over charter schools and defending the same sorts of government agencies that pull the kind of stunts that the RMV is, or, and I admit this is a crazy thought, be a little more careful at the ballot box next time around instead of voting for the "unopposed" incumbent the way most people do.

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There is an existing option in education for those with resources. Private education. There is a movement in this country to dumb down and control public education to prevent equal access and stifle free thinking. Slavery never happened, pollution isn't that bad, obesity is good for business, viagra. Meanwhile well intentioned hipsters, the majority of whom are products of their parents resources, buy into the charter philosophy because they're smarter than you.

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The reality of large monolithic public institutions is that they are susceptible to precisely that kind of meddling, and always will be in a system where free association and free speech ("lobbying") are allowed.

The responsible goal should be to make it less susceptible. How? Ban free speech? Ban lobbying? Install a benevolent dictator-for-life? That's throwing out the baby with the bath water and won't hold up in court or in the court of public opinion. No: Break it up so it's not monolithic and so it's not possible for one or a handful of special interests to screw everything up for everyone.

Will there still be waste, fraud, and abuse? Of course. That's natural in anything that's payed for with tax dollars. It's even natural for anything paid for with private dollars in private markets. But there's a waste, fraud, and abuse now, and it victimizes everyone in the system now. If it's not monolithic, individual bad performers will still exist, but 1) they won't have a captive audience and 2) they'll be easier to spot from the outside and fix up, since the politics won't be "the special interests are attacking ALL schools" but will be easier to sell as "the government is identifying and dismissing one bad performer"

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Improve RMV services for all, not just those who have money to hire companies that lobby to get preferential access to government services.

Government for the people, not government for the people plus money buys you a trip to the front of the line.

I renewed my driver's license on-line. I spent 10 minutes. It arrived in the mail three days later. RMV has done some good things.

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Having people with means leave the system (for suburbs, for charters, for private) is the next least worst.

Except, when the people of means (power) can bypass normal treatment by the government, then there is a lot less pressure on the government to improve the normal treatment.

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when people with means take their kids out of public schools or move to the suburbs. They're paying to not have skin in the game anymore. Pretending that it isn't the case doesn't solve the problem. And it will continue to happen unless you ban them from leaving. Which still won't solve the problem and will introduce some fairly existential question about what kind of an operation you're trying to run.

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You can take drivers ed but not go through the school for the road test, its the driving school certificate that gets the insurance discount. Usually going through them gets you an extra session with the instructor, and you get to use their car (you can't use just any car for the test, needs a center E-brake) to take the test.

If you have a car of your own that can be used for the test, and you've already forked over $600+ to the driving school, do you really want to give them another $100+ to them, and pay the Registry's fees?

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There are no competent people left there. You show them the written rules, they look at you blankly and repeat the ones that they made up that conflict. (honor most laws of other states with rare exceptions - um, nope. They wanted me to reprobate my dad's car in Middlesex County because "MA doesn't do survivorship titles". Right.)

If the person you are dealing with isn't incompetent, they are rude and on the take. Time to retire everyone and start over with people trained by people from states where the system works.

Also time to start new testing systems to comprehensively test knowledge and skills, and quiz/check everyone at renewal. Time to put the cops back on duty doing what they are trained for, and get professional license examiners.

Burn it down and start over.

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In 2008, a year after civilian registry examiners took over road test duties from the state police...

That happened seven years ago, Swirly.

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Massachusetts is usually in the top 10, but we can do better. Top 3 should be a goal.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Date Verified: 7.8.2014
Top 10 driver citation states:
1 Ohio
2 Pennsylvania
3 New York
4 California
5 Texas
6 Georgia
7 Virginia
8 North Carolina
9 Massachusetts
10 Connecticut

.

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They still had uniformed cops getting in with examinees just last year.

There may be a provision for civilian examinees, but it certainly wasn't in practice at Lowell.

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I gotta love how you are sounding like a neocon from the Pioneer Institute while 'Fish (not from his reply, from his earlier comment) sounds like a tax (or fee) and spend liberal.

The reality is that 'Fish is right. The Patrick administration decided that "efficiency" at the Registry was better than customer service, and it shows today. Who do you think is more competent, a bureaucrat who gets professional development from the administration or one whose workload has been increased even though user fees have gone up?

No, no need for a reorg, just a better workplace leading to higher morale. If no one above cares about what you do, crappy work will result. If your work is shown to have value, you will take pride in it.

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Notice that I didn't recommend firing people but retiring them.

Go to your local RMV and notice how old all the workers are. These people don't "need a better workplace" because they have already configured the one they have to their liking. Their morale seemed fine to me - they simply don't want to be bothered to actually look up the actual policy that says that they can't just decide to force someone bringing a car in from out of state to do probate in Massachusetts.

It isn't just a customer service problem, either (although their ignorance of the policies they are supposed to administer can be epic) - the RMV does not require what it should when it comes to insuring that people know the rules in the first place, let alone keeping up with new laws or remaining fit to drive. They are processing paperwork - the RMV leaders simply don't seem to grasp that they have an important public safety function that is being neglected.

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Burn it down and start over. You also said it was time to retire EVERYONE. Your words.

You'll have to admit there is a cultural problem, and to root that out, you can do one of 2 things: change the people (your option) yet keep the way of doing things the same or change the way of doing things and have the people go along or leave.

And another thing, how common do you think your problem is? Most people go to the Registry with license, registration, and title issues. And for your information, less than 2 weeks ago I was at the local Registry with a registration issue. I was in and out in 15 minutes. I saw issues in the process while I was there, but my issue was straight forward.

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The next time you have an issue that would require that they look up the policy.

They won't. The law may be clear, the policy on the website may be clear, but they will make shit up rather than look shit up.

I had to deal with two registries in two states. One was professional, helpful, reasonable, and did what they were required to do in the amount of time they said it would take. They sent me the necessary paperwork and instructions, e-mailed me when there was an issue, and e-mailed again when it was resolved. The other was in Massachusetts.

Retire the staff, and start over with a professional organization.

OH And as for your reading comprehension, this was my exact statement above. It did not change if you check the time stamp:

Time to retire everyone and start over with people trained by people from states where the system works.

So sorry that you didn't even bother to notice that before you posted your assertion. That wasn't what I said originally and now you know it. I meant RETIRE too - everyone there is over 50 or older. Kind of speaks to competence that they haven't already retired for their second career like many state workers of their vintage.

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But someone might have issues with vocabulary.

Let's start with everybody. It means every person. Not some. Not most. All. That's the every part of everybody. So how someone would assume that your rant meant that you are taking the ageist position that only people over 50 (by the way, minimum retirement age is 60) is a bit beyond me, since the qualifier "over 50" was not used.
So then there is retire. Again, I don't think you know what that means. Most people, when it is used in the passive sense like you did, intend the second meeting in my link-

to cause (someone, such as a military officer) to end a job or career

So, basically, you said at first that the entirety of the staff at the RMV should be forced out. Your words, as you have repeated and rephrased.

But let's look at your anecdote. So, you went to a Registry-like bureau in some other state, and judging by what you have posted it was most likely a branch close to the border with another state. You got the right person who did the right thing. What about Massachusetts? Was this a single person at a single branch most likely not by a state line, or did you have to go to multiple branches all over the state, thus verifying your theory? Was everyone you dealt with over 50, and how did you verify this? How old was the person who finally rectified the situation?

But better yet, let's look at my anecdote. There was a problem with my registration (my fault, I'll admit.) I tried calling to see if this was something that could be handled over the phone. I found out that you can only schedule a callback, and the wait time was over 24 hours. I went in person to the local branch, which usually has a line out the door just to get a ticket to wait in line. Thankfully, the person who gives out the ticket was able to resolve things for me, but the poor girl from Ohio who just needed to get a Mass Drivers License was uberconfused by the whole process.

But this isn't about my anecdote or your anecdote. This is about how the RMV is so backed up with driving tests that basically bribery is taking place. This is about an agency that increased fees while decreasing service. Fish is right. Grabauskas did a great job with the agency, and then it was run into the ground by the Patrick administration. With some support, it can be a good agency again, but firing everyone (which to you means making everyone over 50 retire) won't change the culture, so nothing will change.

Be at peace with your inner Howie Carr!

(PS I know you everything you wrote above was there before. I caught how some asshat changed a response to you last week and claimed he never said what he did. That's low. Very few people would do that, and those that do are scum.)

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I have a Liquor Id instead of a license. They require me to come in to the RMV every five years and renewal online is not available (because apparently I could get younger since I was there last time). I checked the website and brought documents according to their lists. I waited outside in the July 3rd heat wave for an hour before I got to the window to get my number (their wait times on the website only apply after you've gotten the magic number, BTW). The clerk claimed I needed my social security card. I walked home printed out what it said on the website (didn't need my SS card) and walked back. Waited in line again. This time she didn't even look at my documents and gave me a number. Waited some more in the sweltering waiting room. Finally got to the window and the clerk also didn't look at any of my documents but took my picture (which was off the charts hideous from being outside in the record heat all day) and sent me on my way.

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Even my good experiences showed bad aspects (waiting a day to talk to someone on the phone, the oddness of the line to wait in line, which was longer than the actual line.)

My thing is that the Registry was not a bad place at one point. I blame poor training and lack of morale, both of which comes from cuts in the headcount. Like a lot of people, I cannot figure out why service was cut while at the same time fees were raised. In other government agencies, the increased fees are tolerated since they lead to better service. She wants to blow the place up (figuratively) and bring in a bunch of people untrained in Massachusetts law and regulations to somehow do a better job.

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You show them the written rules, they look at you blankly and repeat the ones that they made up that conflict.

This has been the case since I started driving decades ago. If you encounter one of these people, the best thing is to take your papers to a different office, where they will probably do your bidding without batting an eye. I've had that happen more than once.

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People should be able to apply for a test,regardless if they used a school or not, and if they pass the test, get their licence. And no favorites, no giving the schools preferential treatment. That's how it should function. The petty corruption is unreal.

Who operates these driving schools? police or ex-police? Others connected with The System?

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Another scammy system is the airport security line. Everyone pays the same TSA fee, so everyone really should wait in the same line whether they're flying first, business, or coach. They came up with a crooked system where TSA controls security while the airport/airlines control the line.

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Hasn't this always been the case in Massachusetts? I did my driver's test through a driving school back in 2001 or so and the cop at the Watertown RMV who administered my test was pretty chummy with guy who ran the auto school; they chatted through my whole test (my auto-school instructor sat in the back seat of my test vehicle). Also, it was an incredibly easy driving test. That's where I'd like to see follow-up: what is the percentage of test failures when the test is given to an auto-school driver?

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The article says it's gotten worse recently.

More people are taking driving tests, but the state has fewer examiners. And they used to give extra tests for driving schools just during off-hours, but now they take up some regular slots for them, and keep non-school applicants waiting past their appointment times while school applicants get tested first.

Even getting an appointment is an ordeal, since they only book 45 days out, while the backlog would be much longer than that. So you have to repeatedly try to get appointments as soon as they open the books.

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