- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2000


It's not shocking to learn that the District has been reduced to just one operational vehicle safety and emissions inspection station at Half Street, N.W. or that waiting times now routinely exceed two hours. It's merely dispiriting; a grim reminder that, for all the impressive talk by the Williams administration about reforming city services, the District remains a model of bureaucratic rigmarole.
Last year, the city government closed the other inspection facility, located in Northeast ostensibly because that facility was obsolescent. Out of date or not, the shuttering of the Northeast station left city residents no alternative but to queue up at the Half Street location, often waiting, ironically enough, half the day to have their car's brakes, lights, tires and emissions control equipment looked over. The city solons optimistically figured it would be possible to get by with just one station which is sort of true if you don't care how long people have to wait. It is maddeningly characteristic of government agencies who lately have begun to address their captive clientele as "customers" that efficiency and courteous treatment are less important than human rights complaints are to Saddam Hussein.
It hasn't helped matters at all that vehicle registrations have surged during the past year, overwhelming the beleaguered eight-bay station at Half Street. Also, the city is having trouble retaining an adequate number of inspectors leaving as many as three of those eight inspection bays unused. Apparently, the $23,000 per year inspector jobs are not all that enticing but one suspects the dearth of inspectors has more to do with the very same bureaucratic ineptitude that resulted in the city's having just one inspection facility. It's just a little difficult to accept the idea that these jobs are going begging in a city where fairly well-paying, skilled and semiskilled types of employment are often not that easy to find.
City officials are scrambling in the usual circus clown-like fashion to address the growing outrage. The hours of operation at the Half Street facility have been extended by two hours in the evening (it now closes at 8 p.m. instead of 6 p.m.), and more steps are purportedly in the offing. "The mayor and I are 100 percent committed to addressing (this issue)," said Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Director Sherryl Hobbs Newman. She wants to "eliminate the stress and frustration people are feeling" and says the city is "going to pull out all the stops to get this solved quickly."
But don't hold your breath. It will be at least another 18 months before a second facility (a rebuilt one at the site of the former Northeast inspection station) can be ready. Why the delay? Apparently, the city neglected to make funding provisions for the construction of the new station before it closed the old one. As the ramifications of that little bit of shortsightedness became all too depressingly clear and politically damaging for the Williams administration DMV quickly put money into its capital budget to fund the project.
It goes without saying, of course, that the damage is done and once again, city residents are left to suffer the consequences. Maybe city bureaucrats have nothing to do but shuffle paper from one basket to another or file their nails. A few hours out of their day doesn't make all that much difference. But to people with jobs and lives outside of the Kafkesque world of the D.C. government, having to sit stewing in your car waiting for an inspection can be an aneurysm-inducing event. That it didn't have to be this way and is this way only because of the mismanagement of city bureaucrats makes it that much more frustrating.

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