- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2002

If you live in the District, it's apparently your destiny to endure endless hassles, red tape, long lines and pervasive incompetence at the hands of the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Destiny also happens to be the name of the DMV's new $19 million computer system which, according to many, has only made existing problems much worse. If the system believes you have an unpaid parking ticket outstanding even as far back as the early 1980s, and even if you did, in fact, pay the fine years ago it will not allow you to conduct any business at the DMV until the "obligation" is met. You may not even have been issued a ticket or were issued one that was in error. Tell that to the computer. And if you have no proof that you paid some ancient fine from the Reagan years, well, that's your problem. Destiny doesn't care it just wants your money.

The District is already infamous for its Third World-like parking ticket tactics. Now it has a new computer system to help it collect. So after waiting in line for perhaps several hours to get your documents in order, obtain a new driver's license, or vehicle registration, Destiny may elect not to smile upon you. That's if the multi-million-dollar system works at all. On May 3, Destiny ate some bad code and simply refused to operate not even when a $20 bill was dangled in front of the screen.

At a riotous public hearing the other day, D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz called the Destiny system a "fiasco" and a "joke." The District "procured a system that was a colossal failure" in Nevada, she added. Citizens attending the hearing expressed similar outrage over the new layer of hassle that's been added. DMV officials say it's just a matter of sorting out technical glitches and bringing harried DMV employees up to speed on the new system. But until the DMV reforms its egregious parking ticket policies, computerizing incompetence and outright injustice such as dunning people for tickets they never should have received in the first place, or for fines they've already paid won't solve anything. It's bad enough haggling with an officious human clerk; try convincing a computer that its database is in error.

And Destiny goes after more than just parking tickets. Civil liabilities such as unpaid child support and problems relating to bad checks also light up Destiny's board alerting DMV drones to slam the window shut and send you packing, sans driver's license or whatever else you needed to get. As with parking tickets, it may be that you don't owe any child support and never kited a check. Destiny doesn't care. It wants your money, and it wants you to stand in line. Again, and again and again.

Perhaps DMV officials should erect a plaque above the entrance to the building: "Abandon all hope, Ye who enter here."


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