To: Gavin Newsom, California’s Brand-New Governor
Re: The DMV, California’s Way-Old Disaster
Dear Governor Newsom:
Early in January in statement from your office you described the DMV as:
“…chronically mismanaged and failed in its fundamental mission to the state customers it serves and the state workers it employs.”
Governor Newsom, I respect and admire your ambitious plans for addressing the DMV’s multitudinous issues, including appointing Marybel Batjer to lead your new DMV Reinvention Strike Team for six months.
DMV, which also stands for Damned Messy Venue.
May I suggest, as a first step, that you teach the DMV to tell time?
The DMV team obviously can’t, based on my recent call.
At 9:13am the recording said my “wait time would be approximately five minutes.”
You could start by telling the team that 9:13am is when the little hand is a bit above 9, and the big hand is between the 2 and 3. Here’s a picture the DMV can use as a visual aid:
My call was finally answered at 9:41am.
Tell the DMV that 9:41am is when the little hand is between 9 and 10, and the big hand is just past the 8, like so:
Twenty-eight minutes is not “approximately five,” even by the DMV’s finger counting.
Governor Newson, the DMV has lots of problems, and as our leader I know your role is to prioritize the…um…priorities. To do my part to assist, here’s a quick recap of some recent DMV issues.
Excessive Wait Times: As of December 2018, the average wait time was 69 minutes, though there are many reports of waits lasting many hours. Plus there’s the potential two- to three-hour wait outside the DMV office for customers who didn’t make an appointment. The DMV blames this on people applying for REAL ID, which, as of October 1, 2020, will be required to board a domestic flight unless you have a passport.
Unfortunately, to obtain a REAL ID we must apply in person at the DMV. When thousands of people started doing this, the DMV was – to say the least – caught with their Calvins down, even though the REAL ID Act has been around since 2005.
Next, and relevant to the REAL ID issue:
Incorrect REAL ID Requirements: To obtain a REAL ID, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires at least two documents to prove where you live. The DMV was requiring only one proof of residency. In December the DMV received a letter from the DHS saying California’s process for proving residency did not align with REAL ID regulation.
At that point the DMV had issued 2.3 million REAL IDs, and the DHS says it will accept those IDs. But if you were among those 2.3 million people who went to the DMV with only one document, are you going to take the chance of going to the airport for your once-in-a-lifetime trip and having someone from the DHS or TSA say, “Nope, not valid”?
The Motor Voter Law: It was a good idea: Make it easy for people to register to vote. And it would have worked, except it involved the DMV. Californians doing certain tasks at the DMV would be automatically registered to vote unless they opted out.
Since the program launched in April 2018, the DMV has acknowledged three batches of mistakes:
- A software error affected 77,000 registrations, resulting, in some cases, in two registration forms indicating different party preferences being issued for one voter (May 2018).
- A window-toggling error affected 23,000 registrations, resulting in changes to voters’ party preference, vote-by-mail options and language choices (September 2018).
- A data-entry error resulted in 1,500 people being registered to vote even though they were not legally eligible because they were not U.S. citizens, were under 18 or were on parole for a felony conviction (October 2018).
Then there are those pesky problems like the all-too-frequent computer glitches that shut down the DMV’s antiquated systems and extend wait times by hours.
Between January 2017 and mid-August 2018, the DMV experienced 34 IT outages, including six statewide office system outages, ranging from 15 minutes to nine hours. And let’s not forget of that very pesky outage in 2016 when more than 100 DMV offices were knocked offline for several days.
No wonder DMV customers often look…
|And this…||And this…|
Governor Newsom, you described the DMV as “chronically mismanaged” without naming the person who’s been mismanaging the DMV for the past five years, so I will:
Director Jean Shiomoto.
Jean retired rather abruptly at the end of 2018, but it was under her watch that these and other problems came to light.
While Jean, I might mention, was earning about $233,000 a year in salary, benefits, and “other pay,” whatever that means, and is now collecting a nice, fat pension.
I acknowledge a retired Jean is beyond our shaming reach, so I welcome this opportunity to badmouth her.
Which segues nicely to my final item:
According to the state auditor’s report, this DMV worker napped at her desk for an estimated 2,200 hours of work time between February 2014 and December 2017, costing the state more than $40,000.
The auditor’s report added that “The employee’s behavior may have prevented DMV from providing the public with an appropriate level of service.”
Multiple news stories said the employee’s name was not released.
But I think we all know who she was: