DMV spoof becomes reality

By Scott Wilk

The Saturday Night Live “Public Employee of the Year Award” skit is a comical spoof on just about every public employee stereotype ever written.  The thing is, in every spoof there has to be at least a smattering of reality or it wouldn’t be funny.

SNL’s fictitious DMV worker, Markeesha Odum, receives the Public Employee of the Year award for ensuring her branch did not help a single customer all day … despite there being 24 employees in the office.  That’s funny on SNL, but not remotely funny for anyone who has recently had to wait in a California DMV office for six or seven hours to take care of business.

DMV officials blame the longer wait times on the implementation of the REAL ID Act.  This law, passed in 2005, requires all residents who want to board a domestic flight or enter military bases and most federal facilities to get a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identification card, with satisfactory proof of residency, by October 1, 2020.  But that explanation just doesn’t pass the sniff test.

The REAL ID requirements and deadline for implementation has been law for 13 years, and the Legislature has provided almost $70 million total to the DMV to soften the blow of the extra workload.  Those additional millions of dollars came with the promise of hiring more workers, extending office hours from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and opening 60 field offices from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.  Something the DMV didn’t do. It’s no wonder wait times went through the roof.

DMV says the answer to the problem is more money.  But what about the money already allocated?  Where has that gone?  These are legitimate questions that should be answered before forking over yet one more cent, but in spite of those questions Senate Democrats on the Joint Legislative Audit Committee (JLAC blocked a move to audit the behemoth bureaucracy.

DMV director Jean Shiomoto told the committee that the extra money lawmakers had allocated was already spent, and her agency wants more.  California residents deserve to know what happened to the already spent tens of millions of dollars for the promised new staff, new offices and extended hours.

An audit would have shed light on what is going on – or not going on – in the agency.  It would have given taxpayers and the Legislature a realistic picture of how the DMV is using its resources, and it could have pointed out opportunities for improvements in efficiency and effectiveness.

When it comes to taxpayer dollars, the only way to ensure the DMV makes the improvements and keeps its promises is via an audit.  Without an audit, Californians simply will be throwing a heck of a lot more good money after bad.

As published in the Victor Valley Press on 8.19.18.