Examining corruption
Sept. 27, 2019
by Ivan Raconteur

One does not toss words like “corruption” around lightly, but after reading some of the assertions uncovered in a recent KARE 11 investigation regarding the system of drivers license exams in the metro area, it would be difficult to put a positive spin on the situation.

It was revealed that it can take months to get an appointment for a to take a driving test – despite the fact that state statute requires that a person seeking a road test should be able to obtain an appointment within 14 days of the request.

According to the report, slots at most metro locations are booked until January.

There are a limited number of “walk-in” slots, but, according to the report, people have resorted to arriving in the middle of the night and sleeping in their cars to get near the front of the line, and still not been able to get a slot.

No one should have to go through that sort of an ordeal simply to take a test that is required for them to get a driver’s license.

But perhaps the most infuriating thing revealed by the report is that certain driving schools have been granted a number of “standing appointments,” which allows their students to jump the line to take the test – for an additional fee, of course.

This kind of special treatment is blatantly unfair, since it is not offered to all applicants or all driving schools. Only those who are aware of the special appointments, and who are willing or able to afford the extra fees can take advantage of the system.

This naturally leads one to ask who decides which driving schools can get the special “standing appointments,” which can’t; what are the selection criteria; and who is ultimately getting a cut of the special extra fees.

Senator Karin Housley, (R-St. Mary’s Point) has unveiled a bill aimed at alleviating wait times by allowing certified driving schools to give road tests on their own. When the legislature returns in 2020, Housley said she will propose letting private behind-the-wheel instructors become certified to administer driving tests.

That sounds like it could be an excellent way to improve the situation.

It does not, however, answer why it took an investigative report from a news outlet to bring the situation to light.

Where is the accountability in this situation?

According to the report, the Department of Public Safety, which oversees Driver and Vehicle Services declined KARE 11’s request for an interview to answer questions about how the system of “standing appointments” began – and why it is not open to all state-licensed driving schools.

When asked why it was failing to comply with state law requiring driving tests be given with 14 days, the department released a statement saying: “there is more demand than there are examiners and available appointments.” They also wrote “minimizing wait times is a top priority.”

If they are doing such a pathetic job in addressing their “top priority,” one can only imagine what kind of attention a “low priority” might receive.

KARE 11 reported that the department said one in five of the appointments at the Arden Hills, Eagan, and Plymouth testing stations are reserved for driving schools.

This is clearly another government system that is broken, and significant changes are needed.

It is also an example of another government department that is apparently allowed to run without any oversight or accountability, and this must change.

Under the current system, citizens – the ones who pay the taxes that support the agency – are at the mercy of a government agency to get a driver’s license, and the agency apparently doesn’t give a rat’s posterior about providing reasonable service to those citizens.

“This has been an ongoing and chronic problem that nobody has felt any urgency to fix,” Representative Linda Runbeck (R-Circle Pines), a member of the House Transportation committee, said, according to KARE 11.

As one person observed, this is the antithesis of customer service.

Perhaps during the next session, the legislature will make fixing the problem a higher priority than it has been for Driver and Vehicle Services.

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