3/13/2014

Putting Customers Last

2014-02-24 Rockhound (28)We’re camped at a place called “Rockhound State Park” in New Mexico and the public servants for the New Mexico State Park system have been all over the place on this trip. On average, New Mexico’s state park employees are no better or worse than anyone else’s. Unfortunately, that means they are mostly pretty useless.  It’s rare and special to find park rangers who know anything about the park where they work. The park management is most often absent and arrogant. It’s clear the state has dedicated a lot of money to creating and maintaining these parks, but it’s equally clear that no one is watching the store.

This park, for example, is using some federal money to spruce up the bathrooms. Nice idea, but it’s just a bathroom remodel, not a total rework requiring a from-the-ground-up reconstruction. If you were having this kind of work done in your home and the construction company insisted on disabling your entire bathroom, you’d fire them. Not here, though. The contractor locks up the bathrooms and the state employees lock up the bathrooms in the visitors’ center, so any tent campers and campers without bathroom facilities are shit-out-of-luck. They don’t even bother to put signs on the doors, they just lock them up. That is, clearly, the  kind of thing that ought to get someone fired. But not in government work.

Likewise, the US public has become more complacent about arrogant bureaucrats all over the country. I think the “Fines Doubled in Construction Zones” legislation is a symptom of that arrogance. Since when did a highway worker’s life become more valuable than a citizen/taxpayer’s life? Those four-foot tall concrete barriers highway crews use to isolate themselves from traffic have to be dangerous for the traffic. I’d love to see a study that counts the number of injuries and deaths caused by those barriers. Once we have that number, we can compare that to the number of highway worker injuries from when nothing more than signs and flagmen protected the construction crews. The other highway construction tactic that pisses me off is when road crews block off miles of highway, diverting traffic from divided lanes into narrow two-way traffic zones. They typically work in tiny sections while pushing drivers into miles of slow moving, dangerous, single-lane traffic. A more reasonable system would be to block off no more than a few hundred yards more of the road than is being serviced.

Citizens are being asked to accommodate bureaucrats and government workers far beyond the service provided by those un-civil and hardly-servant employees. There is no good reason for it. Nothing government does is of more value than the citizens it is supposed to serve. If government employees cared to know why the public resents them so overwhelmingly, this is exactly why. That cynical police motto, “Protect and Serve,” was a good idea. Someone should try it.

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