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Bad bureaucracy experience

Bright and early Thursday morning, I pulled into a visitors’ parking lot at the state Capitol Complex in Charleston. Rather, I slammed into the lot. Squarely in the middle of the lot entrance was a large pothole.

Not exactly the best way to create a good impression among visitors to the Capitol.

After parking, I got out of the car and trudged across a much larger parking lot closer to the Capitol. I wasn’t allowed to park there. It’s for state employees only.

Thursday’s experience is only one reason why I fear House of Delegates member S. Marshall Wilson, I-Berkeley, won’t accomplish much with a bill he introduced last week.

“My intent is that administrative managers incorporate the insights received from citizens to improve customer service and to hold employees accountable for poor service,” Wilson said of his bill.

You get the idea. People who have bad experiences with state employees are supposed to rat them out, in the hope their superiors will tell them to shape up or ship out.

Let’s be clear: The vast majority of state employees are courteous and helpful. Heck, even the state troopers refer to us or “sir” and “ma’am” while they’re handing us speeding tickets.

And as I’ve told officials in Charleston, people who work in our state parks go way above and beyond the call of duty. During the past year or so, I’ve interacted with 20-30 of them and found them to be courteous and helpful to a fault.

Occasionally, you run into bad apple. You know the type — the folks who insist you have to jump through every bureaucratic hoop in the rulebook in order to get done whatever business you have with state government.

How many of them are just trying to be rude and obstructive? More than likely, I suspect, they’re afraid that if they don’t demand you dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s,” they’ll be chewed out by their supervisors.

All too often, said supervisors are people who have played the bureaucratic game well for many years. And, you guessed it, even they worry that any deviation from the rulebook will bring the wrath of their superiors down on them.

Rule No. 1 in the bureaucracy is that the rules must be followed for their own sake, even if they fly in the face of common sense.

And the people who make the rules seldom come in contact with the public — and thus, have nothing to fear from Wilson’s bill. Who do you think decided visitors to the Capitol ought to have to walk farther than state employees? Who do you think has to authorize repairing that pothole?

Bless you for trying, Delegate Wilson, but if you want to know why you’re doomed to failure, try parking in the Capitol visitors’ lot.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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