Most adult Americans believe that driving is a right as much as freedom of speech.
This belief is erroneous – driving, as they say, is a privilege and not a right – but the perception is there. Take away our cars, take away our freedom, and you’re itching for a fight.
DMV Employees Take A Stand
So here comes public employees of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, not showing up to work in protest of the state’s inability to pass its annual budget.
They are walking a thin line.
The protest is against elected officials who are playing partisan games and holding out to prevent more taxes, or to protect state services, take your pick.
To fight it, upsetting motorists is probably not the best political tactic.
California is the car capital of the planet, where everyone needs a car to work and get from here to there due to many reasons, among them a lacking public transit system, and the fact that its urban centers are so spread out geographically.
So, for DMV employees (public ones, gaining wages and benefits thanks to taxpayers), to make our DMV experience even worse is political suicide.
So you would think.
Crying Out Against Schwarzenegger
At issue is an informal protest by state workers to attract attention to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cuts in wages and hours, to combat limited cash as the state operates without a budget.
Image from: Moon battery
In California, the fiscal year begins July 1, which means they need to have a spending plan in place for the following 12 months.
But in California, the Legislature has been mired in a juvenile bipartisan spat for more than a decade, and it’s pretty much expected that the budget will not be passed by the June 30 law-required deadline.
Sure it’s law, but there are no penalties. What’s the point?
Who gets penalized are state workers who go without paychecks the entire summer until the liberals and conservatives can come to terms about spending. It usually takes the whole summer.
So the California DMV workers, who have been targeted by the Governator for cutbacks, rebelled.
Sounds like a worthy cause, right?
Well, maybe if it involved Caltrans trash-pickup workers or some other non-essential duties.
But impacting California drivers?
“We’re working though these issues,” DMV Director George Valverde was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 16. “We would hope that the public will have some patience with us.”
California Drivers Feeling the Impact
How much sympathy Mr. Valverde will get remains to be seen.
One thing is for certain: motorists already stressed to a boiling point by astronomical gas prices are not going to have much patience if their wait at the DMV gets any less pleasurable.
Yet the DMV warns that delays are expected at many other Los Angeles County DMV offices. The Times’ article focused on Hawthorne and Bellflower.
Somewhat alarming is what is noted on the California DMV website: “Due to public safety concerns, the Hawthorne Office is currently closed.”
Safety concerns? That says much about how the public is expected to react if service at California DMV offices gets any worse.
Valverde said more than 200 DMV employees in the Los Angeles area sicked out on Aug. 15.
There are 169 California DMV offices in the Los Angeles area, to serve an estimated 14 million drivers. That means about 3.1 vehicles per household.
It’s a gigantic voting block. But the threat of laying off about 1,000 employees and eliminating Saturday hours forced the hand.
No one knows who will win. There arealready losers – California drivers.