Speedy RMV visit leaves less time for reading
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, February 8, 2012

So there I was, sitting on a comfortable bench at the Registry of Motor Vehicles office at the Liberty Tree Mall and reading Robert Kelly's 2011 book on "the closest presidential elections," which I'd been saving for election year 2012.

I'd already read about John Adams vs. Thomas Jefferson, 1796, through Grover Cleveland vs. James Blaine, 1884. I figured a wait at the Registry might allow me to get through another hundred years.

But as I glanced at my customer number, I noticed it said "waiting time eight minutes." Eight minutes! I won't even get through Grover Cleveland vs. Benjamin Harrison!

Twelve minutes later I was out the door with my temporary updated driver's license, its new photo now showing my hair white, not red. Time to go back to work; more chapters of "Neck & Neck to the White House" had to wait.

Since my birthday is next week, it's fortunate that Gov. Patrick mentioned cutting the Registry budget in his State of the State address on Jan. 25, sending me to my wallet to check my license renewal date and then to the mall.


The Registry seems to be one example of a state agency that works efficiently, with pleasant personnel in a very nice setting. Patrick is cutting its budget by $15 million, perhaps on the assumption that it's efficient enough to find savings or new advertising revenue.

In the past, Citizens for Limited Taxation has objected to the amount of Registry fees, since they cover far more than the cost of providing direct Registry services. This means that by definition these aren't fees, but taxes. However, we've lost to the counter-argument that the Registry fees help pay for driver-related services like highways, including the state police.

If this is valid, it's probably also been successfully argued that the same "fees" can be used for Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway, which for some reason is partly taxpayer-funded through the state Department of Transportation.

So, the efficient Registry of Motor Vehicles, which generates revenues for the state, may have its budget cut; yet taxpayers will continue to fund the Greenway so it can pay six-figure salaries to its executives who allowed its sod to be trampled by the Occupy Movement last fall.

In my opinion, since the Registry doesn't need $15 million for providing direct services to drivers, the fees/taxes should be reduced. Since that won't happen, the fees/taxes should be used to maintain the roads and bridges we drive on. And the Occupiers should pay to clean up any damage they cause in public parks.


Speaking of drivers, why is the proposed ban on handheld cellphones while driving so controversial? Didn't we learn in high school driver's ed. to keep both hands on the wheel?

Of course, the momentary move to push a button on the radio, or sip coffee, is reasonably allowed; but it's OK to hold a phone to the ear for an entire conversation, which, by the way, takes the brain to another planet when it should be paying attention to the road?

The commonwealth finally passed a law against texting while driving, but it's hard to enforce because police can't easily tell if a driver is texting or dialing. Ban the handheld phone, enforcement problem solved; though the driver's absent brain will still be a concern.


Moving on to another item I noted in the State of the State address: Gov. Patrick wants to coordinate the commonwealth's community college system, tailoring some of its mission to workforce development.

This is one of those proposals to which some of us respond: You mean you're not doing this now?!

Community colleges have long been the best place to get the continuing education that high-school graduates may need to find jobs. With four-year college costs out of control, their administrative salaries and perks outrageous, the community colleges are a much better alternative for many students.

I think the Patrick proposal makes sense, as long as everyone is careful not to plug the community colleges into the higher ed. system run by Big Education, which has become like Big Business, Big Labor and Big Government part of America's present Big Problem.


This takes me back to Kelly's book about the closest presidential elections in American history, because I suspect we are about to have another one of those. As the Peabody author writes in his conclusion about the 1884 election, it was "another example of intra-party squabbling denying victory to a major party."

Re-electing Democrat Grover Cleveland over anti-Catholic James Blaine wasn't the worst thing that could have happened, since in that period Republicans were "the party of big government;" but in 1888, Kelly recounts, Republicans decided to go with "a new face, less vulnerable to attack."

I'm getting to the part where Benjamin Harrison is elected president after fending off 11 Republican opponents for the party's nomination. The Republican platform supported civil rights, veterans' pensions, tariffs, and interestingly, the elimination of polygamy.

This book is already giving me the perspective I need to get through the 2012 election.

Kelly shows us that by understanding history, not only may we not be doomed to repeat its mistakes, but can also honor its occasional wisdom.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette.

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