Too much of our state and local government is still only crawling toward the 21st century.
Yesterday a City Council committee considered legislation that would require the Bureau of Administrative Adjudication, which handles parking-ticket appeals, to allow citizens to fight tickets online or by phone. Shouldn't these options have been available, like, yesterday?
Especially since for most of us, fighting an unfair parking ticket means taking a day off work and spending it in a waiting room — or else just deciding,"screw it, it's not worth it" and paying up.
Concerned BAA administrators fear that these changes would lead to a flood of appeals and that face-to-face conversations are more "satisfying" for members of the public.
It may be true that the number of contested tickets would increase with electronic and phone hearings. But it seems just as likely that more time-intensive in-person appeals would decrease (though they'll still be available), freeing up staff time. And why not let the public decide which kind of appeal "satisfies" us more?
More to the point, quality customer service means making things easier for the customer by adapting the way you do business. The city ought to adopt a more customer-service-friendly attitude. It's ridiculous that in 2012, Philadelphians can't use the Internet or the telephone to communicate with their government.
Meanwhile, the state of Pennsylvania is no better. What follows is a recent editorial in the Harrisburg Patriot-News:
The state is still accepting paper copies of campaign-finance reports, which then get scanned and posted online, a process that can take weeks.
Continuing this arcane method is costly and time-consuming. And the state is way behind in posting reports on its website. By Tuesday's primary Election Day, the state still had not put online some mid-March campaign-finance reports, let alone the reports due April 13. Even for the biggest state races such as auditor general and state treasurer, some candidate fundraising reports were missing by Election Day.
The figures were even more dismal for state House and state Senate seats. There were 372 people running for the House and only 339 reports online when there should have been at least 744 reports (one for March and one for April). On the Senate side, with 49 people running, only 70 reports were online when there should have been at least 98.
The state outsourced this process in an effort to save money, but it still costs the state upwards of $35,000, according to figures from last year when there was a debate about whether the state could even afford that.
There is a simple way to make this budget item go away and give the public better access to this information: Require all candidates to file their reports online.
The online-filing service is already set up and a few candidates take advantage, such as Republican auditor general candidate John Maher.
This should be Government Reform 101. . . .