On June 18, I went to the Division of Motor Vehicles office in Fairbanks on Peger Road to try to process a title transfer for a vehicle.
The parking lot was just about empty and the state office was just about empty.
I was prepared to wait, but the worker at the front desk said she was sorry, but I could not do that. She said I had to make an appointment online.
I checked the website online and found that the next available appointment would be in a week.
“This streamlined appointment system allows us to serve Alaskans efficiently with minimal wait times and the highest level of customer service,” the state claims.
A week is not a “minimal” time to wait. And this is not about serving Alaskans efficiently. It is about driving more business to private vendors who charge more money. The formula is an easy one — make the state service worse and the private alternative becomes more attractive.
The woman at DMV did tell me that I could go to a private vendor and wait in person and get the title transferred that day. I went to a UMV office near the intersection of the Steese Highway and College Road, one of the local private companies contracting with the state.
The parking lot was just about full and the cramped quarters of UMV were just about full. There was 16 maskless people standing close together inside waiting for service.
I left the office without the title transfer, having just witnessed a fresh reminder that the Dunleavy administration strategy to make the DMV less efficient and more cumbersome is working.
One of several private partners doing DMV work is UMV, LLC, which is owned by Einar and Krista Gonder, relatives of health commissioner Adam Crum, and part owners of the Crum family business, Northern Industrial Training.
Private companies, including UMV, charge higher rates to consumers, but they are not transparent in these transactions and don’t make the higher fees clear to consumers. That the state does not require a clear explanation of what UMV calls “convenience fees” is a disgrace.
If the “highest level of customer service” requires DMV appointments in advance at the state office, why is that not true at the private offices? The UMV website is headlined, “NO APPOINTMENT NECESSARY.”
The state policy is not to provide the “highest level of customer service,” but to turn customers away.
Privatization advocate Kelly Tshibaka is gone, having quit her job as administration commissioner to run for U.S. Senate, but this is her legacy. Nearly three months ago, Dunleavy named Amanda Holland as acting commissioner. The department website still says of Holland, “bio coming soon.”
Speaking of coming soon, I checked the state website Saturday to see when the next DMV appointments are available for a title transfer. In Fairbanks, the first opening was June 28. In Anchorage and Eagle River, the first openings were June 30.
The Legislature rejected the plans by Dunleavy and Tshibaka to close six DMV offices in small communities, but lawmakers have failed to investigate or challenge the staffing and other operational decisions made by the state that have created a more cumbersome and less efficient Division of Motor Vehicles.
Dermot Cole, a longtime columnist and reporter from Fairbanks, writes about Alaska politics and other topics on his blog Reporting From Alaska, which can be found at www.dermotcole.com.