One vignette (minimum 2 pages) that describes the practice of public administration based on an actual encounter (50 points).
As an employee for Florida International University, I practice public administration on a daily basis. I am an administrative assistant in the Facilities Planning unit of the Facilities Management Department. I assist in aiding the very public process of hiring architects and construction managers for all Capital Improvement Projects exceeding over $2 million. I am credited for implementing the process of storing public records and also the procedure now used to handle public record requests. I am responsible for ensuring we are always in compliance with all Florida statutes and regulations. It is my job to make sure the Facilities Planning website is updated with the most accurate information. I am the first person in my unit that the public contacts; as a result, I know that my duty is to provide exceptional customer service to every individual by providing accurate information in a timely manner.
Until very recently, I have experienced only minor frustrations as a citizen when it came to dealing with other public departments or divisions. I have always renewed my vehicle registration and/or driver’s license with great ease at the local DMV or through their user-friendly website. I was able to renew my passport with minimal hoop jumping and even had a pleasant interaction with a very efficient clerk. That same pleasant, efficient clerk assisted me almost a year later in obtaining a marriage license during one of my very short lunch breaks. She remembered our conversation from our previous encounter and made mention on how I should go about changing my name on my passport once I was married. I changed my last name at the Social Security without much effort. The most annoying part may was having to visit the Social Security office twice in 24 hours. Nevertheless, the combined wait time for both trips was less that 30 minutes and the frustration level was practically zero. I have been able to resolve minor traffic violations with a slight pain to my wallet but the experience left nothing lasting on by sanity. How have I not run into the infamous bureaucracy of the public sector? Am I really just THAT lucky? Or can it all be contributed to living in a small town? After all, even if there is a line somewhere in Ocala or Biloxi, it’s never TOO long. Perhaps others who say they experience such awfulness are over dramatic and impatient. I mean you can’t please everyone every single time, right?
My feelings changed dramatically once we moved to Miami. Bureaucracy runs rapt in this large city especially in the public sector. Remember the nice clerk in Ocala who told me how it easy it would be to renew my passport with my new married name? Well, obviously that nice woman does not live in Miami! Although the process was the same the experience was completely different. It was painful! The Miami clerks barely acknowledged my presence. Which line do I stand in? Do I need an entirely new passport? Which form do I fill out? Is there someone that can help me before I risk standing in the wrong, never-ending line? It felt like I was on my own to figure how to remedy my situation; and at the time the situation seemed IMPOSSIBLE. After standing in an ambiguous line for close to 30 minutes, I remember thinking my streak of good fortunate was officially over. After about 3 or 4 hours, my mission was finally complete. I was able to do what needed to be done and move forward with my life. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? It was all just a test, a very long test. Although unbelievably frustrated and maybe a little more bald, I passed the test. I made it through! I have a passport with my new married name proud printed across the top next to an awful picture of me seething. Oh well. I was never looking back—well, not until my 10 year passport renewal!
Another and more recent “test” by the public sector occurred this October. With this incident the frustration level continues to grow the end result is still pending.
My husband drives a sun-bleached 1996 Mercury Sable that was given to us by a very generous family friend back in May. Other than the faded paint, the vehicle is in surprisingly great shape. As a responsible adult and citizen, my husband went immediately to the Miami DMV,—another disaster story for another day—bought a new tag, and registered the car in his name. As the second car in our household, it is not unusual for the Mercury to legally stay put in its designated parking spot for a couple days outside of our condominium building. On a Monday morning in October, my husband noticed a ticket on his windshield from Miami Police. It was difficult to read the sloppy handwriting on the ticket but we were able to figure out it was written for ‘dead storage’. This seemed very odd because again the car was drivable and very much undead. It had a brand new Florida plate with a valid registration. It was where it was supposed to be in the back of our complex.
My husband spoke to our housing management to see if they knew anything about the ticket. The manager and the condo board members were just as puzzled. They did not call Miami police. Why was Miami police ticketing residents’ vehicles on private property? My husband called the Court of Clerks to investigate further. He was informed that the ticket was “too new” and therefore may not show up in the system for up to two or three weeks. They suggested he contact the police officer who wrote the ticket. For a full month my husband called the police officer every single day. My husband left message after message with different individuals asking for the officer to call him back. The officer did finally call back, once, on a week night at 11:45PM. Despite the late hour, my determined husband called the officer back immediately. No answer. My husband left another message.
Once the holidays came through our focus was no longer on this ridiculous ticket. My husband still attempted to reach the officer, but not with the same tenacity as before the holidays. Aggravated that this issue would follow us into the New Year, my husband called the Clerk of Courts yet again to see what could be done. The clerk told him that the ticket was in the system, but there were no accompanying notes to explain the reasoning for the ticket. In other words, no new information was given to my husband. My husband asked the clerk what he should do and for a second time they suggested calling the officer.
It was not until last week when my husband spoke to a supervisor at the police department. He was finally able to express his dilemma and frustration over the entire situation. The supervisors listened to the issue and seemed to understand the frustration, but since the ticket writing officer did not contact my husband within the first 30 days of the ticket, it was sent to the Clerk of Courts for a hearing. The same Clerk of Courts my husband just spoke two 15 minutes prior and yet never mentioned a hearing.
What does this all mean? We received a $20 ticket for an inaccurate, fictional violation. My husband spent months of his own time trying to resolve the issue. Now, this silly $20 ticket has been sent to court. This means my husband will have to spend more time trying to resolve something that should have never occurred. However, this time he will be forced to take time off work to drive downtown to appear in court. He will have to pay gas, tolls, and parking to get to there. He will have to relive his frustrating case all over again to another person. All of this for a $20 ticket for the ‘dead storage’ with brand new tires and a valid vehicle registration parked in a private lot in its designated spot.
It is enough to make you crazy.
I almost want to lose faith in system. I try to remind myself that I can be the change the public sector needs, but can one person really make a difference? How can we change the public sector and the way the public feels about public administration?