Thursday, September 20, 2007

Government Fees - Tax or Theft?

There's this little thing that bothers me and I thought I'd air it out a bit today. Have you noticed that every time you go to do something with the government there are strange, overly large fees involved? Just two instances I've encountered today include a $2.00 fee to mail in your vehicle registration renewal (for "handling") and a whopping $2.50 charge per transaction at the DMV to use a debit card. Both of these things pissed me off for multiple reasons so I fired off a couple of letters. First is to the Jefferson County Kentucky Court Clerk over the registration renewal fee and the second is to the Kentucky Department of Motor Vehicles about the debit charge (my name has been changed to protect me):


Alan Evil

Bobbie Holsclaw, Jefferson County Clerk
P.O. Box 33033
Louisville KY 40232-3033

Re: $2.00 “handling” fee for mail-in registration renewal.

Dear Mrs. Holsclaw,

I was wondering if you could explain to me the $2.00 handling fee for registration renewal by mail.

First it seems renewing by mail would be much more efficient on your end as it could not possibly take an employee longer to open an envelope and process the renewal than it would take an employee to scream out a number, wait for the customer, talk with them, etc. So that’s a savings, right? Adding to the improved efficiency is the fact that you do not need a large, air conditioned space with waiting rooms, banks of lights, etc. A big plus of this is, of course, that we, the citizens, need but write a check and fill out an envelope thereby allowing us to save the hour or more it takes to renew in person most of the time and use this in a productive way.

Second, unless you are sending a full plate, the postage for the renewed registration and sticker could not possibly exceed forty one cents, throw in an envelope purchased in bulk and you might make it up to fifty cents. Of course, if you mailed in bulk the cost would be less, probably around thirty cents.

So what is the $2 for? Is it just a way to add expense to a convenience to increase your department’s coffers? If the process is more efficient and requires less manpower then it should either cost the same as the less efficient method or it should be cheaper. Please explain to me how it is $2 more expensive per registration renewal by mail as opposed to in person.

Alan Evil


Alan Evil

Division of Driver Licensing
200 Mero Street
Frankfort, KY 40622

Re: $2.50 per transaction debit card fee

To Whom It May Concern:

I noticed today while replacing my stolen driver’s license that the downtown Louisville branch has begun to accept debit cards for payment. I applaud this… or at least I would if your weren’t charging $2.50 per transaction to use a debit card. Where does that $2.50 go and why is it necessary?

Not only is the debit card more convenient (and more commonly used) than cash or check, it makes the job of your clerks easier and less apt to error. I worked retail for over 12 years and know this to be a simple fact. Not only is it more efficient at the counter, it’s more efficient afterward as, without any filling out of deposit slips, counting of cash, manual adding of checks, etc. the money from customers’ accounts is deposited automatically for you at midnight. All you have to do is print a summary for your records.

Either you are skimming this money to fatten your department’s coffers rather than requesting more funding (and higher taxes) as you should, or whomever set the system up is robbing all of us blind.

Have you ever had a convenience store charge you anything at all for using a debit card? The only time I know of charges being added to debit cards is at ATM machines run by banks other than the cardholder’s. I have seen really small stores requiring $5 or $10 minimum to use debit or charge cards, but not in many years. Every little podunk store in the State takes debit cards without charging $2.50 for each use (for a $45 license renewal that’s over 5%!). This sounds like theft to me.

As a matter of a fact, I know individual people that have credit card readers attached to their cel phones so they can sell at art festivals and the like and they don’t charge their customers a penny for this convenience. You can’t get much smaller than one person selling stuff in a festival booth.

I am sure the DMV does enough business that you could find a company that would charge a pittance (less than a percent) for debit card use. So why are you using a company that would simply rob us? Could it be cronyism? Lack of oversight? Some obscure rule that says you have to milk every penny possible from those you serve? As always, this fee is much more a burden on the poor than the rich, but this seems to be the way government works these days. You’ll cut the taxes for an industrial plant and raise fees that will be a disproportionate percentage of income of the poor. You’ll allow overloaded coal trucks to destroy our roads and then bump up the average person’s fees for everything concerning driving.

Please convince me that there is a legitimate reason for this fee. In my opinion whoever set up your debit system should be fired and replaced with someone who at least is competent. If you were running a retail business and one of your employees set up a debit system that cost you $2.50 every time you ran a card, you would fire that person so quickly they wouldn’t even have time to gather up their children’s pictures off their desk. That’s how I feel about this and I’m one of the people paying your salaries.

Alan Evil

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


So today I went to my other house down in the part of Louisville known as Smoketown. My brother and I bought adjoining properties in 1991 believing the housing projects behind them were supposed to be torn down (Hope VI) and a light rail mass transit system was supposed to run up the street in front of them. And then Republicans took control of the Congress and Hope VI was unfunded and the light rail system turned into 6 "hybrid" busses.

So the city of Louisville managed to secure its Hope VI money for several projects before the Republicans could give it to the ultra-wealthy. Several housing projects came down in this city and were replaced with mixed income housing. The thugs concentrated in the ghetto and the ghetto is in my back yard.

I'm not all that sure if that has that much impact on what happened to me today but it does.

We were held up at gunpoint by three kids with a big revolver.


Monday, September 17, 2007


The News

I can remember many years back NBC News changing its format "to attract a younger audience." I was in my early 20's at the time and thought to myself, "Are they after first graders?"

What they failed to realize at the time was that by changing their format they were going to lose more viewers than they would gain. The reason we watched network news was to find out the main stories of the day from around the world. In their infinite wisdom they decided to have more sensation and less information.

Now we have Fox News. All day sensation and no information that is useful. It's sad. We were better informed back when we had three stations and a newspaper.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Louisville Cops "Community Relations"

I'm not a big fan of cops in general and Louisville cops specifically. More and more the police force has become a haven for failed jocks and thugs looking for an excuse to push people around and bash heads, especially "nappy" ones. I could go on for pages about them but I'll start with one post about last Friday.

I am renovating a house I own in the "historically black" section of Louisville known as Smoketown. I currently live in a part of town known as the Highlands but I lived in my Smoketown house for over five years so I'm pretty familiar with the neighborhood. Immediately across the alley behind my garage is a decaying housing projects called Shepard Square. Now I have spent many hours working on the roofs of my garage and house as well as many other exterior repairs that gives me a great view of the projects and as best as I can tell cops enter those projects for only one reason: to arrest somebody. There are no community patrols, no cops on foot or bicycle that regularly pass through, for that matter there aren't even cops driving around the area.

"But the police force is stretched thin," I hear you say. If that is true then why when I work in the wealthy white parts of town do I see regular (like every hour or two) patrols pass by? There is not a lot of crime in the cul-de-sac neighborhoods around the park, no crackheads cutting across the two acre lawns in front of the 10,000 square foot homes, but you can guarantee a cop is going to cruise by several times a day. Go to where the crack is being sold and the babies are being shot by stray bullets and you can't get a cop to your house within twenty minutes of a 911 call. Get mugged in the Highlands and the cops are there in minutes, get mugged in the projects and the mugger can walk leisurely away because the cops sure as shit aren't going to get there quickly enough to find him.

So last Friday I pull up to my house in the afternoon and there are cops everywhere. Cops on bikes, cops in cars, cops standing around. The first cop I saw crossed the street ahead of me on his bike and I thought, "Excellent. They're finally patrolling the area." Then I turned the corner and saw the cops were everywhere. They weren't in there getting to know the people, talk to the kids, or keep an eye on the crack addicts heading to the same three apartments they always go to for their rocks. They were in there to push people around. They were in there to be thugs. My brother was working on his building next door to mine and when he left to drive back to his farm in the country he was pulled over by vice squad who, of course, treated him like a liar and criminal until they realized he hadn't been buying crack. They were jarhead thugs out to push somebody around. Of course if there were patrols in the area they would've known he's there three or four days a week, parked in his yard, working in the building. For that matter, if they'd been paying any attention at all they would've seen him parked there all day, working on his house. He was parked in his yard on the alley in site of two of the crack dealing apartments. His view of the third one is blocked by a building while I've got a clear view from right next door.

Rather than devote an officer full time to walk around those projects and make friends and allies, the Louisville Metro Police feel they should come in once every few years and make sure everyone hates them. The kids trust the crack dealers and will look out for them because every time they've had a dealing with a cop they've either been ignored or threatened with arrest or watched someone they know get carted off in handcuffs. The crack dealers will give them five bucks to go buy candy and the cops will arrest their uncle. They're not busting the dealers for reasons I can't understand. If I can watch the courtyard behind my house for fifteen minutes and figure out which apartments the crack is coming out of (the crackheads are so obvious you can't mistake them for residents), why can't the cops? Oh, that's right, it's because they're never actually in the projects unless they're reacting to another shooting of a baby or serving a warrant against some poor loser that fucked up his parole again.

In the future I will write about the way Louisville (and Kentucky cops in general) drive and make a tenuous connection between the fact they feel traffic laws do not apply to them and the "I am the law!" attitude exhibited by cops shooting suspects in the back or assassinating political adversaries.

One observation I've made is that you can always tell from a distance the color of a driver that's been pulled over in Louisville by the number of cars behind it. White female driver = one car. White male driver = one car (unless they're a "wangsta.") Black driver (of any sex but not looking like a "gangsta") or a "wangsta" = two cars. Black driver looking like a gangsta = two to five cars. I've been making these observations since I moved here in 2000 and only once have I seen two cars behind a non-wangsta white person.