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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 24, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesBureaucracy vs. Elementary Communication

Bureaucracy vs. Elementary Communication

Dear Source:
I’ve just finished the process of getting an important government document. Seems that I have done this many times; driver’s license at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, business license at the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, Coastal Zone Management Commission Permit, Fire Burning Permit, etc., etc. I am always amazed at how long the process takes – almost always because you never know at the beginning everything you will need at the end. All of us have done this: You go into the government office with a pile of documents that you think are complete. An official examines the pile
"Oh, you are missing Document A!"
You leave and go through the steps to get Document A. Return to the government office; the official goes through the pile again.
"Oh. It is all here but you don’t have Document B!"
"Why didn’t you tell me about Document B when you were telling me about Document A?" you ask. Now you run around town to get Document B and when you return, they go through the pile and say; "Oh, You don’t have Document C!!!"
Why didn’t you tell me I needed Document C when I was going to get A and B???
Run around town again to get Document C and return. Oops Document A is now out of date and has to be renewed. It takes 3-4-5 sometimes more trips around town just to get the pile of documents that must be presented.
Sometimes you try to get Document Q only to discover that you need Document R first. You run around to get R and go back for Q. Can’t anyone tell you to get Document R first? Seems not! No one at the government office ever seems to tell you which documents depend on already having some other document.
How much time and effort would be saved if each government entity that issues licenses, documents and approvals would post a sign in their front office or offered a printed handout that said "In order to get a business license, you will need Documents A, B, C, D, E and so on. Get Document A first because you need it to get document B and B is needed to get C." */A sign on the wall would tell us what we need to get./*
I tried to register a car. First buy a $5 form. Sign it before a notary. Bring it back and get another form that also has to be notarized. Could I get both forms at once and get them both notarized at once? No! I made three trips from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to the notary and back.
Try this. Walk into the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. What do the signs say? /No smoking. No eating. No Cell phones/. Is there a sign that says /"To Register a car, first go to Window One and check for any traffic
tickets? Then go to Window Two. You will need: a notarized bill of sale, a notarized title and the new buyer will need proof of insurance, etc. Both of you have to appear at once with photo identification."/ There is no sign that says anything like this. There are huge blank walls without any information to tell the public what to do to get a Driver’s License or car registration or change owners. Nada.
Getting a Coastal Zone Management Commission permit is worse. Dozens of documents. Many require one document before you can get to the next round of documents. Any sign to tell you what to get first? How about a check list that tells you all the documents and what order to get them? Nope. Do they have any sign? No! Any hint what you need to do? None. One goes through the process by trial and error frequently going to the office to have the stack of documents examined for sufficiency. Can they
tell you all at once what is missing. No. It is discovered sequentially. This is brainless.
Here’s a laugh. Inside the Bureau of Motor Vehicles there are two Windows Two’s – one in the car registry section and a second Window Two in the driver’s license section. Which is the right Window Two? Could one room have Windows A and B and the other room name them Windows 1,2,3,4 –
for clarity? There are people who do these procedures regularly – They know the steps. The rest of us are forced to ask around in the waiting room for information about the steps. */Do I really have to get my information about how to interact with the government by asking other people in the waiting room? Is this any way to run a bureaucracy?/*
*Why can’t each government office post a sign? *The signs would identify the services offered and the steps to get those services. Signs would identify the documents offered by that office and what you need to get one. */Signs are cheap/*. The time the people of the Virgin Islands spend running around town on Wild Goose chases to track down documents and get paperwork is a tremendous burden and a huge waste of time. No wonder people hire "agents" to go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to manage the paperwork. No wonder businesses operate without the proper licenses. Doing this the right way is a burden — so people avoid it. I am calling on our senators to pass a piece of legislation mandating that every government office that provides licenses and documents to the public to be required to */post a large sign/* that identifies the services they provide and the documents that are required to obtain
those services. The senators might also require that government offices publish a paper copy of the list — complete with check boxes for the items needed and the order in which they must be obtained.
It is elementary communication to provide the people with the information they need to speed through this process.
Dr. Alexander Randall
Professor of Communication, University of the Virgin Islands

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Dear Source:
I've just finished the process of getting an important government document. Seems that I have done this many times; driver's license at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, business license at the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs, Coastal Zone Management Commission Permit, Fire Burning Permit, etc., etc. I am always amazed at how long the process takes - almost always because you never know at the beginning everything you will need at the end. All of us have done this: You go into the government office with a pile of documents that you think are complete. An official examines the pile
"Oh, you are missing Document A!"
You leave and go through the steps to get Document A. Return to the government office; the official goes through the pile again.
"Oh. It is all here but you don't have Document B!"
"Why didn't you tell me about Document B when you were telling me about Document A?" you ask. Now you run around town to get Document B and when you return, they go through the pile and say; "Oh, You don't have Document C!!!"
Why didn’t you tell me I needed Document C when I was going to get A and B???
Run around town again to get Document C and return. Oops Document A is now out of date and has to be renewed. It takes 3-4-5 sometimes more trips around town just to get the pile of documents that must be presented.
Sometimes you try to get Document Q only to discover that you need Document R first. You run around to get R and go back for Q. Can't anyone tell you to get Document R first? Seems not! No one at the government office ever seems to tell you which documents depend on already having some other document.
How much time and effort would be saved if each government entity that issues licenses, documents and approvals would post a sign in their front office or offered a printed handout that said "In order to get a business license, you will need Documents A, B, C, D, E and so on. Get Document A first because you need it to get document B and B is needed to get C." */A sign on the wall would tell us what we need to get./*
I tried to register a car. First buy a $5 form. Sign it before a notary. Bring it back and get another form that also has to be notarized. Could I get both forms at once and get them both notarized at once? No! I made three trips from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to the notary and back.
Try this. Walk into the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. What do the signs say? /No smoking. No eating. No Cell phones/. Is there a sign that says /"To Register a car, first go to Window One and check for any traffic
tickets? Then go to Window Two. You will need: a notarized bill of sale, a notarized title and the new buyer will need proof of insurance, etc. Both of you have to appear at once with photo identification."/ There is no sign that says anything like this. There are huge blank walls without any information to tell the public what to do to get a Driver's License or car registration or change owners. Nada.
Getting a Coastal Zone Management Commission permit is worse. Dozens of documents. Many require one document before you can get to the next round of documents. Any sign to tell you what to get first? How about a check list that tells you all the documents and what order to get them? Nope. Do they have any sign? No! Any hint what you need to do? None. One goes through the process by trial and error frequently going to the office to have the stack of documents examined for sufficiency. Can they
tell you all at once what is missing. No. It is discovered sequentially. This is brainless.
Here's a laugh. Inside the Bureau of Motor Vehicles there are two Windows Two's - one in the car registry section and a second Window Two in the driver's license section. Which is the right Window Two? Could one room have Windows A and B and the other room name them Windows 1,2,3,4 -
for clarity? There are people who do these procedures regularly – They know the steps. The rest of us are forced to ask around in the waiting room for information about the steps. */Do I really have to get my information about how to interact with the government by asking other people in the waiting room? Is this any way to run a bureaucracy?/*
*Why can't each government office post a sign? *The signs would identify the services offered and the steps to get those services. Signs would identify the documents offered by that office and what you need to get one. */Signs are cheap/*. The time the people of the Virgin Islands spend running around town on Wild Goose chases to track down documents and get paperwork is a tremendous burden and a huge waste of time. No wonder people hire "agents" to go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to manage the paperwork. No wonder businesses operate without the proper licenses. Doing this the right way is a burden -- so people avoid it. I am calling on our senators to pass a piece of legislation mandating that every government office that provides licenses and documents to the public to be required to */post a large sign/* that identifies the services they provide and the documents that are required to obtain
those services. The senators might also require that government offices publish a paper copy of the list -- complete with check boxes for the items needed and the order in which they must be obtained.
It is elementary communication to provide the people with the information they need to speed through this process.

Dr. Alexander Randall
Professor of Communication, University of the Virgin Islands