Jocelyn Benson has a dream, oh yes she does -- a dream that in the next three years no driver will wait more than 30 minutes for service at a Michigan Secretary of State office.
Three months after taking office and starting road trips to all 131 branches, the elected department head acknowledges a situation that "is not acceptable and needs to change. . . . Fixing it will require a top-to-bottom review."
During drop-in visits, sometimes unannounced and incognito, the new boss found that about one-third of self-service kiosks were broken and that visitors sometimes waited hours for license plates, watercraft stickers or motorcycle registrations, according to coverage of a news conference at Benson's office a half-block from the Capitol:
"When she visited the Dearborn office" on Schaefer Road, writes Riley Beggin of Bridge magazine, "she said she saw Arabic-speaking customers were having trouble getting the service they needed because none of the office employees spoke Arabic. After her visit, Benson said, the branch quickly hired two Arabic-speaking employees."
Republican predecessors left an outmoded, inefficient mess, suggests the first Democrat to serve in her post since 1994. Beth LeBlanc of The Detroit News' Lansing bureau quotes her as saying Thursday:
"We inherited a broken system, one that is a result of deep challenges and decisions that were made far before I got there that brought us where we are today. . . .
"Our current system is inconsistent, outdated and inefficient . . . the result of too many short-term solutions over the years that have yielded only partial results."
She promises improvements, though not necessarily this year or next. Bridge shares a reality check from Benson:
"There's no short-term solution here. There's no silver bullet, there’s no quick fix.
"More than anything, we're asking for patience. . . . Stay tuned, we've got a lot of ahead of us that we plan to do.”
Her ambitious to-do list includes:
- Working toward the goal of a 30-minute service guarantee at branches “incrementally and consistently through my entire term,” which runs through 2022.
- Web updates for smoother online services.
- More self-service kiosks that work and are easier to use for processing paperwork.
- Reducing branch visits by auto dealers, manufacturers and other high-volume users.
- Fixing the MI-TIME Line e-appointment system to extimate wait times more accurately.
- Possibly moving some urban branches to sites with more parking.
- Pushing for legislative passage of multi-year license plates and automatic license renewal.
-- Alan Stamm