Ten of the busiest Michigan Secretary of State branches are instituting new customer service technology aimed at reducing wait times.
Instead of pulling a number and grabbing a seat, customers will be able to schedule appointments and ďget in lineĒ from a home computer, by phone or via text message through the new system called MI-TIME Line. Those without mobile phones can stop by the office and check in at a MI-TIME Line kiosk.
This is a good use of technology to improve efficiency.
The Secretary of State provides many basic services to Michigan residents, making it inevitable that most residents will need to visit a branch office. Currently, wait times can run 30 to 45 minutes or longer.
If these times can be reduced without adding extra expense to the departmentís budget, everyone benefits.
Cheap budget politics
Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon is playing politics at the expense of public safety. He eliminated his nationally recognized Internet Crime Unit on Jan. 2, claiming he had no choice because his office isnít properly funded. Unfortunately, thatís an old and tired excuse to justify an outdated tactic for getting more funding.
The unit has impressive statistics. It worked on task forces led by the state police and FBI that are credited with rescuing at least 50 minors from sex abuse or other crimes last year and more than 270 since 2007.
Napoleon is making the public suffer for his overspending an $89 million budget last year by nearly $30 million. Reportedly, it was because of overtime paid to meet state-mandated jail staffing levels.
The sheriff is suing the commissioners for $20 million, but that will just waste time and more tax dollars. There has to be other budget areas the sheriff can trim to meet these state requirements without sacrificing a productive crime fighting unit.
Communities are out of money
Two separate state review teams have concluded that financial emergencies exist in Royal Oak Township and Highland Park.
Thatís no surprise, considering the financial problems each has had.
Royal Oak Township was $298,983 in the red as of December 2012. Officials failed to adopt a budget for the current fiscal year as required by law and have been unable to meet contractual obligations for fire and police services.
Highland Park, meanwhile, owes $19.5 million in total accounts payable to several vendors, including $18.2 million owed to Detroit for water and sewer services.
These communities clearly need help to set their finances straight. That probably means consolidating services with surrounding areas. In the case of Royal Oak Township, its residents would be better served if its government were dissolved and the area absorbed by surrounding cities.
Too often, communities want to maintain their identity but donít have the financial resources to do so.
The cost isnít worth it.