No policy shortage

Posted: Tuesday, April 09, 2002

After trouble on a Capital Transit bus, I was told something different about city bus policies. On Jan. 11, after dropping in my money and turning to sit down, the driver claimed I hadn't put in the money. The till still held the quarters but the driver wouldn't relent, so I paid again. It may seem trivial, but I felt humiliated and discriminated against. By the time I got to the hospital, I was furious. John Kern of Capital Transit apologized. He said they had had this problem before. And he said their policy in such situations is to defer to the customer.

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John's statement doesn't square with the recent incident, in which a paying customer who violated some obscure policy against nibbling candy was asked to leave and threatened with a criminal trespass citation. I would like to hear Sally Smith, whose office never even offered the courtesy of a reply to my complaint, explain how this squares with deferring to the customer. What is the rule? You can't have it both ways. Either you do defer to the customer, or you enforce your petty policies. God knows we have enough of them.

The golden statue of a dog greets our tourists, but a policy forbids kids on rollerblades with real dogs greeting them. A mural of kids playing in the street may greet our tourists, but a policy makes it a federal offense to ride a skateboard around the Federal building at night or on weekends. Some inane school policy expels Alaskan kids for carrying quintessentially Alaskan knickknacks like toy penknives and Leathermans. Why, we even have a no unicycle policy with a $200 fine for violations.

Now that's what I call way too much government. City officials probably dream this stuff up when they're off on junkets to foreign countries. Someone wants to move the capital? Provided they take its policies with them, let them have it. At the least, maybe we should switch from nonresponsive city manager token mayor government to a strong mayor system in which the one who really runs the place is directly answerable to voters.

Walter M. Gregg


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