By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog
OLATHE — From law enforcement to auto dealers, Gov. Sam Brownback’s new Department of Motor Vehicles Modernization Task Force has representatives from every relevant field, except one — the folks who pay the bills.
Jeff Kocen, an Overland Park resident who has set up a website dedicated to reforming Revenue Department and computer systems management, said the lack of a consumer voice is a significant oversight in the formation of the new 17-member volunteer board, which Brownback announced during a news conference Friday afternoon at the Olathe Ford Lincoln auto dealership.
“I’m glad to see that they’re taking the experience over this last spring and summer very seriously, but I see this as a glaring hole,” Kocen said.
Members include Preston Ford of the Educational Credit Union; state treasurer Ron Estes; and Miami County Administrator Shane Krull, among others. The task force is led by Lee Harris, president and CEO of Cohen-Esrey Real Estate Services of Overland Park.
“This is going to work to improve customer service and satisfaction, period. You shouldn’t have to plan your day around going to the DMV,” Brownback said before a small gathering of reporters. “We want to look at best practices around the country for improving service, improving speed and efficiency in DMV offices.”
While the governor spoke in broad terms and lofty goals for the task force, few specifics were offered.
“There is no predetermined outcome other than developing thoughtful recommendations that will make it easier and faster for citizens and businesses in Kansas to get their vehicle titles, license plates and drivers licenses,” Brownback said.
Processing times at DMV locations ground to a screeching halt in April, when the agency implemented a new computer system to process tags and titles. At the height of the problem, wait times at Johnson county locations were as long as eight or nine hours. That has since decreased, and as of Friday the wait time to renew vehicle tags at the Shawnee Mission DMV was just less than two hours.
Nick Jordan, Kansas secretary of Revenue, said once customers make it to the head of the line, the statewide average for processing renewals is now only one to four minutes, while the more complicated process of managing titles takes 10 to 15 minutes.
“That’s getting closer and closer to the time frame that the old system used to do transactions,” Jordan said.
He added that the new system has now processed more than 2 million transactions, more than the old system had in a similar time.
But while ordinary folks would probably prefer the state put all its resources toward decreasing issues associated with the new computer system, the board is being directed to take a wider view on the matter. Brownback wants the task force to do more than simply make sure the existing system functions as it should; he wants them to help make it a model for the entire nation.
“We’re really trying to find the best practices to make this the best DMV service in the country,” said Jordan.
Brownback is optimistic that greater efficiencies can be implemented without increased funding.
But as far as Kocen is concerned, the governor’s announcement is all flash and no substance.
“There’s very little in it for the people that pay the bills,” he said.
Update: Jeannine Koranda, public information officer for the Kansas Department of Revenue, takes issue with Kocen’s claim that ordinary driver’s aren’t represented on the task force. She points to Marvin Spees, owner of Capitol City Oil; former state legislator Gary Hayzlett; Harvey Sorensen of Foulston Siefkin, LLP; and Harris as examples of average Kansans. And by average, Koranda means “They are private citizens whose interactions with the vehicle system is only through renewing their vehicle tags or driver’s license. From that stand point, yes they are average Kansans.”