Bureaucrat Beat: Bureaucrats in Need of Dale Carnegie, Common Sense, and Snow in the Face!

The Bureaucrat Beat staff has mulled it over and concluded that someone should assign Caltrans people to read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Possibly, this should be required reading by all bureaucrats. Time and again, complaints have landed on our doorstep from citizens treated badly by bureaucrats who don’t seem to get the most basic human relations. Hey, it’s simple, guys, keep the Golden Rule close at hand and talk to people as if you respect them. Otherwise, citizens will continue to complain about you and you’ll have some sleepless nights and upset stomachs.

Case in point – a letter from Kenney Scruggs of Independence, property owner and local attorney. She writes:

Dear Bureaucrat Beat:

The hot breath of bureaucratic arrogance was expelled in Independence on Wednesday when about ten CALTRANS employees made themselves available to the townspeople to answer questions about and show the final plans for the road widening project through the county seat. It’s nice and appropriate that they (at taxpayer’s expense) conveyed the information at the location of the project. My complaint? The CALTRANS party line, repeated in varying forms by several employees, included the assertion that it was providing 100 trees to Independence to enhance the town ‘out of the goodness of its heart’. Folks, nothing could be further from the truth. The 100 trees are being made available as a result of the efforts of citizens who own property between Dehy Park and the Independence Airport. We negotiated the provision of these trees as part of our settlement with CALTRANS last December regarding how much of our property CALTRANS is taking from us. The contractual term with CALTRANS specifically recognized that the “Details of this program need to be worked out” – presumably worked out with input from the homeowners who initiated the idea and insisted on its inclusion in the settlement. On Wednesday, not only did it become apparent that CALTRANS intended to proceed without input from us but also wanted to take credit for initiating the program – to show what good guys they are – they take 100 trees, they give 100 trees.

I’ve been dealing with Caltrans employees for over two years in an effort to reduce how much private property must be condemned to widen the highway. With a few notable exceptions, the overriding characteristic of the CALTRANS employees with whom I’ve dealt is that they either don’t get it or they don’t get it at all. What they don’t get is the negative human impact that their decisions have; decisions often made based only on computer models; decisions driven by rules, regulations, theories, statistics and engineering data, some of which is inconsistent and defies both common sense and real life experience. That is why 100 trees will be removed to provide 5 and 6 foot sidewalks on both sides of the highway through the town site of Independence and beyond. That is why there will be a sidewalk on the west from Dehy Park to the open desert – a sidewalk-to-nowhere. That is why there will be a six foot sidewalk on the east side all the way to the Airport, to be used by a few lawyers and, once a year on the Fourth of July by a lot of people. And that is why CALTRANS engineers continue to claim that these sidewalks (rather than a narrowing of the roadway with a canopy of trees) will cause traffic to slow down as it enters Independence even though this theory has failed in Big Pine. Folks, the same drivers who speed through Big Pine with its wide and barren thoroughfare encased in sidewalks are going to speed through Independence when we have nothing but a barren four-lane thoroughfare encased in sidewalks. And that is why we homeowners insisted on this tree planting program. If CALTRANS wants good PR for being magnanimous, why don’t they try the truth. The 100 trees will be available thanks to Lloyd and Babe Hopper, Benett Kessler, John and Tansy Smith, Jerry and Mikela Sedoo, and me, Kenney Scruggs.

We have two more letters today. The next comes from Clint Hyde of Mammoth Lakes. It’s about our 760 Area Code.

Caught you on the airwaves this morning talking about the area code overlay. I have760.jpg suggested to phone companies(they are no longer public utilities) a very simple solution. Every new cell phone can have any area code the subscriber chooses. Many people living in Mammoth have an out of
area code on their cell. It would be simpler to give all cell phones a
different area code than the geographic area the caller is located or
living in, almost all over the continent. Then they could leave the restof the land line numbers the same. So simple the phone companies can’t even comprehend it.

Clint Hyde
Mammoth Lakes

That’s what citizens want to see – creative and practical ideas to make things work for everybody. The overlay will amount to a major inconvenience for us in the Eastern Sierra. This is progress? 30 years ago, we only had to dial 4 or 5 digits to call folks in our own town. Now, we’ll have to dial 10 or 11. Wow. Swell. On to another letter. Stan Smith gets indignant about snow pies.

Bureaucrat Beat,

OK, so now we’ve had the first snowfall of the 2008 season in Mammoth, and now we’ve had the remnants of snow and ice at various Bishop intersections along Hwy 395 as tourists have headed home. Supposedly, there is a state law prohibiting depositing snow and ice and other materials from one vehicle onto another or the roadway, in the interest of public safety.

Maybe it’s time for the Inyo politicians to convince the Mono politicians and Mammoth Town Council to install free public car and truck and bus washes near Mammoth and June Lake, before the skiers and recreationists head south or north on 395 without clearing the snow and ice from their windshields, car roof or pick-up truck beds.

Maybe the room or condo rental could include a free car wash, and the Mammoth police and CHP could be encouraged to enforce the vehicle snow removal program, before somebody is injured by flying icy debris or slips on somebody else’s snowcapped street slushy?

Ever been hit by a snow-pie at 65mph??

Stan Smith

We’re all in it together. What’s most important is that we talk to each other.

With that, this is Benett Kessler, signing off for Bureaucrat Beat where we await your word on our lives in the Eastern Sierra and beyond.

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