When I was a kid, I had really bad hay fever. Over a couple of summers when I was 10, 11 years old, my sinuses would close up and my eyes would turn as red as a fire engine. My Uncle Jack, who was our family doctor, would give me antihistamines that seemed more like knockout pills. Those were my choices, stay awake without breathing or breathe easy but be fast asleep.
It’s not nearly as bad now. As I’ve gotten older, my allergies aren’t as serious. Most of the OTC and prescription meds really keep me clear without causing unconsciousness. Still, I’ve learned to value breathing. Which is why I don’t mind getting my car inspected every year. Anything I can do to keep pollutants out of the air. It’s takes on a little more importance in places like Memphis, which because it’s in a river basin, it holds in pollution as well as heat.
Why does it matter? There’s this tidbit from the Environmental Protection Agency:
Polluted air can shorten your life and make you sick. It can cause coughing, chest pains and shortness of breath. Some chemicals found in polluted air cause cancer, birth defects, nerve damage and long-term injury to lungs and breathing passages. Air pollution also damages the environment.
Drivers in the 13 counties in the greater Atlanta area have to get their vehicles tested each year. Georgia’s Clean Air Force provides testing for cars & trucks made between 1985 and 2006 (newer vehicles are exempt). I moved there in 1999 with a 1999 model car, so I didn’t have to go through inspection until 2002. Having to go somewhere and get your car inspected is always a hassle, but they’ve got it set up so there are 750 testing stations with 900 lanes available. That includes gas stations, oil change centers, auto repair shops and car dealer service centers. So, there’s always somewhere you could go – quickly – and get an inspection. And the inspections only cost $25! Even better, they entered the information into a database that went straight to the vehicle registration folks… so no need to carry a certificate around showing your car was checked.
You may have sussed out where I’m going with this. There are three inspection stations operated by the city of Memphis… for every car in Memphis. The lines are so long, people have to plan entire days around getting their cars inspected. The city has had to install online web cameras to let people have some idea of how long the lines are (I’m writing this at 9:46 am, and all 3 lines are already stretching into infinity). Once you get through, you get a piece of paper that you have to take with you to a county office to renew your tags. Only the Washington inspection station has a county clerk drive through window attached.
So, the Shelby County Clerk’s office is embroiled in scandal, with several employees accused of taking payoffs to let people renew their tags without the necessary inspection information. When you hear talk of payoffs, the assumption is that big money is involved. But in this case, we’re talking about as little at $5 – c’mon folks, if you’re going to do wrong, at least get paid real money!
There’s a suggestion in the paper that a member of city council has avoided having her car inspected since 2005. The council member claims she obtained a waiver because the car needed repairs. She thinks the Jeep was inspected… in 2007. There’s an impression among people in this town that once people obtain some power or authority the favors should start rolling in. It’s not necessarily endemic to black politicians (regardless of what some critics think). There are (and have been) politicians of every stripe taking advantage of public position for personal gain in this town.
I would suggest the city look at how other areas have handled vehicle inspection and find ways to make the process simpler, more effective and more difficult to bypass, but I’m not having a lot of confidence in the leadership at 125 North Main Street right now. After all, the big solution to the MSARC crisis was to hand administration of that facility to the county. And I hear that no one has seen Hizzoner anywhere in the last couple of days – even though big chunks of the city suffered storm damage. And this is the guy who wants to run for Congress. I’d hate to think that a guy like Mike Fleming is right and the mayor wants a federal job to help influence the ongoing federal probe.