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No sense of urgency

To the Editor:

In 1984, Lee Iacocca published his iconic autobiography. In it he discussed his philosophy on business management and the essential characteristics of a well-functioning organization.  One of those was the importance of having a “sense of urgency.”

Most of us agree that government lacks that “sense of urgency.” The following is an example that exists in the offices of the St. Louis County Department of Revenue.

On Nov. 30, I wrote a check to the collector of revenue to pay our personal property taxes. My check was debited from my account on Dec. 16. I would not want to speculate on what happened to my check for almost three weeks. Could it be that pervasive “lack of a sense of urgency” that Iacocca discussed?

The week of Jan. 4, I called to inquire about receiving a receipt. I spoke to a young man who assured me the receipt had been mailed. I know the U.S. mail is notorious for being slow – another great example of a lack of a sense of urgency – but one could have walked the receipt from Clayton to my home in Chesterfield in about seven to eight hours, not five-plus days. On Jan. 13, I called again and spoke to a young woman, who said she would send a “duplicate receipt” in the mail that day. What happened to the original receipt? She did not know.

Low and behold, the receipt arrived in the mail on Jan. 14, stamped in red ink: 12/15/15 ST. LOUIS CO. COLLECTOR OF REVENUE PAID.

Many years ago when I was the executive director of a nonprofit agency, one of our executive management team went to meet our major funder, a state agency. When he returned from that meeting it was obvious that he was upset. I asked how it went? His reply was classic: “We have totally underestimated their incompetency.” I was reminded of his statement as I have been dealing with the county’s department of revenue.

Check out the department’s website, which states that the “DOR strives to assist our customers with prompt, professional and courteous service.” The operative word is prompt.

Where is that elusive “sense of urgency” in our county’s department of revenue?

Richard I. Goldbaum, Ph.D.

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