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Local governments should try do more

January 11, 2019

At a time when much of the federal government is shut down over a political dispute and frustrating many taxpayers, a local level of government is doing the exact opposite. The Jefferson County District Clerk’s office will be open on three Saturdays this year for passport photos and services for people who can’t come during regular business hours. The office, in room 203 at 1085 Pearl St. in downtown Beaumont, will be open this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Appointments aren’t even required.

That’s a great idea, and something that could be copied by other levels of local government. They don’t have to be open every Saturday, of course, but maybe part of one day every month or two. It would help a lot of people who work during the week or have school-age children and can’t swing by.

The Beaumont Animal Shelter at 1884 Pine St. is also doing this. It’s closed on Mondays but open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Many Post Offices are also open on Saturday mornings.

Taxpayers deserve more of this. The mindset at every level of government, from the local to federal level, should be to serve the taxpayers as effectively as possible. If that means adding an occasional Saturday shift or extending hours of operation into the early evening at peak times, they should consider it. It would be a minor change for them but could make a big difference to some harried taxpayer.

The same concept was evident in the story about a Beaumont man who was shot Sunday night while trying to buy a vehicle from an online seller. The city of Groves has addressed this issue by designating the parking lot of its police station as an official internet purchase and child custody exchange site. Signs have been posted and 24/7 video cameras have been installed.

That’s something that other cities could duplicate. For the small cost of a few signs and cameras, residents would have a safe space to conduct a transaction that could be overlaid with some nervousness. The parking lots of police stations or other public buildings are usually well-lit and prominent, and many have video cameras operating anyway.

Options like this aren’t traditional governmental services, but sometimes they can be easily added. The private sector is constantly innovating, and government can do some of that too. The goal should be to help taxpayers as much as possible instead of doing the bare minimum. If the federal government had this approach, this annoying shutdown might have been avoided.

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