July 1 ushered in a new fiscal year for our local governments as well as some updates, both good and not so good. Let’s start with the good.
All nine satellite city halls have reopened for in-person business, albeit by-appointment only. Strict measures apply, of course, which are familiar by now and should remain second nature in the foreseeable future: wear face coverings and remain 6 feet apart from others during all in-office transactions.
To make an online appointment at a satellite or driver licensing center, see www.alohaq.org. The nine satellites are: Downtown, Hawaii Kai, Pearlridge, Windward, Kapalama, Kapolei, Wahiawa, Waianae and Ala Moana. Satellite city halls had been closed since March 25 due to the coronavirus pandemic, so it’s good to have in-person service again as needed.
Even so, customers are encouraged to continue using online, mail-in and off-site options for water bill payments and annual motor vehicle registration renewals. That would leave the in-person slots clearer for more-complicated transactions such as disability parking permits; motor vehicle transactions involving lost title or difficult registration; registering a moped or bike; or dog registration or pet neutering.
But here’s a not-so-good thing that started July 1: There’s now a fee for using the self-service kiosks for motor vehicle registration. The new $3 convenience fee is added on top of a 2.5% fee on credit card and debit cards assessed by financial institutions. The city said it had been absorbing both costs for the kiosk service, which does allow access to a basic government service outside of normal business hours. That convenience now comes at a price.
Another lamentable aspect of government customer service that needs remedy: It’s well past time for the state Labor Department, which has been deluged with unemployment claims, to resume some in-person service. Some problems, questions and clients are better handled in person than over a computer or phone, if one can even get through at all. Some jobless residents are desperate for help, and Labor Department staffers need to start facing the public — whether via walk-in or appointment — to offer relief.