Monday, April 14, 2008

Oh Indiana

I put off writing about the taxi meeting because I haven't had time to do it justice.

When I got to the meeting the parking lot was full. Inside were about a million (or thirty) state troopers in the hall. First thought, "Are they expecting a riot?"

Given Senator Meek's opener of, "Some people said there'd be shouting, yelling and throwing stuff at this meeting. So before we start I just want to say, this is Northern Indiana! We don't do things like that here!"

Yeah. The naivety was just that adorable. And in a sea of men wearing flannel shirts and trucker hats, adorable was in short supply. It wasn't upped much by the smattering of soccer moms and Amish men. That's ok though, there was plenty of hilarious.

The first fellow to talk started off by joking about the crowd's "Hello" being about as responsive as Sunday morning. He then explained that he leads worship at his church. I can only assume that this was to let us know he's a good Christian man and that when the chair throwing started he should not be considered a valid target.

They asked everyone to keep their questions till the end, so for the purposes of my blog post almost nothing interesting happens again until then.

People were generally frustrated because most of the presentations had wildly missed the point. They kept talking about the required insurance the companies need to have and how the DOT has to be on each vehicle and they need to test all their drivers. The "companies" in question are almost exclusively middle-aged couples who have one mini-van. They probably don't make more than $30,000 a year. Aside from hundreds of dollars in one time fees for licensing, their vehicles must be insured for $1.5 million dollars.

The lady from the Department of Revenue told them, "We want to put you in business, not out of business," but by the end of the meeting, no one believed her.

There was scattered clapping when it was announced that a moratorium had been placed on tracking down drivers who are in violation. There had been a lot of confusion before and a lot of people had believed they were in compliance when they really weren't. They have 51 days to get legal, but for a lot of them it won't even be an option.

To start the questioning, Senator Meeks announced that he was retired from the state police and even he found the session confusing - so none of us should feel silly if we didn't understand.
They understood. With the exception of the moratorium the rules were just as unforgiving as they'd originally thought them to be.

He asked a question about the insurance and was told it was a federal requirement.
"Federal requirement? We've got too much government haven't we?"

Lots of applause from the crowd. Awkward looks from all the other government officials. Meek's laughed and said he'd said it before and wasn't afraid to say it here or anywhere else.

A lot of the questions were technical clarifications or concerns. That audience was enthralled, but I doubt you would be. Others were more accusations that questions.

George of Goshen wanted it to be known that he frequents the toll road and that, while he has seen many semi's tipped over, he has never seen a van in a ditch.
No one knew why this was relevant.

Another man urged people to contact their congressman to get the federal insurance regulations changed. One couldn't hold in his anger and declared, "That [insurance is] where this is raping us!" Limited applause. This is Northern Indiana, we don't just toss around words like "rape".

Finally one lady asked if the rumors of the Amish being stopped by the state police for a horse being lathered up, was true.

The government officials were adamant that this was only a rumor and that the state police did not and would not do such a thing. So...would the regular police? I didn't ask. It seemed touchy.

Some one else was angry because they're cracking down on the Amish but there are hundreds of illegal immigrants right down the road. Judging from the earlier cheers when a rule that, "A driver must be able to read/speak English" I'd say this view was shared by many people in the room. To me the Amish and illegal immigrants are the same. Neither one claims any responsibility to this country. At least the immigrants don't ruin the roads.

A person who I have labeled in my notes as "Angry Man" got up for the second or third time and declared that the new rules were going to put the drivers out of business and that then there would be 600 buggies on the road, which would create far more safety problems than un-insured drivers would.

I was glad he brought it up, because that's one of my main concerns. I don't know if it was just because of the weather or if the Amish were all out in protest, but when I drove home that evening there were more buggies on the road than I've seen in a long time.


Emily said...

George . . . has never seen a van in a ditch.

Wow! This completely changes how I look at life!

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