Friday, November 17

Emissions Testing Coming Back to Jax

No, I'm kidding. At least I'm pretty sure we're safe around here, but I thought it would be interesting to revisit the program in order to discuss one of the ways Milwaukee is disappointing compared to the other places I've lived because of this one issue: the emissions test.

I am sure there was a noble intent, and an article I read about Jacksonville's emissions testing implied the decade of testing helped reduce pollution. Fine, but it was annoying and, really, expensive, especially for anyone who owned a car with problems passing. These people tended to have less money (like me when I was in college), so the system was stacked against the working poor even as it pretended to regulate big polluters. For example, the Jacksonville article I read interviewed a woman with a 1991 Chevy Corsica in 2000. While her car passed then, do you have any idea how many thousands of dollars in maintenance it would have taken for her to keep getting that Corsica to pass? She probably would have been better off buying a villa on the island of Corsica.

I spent several student loan checks fixing issues with my Chevy Cavaliers or Ford LTD II back in Milwaukee. As a college kid with no real-world experience, I could barely do any car maintenance beyond changing an air filter for an emissions test. I knew all about the scammers who would take $100, tell the state you paid the $200 minimum, and send you back with a waiver. I also know that my honest dad spent too much money keeping his Chevette from failing. He did the same thing to me, buying a new catalytic converter for my Ford LTD II while I was on a trip because the car had failed the test, whereas I probably would have just sold the car, like the dishonest person who sold ME the car in the first place. That's the circus we were part of in Milwaukee, and I can imagine it was similar in Jax.

The difference is that Jacksonville found a way out of Emissions Testing Hell. I am not sure how, but I assume it has to do with federal dollars for something or other. I can't believe Jax really has much cleaner air than Milwaukee, so I guess I assume we pay a penalty for not testing. Then again, Kansas City metro (Kansas side) didn't test, either, so I guess if you live far enough away from other cities, the emissions are OK? Please don't misunderstand and think I want these tests back. I don't, and I don't think environmentalists would want them back in Jax in the way they've evolved in MKE.

The system in Milwaukee has been privatized. That means that there are no longer long lines and government employees who hate their jobs: there are no lines and businesses wealthy enough to become government partners who benefit the most. Overall, it's probably cheaper for Wisconsin, but the system set up to protect the environment has become more of a cash cow for car dealerships that (I'm guessing) supported the governor. Really slick deal they got to be able to sell people the cars that pollute, get paid to test those cars by the government, and get paid to fix those cars by owners of cars that fail.

It's the kind of near-corruption that might exist in Wisconsin. In Florida, corruption seems to be much more overt and identifiable, but I've only been here a short time, so maybe I'll get to see more sneaky stuff in the future. And I'm not totally against privatizing. But that's kind of off-topic. The point is that a government responsibility became a business opportunity.

Not so in Jax, where emissions tests simply don't exist. I've had a check engine light lit on my dash for two years now. In Wisconsin, I would have had to get it taken care of somehow, but in Lenexa, KS, and Jacksonville, FL, nobody even started my car to check the gauges or engine or anything. Not that most of us are replacing our engines with V-8s or straight-piping our exhaust systems, and maybe Jacksonville realized this, especially with stock vehicle pollution numbers decreasing yearly.

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