Thursday, October 7, 2010

Unintended Consequences

In December 2009 I wrote an answer explaining why now Denver taxpayers
have to send their tax payments to Dallas, Texas for deposit. Lots of
small business owners button holed me in their stores, in coffee shops
and on the streets asking why they had to waste all that time to send
their taxes and fees to Dallas. They said this was not very business
friendly for Denver to do this to their business folks. Some said they
thought their payments would be late.

A friend, trying to renew his burglar alarm permit just wrote me that he
was "hesitating to mail my check to Dallas, Texas. I figured it was
some sort of scam. Why in the world would the Denver Manager of Revenue
have a Dallas P. O. Box?" At first I too thought it might have been
some cruel hoax perpetrated by an egregious hacker.

But city council staff answered that "a decision was made last year to
decommission the mainframe that housed the program used for burglar
alarm permits. A 'Request for Proposals' was issued and an evaluation
committee identified a solution offered by PMAM Corp., to administer
burglar alarm permits. The City uses lockbox services provided by the
City's primary bank, JP Morgan Chase, to process checks and the Treasury
Division assisted Excise and Licenses in setting up a lockbox to receive
alarm permit fees and tines. The location for large volume lockbox
processing by the bank is also located in Dallas."

Marshall McLuhan, renowned professor of Media Ecology at St. Louis
University, coined the phrase, "the medium is the message." That phrase
helps explain the unintended consequences of the Texas lockbox.

In the eyes of many Denver citizens the message of the medium of the
Dallas P.O.Box for their taxes now bears the stigma of being a possible
scam. The hiring committee at the city did not imagine the spam
connection with their decision on the Dallas lockbox.

When my friend got this answer, he wrote back: "I am always reluctant to
send money to Texas."

When this contract comes up for renewal again, I bet council and the
mayor may look for a provider with a Denver address on tax and burglar
alarm payments. And as long as the policy change has no unintended
consequence and is competitive in price that is.

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