Changing regulations and the culture

Every year government creates more regulations, increases cost to business and comes up with programs that are supposedly there to help, yet what often happens is that government is actually defeating the free market values that is the core of our American way of life, instead of helping.
 
The regulations alone are not the problem, but are exacerbated by the growth of rules that follow and the interpretation of those rules at the lowest level. Case in point is the transportations issue of Cross Access / Parallel Access.
 
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) works tirelessly to create the best practices for transportation issues, many of which are related to keeping you safe as you and others drive through our community in 2,000 plus pound vehicles that, in a moment's notice, could take a life if operated improperly.
 
With Cross Access / Parallel Access it is the intention to allow you to transverse from parking lot to parking lot without the need to enter and quickly exit a traffic lane to get to the next location, thus reducing the potential for crashes. You can see this in practice at larger locations where an entire commercial / retail development has a road around it. This insures access away from main roads like a highway, but also makes it easier for the shopper to stop in to their favorite retail store and for commercial trucks to deliver goods in the safest fashion.
 
On a smaller level is when cross access/parallel access is implemented for a stand-alone business, such as local retailers and restaurants that are either chain or mom and pops.
 
The intention is still to keep the traffic off of our highways like Highways 44, 41 or even our county roads 486, 491 and 581. 
 
However, the truth is that through a regulation that wants to create less traffic and safer roads, we have land development codes that direct our county staff to deal with this issue. The staff then interprets what both the original intent as well as the county intent are. All of this is the proper method for government to operate and we wouldn't have the safe community that we do if not for this fashion of regulations and rules.
 
So what's wrong?
 
The Cross Access / Parallel Access policy is making business owners do things that are not intended by the original policy, that are untimely and do not actually support the real flow of the Cross Access / Parallel Access, as it is based on first come first serve.
 
This means our policy to insure that the traffic can turn off our roads and, if possible, traverse from one parking lot to another are not based on safety, engineering design or convenience. It is forced on the business without understanding of the long-term effects and done in a first-come-first-served basis in the hopes of forcing whomever builds next to work within the already established cross access / parallel access.
 
Now let me be clear, this is not done maliciously, and it is the intention of the staff to find ways to deal with the implied FDOT way of thinking. But the question remains: are there alternatives? Can we do things differently and if so, why aren't we?
 
Recently, I have done some research on this issue, with the questions asked and looking into the actual FDOT requirements I have learned that what FDOT actually requires is..... a plan.
 
That's it. A plan.
 
And for that plan to be implemented to reduce cars slowing to turn off the roads by allowing Cross Access / Parallel Access. But it doesn't state when nor how nor does it require every single location to have it. This is the example of government regulation where you have the employee doing what they are thinking is best, that studies show reduces accidents, and yet adds additionalregulations that basically are implemented in a way that doesn't actually accomplish the intentions of the policy.
 
I have suggested that we create a waiver which would allow for the business sector to contractually be required when a Cross Access / Parallel Access area is required, feasible and can be done to an engineering standard that insures actual Cross Access / Parallel Access. I have also asked the FDOT to give us guidance as to the kinds of business that are not compatible or have such a limited amount of vehicles turning into them that it is wasteful of time and money to implement Cross Access / Parallel Access.
 
One problem is enforcement, and we are working towards the answer, but beyond that is that the staff have in the past have learned it is best to follow the directions of their leaders and to stay out of things that could jeopardize their careers by suggesting things or pushing past the people in charge to make changes. 
 
However, it can be different. We absolutely should instill at every level of our civil servants that work for the people of the county that we want them to be the change that is needed, we want their suggestions at every level to help make us better and that we want leaders that will encourage everyone who is employed by the County to be comfortable with asking the most important question ... “WHY?”
 
It is going to take a herculean effort to make that change, however we need every leader to realize that their success isn't just in a good relationship with those in charge, like the administrator and the commission, it is also in how they build a team that wants to change the status quo and create a truly pro-business atmosphere. 
 
Again, the example is the Cross Access / Parallel Access, where no one asked FDOT what other options we have and because of that we have caused business owners to spend money and time on issues that are unneeded. Hopefully the entire county staff can see the new attitude and will ask the question "WHY?", which is the most important question and should be why are we doing this, why was this change done.
 
Followed by the “WHAT?” question. What was the way this was intended to be implemented? What was the end goal? What alternative options are there? What effect will this have on business and what would stop us from making changes?
 
In the end, the heads of departments and divisions should understand that the leaders of the county have a new positive attitude, and speaking specifically for myself, it is time for a change. I believe we can trust those who serve this community to step up at every level and make those changes, not just for now or the next six months, but as the next generation that need us.
 
Jimmie T. Smith,
 
Citrus County Commissioner, District 3