by Kevin Kelton
I never plan to run for elective office, as I am better suited to bloviate than to legislate. But if I did run for state or local office, here are some of the issues I would run on. They aren’t the typical issues most politicians talk about, but they are bread and butter “everyday issues” I believe would resonate with a large swath of any local electorate.
An informed patient is an efficient consumer of medical care. I believe every doctor’s office, hospital and healthcare provider should have to post a “menu” of their services and prices for everyone to see before agreeing to an office visit or procedure. We should do away with complicated medical coding systems and other bait-and-switch practices currently employed in the healthcare industry. (Example: patients who go to an in-network hospital or ER and then get blindsided by exorbitant out-of-network charges from the doctors who treated them there.) Let competitive free market forces apply to healthcare and make providers compete in the marketplace based on cost, just like every other product or service. This will go a long way toward bringing the cost of healthcare down nationally and make our health insurance system more efficient and available for everyone.
FORCED BINDING ARBITRATION:
The ability to seek legal redress through a trial by jury is a constitutional right, yet many doctors and other businesses make customers sign away that right through forced arbitration clauses that you must agree to before being seen or served. I don’t think people should be forced to sign away their constitutional right to sue. I would make contractual arbitration clauses fully elective, and no one can be denied service due to opting out of binding arbitration.
Restaurants and retail businesses that more than ten employees should make their restrooms open to the general public, not just to paying customers. American cities do not have a public restroom system like European cities do, and everyone knows that experience of a child or yourself having a restroom emergency and not being able to find one. The “ten employees” carve-out is designed to exclude smaller “ma and pa” stores from this provision. If the cost is too much of a burden to a company, they can charge a small fee or install a donation jar to cover the costs of cleaning and supplies.
Ever wonder why the last half-dollar of the gas you pre-paid for comes out of the pump so painfully slow? Years ago it was the last ten cents, but now it can be the last 70 cents or more, often going so annoyingly slow that consumers often choose to leave gas that they’ve paid for in the pump instead of enduring the elongated wait. This is a purposeful trick that unscrupulous gas station owners are playing on unwitting consumers in a rush, as modern gas pumps can be programmed to slow down and stop within a few pennies of the pre-paid price. Gas station owners know that you’re in a rush, and they are banking on you being impatient and leaving some gas behind, which increases their profits and your cost per gallon. To combat this type of psychological price manipulation, stations that set their pumps to slow down more than ten cents early should be fined for that unfair business practice.
Policing has become a profit center in too many municipalities, with tickets being used to generate city revenues. We need to re-emphasis policing as a public service to combat crime and keep civil order, not to tax drivers with excessive tickets. Toward that end, cities should only be able to use 5% of their police department manpower for parking enforcement. Moreover, patrol cars should only be authorized to stop drivers who are speeding excessively (20% or more over the posted mph limit), run lights or stop signs, or engaging in other high-risk driving maneuvers. Tickets for less dangerous moving offensives (broken tail lights; missing license plates or tags; non-use of seatbelts) should be distributed by taking down the license plate number and mailing the ticket to the vehicle owner, who can then pay the fine or identify who was driving their vehicle at the time so the ticket can be re-assigned to that driver. Fewer traffic stops will also lead to fewer violent clashes and police shootings. Let’s reduce the confrontational aspects of community policing and get back to basics: reducing crime and investigating crimes. That will go a long way toward creating a better relationship between citizens and the civil servants we pay to protect us.
Being a professional police officer is an inherently dangerous occupation, and everyone who signs up for the job knows that. But we have somehow gone so far to reduce the risk of shooting injuries to police officers that we have unduly shifted that risk to innocent citizens. Indeed, officers are even shooting children instead of taking that extra second required to adequately assess the situation, a risk which should be a part of their job. Of course, unfortunate tragic outcomes will still occur, but we need to shift the risk back away from the unarmed citizen who too often finds him or herself starring down the barrel of a gun. Toward that end, we need to reevaluate our rules of police engagement, including when an officer is permitted to draw a weapon and fire. The “reasonable person” standard currently in place is too subjective and lax. Police should be trained not to fire until they see a weapon, not when they simply “believe” there is a weapon present. If an officer shoots a citizen who is then proven to have been unarmed, that officer should be suspended without pay and face discipline, including termination, if the shooting is not proven to be fully justified. Police officers have a right to life, but they don’t have a right to a lifetime job if they are unfit to perform it in the best interest and safety of the citizens they swear to protect and serve. Also, there should be a national databank of officers who have been suspended or disciplined for inappropriate use of force, so that a “bad apple” officer can not job-hop from one police force to another.
More and more industries are finding duplicitous ways to cut their advertised prices while piling on hidden charges in the form of “service fees,” “resort fees,” “wifi fees,” “cleaning fees,” “return fees,” and other extraneous charges that used to be born by the business. If you sell a movie ticket online, it shouldn’t cost any more than having a salaried employee sell it to you at the box office. And a so-called “resort” hotel should not charge an additional “resort fee,” which is tantamount to an airline charging you a fee to get airborne. Advertise the true price of your product or service and stop gouging the public with last-minute fees that we can’t comparison shop against.
The practice of tipping in restaurants was designed to reward good service, not to supplement the salary of underpaid kitchen staff and hostesses. Restaurants should not be allowed to collect and redistribute tips, which is a private transaction between the customer and the server. Added-on fees for employee healthcare or other costs associated with running the business should be an optional line item on the bill, like a tip, and not automatically added to the price of the meal. If the owner has the option of paying for their healthcare or not, so should the customer.
Granted, these are mostly consumer-centric populist stances that may seem trivial to some people. But I bet that a solid majority of voters would find them appealing, and I’d be willing to run on these issues that address the real, everyday concerns of voters that never get spoken about by mainstream politicians.