Commissioner of Tennessee’s Safety and Homeland Security, Jeff Long Declines to Talk to Leahy About Driver Services Issues


Live from Music Row Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Leahy was joined in the studio by all-star panelist Ben Cunningham.

During the second hour, Leahy and Cunningham discussed the situation at the DMV and the response received from a representative of Commissioner Jeff Long’s office at the Tennessee Safety and Homeland Security which politely declined to talk on air about the issue of driver services. Cunningham added he thought it was a good opportunity and suggested the commissioner come on the show and be transparent about the situation.

Leahy: Before we jump into politics. It is sort of kind of politics a little bit. We talked yesterday about my experience at the DMV which was not pleasant. It took me three hours.

Cunningham: You mean you don’t want these people running healthcare, Michael? (Laughter)

Leahy: We had a little bit of unfinished business. I wanted to just chat about that here a little bit. One caller, which we didn’t get to yesterday asked us what does the star mean and how do you get it? It’s a little star on your license which means you’ve been vetted more thoroughly I guess.

And you have to bring more documentation for that, by the way, if you’re going to renew your license, bring your social security card, passport or birth certificate, and bring two utility bills. Just do it. You may or may not need it but probably you do need it.

If you want to fly on a plane starting in October, if you have a drivers’ license it must have a star on it. And that star basically allows you to make it through the security clearance. If you don’t have a star, you’re not getting on the plane.

Cunningham: And all of this is a result of 9/11. The security legislation was passed after 9/11, that’s where all of this came from.

Leahy: And Katie who just had the pleasure of going through this process. Katie, what other documents do you need?

Producer Katie: You need your marriage license. And if you are divorced you need identification saying that you were divorced.

Leahy: Do you need a DNA test also Katie?

Katie: I really hope not.

Cunningham: It’s just amazing that the left hasn’t raised more sand about this. They’re just complaining about voter id, but I really am surprised that we don’t here more charges of xenophobia about this.

Leahy: We got a note from one of our listeners, and if you’re listening. We read everything you send us. And I did want to comment. This is a listener who said, look it wasn’t so hard for me. I went in 90 minutes and oh, by the way, you’re basically saying that it’s Governor Lee’s responsibility to fix this, and he hasn’t.

And our listener said it wasn’t fair to criticize Gov. Lee because this was because of the federal government requirement and it was introduced in August, and they haven’t had time to properly train people on this. So you shouldn’t be blaming Gov. Lee for it. So that was our caller.

Let me just explain why I think this is the responsibility of Gov. Lee. But not just Gov, Lee. The Department of Motor Vehicles fits organizationally in the Department of Safety and Homeland Security which is that commissioner of that department is former Williamson County Sheriff Jeff Long. Now Jeff has a very good reputation. I think I’ve met him a couple of times.

But he has a very good reputation. However, here’s what I think this situation is. If you go to Williamson County or maybe Rutherford County. Or one of the more populated suburban counties, it’s going to be a long long wait. Three hours. We had Dale Patrick Shannon tell us it was five hours for Dale Patrick Shannon.

Cunningham: That’s crazy.

Leahy: That’s crazy.

Leahy: Now, other people. Ben, you just told me, how long did it take you?

Cunnigham: About an hour.

Leahy: OK. You can tolerate an hour. And in some of the less busy places like one of our listeners, yesterday said it took an hour and a half. Others said it doesn’t take quite as long in sort of the more rural less trafficked locations. But here’s my pushback.

All of this is a systemic problem. And it should be fixed. You shouldn’t be having many locations where you’ve got a three to five-hour wait. And it’s a system issue. It’s not the people that are working there. The system is not functioning properly.

Now, Ben, we asked the office of the Commissioner of Safety and Homeland Security Jeff Long, a good guy from everything we hear by reputation. Former Sheriff of Williamson County. We asked them to show up here. They declined the offer.

Cunningham: That’s strange. It looks like they would want to get ahead of this. This legislation was passed five, six, seven, ten years ago. A long time ago.  Clearly they’ve had lots of time to prepare for this.

Michael, it’s just another case of government not concentrated on a limited specific agenda. The government’s always expanding its scope, and yet they don’t concentrate and do the little things that they’re charged to do. It’s just so typical.

Leahy: So this is what the spokesperson for Jeff Long, the guy who is responsible for this is Commissioner Jeff Long. You’re the guy responsible for this. We asked him to come on and talk to us about it. And here’s what he said:

Thanks for reaching out to our Department. I understand you reached out to Mary Lynn Gillingham about the possibility of having Commissioner Long do a live segment about wait times and other driver license issues. We are going to respectfully decline your request at this time. We are actively working on making several changes and improvements within Driver Services.

Leahy: OK. We’re delighted you’re actively working. But it ain’t working in certain places!

What they need more than anything right now is transparency. Let us know what’s going on and that you understand the problems and are addressing the problems with a plan to make this better. And they need to communicate that.

If you’re listening and would like to add your voice to our polite request to invite Commissioner Jeff Long to come in and tell us why there are such long wait times in getting driver’s licenses and what he’s doing to fix it.

Cunningham: Right.

(Leahy asks listeners to call in)

Leahy: And what’s your message for Commissioner Jeff Long. Again, we are not in the business of whacking somebody over the head for imperfections. We’re all imperfect Ben. I certainly am.

Cunningham: Absolutely. Absolutely. But just let us know. This is a perfect way for him to communicate. Maybe there is a station that doesn’t have as many people. Where can we go to get that? Because I think you can go to almost any place.

Leahy: So it’s a system thing, and I do say this. And I think this might be fair, Tom called in yesterday Ben, and he just moved from Illinois. And he said in Illinois they have it down. We have to go to Illinois to learn how to do this but apparently that’s best practices.

Now here’s what his point was. He said look. In Illinois, the DMV is run by the secretary of state, not law enforcement. People who run elections understand processes better than law enforcement.

Law enforcement he said, you’re always reacting to trouble. Which makes sense to me.  And Commissioner Jeff Long comes from law enforcement. That’s an argument that makes sense to me.

Cunningham: It does. And that’s a great point. These driver’s license stations do a lot of different things and you’re simply asking them to take on more tasks and to multi-task.

Maybe somebody two years ago should have seen this coming and said, hey, let’s set up a separate processing flow for this. And let’s do it a little bit differently and dedicate some resources to this and not try to use the people who already have jobs doing full-time driver’s licenses.

Leahy: You know, it gets back to the management of the state by Gov.  Lee. We’ve been critical in some areas of Gov. Lee’s policy decisions. We think he made a big mistake saying yes to refugees. We’ve been very positive we support the voucher program which is controversial and still in trouble shall we say.

But on this particular issue, managing a voter facing activity the governor needs to call up Commissioner Long and say, Commissioner Long, tell me what you’re doing to fix this problem. And by the way, go on Leahy’s show in the morning and tell him what we’re doing. Being transparent. What’s wrong with that?

Cunningham: Nothing. Nothing. And that’s exactly what they should be doing. This is an issue that affects every adult in Tennessee.

Leahy: You bet.

Listen to the second hour:


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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Crowded DMV” by Gabriel White. CC BY-SA 2.0.




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