At the Registry of Motor Vehicles, deadly inefficiency
Michael Ferazzi survived four years in the Marine Corps, 34 years working as a cop, and a bout of cancer, only to die when some guy who had no business driving a golf ball much less a pickup truck hauling a flatbed trailer plowed into him in the White Mountains.
Ferazzi’s funeral took place last week in Plymouth, where he served as a police officer, patrolling the same streets on which he grew up.
The cancer came back last winter, his son, Matthew, told mourners at St. Peter’s Church in Plymouth.
But there is no such thing as a former Marine, and there is no quit in a Marine, and Mike Ferazzi was going to beat cancer a second time. Everyone sitting in that church last week knew that, and it was just one more thing to make their grief worse.
Mike Ferazzi lived to ride his motorcycle with his brothers, members of the Jarheads, a group of bikers comprised of, well, jarheads, Marines. That he died doing what he loved might offer some solace, but given the circumstances, it’s really hard for the people who knew and loved Mike Ferazzi to grasp and hold onto any such concept.
That his life and the lives of six other people were snuffed out in one of the most bucolic, picturesque areas of New England was at first tragic. Now it’s a scandal, because there is a chance, maybe even a good chance, that if government, the same type of government that Ferazzi and his Marine brothers served so honorably, had done its job, the guy who is charged with killing Ferazzi and the six others wouldn’t have been on the road.
Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, the 23-year-old kid who wiped out Mike Ferazzi and the other Jarheads, shouldn’t have been on the road walking, let alone driving for a trucking company. He has a history of getting drunk and high and God knows what else. He has issues, is a menace to himself and should not have been allowed to be a menace to the driving public.
State officials in Connecticut sent notice to their Massachusetts counterparts which all but said “Hey, Mass., you’ve got a problem.”
But in one of those human-error screwups that confirm all the worst assumptions of those who believe government can’t do anything well or efficiently, the warning went not unheeded so much as unseen.
For more than a year, Registry of Motor Vehicles officials ignored tens of thousands of alerts from other states that Massachusetts-licensed motorists had broken driving laws — including for drunken driving and other serious offenses — and instead stuffed the notifications, apparently unread, into mail bins inside a Quincy office building.
At least 540 drivers who should have had their Massachusetts licenses suspended for driving under the influence elsewhere were allowed to stay on the road, and the truth is they still don’t know how many of those notifications were missed.
And so Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, one of those who should have had his license pulled, came careening down that road in Randolph, N.H., totally out of control, like a puppy scurrying across a freshly polished floor.
One head has already rolled. Erin Deveney, the registrar of motor vehicles, fell on her sword. Governor Charlie Baker, acknowledging his administration owns this, is under pressure to dump Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack. So far, he’s not caving.
Having bureaucrats lose their jobs might make some people feel better, might even be necessary. But that does nothing for Mike Ferazzi and the six others who died on a stretch of highway in New Hampshire that will be forever referred to by locals as the place where “that crash” happened.
For the rest of us, a cultural touchstone is now altered. Throughout our lifetimes, the registry was the butt of countless jokes. We all had stories about waiting hours to get a license renewed or, worse, having stood in line to get paperwork only to be told that after we got the paperwork we had to go to the back of the line again. We stared at the red neon numbers at the RMV, waiting for them, willing them, to change, trying to figure out if we’d get home, not in time for dinner but in time for bed.
For as long as I can remember, the registry was a punch line, dismissed as a place that wasted our time with its inefficiency. It was the Durgin Park of government agencies; just as we got a kick out of the rude waitresses, we relished stories of wasted days, prisoners to clueless paper pushers at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.
But the jokes are over, the laugh track stilled.
There’s nothing funny about suddenly realizing that, beyond wasting our time, chronic inefficiency can get us killed.