Isn’t it annoying when you can’t even enjoy a good stereotype in peace?
Like many others, I was convinced that local government offices existed for the sole purpose of spiking the blood pressure of otherwise even-tempered people, as we wait for our number at the DMV, or get married and attempt to file a name change, or even try to clear our library account of the fifty-cent overdue book fee that was paid over a year ago. Such was my state of mind when I had to make a trip to city hall with questions about the legalities of conducting a home-based food business. I dreaded it, envying those lucky ducks who got to spend the day getting surgery for in-grown toenails instead.
I arrived at the City of University Place Planning and Development Services with a notebook of questions: was I allowed to sell my home-made candies on public property? How about on the property of existing businesses? What was the difference between a peddler and a street vendor license? If I had a state-issued master business license, did I still need to obtain a city business license?
I was bracing myself for a long morning of getting the run-around when the staff at Planning and Development had the nerve to be extremely helpful. They fired off an answer to my every question, turning what was supposed to be an hours-long ordeal into a painless 10-minute session. Talk about a let-down. Didn’t these folks understand they were taking all the fun out of my misery? But no matter. I still had another stop to make, and surely there was hope yet for losing a year or two of my life.
But I was not to have my way. The kind woman at the City Clerk’s Office around the corner informed me on the spot that I would not need to apply for a University Place business license. Apparently, I’d already paid for one back in November, along with my master business license. To top it all off, she very sweetly wished me luck on my new venture as I made my way out. I drove off in my car, a little stunned. Not once did I get passed around and have to repeat the same questions all over again. I felt like it was my party and no one was letting me cry when I wanted to.
And still it didn’t stop there. I also had a bunch of questions for the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department as well, since each level of government—from city to county to state—has its own set of requirements for businesses. Not one, but two staff members at TPCHD responded to my emailed inquiries within the same day. The first actually got back to me by phone, which gave me the opportunity to ask even more questions right then and there. The second replied by email immediately. It was a sneaky move.
Before I could help it, my heart, like the Grinch’s, had grown three sizes bigger. I had no choice but to admit that maybe, just maybe, I’d been a little too sweeping with my generalizations. One by one, I let go of all the cynical thoughts I’d been nursing in my head about local government agencies. Well, almost all of them, anyway. There’s still one place I can think of with these mysterious clocks that make time spin backwards. I won’t name it, but it rhymes with the Shmeepartment of Odor Weehicles.
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A big thank you to the good folks at City of University Place Planning and Development Services and City Clerk’s Office for being so helpful as I fumble my way through the legal requirements of starting a business. An equally big thank you to the Environmental Health Specialists at Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.