Feedback from our readers

Hard Work Either Way

I’ve subscribed to PM since its earliest issues. The current column by Maurice Maio (“Hard Work, Low Pay,” July 2003) stating certain contractors are billing $300 per hour rates is ludicrous. My service territory is in Western Morris county, New Jersey, one of the highest per capita income counties in the nation. If any one of the other contractors here in New Jersey believes that it is possible to charge above $150 per hour using anyone’s flat rate manual, please raise their hand.

I am all for flat rate work; it saves time and money and helps pay those medical school costs. (My son is starting Georgetown Medical School this month.)

However, let’s be real. Flat rate is great when used by someone who wants to get rich in a flash yet is also used as needed by an old line family plumbing business.

Dave Rodgers

DAR Services

Long Valley, N.J.

I’d like to offer a different perspective on licensing laws (“Licensing Laws Need Rethinking,” July 2003), one based on my only experience with Michigan law and bureaucracy. Although it’s not a main point, I’d like to mention that Michigan’s licensing law is probably “fair” as no one is completely happy with it, and Michigan has (in my opinion) dedicated and talented code officials.

My point is that around here the local or state persecutor has to file charges against the jacklegs and, for the most part, they don’t. I don’t know why that is but I sure have an opinion what that is. Just like the public who votes them in, they see this as a “victimless” crime -- that is until someone is injured.

I’ll give you an example: Last Easter, in my hometown, a local congregation wanted to have their first service in their new church. The problem was the building inspector wouldn’t issue an OK until smoke alarms, exit signs and a few other things were in place. Well, the congregation went ahead with their service anyway!

I forget the details, but somehow the inspector found out about the service and had the police escort the people from the church. Boy, did hell break loose! In the next few days, the local paper ran a story about the inspector and the police who supported him. In the interest of “fairness” the paper did let the inspector explain that if a fire had occurred, the results could have been deadly.

One other thing I see is that, like drugs, you’ll always have suppliers as long as you have users. This is to say, many customers want the “cheap” work a jackleg promises. I say cheap only in the sense that it’s what the public thinks. We know that it may be the most expensive and dangerous work you can have done.

Certainly things could be better. But do we really believe we would be better off with no licensing?

Dave Watson

Dave Watson Associates

Adrian, Mich.