Monday, February 06, 2006

Since its analysts tried to blame the Democrats for Ted Stevens' cynical attempt to tie Katrina relief to ANWR, I've pretty much stayed away from BayouBuzz. But I came across this via another blog:

Perhaps the most volatile issue on the call could be the consolidation of New Orleans City government. This issue involves jobs and institutions. At issue is the merging the civil and criminal courts, clerks and sheriffs and the municipal courts. Many believe that due to the lack of population those functions should be now simplified and made more cost-effective.

Today's T/P had this in an editorial:

The city government isn't just broke. It's holes-in-your-pockets broke, flat-on-your-back broke, headed-to-the-poorhouse broke. With much of the tax base gone, it's hard to see how City Hall will pay for all the services necessary to get New Orleans functioning.
The drive to combine multiple offices isn't just the obsession of fussy government-reform types. It will also save money -- over time in some cases, almost immediately in others. By one estimate, just merging the assessors' offices would save at least $800,000 a year.

The city can fill a lot of potholes and cut a lot of grass for $800,000.

I agree with both but wonder why they stop at that. Anyone who's read this blog in the past probably knows where I'm going from here. After mentioning it here, here, here, here and finally here, I figured that it was time to drop it. But after reading today's editorial, I decided that it was my duty to point out, once again, the obvious source of grass cutting money. After all, the paper did say:

It's holes-in-your-pockets broke, flat-on-your-back broke, headed-to-the-poorhouse broke.

Actually, I'm quite serious; the waste is appalling. What's mystifying is that the paper, or at least one of its columnists, seems to be aware of it. yet it only mentions it in passing; from a recent Lolis Eric Elie column:

Nagin deserves praise for the pay raises he budgeted for city workers in his first two years in office. But those raises are a distant memory. Not long after the hurricane, when it was clear the city had little money and few prospects for an infusion of capital, Nagin fired most city workers.

What about his top staff members, the ones he awarded substantial pay raises in better times? They kept their jobs and weren't even asked to accept symbolic pay cuts.

To be fair, from the column, Mr. Elie might believe that it was only a few raises for a few employees. In fact, pay increases were sought for nearly three dozen upper level employees, most were granted.

There's also the other issue that I raised, why greatly reduced departments have retained not just both their directors and deputy directors, but bureau chiefs of decimated bureaus. In the case of the public library, the position of assistant city librarian (with a salary close to that of the former city librarian) was created when the current city librarian was hired. So that we now have two people overseeing a department with 39 employees, when one used to do for a department of over 200. When this article came out, one had to wonder why NORD still had a director and deputy director. Now one wonders whether the deputy director's position was filled, when the deputy director became director. If so, why? If not, that leads to the question of whether any upper level positions were eliminated, other than through Katrina related attrition.

Don't smaller cities either pay their supervisors less or combine departments to have fewer supervisors? There was talk of consolidating departments when Nagin first sought upper level pay increases (from the article cited, some of them were justified at the time), isn't it time to bring it up again?

The courts and the assessor's offices aren't the only place to find grass cutting money, and the city is "headed-to-the-poorhouse" broke.

Note: (2/10) Just to emphasize: that post and the ones linked were not motivated by rancor as a laid off city worker. The only role being a former city worker played was that it made me aware of the how top heavy the retained staff was, at least in my deparment. That caused my to look for signs of it in the limited info available about other departments. The only anger is over the wasted resources. I'm somewhat surprised that we haven't heard more of it, either from the angry tax payer POV or because of anger that the city isn't using its limited funds more wisely.

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