Sunday, April 02, 2006

Finishing Up That Last Post

Even before the recent car removal controversy, I would frequently hear suburban friends and relatives wonder if the city was doing to get rid of the debris and wrecked cars and get the traffic lights working. The common theory was that the recovery was delayed by either cronyism and incompetence or because the city was deliberately neglecting the high profile stuff--in order to appear more deserving of outside help. Sad (to me the personally distressing thing) thing is, I could disagree, but not as strongly as I would have liked, not honestly.

My guess would be that, if the average tax-payer could get an open look at the city's payroll before and after Katrina and before and after Nagin took office, at least one to two million dollars in easy, obvious mid-to-upper level payroll savings would practically jump off the page at him. More could be found without much searching. Now $1-2M might seem miniscule compared to city's projected budget shortfall of $80-100M or more, but for a city that, until recently, could afford only two electrical inspectors, the waste was unpardonable. As the T/P said:

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

Just to illustrate the point, in my old department(the public library), the permanent staff has gone from over 200 to about 40, yet it still has a media relations person, a director of public services, supervisors who don't have staff to supervise (I believe, but there has been no openness about personnel moves, that there's somebody in charge of branch runs, even though branch runs have not been resumed), as well a city librarian and an assistant city librarian. BTW, the assistant city librarian position was created when the current city librarian took over about a year before Katrina. I only use the library to illustrate the point because it's the department that I'm most familiar with; from what I see when I go down to city hall every month, the situation is similar throughout city government.

One final bit of personal spleen, it's insulting to hear the mayor say that he's made the tough cuts in reference to the layoffs. None of the laid off employees blamed the mayor for the layoffs, I know I didn't. Sending out 2500 impersonal pink slips that nobody blamed him for might have been necessary, but it didn't require toughness. What might have been tough would have been telling the upper level people that he knows on a first name basis that some would need to take pay cuts and others would have to be re-assigned when their positions were eliminated; and that all would need to have similar conversations with their upper level staffs.

Now that I've got that off my chest, I'll get back to the kind of things that everybody wants to talk about like F E M A.

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