Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Picayune Needs a Hobgoblin

Or, maybe I have a little mind...

From a Times Picayune editorial about proposed pay raises for Slidell city employees:
Money spent to reward city workers is money that won't be spent on roads, drainage and other public works, and the City Council ought to reject the supplemental pay.

The Council should also delay any talk of pay raises until the pay plan study is finished, as Councilmen Rickey Hursey and Ray Canada are urging.
That's the kind of careful analysis Slidell officials should be doing instead of rushing to spend more.

The Picayune on proposed state pay raises:
Teacher pay raises, state employee pay raises, tax breaks and the rest of Gov. Blanco's re-election laundry list should be set aside and dealt with in the regular session -- where there will be more time to debate the merit and wisdom of the proposals.
She and lawmakers should find a sensible way to do that, and leave the gift-giving to Santa Claus.

After the city council voted to approve Nagin's proposed pay raises for city employees a Picayune editorial did say:
Mayor Nagin has said he wants a "fiscally responsible" pay raise to firefighters, and that's the correct aim.

But he would have an easier time making his argument if the recent citywide increase had given proportionally larger raises to low-paid employees, as he's proposing firefighters do. Instead, he gave his top administrators 10 percent raises as well.

However, the Picayune's editors didn't mention the huge pay increases that the top administrators received four years ago, and The Picayune's editors didn't question any of the New Orleans pay raises before the vote. They must think that surplus funds need to be spent more carefully than borrowed money.

However, this isn't only about pay raises. It's also about the tendency of the Picayune's editorial and op-ed writers to act like high school refs dealing with Bobby Knight where the mayor is concerned. I've been a little under the weather all weekend, so I won't finish up on either subject. Consider this exhibit A, in both cases.

Exhibit B (in both cases), after the city council decided that Nagin's budget didn't borrow enough money, the paper's op-ed writers are upset about a boondoggle that the governor opposed, but not soon enough.

While I'm on the subject, Clancy DuBos certainly hasn't been afraid to criticize the mayor, but even he's been a bit inconsistent on budget issues. I agree with his column about the governor's eagerness to spend an unexpected surplus, I'm surprised that he hasn't written as strong a column about the mayor's willingness to get the city further in debt.

I hope that I'm wrong about the debt, but I'm afraid that using borrowed funds for items that seem wasteful or extravagant might make congress less likely to forgive any of the debt. Just to be clear, I've never been a Blanco supporter, but I have found myself being a reluctant defender--guess why, the headline (see the link) didn't match the story, and the story was far more negative than the national coverage. The local media never did acknowledge that Blanco was right about federalizing the response to Katrina (talk radio still makes oblique references); when the rest of the country, including some Defense Department figures and Republican governors, concluded that she was correct, they just quietly dropped the subject. But poor Ray Nagin is the victim of media bias.

we are so fucked.

dig in your heels friend. this is gonna be a ten year war.

thanks katrina!!!!!!!

keep all the battles in perspective.
fight all of them with passion and when we lose one take a step back and look at the big picture.

i think we can win this war.

katrina was a bitch but she was also a blessing.

the end game will be a new orleans that we are proud of.

and a spring board for the kids who will be us soon.
At least you have the Saints. And a Bush you can be proud of.

I'm not certain I'm authorized to make this offer, but would you consider trading them to Houston for the Texans, Mario Williams and what appears to the GOP to be a booming local economy?
If you guys all agree to pick one battle and all work together we can win that one battle. Then we can pick another one. We did it with the tax assessor consolidation and we did it with the levee board reform. But those were low hanging fruit and we did not have to work at it. .

Pick the next one...
Real accountability and transparency, f p.

That's a much harder battle, but the main way to get there is to call leaders on the bullshit.

But it's not just because the city's broke that I so often act like William Proxmire. By demanding that every dollar be spent effectively from the start, we could have possibly prevented the garbage fiasco. In an editorial about the garbage contracts, the T/P said:

"New Orleans has tremendous needs -- from curbing crime to patching city streets to handling the myriad permits and paperwork for rebuilding. And the city's recovery will depend on how well its scant resources are used to meet those needs."

However, that's the only time that I'm aware of the Picayune questioning the mayor's spending. For a year it's talked about the money we could save by consolidating courts and editorialized against wasteful spending by other state and local officials, but left the mayor alone.

Now I can understand being afraid of the bias charge, but if the local press had held the mayor to the same standards on wasteful spending, it would have been a lot more difficult for him to sneak in his obviously crooked deals. With all the editorials about the governor wasting money, they should be able to do the same to the mayor and laugh at his thinly veiled race card. Are any T/P defenders reading this?
You know, there is one good way to add a lot of transparency to affairs of the city. But it takes a little work to start.

Do any of you guys know people connected to the city contracts and city employees? Do you know any union workers and Police and Firefighters? There is always a of gossip flying around in those circles and there is always a lot of whistle blowers looking for an outlet or a way to get their points across right?

Check out the blogging for this city near Boston. It is a city of about 80,000 people. There is one great blog set up that is also a small local paper. The blog runs community stories about what is happening at city hall, the police department, and everything else going on in the city. What sets it apart is how they get all the city people to participate in the discussions and well this does to keep everybody else informed in the affairs of the city. There is some really great characters that post to the blog that are definitely well connected to the politics there. A couple of examples are "the Mole" and another is "Dr. Mrs.. McCarthy"

Check out some of the stories they post and how they get everybody to participate: Firefighters reclaim seized property

Build the new Union Square for the people

Cop fired but why?

or this one where they are trying to figure out who the Mole is

If someone were to start a blog\paper like this and ran the right stories about stuff esigned to get people involved with the goings on around City hall and such you could get a lot of these guys participating and even get some moles of our own to help fill us in at the anonymous Blog site. It is big effort at first, it is like a community radio station and needs to be properly seeded in order to get it running right.
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