Thursday, June 26, 2008

Southern Regional Bullshit

Before I get to my main point, I have a question about some of the comparisons that Dennis Woltering made in tonight's report on the mayor's misnamed communications office:
New Orleans, with a population 327,000, according to Nagin, has 9 positions in the office of communications. The annual budget just for salaries is $561,917.

The city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with a population of 312,819, has three positions in the public information office. The annual budget for salaries is $167,000.

Bakersfield, California, which has a population of 323,213, has no public information department. The assistant city manager handles those duties. The annual salary is $93,922.32.
San Francisco, with a population of 864,515, has five positions in the mayor's office of communication. The total annual salaries equal $421,869.

Dallas, with a population of 1,213,825, has six people in its public information office. The total annual salaries equal $477,169.

Isn't the comparison only valid for San Francisco? A former communications director, under Dutch Morial, seemed to allude the same thing when he was interviewed, but didn't elaborate. In New Orleans, that's the budget for the mayor's communication office. In the other cities, with the exception of San Francisco, that seems to be the information budget for the entire city government. I thought that something similar might be at work when the city council increased its PR budget last year. Still, it was a good report by Dennis Woltering, that's not the b.s. referred to above.

The bullshit I refer to is this:
Following through on a commitment that he announced during his budget address to the City Council last fall, Mayor C. Ray Nagin has proposed pay raises for City employees in nearly every position classification to increase their compensation rate to the Southern regional average.

If some country had an army in which the ranks below lieutenant were sergeant I, II, III and IV, instead of private, specialist, corporal and sergeant, you wouldn't expect pay rates in that army to reach the world military average by position. Well, there weren't any privates or specialists, or even corporals, in my former department.

Beyond bullshit:
"In a post-Katrina environment in which we had to cut thousands of positions in order to stabilize our government,
we have employees performing the jobs of two or three people
and we must ensure that they are paid competitively with their counterparts in this region," said Dr. Brenda Hatfield, Chief Administrative Officer.

Maybe a very few are overworked, but most have found a great excuse for things not getting done. I'll have a full-fledged rant on the pay raises over the weekend, but I don't want to get too worked up to sleep tonight.

I will make two quick points. Like the mayor's pay increase proposal of 2006, this one also excludes firefighters, but the city council didn't buck the mayor to include this time. I can't find a link, but I heard on TV that that council voted to approve the pay package and piss off the firefighters today -- a mere ten days after the mayor's press release announcing the proposal. Who says the council and mayor can't work well enough together to get anything done quickly?

Those people in the press office certainly aren't doing a very good job. I haven't noticed the city getting much good press lately.

They usually can't seem to answer simple questions, like what's Ray been up to lately?

As far as pay raises. I've always wondered why paying the same people more is expected to improve services. Maybe if we hired new people at better salaries?
On the press office, I don't know how much of that is the fault of the press office and how much is the mayor's fault. A mayor isn't a president in that he doesn't have a national security excuse.

We asked Mayor Nagin why his administration at times chooses not to respond to questions from reporters.

“Well probably for some good reasons,” Nagin said. “We’re focused on recovery and we're not going to chase every little rumor that you, that certain people bring up.

Like the "little rumor" that the family business profited from an illegal business deal. He could have easily dispelled that "little rumor" by disclosing the ownership documents for Stone Age Marble. I'm pissed off that he get any good press at all with all the secrecy. WWL, occasionally the T/P, and, very occasionally, City Business are the media outlets that have called him to task for it. Great job by the city's weekly alternative.

As far as pay raises, I could have supported hardship bonuses (for those making under a certain amount) at the time of the 2006 raises, even though my former coworkers are making much more than me, until the entire workforce was reorganized, but giving across the board pay raises and anding the state of emergency (and, therefore, bringing back the civil service system and all its protections) at the same time made absolutely no sense.

What I observed when I was going down to city hall to make my monthly COBRA payments late 2005/early 2006 (remember what mail service was like even after it was restored) and from what I heard from a few city employees that i know, it didn't take long for the old work ethic to return. Not that city hall is full of slackers, but slacking is certainly allowed. I'm also not arguing that city employees are overpaid, but comparisons based on job title can be very misleading.
Part of that run-on sentence should read

"and ending the state of emergency ( and therefore...) at the same time"
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