Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fed Up With Foolishness

Apologies in advance for using Karen and E's great work as an excuse to jump on my usual soapbox.

The council added $304,000 to its own budget to hire nine new staff members.
Times Picayune Dec. 2, 2006

I wouldn't infer from one sentence in a newspaper article that every $300,000 the city spends elsewhere represents nine new employees that aren't hired for understaffed city agencies, but it's a good figure to bear in mind.

On a recent post at Squandered Heritage, an administration defender asked:
I watched the city council meeting yesterday and I heard the old director say they received some 200 voicemails a day. how did you expect them to respond to all those inquiries with a couple people working?

That may well be a valid defense of the NOAH administration, but that's one version of a question I've been asking of the Nagin administration since December 2005.

If $300,000 wouldn't be enough to hire nine new employees to respond to all those inquiries, it would certainly be enough to hire four or five new employees, install a office cubicles and phone jacks and maybe even by a small car (not one of the big SUV's that city officials seem to love). Once those fixed costs were covered, any $100,000 saved would be more than enough to hire two additional employees, in addition to the original three or four, to answer inquiries, check to make sure that houses on the remediation list really exist and aren't on a demolition list, and make sure that nosy city council members and reporter received the "list that counts."

Of course, if the city is really doing the best it can with limited funds, that would be a moot point. Accordingly, we should examine some of the other ways that the city has seen fit to spend money since it started the program. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've heard this song before, but I never get tired of singing it. The mayor announces the home remediation program to great fanfare, but decides to spend over $300,000 on new garbage cans that could go to staffing the office that administers the office. Mind you, these weren't garbage cans that needed to be replaced because they were lost in the flood, they needed to be replaced because they didn't meet the mayor's peculiar standards. The city could have found the money to hire a few additional employees by just excluding a few six-figure employees from the 2006 pay raises. I'd call it foolishness to give pay raises to people who make $100,000 to $150,000 a year when vital agencies are understaffed.

Of course, the city council hasn't covered itself with glory. The rest of the local blogosphere seems enamored of James Carter, but I'd call $600,000 for cable consultants foolishness.

I can't figure out why "Feed Up With Foolishness" hates this blog. He or she should love it.

I don't know if enamored is the right word. I think we're trying our best to pick the cream of a mediocre crop.
James Carter? Hurrumph. I'm in his district. I think. Ummmm....who is he???
I'll admit that negative feeling about Carter are largely based on feeling and emotion. If Stacy Head (not my council rep) hadn't taken the time to answer an email that Carter (my council rep), I wouldn't have really expected him to answer it. Since then, I've seen at least one other blogger in his district say that he's unresponsive. But I want to emphasize that I'm not consciously aware of any lingering anger over that, just acknowledging an initial bad impression.

The specific actions of his that I've criticized aren't major, but, from somebody who ran on a platform of "no more business as usual," they seem hypocritical.

I do have a question for you, E, that you might consider too irrelevant to be worth considering. Suppose Moreno shocked everybody in candidate forums by seeming unbelievably well-informed and ended up seeming like easily the most knowledgeable and competent candidate. Why wouldn't you vote for her? I can tell you two reasons why I almost certainly will not vote for Moreno, even if she shocks us all during the campaign. One is that I don't think she could be beat Jefferson, but that's not the most important reason. The main reason is that the city really does not need another racially divisive election right now. A Moreno/Jefferson election would be very ugly.

However, a race to replace Carter on the council could get ugly also. Maybe I paid too much attention to somebody on a local cable TV show, but I think a District C special election would be very divisive. I wouldn't vote against Carter for that reason if I thought he were the clear choice, but I don't see him as a clear choice. I'd love to see Carter off the council, but I don't if we need to see city council dynamics jolted right now.
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