Saturday, November 22, 2008

The First Million

I don't know if the mayor thinks that the people in his propaganda* office are doing such a great job of not answering questions that they all deserve raises, or if he thinks they're underperforming and he needs to hire more people to not answer more questions. However, his proposed 2009 budget calls for a $129,381 increase in "personal services" expenditures for what's referred to as the communications department of the mayor's office. Scroll down to p. 127 of the 2008 adopted budget (pdf), program no. 2115 (communications) allocated $672,700 for "personal services" and $426,000 for "other operating" expenses, for a total allocation of $1,098,700. If you refer to p. 88 of this year's proposed budget (pdf), you'll find that the "personal services" expenditure has jumped to $802,081, bringing total department expenditures to $1,2228,081.

With the city facing a $25M budget shortfall, I would suggest cutting a million from his propaganda office. If the mayor's office failed to tell us about tiered reentry** with a $1,098,700 budget, it could certainly have failed to warn us about tiered reentry with a much smaller budget. Seriously, the mayor's office should be able to not answer all the questions we could ever possibly not want answered for $200,000. That was easy, I won't even charge the city council $15,000 for that advice. However, if they do decide to pay me a consultant's fee, I might decide to start making campaign contributions. Sorry, I can't open any doors in Jefferson Parish.

It's possible that I misread the budget presentation, it's easy to miss things when scrolling through a 400 page pdf file. On WWL last year, Dennis Woltering reported:
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 figure that I found was $672,700, but that's as close a match as I've ever seen when the same budget figure has been reported twice. At any rate, the principle is a valid one, the city is spending way too much for communications department that refuses to communicate. Remember, that's the communications department for the mayor's office alone. Other agencies have their own spokesmen.

Clarification: The pages numbers referred to above are the the pages numbers as they appear on the copmuter screen, the corresponding page numbers on the printed form seem to be p. 111 (2008) and p. 84 (2009).

*The case could could be made that it should be referred as a public relations budget, but there's no way it can honestly be referred to as a communications budget.

**I'm trying to avoid typing things about people that I wouldn't want to say to them personally, so I won't call anybody a blithering idiot. But, am I the only person who wonders what city Errol LaBorde lives in. Last night, he said that Gustav was something to be thankful for -- I know, that wasn't his exact statement. After Gustav, it will be more difficult to get people to evacuate for any hurricane that isn't an obvious Katrina-type storm. In fairness to LaBorde, most of the local media has ignored that obvious point. I suspect that most members of the local press would agree with what Tim wrote in this post. For the most part, I'd agree too. But, that's totally irrelevant to any evaluation of the mayor's performance. Since the mayor's handling of the mandatory evacuation and subsequent reentry will cause people to be less likely to heed madatory evacuation orders in the future, it was absurd to call the evacuation a great success. That wasn't the only reason why I once again found myself wondering which of is either crazy or kinda dense (me or LaBorde) last night. All I'll say is that we obviously view things differently.

Well, I wouldn't feel comfortable personally telling the mayor that I think he's a corrupt piece of shit. I'd probably just say, "You know,man, I'm just saying, you can't pass the smell test you proposed for your opponent in the last election," or "What's you got to be so secretive about, if you're not doing anything wrong, man?"

Not answering question is hard expensive work.
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