Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rare moments of clarity

While I completely sympathize with the agony that comes with implementing any cuts in spending - and the resulting layoffs, program cuts, etc. that come with such fiscal moves - this is getting pretty ridiculous.

I don't sit in the chair the commissioners sit in, so I'm not presuming to understand exactly how painful and difficult these decisions are, but, with all due respect, at some point you've got to make a plan and stick to the darn thing ... and that's why, quite frankly, I think Alan Reddish is right when he said ...

The commission should have thought of that Wednesday, when they went against his advice and did not add those positions back into the budget, Reddish said. All 1,500 employees shouldn't have to sacrifice because commissioners can't make tough choices, he said.

"I'm going to ask you to solve this problem," he said. "That's where we were last night, and you elected not to (save the positions), to my disappointment."

This is a tough choice and, well, it's time to man up. Though it's noble - and a sign of a well-intentioned and compassionate body of individuals - it's also mildly frustrating to watch this go on. At some point, you have to realize that you can't be everything to everybody, and that's a painful and disappointing reality.

In my mind, there were a few viable options in this debate ...

- Stick to the original proposed millage rate increase and fight for it, laying out why such an increase was necessary despite our weakening economy;

- Shave off a portion of the pay raises for the government's employees, working to catch them up down the road;

- Follow through with a difficult, but well-reasoned compromise which will diminish the proposed increase.

Now, I'm not sure what direction we're headed in. Are we going to restore three positions? And, if we do, what's going to be trimmed back? Or are we going to nudge up the millage rate a hair or two because an affected employee or two tugged on a heartstring?

I know this may sound some what cold, but sometimes that's what you need when you're called upon making business decisions for the community as a whole. It's unpleasant, uncomfortable and guaranteed to tick somebody off.

Still, making those tough decisions is a sign of leadership.


Blogger Xon said...

I agree, and I hope this same sort of reasoning is allowed to apply to company executives and boards of leadership who have to make similar decisions. You know, rather than jumping down their throats for downsizing, outsourcing, etc. :-)

1:59 PM  
Blogger hillary said...

Yes, but you can't really lead as just one voice on the commission. I assume that part of the problem is that they disagree about what's important.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Problem is, though, Kathy Hoard can't sleep at night.

We can't have that.

7:32 AM  
Blogger paveplanet said...

You are correct, it is getting old.

But the elected ones have no one to blame but themselves waiting so long to address this. I have said it before (yes, I am very close to a broken record), but the simple way to solve this (and assuming that they will not raise the millage rate more than the .15 they are proposing now) is to do away with the Mayor's planned new services for the coming year. I haven't done the math, but if memory serves, the affordable housing program and the expanded bus service would more than make up the $205k needed to keep the existing services going that these 3.5 employees perform.

Kudus to the Manager for throwing this back to them. Too often he seems to bail them out (more than they realize).

6:43 PM  
Blogger Christopher T. Anderson said...

Did anyone else see the increase to the jail for boarding from $740,000 to $1.2MM? That's half-a-million dollars!

You can bet this also has a strong effect on the fuel bill as these inmates are shuttled back and forth from the boarding facilities to Clarke County for court appearances, etc.

The time is over where the prosecutors and courts can respond to the public's clamor for "safety" by incarcerating so many people who, under our constitution, are presumed innocent.

As an example, on May 22 (the day of the news report), our jail was responsible for 82 inmates with bonds less than $10,000 (meaning they can put up less than $1,000 to get bonded out.) 78 inmates at $5,000 or less. 46 inmates at $3,000 or less, and 18 at $1,000 or less.

On that date we had 113 inmates housed out to other facilities. This includes inmates with $1000 bond, in jail for more than 2 months on a misdemeanor obstruction charge, and others charged with public indecency, suspended license, and drug possession.

I take this information from the jail's data.

I am not sure what purpose shelling out $1,000 in bond money serves to separate the need to pay for incarceration and lodging out of 82 inmates versus the ability to have them at liberty pending trial. Anyone with the means would surely post the bond. Those without, stay in jail, on our dime. It seems a terrible way to allocate liberty. Are we now presumed innocent only as long as we can afford a bond?

When we are looking at "tough choices," we should not treat as a given that the increased jail expenses are necessary, or even acceptable. The sheriff has no control over the numbers, and must ask for the money to house the inmates put in his charge. For this we must look to the prosecutors and the courts for methods to better allocate the dollars being wasted.

Moreover we must support these decision by not witch-hunting the courts and prosecutors when a malfeasor on bond commits a crime. This will happen, I know.

We cannot lock up people presumed innocent under our system of law because that is the only way we can ensure that they do not violate future laws. Incarceration of the innocent as a means of crime prevention is a step down a very dangerous path to the kind of government we claim not to be.

Only when the public, and the press, remember that, and don't immediately seek to castigate those that protect our liberties for their failure to jail the innocent, will the courts and the prosecutors not be driven to err on the side of bond, which means bigger jails, bigger budgets, more joblessness, homelessness, etc.

Food for thought.

3:22 PM  

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