It’s time to reevaluate what working for the city means

The old joke goes, “What are the nine most feared words in the English language? ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’ ”

What does having a government job mean? It would seem for most of the workers that we the people employ- that they have a guaranteed job for life, with “lower pay” but “better benefits” than most.

We hear it from public school teachers- who always say they aren’t well paid- despite the fact that you and I work closer to 240 days a year and they work 180. We hear it from managers in City Hall who “could make more money in the private sector” yet still make 5x what the average household in their city makes. When it comes to police and fire- who often seem to be confrontational about working conditions, and can’t strike if they want to- you won’t hear a lot of argument from me about pay- most of us don’t go to work every day with a real possibility that it will be the last day of our life. That’s worth extra in my book.

However- using “seniority” for pay is a model of stupidity. Should Shaq make more money because he’s old and been on the job longer?

Or should all the people in the NBA keep handing in part of their pay so he can retire with 85% of the top three years of his pay?

Where did we come up with these ideas?

What happened to being paid for what you provide- value?

We can take any Tom, Dick or Harlene and turn them into a trash collector tomorrow. How do I know this? Well, for the first 10 years of living in the city and paying taxes for trash collectors- we neighbors still got to be “honorary” trash collectors one Saturday a month to pick up the crap that our “well-paid professional” trash collectors missed.

Granted- it takes some skill to drive the truck- but, to run behind it and load the containers in- nope, that’s work we could give to convicts to earn their way back into society. It’s hard, dirty work- but in terms of skills- it’s negligible.

Yet, you could run behind that truck for 27 years, then drive it for 3 and retire at 65 and get at least 50% of your pay until you die- which could be another 30 years- or more- since you were in such good shape from all that running. So- while we may say that $35K a year is a decent wage for a dirty job- we’re really paying a lot more for that job when you factor in the retirement (note all these numbers are average figures for this type of government job- some may allow earlier retirement- or more than 50% retirement checks).

That’s a lot of money for a low-skill job. And, guess who pays for it? We do.

If we hired out our trash collection- there would be no job-to-grave benefits paid. Just the going wage for a job that requires very little skill.

The whole concept of “public service” isn’t factored in at all. The idea of working for our community- giving something back, is missing from the reason many of these “public servants” work.

Most of us take for granted a lot of the services that they provide- at least until we need them. Police and firefighters are always appreciated when you need them- but the guys who keep the sewers clean- not so much (unless you have a backup)- or plows snow.

When you hear people whine about their taxes- are they saying “we don’t need to have police, fire, sewer cleaners” because they think they can get them cheaper? Or that we really don’t need them? Most of the time- it’s because they believe that government isn’t a good steward of their money- or manages it well- yet, they are unable to point to what to cut (that makes sense).

Today’s Dayton Daily had an article that should make you scratch your head:

In Dayton’s case, the savings came in lower personnel costs. All 23 people targeted for layoffs are civilians. Some layoffs were immediate; some will occur in the next two weeks.

Of the 23 — 20 call evaluators and three clerical workers — 16 had enough seniority to “bump” employees in other city departments. The 16 who were bumped will be laid off.

The city started dispatching fire calls through the Regional Dispatch in September and police calls in December. Riordan said the city chose to delay the layoffs from city dispatch until after the holidays.

The switch to Regional Dispatch also allowed the city to move 15 police officers from dispatch to the streets, including one lieutenant, two sergeants and 12 patrol officers.

Ironically, Dayton plans to pay the county $500,000 more than it has to for the dispatch services.

Earlier this month, Riordan told City Commissioners the city originally expected to pay $2.7 million to the county this year for fire and police dispatching services based on projections made in 2006 when talks to open the center were ongoing.

Revised figures show the city’s actual cost is $1.7 million. He said he was going to ask the city to pay the original cost because a $1 million decline is too much to ask the county to bear.

The city originally projected it would have about 187,000 police dispatches and 29,100 fire dispatches. Revised estimates for this year are 150,000 police dispatches and 29,100 fire.

via Dispatch center saved several cities money.

The idea of “bumping” people because of seniority- does that mean all skill sets are interchangeable? If that is the case- why keep any of these people long term- with increasing costs for pension and wages? Just because you have been a secretary for 30 years- doesn’t mean you should now be paid more than your boss.

The people who should have pensions should be earning them due to their value- what they give to the people. They are irreplaceable or highly valuable. The cost to train replacements is high- these are reasons for a pension plan. If you don’t have unique skills- you can have a 401K – just like anyone else. Your retirement is your problem- and it’s a fixed amount. Remove the reasons to grow your skill set- and you kill off the American dream and the work ethic. This “money for nothing” but your time is un-American.

In fact- it’s time to take another look at government service altogether. Why we don’t have a compulsory year and a half of government service upon graduation from high school is beyond me. Either serve in the military- or do these jobs that seemingly can be done by anyone. The pay would be low- but, in exchange, we’ll give you loans for college at a low rate (wait- you say we do that now? That’s right- we do- but without asking for any service or commitment in return).

The second part of that quote above- about the “voluntary” payment of $500K to the county by the city- unless every other community gives, this should be considered an illegal payment. When we save money in the private sector- we save money, we don’t give our vendors a bonus check.

If Mr. Riordan wants to donate his salary for the next 3 years- that’s fine. He can take his pension right now and continue or not continue working, but a $500K donation while we have firefighters working as lieutenants while not getting paid as such- is criminal.

Do I have a problem with paying our city manager $250K a year or more? Absolutely not- if he is in fact working at will-and proving his worth. Take away the guaranteed retirement and job security- and pay what they are worth right now.

We need the best people working for us- not the ones who won’t quit and can’t get fired- waiting for the pension for life. Working for us- we the people, should be about the value today- and not much else.

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