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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29 Comments on "It’s time to reevaluate what working for the city means"

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Jesse

David,
 
I was so proud of you!  I was so happy!  You are making brilliant points.  Then you jumped to crazy street and said, “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).”

You are supposed to be a fan of personal liberty.  A year and a half of “compulsory service”!!! David, compulsory service is slavery.  The only difference is that you can choose to leave the country before you are compelled to serve.  But this presumes that your life and actions are not yours, but the governments.  This is the worst statement that I have ever seen you post.  I would really like you to issue a retraction.

Jesse

If this ever happens, I will be happy to be called a Canadian, or a Singaporian, or a Hong Kongian.  I don’t want to be called an American because of the word.  I want to be called an American because of what the country used to stand for:  Life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of Happiness.  Those are the reasons that my great-grandparents fled to America.  America is dangerously close to losing me already.  I am supposed to be protected from the majority by constitutional guarantees.  I am sadly, not anymore.

truddick
David: “Teachers only work 180 days per year.”  If you really believe that, you are abysmally ignorant of the demands of the teaching profession and should excuse yourself from all future considerations of the subject. Teachers are, in fact, only in the classroom 180 days per year.  However, all teachers are responsible for attending many in-service days.  Younger teachers need to complete course work toward the M.Ed. for ongoing licensure, which they usually do in the summer; more seasoned teachers have to attend professional development.  Many resort to summer employment to supplement the low, low starting salary (in the 1950s, teachers were in the upper 20% of salary range for similarly-educated professionals; now they’re in the lower 20%). One of the problems with teacher quality is that it takes a new teacher several years to “learn the ropes” due to our overly-abstract, minimally practical teacher training curriculum–but the majority of teachers leave the career within six years because they can earn more in the private sector. Moreover, you completely neglect to recognize that, in this U.S.A., pay and value are unrelated.  Radio announcers make, in come cases, millions per year for working 15-hour weeks doing little but bloviating.  Game show host is the cushiest job ever; six weeks of work per year (for a daily game show!) yielding millions in base salary.  If people were paid according to their worth, then our police and firefighters and teachers would be well-off and every former Lehman Brothers exec would be worrying about making their next house payment (rather than running the state of Ohio). Anybody who’s watched management making termination decisions ought to know that management rarely knows if they’re retaining the best workers and releasing the worst.  How many bosses have YOU worked for who had a solid appreciation of the quality of individual workers?  Even Fordham Foundation’s Terry Ryan–while calling for greater teacher accountability in his latest DDN editorial (and I use the term ironically, since he’s not an editor but seems to get as many columns as one) admitted that we don’t really know which teachers are good and… Read more »
Dad

Teachers were really treated as slaves when I was a kid. In my junior high school in Brookline, Mass., I had MISS Elliott for math, MISS Holbrook for French, MISS Westgate for history and music, and MISS White for English. These poor creatures did not have sex. They could not marry.
 
When I became a reporter in Celina and saw that some of the elementary school teachers were married, I thought wonders had happened. What I’ve always wanted to know was the role their so-called union, the NEA, (to which even the superintendent and the principals belonged), played in their emancipation. When I asked about the CIO’s teachers’ union I was told the NEA was a better union. But in the CIO, bosses could not belong.
I covered a United Steelworkers Union strike at Huffy and asked one of their leaders about teachers. He said they were unorganized, that the NEA was a company union, not a real union. I asked about marriage. He said the black civil rights movement was responsible for such equality, not the NEA.
 

David Lauri

@Jesse: Singapore has compulsory military service.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conscription_in_Singapore and http://iprep.ns.sg.

djw

@Dad: My grandmother started teaching 2nd grade in the late 30’s, in rural districts in WA State. She told me that for the first several years, there was an unofficial policy for female teachers–get married, and you aren’t invited back for the next year (Male teachers, of course, were not held to this policy). She didn’t get married until ’46, when there was a teacher shortage and the policy had been abandoned, so she was able to have a 40+ year career.
 
I don’t know how widespread these policies were, but she says she thinks the urban districts in and around Seattle had similar policies at the time.

Robert Vigh
Robert Vigh

Jesse, thank you.
Truddick, DAD, DL, djw: You should all be fired as posters. 1.5 years of compulsory service (or conscription, or Draft) and none of you took issue with this directly?
Who decides your job? Your position? What masterful central planning authority will adjust every personality into the most efficient group of slaves that will serve us all best? What civil rights do you have when you are compelled to serve as another sees fit? What meaning does protest have, when if, not participating in slavery you would be a criminal?
What kind of anti-liberty full fledge psychotic assault on the individual would be required for other posters here to call BS?!
Freedom is not free? Therefore you must pay for freedom with slavery? What kind of gas was in that balloon you inhaled DE? Freedom is free, protecting it is not. However, I contribute every single day to protecting my freedom by being a productive citizen that contributes to wealth creation and the ability to pay a volunteer army.
And you suspect that this compulsory service even if it were not a terrible logical fallacy (protecting freedom with slavery) would serve to protect freedom better? Would serve the economic interest of the country in general? I am shocked at DE and all posters that opted to not call BS.
 

truddick
Robert: just because I don’t try to address every issue doesn’t mean I agree with the proposition.  My posts get too long already.  I would say that whether or not you served in the military, your opinion here should be judged on its own merits.  I’d have to see the details of the mandatory service proposal before I signed on or off.   David: my pension system is stronger than those of, say, Enron or Lehman Brothers or GM in large part because the state of Ohio established it, people who I help elect administer it, and my money goes to finance it. As for whether bad teachers get to keep teaching–every year, 1 to 2% of teachers nationally are removed for cause.  When we survey parents on the quality of teachers, around 98% rate their own children’s teachers as fair to excellent.  Recently, NY state found that their more aggressive methods for removing inadequate teachers only rated 2% of them as deficient. Do you see a statistical consistency here?  There are fewer bad teachers than you imagine, according to the data.  And those who are bad fall into a few categories: (1) new teachers who will self-remove from the system because they realize they’re not good at it (2) tenured teachers who should not have gotten tenure in the first place, but were kept on by careless administrators (3) teachers who were good once, but who have been demoralized by incompetent administrators and a general public that thinks good education can be had at foreclosure prices. Doubt me?  As noted earlier, the majority of teachers leave the profession in the first six years.  If you think administrators are broadly competent in hiring, tenure and firing decisions, you might review the old Loretta Cephus case; she didn’t even possess the necessary license yet due to administrative bungling, she stayed on as a teacher for several more years.  Confidentiality prevents me from relating even worse cases. Longer school year?  Longer school day?  Load homework on students until they are sleep deprived and have no recreation time?  Why sure–that’s been tried in… Read more »
djw

Excellent comment, Truddick. To follow up a bit, I see a pretty big disconnect between two ideas D.E. has expressed recently. One, that low quality teachers have too much job security and we ought to be firing them, and two, that public servants (including teachers) make too much money and have too much financial security.
 
Right now, we offer a particular level of pay and benefits to work in public schools. We have the people who show up and work for that much pay (in general, people aren’t beating down the doors to become teachers, especially in less desirable districts). If we want to attract higher quality, more talented teachers, that’s going to be made much, much harder–if not impossible–by paying less and decreasing the financial security attached to the job.

Allison

<insert LIKE button here> @ Robert Vigh.

Jack Squat
DE: “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?” What a ridiculously false analogy. To compare an NBA player, whose worth is strictly in his physicality, and nothing else, with the jobs of our public servants is apples and oranges. And besides, with the money that Shaq makes, he won’t be in need of seniority pay any time soon. Esrati always comes up with a real undignified way to view people who work every day to help bring food home for their families. Seniority is a lost concept that rewards loyalty and service, something that is obviously lost on the “I think the rat race should get faster and faster and faster” mentality of Esrati. And then your massive arrogance shows once again when you write, “It’s hard, dirty work- but in terms of skills – it’s negligible.” EVERY JOB TAKES SKILLS. Your denigration of sanitation workers is repugnant and shows that deep inside of your soul sits an arrogant pig. You try riding on the back of a truck in the freezing cold, getting chased by pit bulls, and being refreshed by the smells of old diapers and coffee grinds before the rest of the world has awakened. Does the mayor mean squat to me? No. Does the city manager mean squat to me? No Do my garbage men mean squat to me? Yes, they tangibly make my world better. Screw you, and every management type in the world who breaks humans down in value by “skills.” It is a skill just to be able to put up with some of the stuff you deal with in the work place every day. That goes for everyone who works for a living. Guess what else takes very few skills? Advertising! There are so many schleps in the advertising business who provide zero value to the world that its daunting to even consider. And let’s get real, your firm’s work isn’t exactly breathtaking or out of the box. It’s OK, but nothing to write home… Read more »
Robert Vigh
Robert Vigh

I get 4 thumbs down (more to come?) by proclaiming that compulsory service (a form of slavery) is a terrible idea and an affront to liberty. So, then every single one of those people that gave a thumbs down agreed with the draft during the vietnam war?

David, you are sick of the rich skipping out? So, compulsory service for everyone to show the Kids of the top 2% of the population that they cannot skip out? Do you call tax rates at 90% for the wealthy during wartime skipping out? Do you not acknowledge that the rich pay MOST of the taxes and therefore provide MOST of the defense and services for the rest of the population? You have a serious envy problem and a disconnect from logic.

So, if I have not served in the military, my opinion about compulsory service does not matter? More logical disconnect and your apparent attempt at a personal attack to elevate your very bad idea.

As far as having no idea about slavery, does that mean you have been a slave as well and therefore I cannot comment because I have not been a slave? Do I need to define slave, property and compulsory for you and the thumbs downers to understand?

Truddick, {I’m a redacted by esrati} total goon. “I would have to see the details of the compulsory service before I signed on”. Seriously!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! If the slavery was directed at what you perceived to be beneficial then it would be ok? Slaves are ok as long as it serves you. Excellent thought process, I am so glad you are one of the good teachers. If you expressed that thought in my private school you would be fired, regardless of experience. You could go teach at a school that values slavery and people could then choose to be indoctrinated to slavery or come to my school.

DJW: Truddick made an excellent post? On the teaching, on the compulsory service or on both? Just trying to decide if you go into the scary column as well.

djw

I was referring to the parts of the discussion I’m interested in talking about. I don’t support a compulsory service scheme for a variety of reasons, but I find the tenor of your opposition to it hyperbolic, predictable, and boring, so I choose to discuss other things in my comments.

Jack Squat

What makes you falsely assume that I am in the trash business?

For all that you know, I’m in the ad business.

You always seem to jump to those kind of conclusions sans any kind of evidence. It is an obvious and constantly appearing theme, which in the end is a personality flaw (which is then bad marketing for yourself – go back to 101). I could be someone who could hire you.

But of course, you don’t know Jack Squat.

You earned the title of arrogant pig for your disdain of workers and your “I’m more valuable” mindset. Nobody is more valuable than anyone else in a world where everyone dies. If Next Wave Advertising left Dayton next week the city would keep on keeping on without a peep. Same can’t be said of those who work the jobs that make society run, one of which is trash hauling.

Your lack of any kind of empathy-based humanism that leads to your disdain of the jobs that others do, is what makes you an arrogant pig, not my use of the term. I respect the work of all.

Cities are having problems because rich assholes have robbed America and re-wrote the laws to keep robbing. There’s your culprits. Leave people who work alone.

When the labor of all is once again celebrated, America will accomplish great things once again.

Ice Bandit

….it’s indeed unfortunate, dear David, that bad ideas aren’t $50 bills. For if disastrous suggestions had pictures of General Grant, you’d be flying your own private Lear to a weekend in Tahoe with one of the Kardashians as arm candy. From unleashing trash collecting convicts into residential neighborhoods to providing gangbangers and home-grown Jihadis with military training thru conscription, you had the BadIdea Mobile running pedal to metal. And since responding to all of your “doh” suggestions would require more bandwidth than currently exists, let’s tackle the constitutionally thorny suggestion of compulsory service. It seems the Founding Fathers, dear David, had an industrial strength dislike for George III’s standing army. As a child, Andrew Jackson was left for dead by a British officer who was quartering at the Jackson estate, and Old Hickory bore the sabre scar throughout his life. The founding hombres considered themselves free men, with rights given by the Big Guy Upstairs and there irrevocible, and such compulsion immoral, so it was left out of the constitution by design. But the founders, with Jefferson at the vanguard, were also gung-ho for military training by local millitias. And as an aside, dear David, taxpayers are not whining; they are righteously protesting the Paris Hilton spending of a bunch that is supposed to be their servants. And please tell Kim, Khloe and Kourtney to Old Bandito says “hi”……….

Shortwest Rick
Shortwest Rick

What if: The scenerio was rephraised to say anyone who has ever attended a public school, state or community college or any educational institution that accepts tax payer monies, accepted a government loan or Pell grant, is required to perform 18 months of public service before their graduation papers are issued. It would give people the opportunity to opt out and nulify the slavery component. Additionally, one would be exempt if he was fortunate enough that his daddy could put them through 17 to 21 years of institutions that do not take any tax payer funding, if you could find one?

truddick

David, don’t quash Vigh if you think he’s attacking li’l ole me–I enjoy it!
 
Vigh: yes, there are those who cannot discern between taxation and thievery, or required public service and slavery.  Are you one of them?  Perhaps you’ll show me that you understand the difference, and that your statements are rhetorical hyperbole, by explaining the differences for all of us here?  It would be charitable of you to do so.

Jesse

Shortwest,
 
I believe you made an honest attempt.  I will try to respond with the same level of effort.
 
It doesn’t make sense to say that you can tax me at whatever rate you choose and if I don’t want to be forced into more unwanted activities that I have to not use the benefit of any of the money that I have been forced to release to your uses.
 
If you allowed me to opt out of taxation for those things that I will not be permitted to use…then I think you might have me.

Ice Bandit

…..the closest thing we have to slavery in this country today is the NCAA rules about student athletes. (David Esrati)

……so students enter voluntary agreements with universities for free tuition for an activity they would be doing without recompense anyway, and that’s slavery? And depending upon where they decide to dribble, pass or pitch, some of these scholarships are worth hundreds of thousands of bucks. And that’s bondage, dear David? And as a perk, they get to drive nifty Hummers with a booster’s name on the pink slip, never have to buy a brewski and get first crack (bad pun intended) at the fey and naive freshman hotties. Bet that wasn’t the scenario Harriet Beecher Stowe was trying to convey. Yessir, dear David, you don’t know oppression and degradation until you’ve stayed at the (five star) Park Manor Hotel, overlooking Central Park, right before their game at the Madison Square. Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen………..

Robert Vigh
Robert Vigh

Truddick, it is clever that you ask a very complex question as means to defend your proposition to compulsory service. Perhaps, instead of me elaborating into what would become a very lengthy discussion you could maintain the scope of the conversation.

How about in simple terms you explain to me what would be required for you to support a law that would require my 2 daughters to be compulsed into government service from the ages of 18-19.5? This is a much simpler question.

In addition, why not go ahead and defend whatever answer you give against Reductio ad absurdum. In other words, if 1.5 years of compulsory service is ok, then why not 5,10 or 20 years of compulsory service?

So, that is my charitable contribution. The ability to maintain the scope of a conversation. To not get sidetracked by very bad questions posed by Truddick.

Truth

@David…
 
Is that 80k total package worth it when your trash doesn’t get picked up?  When the streets are filled with garbage and the unsanitary conditions that go with it?  And if that 80k package accounts for a 50k employee…taking OT into consideration, you are looking at maybe a 20 dollar an hour employee.  Replace those 20 dollar an hour employees with 12 dollar an hour employees and see how long before you are rehiring more 12 dollar employees versus re-hiring and retaining the 20 dollar an hour, hard working, loyal employees.
 
Police, Fire, Water, and Trash.  When you lose focus of what the core responsibilities of government are, you go off into a fantasy land where pipe dreams become the reality of government service.
 
Maybe you have a scooter that can run on filled baby diapers that will litter the tree lawns.

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