Archive for the ‘Topeka Capital-Journal Columns’ Category

Accept Locusts? Anyone?

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve never been city manager of a city that before me or after me said it had to live with potholes. My deal with my governing body was that first we organized the finances, second we organized and delivered the basic services, and then we would add services that added to the quality of life in the community. Street maintenance, water and waste treatment, and public safety were all basic services. No governing body of mine as city manager ever would accept less than complete handling of those services. As city manager, I would not accept less either.

Admitting there’s nothing we can do to get ahead of the problem is economic suicide for a community and an admission of failure. It shows no appetite or clue about how to correct the direction. Not only have I never been city manager in such a city, I’ve never lived in one that accepted potholes as something approaching a natural condition.

As city manager if I had public works director or city engineer who made such a statement, he would be gone. Not someday, but right now.

Then I’d find one who knew how to organize street maintenance and knew how to fix potholes. The woods is full of them.

It’s similar to having your head of water treatment say “we can’t clean the water, it’s too brown. We have to live with the condition.”

How about having a budget director or finance director say “I don’t know how to balance the budget.” Wouldn’t you get one right away who did?

I can go on and on with examples of behavior that would lead inevitably to a culture of surrender. To the locusts.

That’s unacceptable to me, as a citizen of the community.

Tell Your Congress What Makes Financial Sense

November 30, 2010 Leave a comment

The Congress Republicans are opposing extending unemployment benefits for the nearly 10% of the work force that doesn’t have a job. They say it’s too expensive to support the 2 million people whose benefits expire. They also oppose ending the 2003 tax cuts for those who make more than $250,000, the richest 2% of the country.

Unemployment payments extension will cost $60 billion if it lasts for an entire year. And it won’t last that long. The tax cuts for the rich will add $700 billion to the deficit over ten years. And the cuts will last that long.

The unemployment benefits will be spent in the economy as the money is needed for subsistence and that spending will save or create jobs. The rich will just invest their money in stocks and bonds or otherwise save it. They don’t need the money for subsistence and they won’t necessarily spend it.

It’s pretty simple math: On the one hand there’s $60 billion to be spent in the economy and on the other hand is $700 billion that won’t be.

Which makes financial sense? Let your Congressfolks know that you know.

Be Careful What You Wish For

November 4, 2010 Leave a comment

OK Voters. You Want to Fire Someone? Make Sure Your Target is Clear

Just remember who you want to fire. And evaluate who best walks the walk and not just talks the talk. Those Rs who say they want smaller government? They want to reduce the deficit and the debt? Put ‘em to the test. Will they renounce Social Security for themselves? Add the benefit they would receive instead to go to reduce the debt. Will they repeal the automatic salary increase for Senators and Congressfolk? Will they renounce Medicare for themselves and for theirs? Will they ask their Grandma and Gramps and Mom and Dad to give up Medicate and Social Security and follow their principles and stand on their own individualist, two feet? They don’t need government. Government is the problem. So give those things back.

How about Medicaid? Renounce it. If somebody in the family gets sick and doesn’t have the money to pay for doctors, hospitalization, or long term care, the family commits to pay the bill and provide the care. It’s the way we were. Families taking care of their own. Commit to it, Congresswoman Jenkins. Walk that walk you talk.

You, too, Senator and Governor-elect Brownback. Give it all back. All the perks you got from Congress and those coming to you. Renounce that pension, that health care that Congress gets for life. Make the debt smaller. Make government smaller one piece at a time. Take the first step in walking that walk, you’ve already talked the talk.

For the rest of us, we like you will walk the walk. We’ll join you in renouncing the above. We’ll also renounce in addition to the above the unemployment payments that we can get if we lose our job. We’ll also give up the health and safety protections that OSHA provides when we work in basically unsafe situations: digging a trench without shoring, climbing a pole without a safety strap. No hard hats for us. We’ll take our chances. We’re individuals, strongly standing on our own. We don’t need no stinkin’ government badges to tell us what to do.

We don’t need the EPA telling us that our air quality is unhealthy. We can judge for ourselves and if we don’t like what we smell, we can move. We have individual choice.

The same goes for the medicines we buy. We don’t need no Federal Drug Administration making drug companies go through hoops to prove the drug works before releasing it to the public. Our doctors can judge what works just fine. The drug salesman wouldn’t give them bum information either.

Our companies don’t want tax breaks or incentives either. Our owners and managers will make their decisions on their own and we’ll live with them, working hard to try to make the business go on its own. We’ll take the pay we can get without any directive that says what’s minimum wage and whether overtime should be paid. Or how many hours a day or a week should people work. If the company doesn’t make it, it’s just the luck of the draw. We’ll work harder the next time. But we don’t need any help working for them nor the company figuring out how to make it all work.

Building codes? Don’t need ‘em. Our contractors build good stuff. They don’t need anyone looking over their shoulder. Water quality standards that dictate how clean the water is in our pipes? Don’t need ‘em. We can judge for ourselves whether our water is good enough or not. The same goes for sewage: if we don’t treat it well enough, those downstream will just have to live with it. Stand on their own. We have to treat our water from upstream discharges and so should they.

Bridge inspection? Don’t need it. Bridges last a long time. Bridge design review? Don’t need it. Our engineers if left alone will do a good job.

I once experienced an employee who drove a city truck home and parked it in his yard when we were trying to clean up neighborhoods and he was asked not to park it there. His response? “I ain’t paid enough to be no role model.”

Well, Senator and Governor-elect Brownback and Congresswoman Jenkins, you are paid enough. Start being a role model for the Republican party and for the people. We’ll get that budget and deficit in hand real quick. And everything you say, do. That’s what walk the walk means.

Don’t vote for anyone who won’t commit to that.

Oh, darn. Too late.