Rob Smoke runs for city council. Platform; start firing city staff to balance budget.
After much soul-searching, during which I successfully determined that I am in fact NOT a rattan patio furniture ensemble,
I have concluded that I shall indeed attempt a third run at the office of Boulder city council.
My platform in brief:
1) I want the city to address issues of poverty and homelessness in Boulder. The solutions may be temporary,
and certainly they may be controversial; however, based on the risks and problems associated with homelessness
that affect everyone in Boulder, I want to raise the level of priority a very big notch.
Although I may sound like a bleeding-heart, some of the solutions
I have in mind are hard-headed and practical.
For instance I support a “wet” detox facility as a utilitarian way of temporarily sheltering an individual who is drunk and
presents a potential harm to themselves or others.
That is a “get tough” approach; however, at the same time, I think we have to greatly increase options
for everyday people who simply have no funds and do need shelter.
2) I want to balance the city budget without further taxes. I want job reallocation for all city departments;
but specifically, I want to change the structure and culture of waste that many have found prevalent. The city does not
need multiple high-salaried attorneys working on keeping a burger joint from serving beer after midnight, or other cases
that put the entire city government in the role of an over-zealous nanny. I’m for cutting our city attorney’s office down to the bare
bones and having paralegals (at obviously lower cost) pick up the drudge work (of monitoring marijuana license applications, as a for instance.)
The excess funds derived from those applications should be turned over to the People’s Clinic, or some other non-profit resource,
not used to increase the mass and weight of our legal staff. Likewise, planning department work should be shared among interns and first-level
workers, with reductions in expensive senior-level staff. Yes; our current council is scared-to-death of this type of restructuring,
but when they turn to tax initiatives over the more basic assumption of responsibility, a change is desperately needed.
3) I want to get dog poop off the sidewalks. Period. If your neighbor doesn’t pick up after their dog, you should be able
to dial a number and get a real response from someone capable of issuing that neighbor a ticket that day. Furthermore,
I want a scale of increasing fines for repeat offenders to pay for the program. I’m tired of seeing dog poop in more
locations than a ‘Ken Wilson for Council’ yard sign. Both are equally repugnant.
4) While I do not particularly support Xcel as an energy provider, I don’t support a ham-fisted attempt to municipalize
the city’s energy infrastructure with a bond issue that will cause everyone who has paid for that infrastructure — across decades–
to effectively pay for it all over again.
5) I may be slightly hampered with my campaign; I received an injury to my cervical vertebrae in February while shopping at Whole Foods,
and am on restricted activity. (In spite of being a loyal customer since the day of their opening, Whole Foods is so far paying precisely
none of the cost of my physical recovery; which reminds me of one more platform item, the need for an effective “office of consumer affairs”
in Boulder, to handle complaints of common negligence by retail establishments in Boulder, or other issues involving consumer spending
and consumer affairs. I would ask that the cost of this office be subtracted from the budget of our city attorney.)
Top Reasons to Dump the Current City Council
The lead letter today was from Andrew Johnson, noted 17th President of the United States, not to mention a Boulder cyclist annoyed that the city would install its expensive new bike-share program rack in a spot that displaces the horseshoe bike rack he tends to use for his own bike. Selfish Andrew! He doesn’t like the bike share program!
Me neither! Firstly, the city ignored all the good advice it got and decided to simply duplicate the Denver program, which already solidly indicates itself a failure. The numbers don’t lie…the average mileage per bike for the first year of the Denver program was around 200 miles of total use. Prove me wrong, but there are plenty of personal commuter bikes in Boulder that see that much mileage in a week, and many more that would at least cover that figure in a month. A public bike open to unlimited numbers of users that only racks up 200 miles in a year is the emblem of an unsuccessful bike share program. And why would it be?
Expense for one, compounded by the fact that the bike share racks only take one kind of bicycle. In other words no manufacturer or distributor or retailer or owner of a perfectly good bike can donate their bike to the program. Instead, it looks slick…and the bikes cost; meaning the rides cost.
The city council was impervious to feedback prior to implementation.
A typical raw deal for Boulder.
The city budget’s devilish details…
Firstly, there’s an underlying twist to the city’s management philosophy based on a “non-information age” understanding of the work done by city staff. Typically, Boulder’s various city departments are managed by multiple individuals earning salaries above 100k per year. Our city clerk costs almost as much as the city manager…even though she’s a clerk, not a manager.
The philosophy here is that people be rewarded for some combination of term of service and level of education. To qualify to be either a “city clerk” or a “city manager” you need at least a master’s degree in urban planning or management or its equivalent, plus have “x” years of job experience.
This sounds great in principle, except that it’s based on a lousy set of presumptions. The tools and know-how for “running” the city are not so inaccessible as to make the task of having obtained those tools an accomplishment entitling the bearer of said accomplishment to a salary that may be 3 times what is required to find a person knowledgeable enough to do the job correctly.
In other words, the salaries don’t match the market value of the jobs.
As far as I’m concerned, during the course of this campaign you will never hear a simpler and more sane description of the problem with our city government as I’ve expressed in the prior sentence; however, I’ll add some qualifications:
A city attorney might cost more than a third of what they’re paid by the City of Boulder, but I doubt that it’s more than half of what our current city attorney earns. In spite of the speculative nature of this comment, you can look up cities where the budget allows for a city attorney…making about half what our city attorney earns.
In fact, there are cities all over the map that have city attorneys that earn half, or somewhere between half and the salary currently provided to Boulder’s city attorney, more than suggestive of the idea that the value of the job has to be re-analyzed and that the job itself be reallocated to an individual willing to work for say…$80k per year instead of $150k. The fact that the city attorney’s office last year invested a fortune defending someone’s desire to stop a hamburger joint from selling beer might also be an indicator of the need for reflection on city attorney pay scales, but I personally consider that another issue entirely.
Another proposal: no salary paid by the city be equal to more than the equivalent of 2 FTE’s (full-time job equivalencies) as reflected by the lowest salaries in a department. There may be room for compromise, but I will never believe that we could not find 4 very qualified individuals capable of collectively equaling the quality of work done by the person serving as city manager who takes in 4 times the lowest FTE salary in her department.
I believe that much of what I’m saying is self-evident. Politically challenging? Yes.
However…in this day and age, if the city is hiring employees who are only one-fourth as valuable as someone stuck in the city manager’s position, then the city either doesn’t need those employees or doesn’t need a city manager earning a small fortune, take your pick.
Beyond performance ratings and personnel issues of one type or another, an across-the-board salary reduction for city staff should not hurt performance, and might very well help it, by routing out individuals who feel they are better suited for private employment. Salary reductions can take various forms, but would almost undoubtedly be best served by “reallocations” of work. In other words, jobs are redefined with lower pay scales and are then offered first to the individual already performing similar work. In other words, you can lose the 100k salary, but still have a decent salary doing roughly the same job — if that’s what you want.
The goal, in part, would be to bring the lowest-paid worker much closer to the salary level of the highest paid worker, and also…take the stress off the city’s budget enough to stop the constant begging for new taxes by staff and council…
and the subtle extortion this usually entails when the city manager says, “either the tax passes or we’ll just have to cut library hours.”
NO THANKS on the library hours cut, I’d rather cut your pay…and by the way, if that’s a problem, don’t
let the screen door hit you in the ass on the way out.