Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Some little asides ...

I noticed a story in the PG that stated that the number of take home cars for City employees has crept back up, to 42. The Public Safety Director mentioned that a zone commander (essentially a police captain) had to call an officer to get a ride to a crime scene. How's does this commander get to work normally? Never the less, the cars went back to the zone commanders. Then back to public works supervisors. The Mayor had vetoed legislation on limits to take home cars, but promised to go ahead and limit them. And we see the result.

A lot of people are worked up over the thought of Iran with a nuclear weapon. they could smuggle it into the US and blow up Heinz Field (and the rest of Pittsburgh). But I think that if the Iranians get a working nuke, they will put it on a boat and sail over next to Israel. Even if they also wipe out the Gaza Strip, I suspect the Iranians would see it as worth it.


n'at said...

I can appreciate the bone the PG has thrown to the administration regarding take home vehicles. They love to dig into the administration and love to read about it.
Yes, there are instances of impropriety, but there are many factors that play into the presumed excesses of our city and county governments and the subsequent inability to properly function as a result of "rightsizing" or "normalizing" the labor force.
Public Safety and Public Works are two government functions that should never be "normalized", augmented from the top-down, or outsourced, in my opinion. And I appreciate the example the PG provided to illustrate the point.

EdHeath said...

Well, I have to admit that in the largest context, your statement makes some sense. I certainly agree public safety shouldn't be outsourced and rightsizing public safety has not made us more safe. I'm not sure that outsourcing public works (in part, or less likely, as a whole) can't work, but I don't believe anyone has approached Pittsburgh with a sensible plan.

And to be fair, Pittsburgh’s problems were created starting back in the seventies, I think. Certainly they predate the current office holders. And we have to work with the City and State that we have, which is to say if the State doesn’t want to bail us out, we can’t make them.

But to zero in on the subject of take home cars, my point is two-fold. First, Ravenstahl vetoed legislation on the issue and then said that he would carry out a certain policy. He’s gone back on his word. If he felt the take home cars were an essential component of public safety and public works, he should have said so when he vetoed the legislation. Instead he said he would reduce the number of take home cars. Second, how can a police commander (captain) not have access to a car when he/she is at home? Seriously, that surprises me. Instead of giving the commander a take home car, give him/her a vehicle allowance of, say, two hundred dollars. The City is eventually going to have to do something like that anyway, because the IRS is cracking down on employer paid for services like cell phones and home internet service that can also be used for personal purposes. I think a take home car qualifies as something you can take to the mall as well as to a crime scene or big pothole. If the City gets out ahead and gives employees a cash allowance and thus saves money and avoids an IRS audit (on that part of our finances anyway), the City will look better as we enter into negotiations for a second five year plan. That is, the City can be seen as actually trying to save money in one area, instead of spending it.