Ire Directed at Public Employees, But Electeds Make The Decisions, Residents Pay For & Use Services

These kinds of articles are not new:

Toll Workers Are Overpaid (a blog post referencing the Toledo Blade article, "Turnpike employees agree to 3-year pact freezing pay, benefits")

Meet the Hundreds of NYC Sanitation Workers Who Earn Over $100,000 (Business Insider)

Public Workers Facing Outrage as Budget Crises Grow (New York Times)

But only the New York Times piece mentions the role the decision-makers have in the issue:
In California, New York, Michigan and New Jersey, states where public unions wield much power and the culture historically tends to be pro-labor, even longtime liberal political leaders have demanded concessions — wage freezes, benefit cuts and tougher work rules.
It is an angry conversation. Union chiefs, who sometimes persuaded members to take pension sweeteners in lieu of raises, are loath to surrender ground. Taxpayers are split between those who want cuts and those who hope that rising tax receipts might bring easier choices.
And a growing cadre of political leaders and municipal finance experts argue that much of the edifice of municipal and state finance is jury-rigged and, without new revenue, perhaps unsustainable. Too many political leaders, they argue, acted too irresponsibly, failing to either raise taxes or cut spending.
Sound familiar?

The NYT article is also the only one that asks the question:
So how much is too much?
Since October 2010, Mayor Akers' financial review committee, composed of residents Cindy Eickhoff, Chuck Jarrett, Jim LeMay, Ron Markowitz, Emily Martin, Marsha Powers and Enid Rosenberg, has been examining some information intended to help answer that question for Pepper Pike.

However, one information tool from which they will not have data but which I've been wanting since February 2010 (mentioned in Council minutes in March 2010), is a resident or community survey that provides direct input from the taxpayers on how and which services you prioritize and which ones you would pay more for no matter what, or not at all - in rank order.

As you can see from the surveys done by Shaker Heights (here you will find three - 2002, 2007 and 2009) and Orange Village (here), these tools provide an enormous amount of information that comes directly from the residents.  The former three were done by a private company and the latter was done by the Cuyahoga County Planning Commission.

It is, after all, your money.

Yes, elected officials must make the decisions.  But as we learned from the two town halls last year and numerous council meetings, long-range strategic planning committee meetings of last winter and spring and numerous other instances, there absolutely is not consensus among Pepper Pike's taxpayers as to how they define or prioritize city services.  Even when we thought we could say nearly everyone prioritized safety services, the answers to the questions about what that means, what it should cost and how we should pay for it were all over the place (some residents saying they'll literally pay anything to have as many police as we've had for 10 years, some residents saying they don't even need most of the police and fire services so why pay for them at all, some residents insisting that our dispatch center cannot possibly be done outside the city, other residents insisting we must let the dispatch center go).

Council has yet to hear from the finance review committee except for a few brief updates from Scott Newell, the Council's liaison to the committee.  So I'm extremely eager for the group to come before Council and talk to us about what they've learned, in addition to receiving their thoughts on the next steps to be taken by Council, the mayor and so on.

But I'll continue to feel in my gut that it is arrogant of those of us who must vote repeatedly on how to align our City's revenues with our City's expenditures to do so without direct input about the taxpayers' desires via a resident survey.


Jeremiah Arn said...

Do you think Pepper Pike residents would have significantly different views than the 500 Shaker residents? Why or why not?

Jill said...

Happy New Year, Jeremiah.

Is the 500 number you're referencing (for the sake of others reading) from the attitude survey phone call number?)

As to your question, there's only one way to find out, yes!? ;)

And whether I think Pepper Pike residents' views would or would not be significantly different from Shaker Heights' residents views, the real point in asking the residents of each community to rank and rate services, esp. in connection with how those services are paid for and how well they're delivered, relates to them being the taxpayers. It's not my money, even if I've been elected to pass appropriations laws.