Outsourcing the city... the solution to everything
Date: Wednesday, April 30, 2008 @ 15:14:22 EST
Topic: Editorials

Outsourcing the city as a solution to everything

Editorial by William Coakley

With the temporary city manager’s view to outsourcing everything but the city clerk, LWM wanted to raise a few obvious questions… obvious to us but maybe not to city management and some of the public unfamiliar with what’s going on.

In view of the dismal appearance of the future solvency of the city of Lake Worth, it does indeed appear that the cost of labor has risen to the extent that a small city may no longer be able to maintain current employee levels without serious budget cuts somewhere. So, assuming a well managed city running efficiently, it is not unthinkable that some layoffs may be necessary to meet new budget requirements.

But that “well managed” assumption doesn’t apply to Lake Worth which has a long standing tradition of being very poorly managed. And sorry to say, but current management has proven itself hopeless at handling a troubled city with an even more troubled electric, water and sewer utility. At a time when the city’s most important utility decisions have to be made for the next 30 years, how did we end up with Robert Baldwin who had no utility experience?  His inexperience was clearly expressed by his recommendation of the FMPA generation contract which he had no clue as to what the contract meant for the future of Lake Worth. [His management experience was a small community with no utilities 1/6th the size of Lake Worth.]

But that same reckless, irresponsible, lazyiness which ignored the 50 cents a year FMPA was going to give us for complete control of our power generation continued into our water supply for the next 40 years. In this case city manager Baldwin hired Mark Bates as Finance director without commission approval and paid him $10,000 above the best the city of Fort Lauderdale would pay. As was the case with FMPA, Baldwin steered the city into another “most expensive option” selling out our water independence, and giving away potentially renewable water withdrawal rights for FREE. Mr Bates had the wrong figures and knew it because he and Mr Baldwin refused to follow up on less costly options presented to them. They refused to research them at all. They both took full advantage of commission ignorance… they had become the steering committee.

What all this means concerning our city is this: One or two people at the top who control the content and flow of information to the commission; can create more wasted taxpayer money than any set of employee salaries possibly could.

For example, instead of spending 14 million for piping and storage of county water over the next 3 years… why didn’t Robert Baldwin and Mark Bates explore the obvious existing piping (no storage necessary) with WPB water? It’s the same quality water the county is going to send us and it wouldn’t cost us a penny for infrastructure! So there’s 14 million. Now how many employees could that support? At a pleasant $60,000 a piece, that would keep 40 employees for nearly 6 years.

This simple example is one of many that identifies where the real financial problems are in the city and who creates them. It’s not the rank and file salaries that are wasting the city, its incompetent city management that doesn’t know what it’s doing. It’s their failed vision, their outright lack of knowledge and leadership skills, that have put the city into a progressive tail spin and in particular, it is their inability to know how to manage information in an honest, fair and balanced manner that lies at the root of the problem. “He who controls the information… controls everything.”

This rigid control of information takes advantage of the fact that part time commissioners don’t have time to research anything. And so in order to appear “professional,” commissioners take staff recommendations at face value and stand behind them even when they know they’re wrong as was the case with commissioner Vespo and the mayor over the FMPA deal. Both were eager to commit us to a billion dollar deal for the next 30 years but neither of them had any idea what they were doing… the mayor didn’t even know we had generators on our site and so he thought the FMPA generation was FREE and Vespo naively thought that FMPA had made our city electric more reliable and flatly refused to review ANY information contrary to what staff had told him. Election time is coming, and it is our hope to eliminate those responsible for our well being who have acted so unconscionably.

So next time city management says, we need to save money and get rid of some employees, the response should be “…why don’t you stop WASTING our money first!”

And one more thing, when election time comes, think very carefully about who you will seat on the commission. All the world is full of promises… “I will listen…” etc. What most elected officials do best is ...NOT to listen.

This article comes from Lake Worth Media

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