Reality time for local officials — Part 2

Cal Beverly's picture

It's time for all of us to brace ourselves for some hard facts.

When you tell employees layoffs are inevitable, there is no joy for anybody.

The Peachtree City Council found that out last week after announcing the city would delete 23 jobs from the Public Works Department.

Affected employees, their family members and aggrieved friends packed City Hall to urge the council to find another way.

That’s a polite way of saying outrage was in free flow, and logical thinking — not to mention some political courage — was in short supply.

The besieged council took a craven note from the Fayette County Board of Education’s playbook and announced no fewer than two surveys would be taken to determine the next course of action.

Among no other group of employed Americans is the sense of job entitlement more profound than among government workers (with the possible exception of the United Auto Workers).

For some reason, some who draw public paychecks seem to think that they are entitled to be exempted from the economic collapse that is ravaging most other non-public employees.

Here's the hard truth: Public employees are NOT exempt from the same level of layoffs and reductions in force being suffered by millions of other Americans.

And I tell you as forcefully as this printed and electronic page can convey that publicly-paid workers SHOULD be just as vulnerable as the rest of us. It’s a matter of simple justice.

Of course, there’s fat to be cut in almost every local government. But the fat mostly involves non-essential programs, which means people.

Liberals and conservatives like to talk about cutting programs. What they don’t like to admit is that government programs ALWAYS mean government workers.

If you cut or privatize government programs, you by definition must cut people. And those cut people bleed, and cry, and wonder why somebody else less deserving didn’t get cut instead.

It should be stated here that government cuts should almost never be about WHO deserves to be cut, but about WHAT is essential and what is nonessential. Not “who,” but “what.”

While individuals hold those positions, the leader’s decision must always be about what positions are essential to the public, and what positions are less essential.

It is a fundamental mistake for government workers and their families to believe that public employment is a basic right that cannot and should not be taken away. Only when positions are viewed through the lens of essential versus nonessential is there justification to put workers on the public payroll.

Local government must never pay people to work just because those people need the work. There must be a fundamental need for the paid position.

Local government should never be a jobs program that exists just to provide pay and lucrative benefits for folks who otherwise would have to find jobs in the private sector.

If local government leaders would assess every requested new position in that light, we would have lower taxes, fewer government workers and better government.

Here in Fayette County, we have thousands of workers on the public payroll. Is everyone of those positions “essential”? Why, or why not? Where there are two employees in “essential” positions, could the public get by with just one employee?

This kind of objective approach — I’m certain — is not the most popular position any local government could take. And to people who hold jobs that are deemed “less essential,” there is real pain attached to such a designation.

It is, however, reality.

We live in a finite world, with limits to our resources and our money. The capitalist system understands that reality and lives within it.

Even government — and especially local government — must live within that reality eventually, though generally speaking, government is the least capitalist of all institutions and oftentimes operates as if the laws of economics don’t apply to it and its programs and employees.

We are in a period when local and state governments are at last recognizing and coming to painful terms with the same reality that governs the rest of us in the capitalist system. The federal government is still living and operating in unreality, but its time is coming.

There still ain’t no free lunch, even for Uncle Sam.

By the way, it is a red herring to assert the danger of a mass exodus of local government workers to nearby greener pastures where salaries are higher, benefits better and jobs are guaranteed in perpetuity.

The last I heard, this economic recession is striking all governments in this country. There are fewer and fewer local government job openings anywhere in this or any other state. However willing that workers might be to leave, there are few places for them to go. If you are fortunate enough to have a job, you better hang on to it.

So, which local government jobs are essential and which are less essential? That is the overarching question that the school board, the county commission, and city governments will be forced to answer within the next nine months.

It’s almost guaranteed that many now on the public payroll will not like the answers.

It’s NOT a matter of the employees’ intrinsic value, their loyalty, their dedication, their seniority, their competency, their needs or their desires, most of which are exemplary and laudable.

It’s simply a matter of which essential government services we can afford and which less essential services we can do without.

login to post comments | Cal Beverly's blog

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
diva's picture
Submitted by diva on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 8:55pm.

"There still ain’t no free lunch, even for Uncle Sam."

Not trying to be partisan, but your approach to discussing impending job losses is particular to republicans. I believe you overshoot neutral territory and almost blame people for fighting for their jobs. We're Americans. That's what we do. We fight to stay in our homes, feed our kids, and solve our problems. If someone puts my job on the chopping block, I'm going to try to wrestle that axe away from them. I'm putting a kevlar neck brace on that job. I'm going through plans A, B, and C before faced with plan KY.
Government workers, and PTC employees in particular, never said anything about FREE LUNCH. That's why they are called workers and employees . They work. They are employed. They are not asking for handouts. They are fighting to keep their jobs, homes, health care; just like I hope any of us would.
When we are talking about real people facing real crises, how can we be surprised that these people would put their hearts and souls into avoiding those crises?
That being said, there will be job losses and cut backs. There has to be. But this is a subject that has to be framed in mutual respect and compassion. Cal, your focusing on what needs to be cut and not who is a big step in the right direction. My hope is that those facing layoffs will not be discouraged, but will fight to find or even create new opportunities.

ptctaxpayer's picture
Submitted by ptctaxpayer on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 9:04pm.

Diva is dripping with the entitlement, transfer payment mentality.

Sorry but I don't want to pay to save auto workers jobs if they are building crappy vehicles that can't compete.

Fighting to save your house, Diva? Maybe you should downsize.

I am reminded of the girl who participated in the Kids Inaugural at the Q&A on what the President does. She said "The President is gonna help pay our bills."

Sorry if we ain't thrilled paying our bills and yours too Diva.

ptctaxpayer's picture
Submitted by ptctaxpayer on Thu, 01/22/2009 - 10:47pm.

I heard today that you are all right, so Diva gets a pass. All you were doing was showing so compassion. Cool.

diva's picture
Submitted by diva on Thu, 01/22/2009 - 11:23pm.

I was quite honestly thinking about typing you this message today:

"PTCTP. Has anyone called you an (place your bad word here) today?"

But I didn't. It wasn't a class move. And then you type this message. Thanks. I freely admit to being less than classy to folks opposite arguments at times. Thanks for reminding me that there are people on the ends of those arguments; people who type their insults and jabs, like I do, with a smile and no real ill will.

Have a good night Dice.

"Dice. I just wanted to be held!"

"I guess you got the bonus plan......."

DarkMadam's picture
Submitted by DarkMadam on Wed, 01/21/2009 - 9:44am.

After that comment I completely understand your picture of Andrew Dice Clay. He never was a really "smart" comic or actor, but what he was, was loud and really got off on starting crap. It brings you more into perspective for me. Just remember, one day you too will be in a bad place, be it with your health and you need Medicaid, or your job is cut and you are flipping burgers wanting food stamps to feed your family. You too will feel this. Do you really think that an entire community will rally around you? I think not. Check yourself! If nothing else, remember what any good mother would tell you... If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.

diva's picture
Submitted by diva on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 9:10pm.

As usual and quite expectedly, you are so far off base you aren't even in a baseball game. I don't have a dog in this fight. I've been blessed with two great jobs that aren't in danger. I'm doing that strange thing that some libs and conservatives do called seeing life from someone else's point of view. Don't think you have that capacity. And that really isn't my problem, is it taxpayer?

Submitted by Claude Y Paquin on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 3:12pm.

The idea that it’s “every man for himself” when we encounter economic turbulence is not one I am prepared to accept. We cannot and should not discard employees like so many used rags. We should have a structure, in our society, which makes it possible for labor to be flexible and mobile. Government should lead the way, because that’s the number one tool of an organized society.

Our first need is for an adequate unemployment insurance system, to afford our people a suitable transition period during which they can live without fear of disaster. That should include health insurance, which is indispensable. With universal health care, we’d have it, and employers would be relieved of a burden that should not be theirs alone.

It should be possible in this country to find a productive position for everyone who wishes to contribute to our society and in the process support himself and his family. If private enterprise can’t do it, the government should step in.

While the government’s role should not be to provide the minutiae of what takes place in the market place, it should provide the broad structure and support a banking system that works properly and does its job. Government should regulate commerce at least to the extent of insuring it works smoothly. That explains in part why we have a judicial system that enforces contracts: without that, what would be the point of having contracts?

In recent years, we have faced a wave of people denigrating government and riding to public office on a platform of weakening if not dismantling the very government we need. The press has not been particularly vigorous or courageous in pointing out the flawed thinking of those who wished to tear down our government institutions.

The people who are being laid off today are not the multimillion-dollar athletes who provide us entertainment of no lasting value. It’s always the people at the bottom of the ladder who are made to suffer while the fat cats remain fat. We need a change of attitude about all that.

It is no more right for public employers than for private employers to let employees go. The point made by employers like Mr. Beverly is that when you’re out of money you’re out of money. There is some logic to this.

But when it comes to taxes, you go where the money is. The money is where the people with multimillion-dollar incomes are, which means we ought to encourage restoration of the federal and state estate tax, which critics derisively call the death tax (which certainly does not harm the deceased), and we should more heavily tax the incomes of those who make millions.

Here, in Georgia, we charge a fixed 6% tax on taxable incomes over $10,000. Why not modify this so the rate rises with the income? No one could make a million-dollar yearly income without the economic structure provided by our government. The athletes could not make it without the huge auditoriums supported by local government, or the federally controlled airwaves that help them gain notoriety. Neither could the operators of many businesses, especially those which make their money from government contracts.

With more money coming in, government could have a more steady workforce. The will to raise the money requires a more flexible mind than is displayed by the office holders the public has been induced to vote for, including by our local newspaper editors.

I used to think the payment of taxes was involuntary until I realized how the voters of Georgia, including Fayette County, are completely willing to increase their sales tax. We should not be looking to increase the taxes of those who can’t pay more, but we should have the smarts of not exempting those who benefit mightily from the system.

This does not resolve the immediate problems of local governments like Peachtree City. But the state could provide more assistance if our legislators would be willing to look at reforming our antiquated state tax system instead of adopting a bunker mentality like they do now.

We need messengers of hope with realistic agendas. I am grateful we seem to be getting that at the federal level in spite of all the local opposition. For now, Cal Beverly should publicly call upon our local state senators and representatives to explain what they intend to do to help out the Peachtree City government and its citizens in their hour of need.

Their first answer might be that they intend to do nothing, but they should be prodded into moving beyond that, so our state might be more responsive to its citizens’ needs.

Claude Y. Paquin

Steve Brown's picture
Submitted by Steve Brown on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 10:44pm.

Claude Paquin said: I used to think the payment of taxes was involuntary until I realized how the voters of Georgia, including Fayette County, are completely willing to increase their sales tax. We should not be looking to increase the taxes of those who can’t pay more, but we should have the smarts of not exempting those who benefit mightily from the system.

Many are paying more in sales taxes than property taxes, they just do not know it.

Claude should not hold his breath waiting for the State Legislature to solve any of our problems. Our state officials should look at what happened to their kin in Virginia. There day is coming too.

Submitted by Claude Y Paquin on Wed, 01/21/2009 - 8:26am.

Voting in extra sales tax in Fayette County was an act of desperation on the part of our citizens. We have, in this county, people who value their children and who value education. We also have transportation problems to solve.

In recent years, the state has begun to slowly starve our school system of the funds necessary to allow it to function properly. Of course, our local system would function better with a more competent school board and better leadership. When the school board finally revealed the financial difficulties it was in, after the primaries had settled the outcome of who would serve on this board for the next four years, the tax vote made it painfully necessary to expose the board’s deviousness and dumbness in its past financing and management of school construction.

What’s done is done, and we have to face up to the fix we’re in. Our enemy, in Fayette County, is not district voting, and our greatest danger is not kids driving cars while using cell phones. Matt Ramsey and Ronnie Chance, who represent us in the Georgia legislature, should rise up to the opportunity to show leadership. Our state revenue comes from taxes, and we need a tax system that works properly and fairly as much as we need spending within the limits of what we can afford.

The Citizen’s editor should name names and call upon our local elected officials to stand up and show leadership.

Claude Y. Paquin

DarkMadam's picture
Submitted by DarkMadam on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 1:53pm.

I agree on only one point. Not "who" but "what". I was at that meeting. Were you? We never said that the "Peachtree 23" were entitled to their jobs, what we were stressing is that there was not enough thought behind this hair-brained plan. There are so many other areas that could be cut first. But it all comes down to what Mr. Mayor and Mr. City Manger WANT to spend on. $60,000 for fireworks and $20,000 for repair of a fountain at city hall should be seen as misappropriation of funds! And about this 50th anniversary celebration of PTC, can the tax payers live without that. ABSOLUTLY! We are demanding that the Mayor, City Manager, and the City Council be held accountable for their actions and tax and spend appropriately. There is not a single person on this planet that is entitled to their job, but when you have a group of people that are hard working and dedicated, as these have been, there is something wrong with the system to spend so frivolously with money that is NOT theirs but belongs to the tax payers. We will proudly fight the good fight, and make public every expenditure on the city's part as well as the incomes of all elected and hired officials. We will dig and point out any flagrent disregard for anything that is not in the City's best interest. In turn, anything that is not good for the city is not good for the people who live in the city and work for the city. The skelentons in the closets will have light shed on them. We as the American People have the right, no strike that, have the DUTY to pay attention to city government as well as the national government and ask questions, get answers, and participate in how we are governed!

Submitted by mislead on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 10:08pm.

Everyone is complaining about being in debt. My biggest issue is why are we in debt in the first place? Why did the Peachtree City goverment outsource certain recreation and landscaping jobs in the city when they had capable city employees to complete the task at hand? It seems for the past two years you have been overpaying an outside company. I do not know the dollar amount you outsourced for the project, but I do not believe any of the city employees received pay reductions when such actions occurred that lightened the city employees' own workloads. How is that balancing a budget?

Git Real's picture
Submitted by Git Real on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 10:15pm.

It was because the city could get a better job done for less money by utilizing the private sector? I dunno... just asking. Puzzled

Sorry... but I work around a lot of gumament employees who specialize in ganging up around ditches while one guy does all the work while the others stand around holding up shovels and pinning down 5 gallon buckets. There is a reason why sub contracting has become so much more economical than maintaing huge workforces. That goes for the private sector as well as the public.

Submitted by Titum Gan Eiri Ort on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 10:12pm.

Start checking on the money McMullen has spent on pet projects in violation of city law. Maybe most of it to his friends he worked with in Fulton County. Check It Out !!!!!

DarkMadam's picture
Submitted by DarkMadam on Wed, 01/21/2009 - 10:19am.

I am curious - I see that you registered to blog 4 days ago. Obviously you felt compelled too. And that is not a bad thing by any means. Intelligent voices are welcomed. But why the Irish Screen name? (Even if slightly misspelled) For all those that care it is an Irish Phrase meaning, "May you fall without rising".

DarkMadam's picture
Submitted by DarkMadam on Wed, 01/21/2009 - 10:11am.

I understand where you are coming from. However, Give us more info. I am willing to do the legwork here. Give me names of the projects and dates, I swear to you that I will go to city hall myself and ask for the expenditure reports on them. At this point I need the info that you appear to have. I know that there are things out there that they do that we don't know, and I also know that we NEED to know them. Maybe by shedding some light on them we can accomplish 2 things. Save jobs, and send a hard clear message that this will not be tolerated and will be watched. Catch my drift?

yellowjax1212's picture
Submitted by yellowjax1212 on Wed, 01/21/2009 - 9:41am.

As Ronald Reagan used to say, "Well, here we go again."
It used to be funny but now it is just annoying.
The innuendoes and personal destruction in these blogs is amazing. Stop dropping bombs and running away.
If you have information that Mr. Mullin, or Mayor Logsdon, or anyone of the favorite political targets have broken laws - don't say "Check It Out!!!". Spill the beans, put it out there for everyone to see. Until such time that you have the guts to talk about facts, stop taking pot shots at people. I'm not even suggesting that you use your real name, just back up what you have to say with the truth.
I fear that the last few national elections have taught us that if we repeat lies and vagaries enough, they will eventually be accepted as truth.

Submitted by PTC Avenger on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 3:13pm.

"We as the American People have the right, no strike that, have the DUTY to pay attention to city government as well as the national government and ask questions, get answers, and participate in how we are governed!"

I fully agree, though I ask you this question: where were you BEFORE all these misappropriation allegations came to light? Truth is, you probably didn't care UNTIL it directly impacted you and your wallet. That's how 90% of people are though, so I'm not trying to fault you personally.

While I do agree that the city grossly mismanaged taxpayer money, during a severe, protracted recession (perhaps soon depression, yes I'm serious) people lose their jobs. That's what happens in times like these. I've lived in Peachtree City for twenty years and it has always been the cleanest, best landscaped, most litter free, beautiful city I've been to. And for that I am truly thankful to the entire public works team.

I am not an apologist for the PTC Council and management team, in fact I despise them and think they've ruined our city. Though I will say this. You cannot point the finger at them and make accusations of inadequate preparation and poor judgment without pointing the finger at yourselves for the same thing. You are responsible for your own life, you do not exist in a world that offers 100% job security. Trying to raise families on a below average salary is probably not the best financial move. I know, I know, it's "none of my business how you raise your familes" and "I don't know you so shouldn't comment," but I am going to anyway. Just because I don't know you doesn't mean I should refrain from giving my opinion.

Do I think the "Peachtree 23" as they've been dubbed (which, as a side bar, brings to mind old relics of class warfare) should lose their jobs? No. Bu I can tell you with 100% certainty the other city employees will not vote to have a 25% pay reduction, not with the economy the way it is. I do think the Council and city management team need to do some serious budget trimming, enact an across the board paycut, and perhaps even (gasp!) consider raising taxes.

My post ended up being longer than I intended. My point is're not in this predicament alone. This is not something that has a quick fix, either. We all need to start planning better and thinking long-term.

"It's the economy, stupid!"

DarkMadam's picture
Submitted by DarkMadam on Wed, 01/21/2009 - 10:02am.

I agree I should have paid attention sooner. This was my wake up call. Everyone has then, some sooner than others. What you do not know about me is that this cut will absolutely NOT impact my financial stability one bit. As it was said earlier "I don't have a dog in this fight" other than as a taxpayer. I have just chosen this time to wake up, pay attention, and be active and vocal. I made the choice not to have children, and have no husband currently, I have only myself to be concerned with. With that being said, I have felt the crunch hard and have absolutely no idea how my mother in the 70's raised me on one income, kept me clothed, fed and a roof over our heads. At an early age I was very practical. But recently I discovered there are things in this world that are worth fighting for that do not DIRECTLY impact me as you would see it. This is where I have chosen to make my stand. You might not like it, but I know that there are many people that feel the same way. Don't just fight to be fighting. Fight for a cause that needs your voice! I woke up. Will you?

yellowjax1212's picture
Submitted by yellowjax1212 on Wed, 01/21/2009 - 9:57am.

Good post Avenger. Well said and I agree with most all of it.
I do think that the term "...grossly mismanaged taxpayer money..." is a bit harsh.
Yes we are in recession but no one could have foreseen the depth or the length of it. No even some of the brightest minds in the world saw the mortgage industry meltdown taking down the entire world banking system to the extent that is has.
The fact is economies are cyclical and recessions are part of it (they occur about every 7-10 years and last about 6 - 9 months), this is obviously more serious than any in recent memory and will likely last into next year.
Has every dollar in PTC been spent wisely? Certainly not. But I think that if this had been a normal recession we were in a pretty good position to weather the storm but as I said, this one goes deeper than we expected and is effecting everyone, worldwide, not just in PTC or Fayette County or Georgia.
It's gonna hurt but it will get better.

diva's picture
Submitted by diva on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 9:14pm.

Amen, and Amen. Well put; great points. Thanks for spending the extra time on your post. This is going to be a difficult situation for alot of people. And it's going to take alot of hard work and good decisions to get through this.


The Wedge's picture
Submitted by The Wedge on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 2:17pm.

That includes everything. The PTC city tax payers also have the right to review the work and productivity of the people in question as well. Lets let the light shine on all aspects of the government. Even if that means industrial engineering type work studies and time studies.

DarkMadam's picture
Submitted by DarkMadam on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 2:29pm.

I am in total agreement with the exception of one thing... I think those studies will be expensive. But I am all for having the work, driving, and criminal histories of all employees looked at before the PTC 23 are fired. And when I say all, I mean ALL. Much has been said about the DUI's of city employee's lets look at EVERYONE. What can it hurt?

Submitted by wheeljc on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 12:59pm.

During challenging times, decisive leadership pulls organizations and governments through to survive. Have we become so soft and politically correct that we are no longer capable of reading the writing on the wall? How can government officials FAIL to recognize they will no longer be able to squeeze the taxpayer for more, when the taxpayer is facing serious financial challenges?? It really makes one wonder just who the government officials and workers perceive they are working for!!

Fayette County has been a great place to live, but how many young families are going to be able to locate in Fayette and pay the taxes required -- especially if a significant economic realignment evolves from this recession?? A better question might be: are younger couples with kids already beginning to avoid Fayette County?? (Look at some vacant school seats in some of our schools!!)

A couple of weeks ago, a senior government official's solution to a projected BOE shortfall was to ask for an increase in Fayette County taxes!! Was sorely disappointed in the lack of concern on the part of the citizens of Fayette County; the lack of appreciation as to the impact of the recommendation on individual citizens; and the apparent lack of contemplated courses of action that could have solved the shortfall -- both long and short term.

What sadly appears to be missing is decisive leadership. Does one really think this will serve as an "ATTRACTOR" of new business and residents??

Pretty sad folks! Pretty Sad!

Submitted by PS1441 on Tue, 01/20/2009 - 1:38pm.

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth! - Ronald Reagan

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.