Friday, February 5, 2010

Hawkeye Gets it. Russell, Not So Much

Everybody who has ever seen an episode of M*A*S*H knows about “Triage”. It simply means to prioritize – to treat the patient with internal bleeding before you treat the one with a broken pinky. Of COURSE that’s how you do it.

But in Arizona government, not so much.

You have a Sheriff who lets 40,000 unserved felony warrants collect dust, while he allocates scares public safety resources to raiding amusement parks. Making the community safe should come before making the six o’clock news.

Sheriff, TIVO an episode of M*A*S*H.

Then we have a City Councilman who thinks a dollar spent on keeping a “community room” open is the same as a dollar spent on keeping a fire fighter on the street.

Councilman DiCiccio, meet Corporal Klinger.

And we have a legislature, in a state facing Herculean budget problems, following the peculiarities of Russell “Yes that IS a gun in my pants” Pearce. We require our residents to take a test before we give them a drivers’ license because a car can be dangerous. But Mr. Pearce wants everyone to carry concealed weapons without regard to their ability to shoot straight. Yikes. He thinks that will make us safer. Perhaps we should just issue a gun to every child as they enter first grade. Heck, that should eliminate crime altogether. But it will also increase the need for more triage areas at the local ER. In the meantime, at least do away with testing drivers and requiring licenses – you know, to ensure consistently bad policy and eliminate the obvious hypocrisy.

Geez kids…do we not have more pressing problems that Mr. Pearce could and should be pondering? Or does he just lack the ability to prioritize -- and lack the innovation to solve the huge problems facing our State? Is anyone less relevant in addressing our 21st Century challenges?

You don’t have to be Radar to know those answers.

(Special Programming Note: M*A*S*H can be seen at 10 and 10:30 pm on AZTV)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Doing Right Thing Not Always Popluar -- But Always Right

On February 2, five Phoenix City Councilmembers joined with Mayor Phil Gordon in doing something that nobody wanted to do, but what needed to be done. It wasn’t easy, it was tough. It wasn’t popular, it was necessary.

Budgets are tough for everyone. For every state, every city, every district and every family. Hard choices must be made and Phoenix is making those hard choices. Nobody likes layoffs or reductions in service, but that’s the reality of 2010 – and the reality of leadership. Doing what’s necessary is always better than doing what’s popular. In fact, that is what defines leadership. And it is what is so obviously lacking at the State Legislature.

The action by the council to temporarily allow a sales tax on food was tough. But losing public safety jobs would be tougher. This will lessen the economic impact on police and fire throughout the city. And that includes Ahwatukee which, according to Councilman Sal DiCiccio, is generally being treated “terrible”.

Look, I’ve lived in Ahwatukee for 16 years – and worked for the City of Phoenix for 20. Yes, Ahwatukee is losing one day a week of library service -- but other libraries are being shuttered. In Ahwatukee, the streets are good. The fire stations are modern. The parks are the envy of the city. I would encourage my Councilman to go door to door in Maryvale or Sunnyslope or just about anywhere else in Phoenix and sing his Ahwatukee song of woe to those residents. Tell THEM how terrible things are in the Foothills. If he does that, he will absolutely get the response he absolutely needs to hear.

We all have to sacrifice. I can tell you the Mayor’s staff is about half the size it was just a few years ago. I can also tell you that Councilman DiCiccio has not reduced the size of his own staff by even one person. Not one. And he continues to treat Council votes as some children’s game of having your cake and eating it too – making certain that unpopular budget solutions have enough Council votes to pass without his vote – so he can enjoy the benefits of the outcome and still cling to his rhetoric.

He also offers a magic bullet of “outsourcing” or “privatizing” more services and amenities – as if that somehow makes them free to taxpayers. Running and maintaining a park isn’t free. A privately managed park will be managed to make a profit. City parks aren’t. Decades ago, we mistakenly equated “privatization” to “less costly” and soon learned that wasn’t the case. We completely privatized trash pickup. But when we let City workers bid against the private sector, they won back half the contracts. City employees did it better and cheaper.

Rhetoric sells, Councilman. I get it. But it doesn’t solve problems and it doesn’t measure leadership. It’s a tired old game. And as always, the problem with playing games, is that someone always loses.

And guess who that is?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A study in contrasts

Last night the Phoenix City Council took a first big step in solving a $241 million budget shortfall by joining virtually every other Arizona city in taxing food for home consumption. That will raise about $60 million through the end of FY2010-2011. To close the rest of the gap, the Council is expected to approve about $100 million in one-time savings and another $80 million in service cuts when they approve a final budget next month.

This marks the third straight year that the Council has dealt with declining revenues efficiently and expeditiously, making tough choices while protecting public safety services. In contrast, the State Legislature STILL hasn't passed a balanced budget for 2009-2010, and once again appears to be mired in partisan gridlock, with no leadership being exhibited by the Governor or legislators of either party.

Why does Phoenix work so well, even in tough times, while the State is so dysfunctional?