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?

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