Sunday, June 25, 2006

What's Sauce for the Geese is Sauce for the Commissioners

“In politics, stupidity is not a handicap”

Napoleon Bonaparte

Lately our city government in Emporia is becoming more and more like one of those old Laurel and Hardy shorts I used to watch on Saturday mornings when I was a kid. Back in those days the misadventures of a couple of comedians work their magic was supremely entertaining.

Our City Manager and our Commission here in this bastion of middle-American democracy seem to be trying to outdo the classic comedy I loved. The only problem is, what they’re doing is laughable, but it’s not a bit funny. The latest in their series of escapades came last week when the City Manager floated an idea that he claimed would save the city close to fifty thousand dollars a year. He recommended doing away with a taxi subsidy program whose primary beneficiaries are people of limited means. Many use the service to get groceries, go to doctor’s appointments, and so forth. As things currently work those folks pay a portion of the fare and the city chips in about two dollars for each coupon the city issues.

Maybe two dollars per ride doesn’t seem like to much to most of us. But, to folks on fixed incomes it’s more than just chump change.

I read Patrick Kelley’s take on the issue in Thursday’s edition of the Gazette and, to my surprise, I found myself in lockstep with him. Will wonders never cease?

This morning I fired off a letter to the Gazette, which follows:

Well sound the trumpets and beat the drums! There are some areas where Patrick Kelley and I agree. On the 22nd he wrote, “The City Manager’s proposal to drop the city’s discount taxi-program should be considered slowly and carefully. Very carefully and very slowly.”

I agree wholeheartedly!

If the City Manager and the Commissioners are really interested in reducing the cost of city government there are other options. In the spirit of altruism, for example, the Commissioners could forego their monthly salaries. Each of these public spirited acts could save the city six thousand dollars per year. If one, or all, of the Commissioners have done so already I commend them. If not, I highly recommend it. As a body, their heroic acts could save the city thirty thousand dollars a year, about two thirds of the target Steve Commons proposed in eliminating the taxi subsidy.

There are other areas that might also merit the City Manager’s review. One would be non-essential overtime. Another would be complete departmental reviews, looking for, and rooting out, administrative and personnel duplication. Another would be complete budget reviews and tighter budget targets. Perhaps this has been done, but many of us are skeptical, in the light of hundreds of thousands of missing dollars from the city’s coffers, that Emporia’s city government is a tightly run financial ship.

The City Manager and the Commissioners can and should do better by its citizens. Before they begin using people on fixed income as a source for funds, they need to fix things a bit closer to their own hearts and wallets.

Phil Dillon
Emporia, Kansas

Since I sent the letter another idea has come to mind. Maybe we should take the commissioners, the City Manager, and municipal management level employees off of salary and put them on commission. That way, if they don’t perform we won’t feel the need or obligation to pay them. I would allow us to maintain a good program and pull the reigns on our comic municipal bureaucracy in one fell swoop. I say that it’s the kind of sauce that’s as good for the commissioners as it is for us geese.

There’s going to be a public meeting this next Thursday to discuss the issue. I’ll be there. As soon as the issue is decided I’ll let you know which goose got sauced and which got cooked.

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Emporia, Kansas


Douglas said...

Are you not running for office in Emporia? Please refresh our memories as to what's happening there.

Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...


I am, and I have a lot to run against. This is the kind of politics a small town doesn't need. It needs a crusader like me. By the way, I've already made it clear that if I'm elected I'll defer my salary so that programs like the taxi subsidy can continue.