Monday, March 05, 2007

That Dog Won't Hunt

“You think you can say some words, take away the hurt
And I'll still be your number one
But when it ain't working out we got a saying down South
Baby ,that dog won't hunt.”

- Waylon Jennings

About three weeks ago City Commissioner Tom Myers proudly declared that retaining a consultant to assist in the hiring of a new city manager was about the best money the city had spent in some time. Amazing!

It’s seems that our city leadership has a penchant for hiring consultants. They hire a consultant to periodically develop a five year plan for the city. Once the seventy thousand or so is spent, the plan gathers dust somewhere in the city archives. When stray dogs roam the streets and some of them bite they consult a consultant to consider what does and does not constitute a dangerous animal. Amazing!

Just before the primary the Commissioners announced that, despite the fact they’d promised an open, transparent hiring process in October, they weren’t going to reveal the names and professional biographies of the five finalists for the position. The reason given was that their consultant had told them it would be better not to. When the public outcry was so great (80% of Emporians disapproved), our leaders reversed course and declared that the process would be opened to the public. The reason given was “our consultant told us it would be alright.” Amazing. I can only hope that their collective heads will be facing forward when all the spinning is said and done.

Some time ago the fire chief asked city management for the funds to hire a consultant. While I’m not a big fan of consultants, his reasoning seemed much more sound than that of the commissioners. All he wanted was the opportunity to explore possible efficiencies that could be gained in his department. The city leaders turned him down, saying that Emporia couldn’t afford the cost of a consultant. Amazing! How could a consultant be, according to one commissioner, a Godsend for them and not be a Godsend for the fire department? That dog won’t hunt!

When the city released its final 2006 budget it showed a surplus of over $300,000. On the surface it seemed like some welcome good news. But, below the surface, in the accounting details, it became clear that the surplus was built on deferred capital expense for the fire and police departments and by not backfilling open positions. Among those not filled was the director of the animal shelter. So, our police now have to wait for the good graces of the commissioners to get the equipment they need to protect us and the stray dogs will continue to roam our streets.

I wonder what advice the consultant might give our commissioners when the outcry for attention to public safety issues comes up, as it inevitably will. Will it sound something like, “We’re doing this because our consultant told us to do it this way.”? Well, that dog won’t hunt, either! It’s time for city leadership that will belly up to the bar and make responsible decisions for the people of this good city!

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