Tag Archives: big government

It pays well to be a public servant: Portland employees’ salaries frozen because they are higher than justified

In 2018 the city of Portland had more than 9,300 employees. Projections for 2019 go up to over 10,000 employees. As of 2017, Portland had an estimated population of 647,805.

Compare this to other cities:

Seattle: Nearly 10,000 employees with a population of 730,000.
San Francisco: 39,634 employees in 2016 with 884,363 residents as of 2017.
San Diego: As of 2016 they had 11,387 employees with a population of just over 1.4 million.
Fort Worth: 6,195 employees with a population of 874,168.

Whether cities are demorat- or republican-run, there’s always a great paying job in public service…

From Oregon Live: More than 1,200 city of Portland employees have had their pay frozen because their salaries are higher than what human resources officials determined are “justified.”

Among them are more than a dozen bureau directors, including the city’s human resources director and Police Chief Danielle Outlaw.

Affected employees were notified by email Thursday. Many of them said they are confused, upset or both.

“We’re hearing frustration and disappointment with how information is being rolled out,” said Sonia Schmanski, chief of staff for Commissioner Nick Fish. “People are getting emails they don’t understand, and they have both concerns and questions.”

The pay freeze for roughly 70 percent of the city’s non-unionized workers – meaning they’ll get no merit or cost-of-living raises until further notice – is one of the first consequences of a new state law mandating greater pay equity.

The gist of the law, which took effect January 1, is that employees with similar backgrounds who do similar work have to be paid equally or they can recover outsized legal damages. The law is intended to protect women, minorities and other groups that have historically been found to get smaller salaries than others doing similar jobs.

To fix any inequities, employers may only raise the pay of workers found to be underpaid, not dole out pay cuts to those on the high side.

As a result, the city notified more than 500 employees Thursday that they will receive a raise. The increases in hourly pay ranged from as little as 1 cent to $16.32.

The city also froze the pay of about 850 workers at the level they were paid in 2018.

And, for about 350 workers, it did both. They got a raise — and at the same time were notified they had been pushed above the “justified” pay range, meaning a raise and pay freeze all at once.

The messages caused outrage among managers citywide and anxiety in the ranks, according to several city employees who witnessed bosses and coworkers fretting over the notices.

Officials never intended to imply that people are overpaid, said Serilda Summers-McGee, director of the Bureau of Human Resources. (Summers-McGee was one of the bureau directors whose pay was deemed above what is justified and subsequently frozen.) “That is the way that some folks are interpreting that language,” she said, “and it is something that the city of Portland is going to have to remedy in communications moving forward.”

High-ranking managers called out as being paid more than is justified include the city’s deputy chief administrative officer, the city economist, the spokespeople for numerous city bureaus and two of the assistant police chiefs, among many others.

Human resources officials will meet with the City Council on Tuesday to discuss the pay equity law, Summers-McGee said. It’s unclear what actions, if any, the council may be considering. It’s also an open question how the pay equity law will affect the city budget, said Jessica Kinard, interim City Budget Office director.

DCG

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Geniuses: San Francisco school district gives teacher raises, not sure if they will have revenue to pay for them

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Proposition G (also called the parcel tax) in San Francisco was approved by voters in June 5, 2018. It authorizes San Francisco to levy an annual parcel tax of $298 per parcel of taxable real property in the city for 20 years with revenue provided to the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) to fund educators’ salaries, staffing, professional development, technology, charter schools, and oversight of funding.

As a result, on June 27, the San Francisco Board of Education authorized raises for 3,600 teachers in the amount of a $5,500. They started receiving their raises in late August. (I don’t know which taxpayer fund the checks are coming from.)

And as is typical in big government, bureaucrats did not take the time to review the fine details. Actual monies collected from the parcel tax are in question as to 1) when the revenues will be available and 2) if they’ll be available at all to pay for these raises.

In a report from the SF Chronicle they note:

“The first property tax mailings that would include the Prop. G parcel tax have not yet been mailed to homeowners, [Mayor] Breed said, and the first payments on those taxes aren’t due until December. On top of that, both Breed and the Board of Supervisors have to approve and transfer the funds once they’re collected.

“Neither body has appropriated and transferred SFUSD any funds for this purpose,” Breed said.”

They mayor questioned the “fiscal prudence” of raising wages before the money generated by the measure has even been collected.

There’s also a separate legal challenge to Proposition C – related to commercial rents and education initiatives – that is tied to another suit (known as the Jarvis lawsuit). Read about the whole mess here.

The outcome of that Jarvis lawsuit could have an effect on the parcel tax and whether or not it is an illegal tax. It could in effect, depending upon the outcome, kill the revenue stream for these teachers’ raises.

As a result, the city cannot authorize parcel tax funds to pay for teachers’ raises which they are already receiving.

And that, my friends, is how big government works.

DCG

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Big government at work: Cost for Sea-Tac Airport project soars from $608 million to almost a BILLION

Can you imagine how many private contractors would go out of business if they couldn’t estimate construction costs properly and had overruns of over 50 percent on originally estimated costs? Course they have to make a profit – government bureaucrats don’t have to worry about details like that.

The Port of Seattle operates Sea-Tac International Airport. They are building a new International Arrivals Facility as the current one is 44 years old and needs updating. From the Port’s press release in August 2017:

“National and local leaders came to the Port of Seattle today to celebrate the official groundbreaking for a new International Arrivals Facility (IAF) at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The new facility will dramatically improve the experience for international travelers and better meet the region’s demand for business and tourism-related international service.

Scheduled to open in late 2019, the new 450,000-square-foot, multi-level facility will be built to the east of the current Concourse A.

The current 44-year-old facility no longer meets demand. Originally designed to serve just 1,200 passengers per hour, it now serves an average of over 2,000 passengers per hour during peak periods. The new IAF will increase passenger capacity to 2,600 passengers per hour, while improving the customer experience by nearly doubling the number of gates capable of serving international wide-body aircraft and more than doubling the Passport Check positions and kiosks.

The current budget for the IAF is $766 million. Funding for the project will come from a combination of airport generated revenues, passenger facility charges (PFCs) and revenue bonds. As with virtually all airport projects, no Port of Seattle levy taxes will be used to fund the project.”

The Port issued a press release on Sept. 11 indicating the new project cost and schedule:

“An independent review panel convened by the Port of Seattle Commission identified the scope and complexity of the program and the “supercharged” local construction market as the primary reasons for higher budget estimates for the new IAF at Sea-Tac.

The Executive Review Panel (ERP) provide their report to commissioners today, finding that the negotiated Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) of $773 million for construction and May 31, 2020, completed construction schedule are both “reasonable and achievable.” The IAF will open to passengers in August 2020, following extensive systems and user testing by the Port, airlines, and federal agencies.

The final cost to the Port, including $76 million in sales tax and additional Port costs, will be $968 million.

The Commission-directed review found the program’s final budget estimate of $773.9 million in construction elements and total program cost of $968.4 million is reasonable for the scope of the projects in this over-heated construction market. The panel also found the schedule to be achievable if the parties approach the work with a sense of urgency. The panel cited the following components for the cost increase and schedule changes: increased scope, tight construction market, complexity of program, and need for improved Port/Contractor relationship and clearer decision structures.”

The Seattle Times notes that the original budget for this project was $608 million. And now it’s at $968 million and scheduled to open eight months later.

One of the review panel members is quoted as saying, “There are reasons to have confidence and that these projections are good projections.”

The article also notes how the leadership of each side of the project have been changed to allow a “fresh start.”

I have confidence that the project costs will go even higher. That’s how big government works.

DCG

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You need a permit to help the homeless in Seattle

Charity told to stop serving food to homeless in city parks

KOMO: Hot meals served to the city’s homeless have now become a hot-button issue after a local charity was told to stop doing it in city parks.

“Why now? What did we do wrong? 3 years, no one said anything,” said Willie Parish, Jr., executive director of the Bread of Life Mission. “We’re meeting needs, people are happy.”

The Mission, a local faith-based charity for 74 years, serves three meals a day to hundreds of homeless from its Pioneer Square headquarters. Once a month, every third Saturday, the non-profit heads to City Hall Park to hand out food and water to the homeless outside the county courthouse (“drive-by foodings,” the charity called it).

In October, city workers approached Mission volunteers and asked them to stop, Parish said. “We’re just trying to help, and I don’t understand why the city want to interfere with an organization that’s been around since 1939,” he added. “I’d think they’d want to get onboard and encourage us to help.”

The primary issue is that the Mission didn’t have a permit to serve food outdoors, said David Takami, spokesman for the Seattle Human Services Department, which oversees homeless issues in the city. The secondary issue is with food safety and the safety of volunteers, he added.

“We certainly appreciate that good (they’re doing) and their work,” Takami said. “But this has been the case where there are a lot of meals served at one time to the same population on the same day. It creates a possible food waste issue, garbage, and in that case a rodent issue.

Takami said the city is working with the Mission and encouraging it to partner with existing groups, such as OSL, which has been serving meals underneath the interstate at 6th and Cherry for years.

“We wash the site, we wash the benches, we make sure it’s as safe as possible,” said Beverly Graham, who founded the group, which started serving meals in local parks decades ago. “When you’re serving somebody in a park you don’t know where they’re taking that trash and that garbage, so that’s very difficult.”

“It just is a better way to make use of people’s good intentions,” added Leslie Smith of the Pioneer Square Alliance. “People come downtown with good intentions, but it makes messes in parks, there are issues of food health practices, safety, etc. What the city’s trying to do is to use the good intentions of volunteers to use their best.”

Parish said he understands the concern, but after serving the city of generations, just can’t get past how serving meals could stir up so much controversy. “We’ll do whatever they want us to do, but let us serve. We serve 300 meals a day here (indoors),” he said. “I’d think they’d want to get onboard and encourage us to help.”

City officials are concerned about trash, rats, and safety? Where were they when Occupy Seattle turds trashed Seattle Community College with drug use, drinking, trash and rats on campus?

And why, after three years of serving the homeless, has the City now started to notice? The homeless and rodents have been in that area for plenty of years. Sounds like nothing more than the City trying to garner more revenue through a permit.

DCG

 

 

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Private property rights battle: Court rules Missouri couple must plant grass, even though wife is allergic

government solve all problems
From Kansas City.com: A Missouri couple decided to turn their entire yard into a flower garden.  It turns out, that was against a city ordinance, which says half of residents’ yards must be grass turf.
But the wife is allergic to grass. Now a federal judge has ruled: tough.
So Janice and Carl Duffner are vowing to fight on.
Their city of St. Peters, near St. Louis, put the Duffners on notice that they must comply with the law. The Duffners said at the time they filed their civil rights action in late 2016 they were subject to penalties of $180,000 and 20 years in jail for non-compliance.
“If the city is permitted to impose draconian fines and imprisonment simply because a citizen chooses to cultivate on their own private property lawful, harmless plants of their own choosing instead of a potentially harmful plant of the government’s choosing, there is no longer any principled limit to the government’s control over either the property or the owners,” the Duffners’ complaint stated.
The Duffners bought their home in 2002 and began landscaping that included planting beds, two small ponds, pathways and seating areas. The St. Peters Board of Aldermen adopted the turf ordinance in 2008. At some point, an unidentified person complained to the city that the Duffners had no grass.
The Duffners asked for an exemption but were denied. Instead, the Board of Adjustment in 2014 told them to plant at least 5 percent of their property with grass. They refused.
In its response to the federal complaint, the city noted that the Duffners had first gone to circuit court in St. Charles County and had lost there because they had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. After a mixed ruling from the Missouri Court of Appeals, the Duffners turned to federal court.
U.S. District Judge John A. Ross (appointed by Obama) last week ruled for the city, saying the Duffners “have failed to identify a fundamental right that is restricted by the Turf Grass Ordinance.” The judge said the Supreme Court has held that “aesthetic considerations constitute a legitimate government purpose.”
Ross also said the Duffners failed to demonstrate that the penalties for violating the turf ordinance are excessive and contrary to the Eighth Amendment.
The Duffners’ attorney, David Roland of the Freedom Center of Missouri, told the Riverfront Times that the couple will appeal.
“My estimation is that this is one of the most important property rights cases in the country right now,” he said. “We’re going to go all hands on deck.”
DCG

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UK girl fined $195 for selling lemonade without a license

lemonade stand
Big government at work.
From Fox News: Officials in a London borough apologized Friday after a local council’s decision to fine a 5-year-old girl for selling lemonade without a license drew international backlash.
“We are very sorry that this has happened. We expect our enforcement officers to show common sense, and to use their powers sensibly. This clearly did not happen,” the Tower Hamlets Council said in a statement.
Andre Spicer said his 5-year-old daughter was left in tears after local council officers fined her 150 pounds ($195) for selling lemonade without a license near their home in London.
Lemonade stands fall under the Tower Hamlets Council’s guidelines for operating a market stall, which requires a street trading license. To gain a license, an entrepreneur must be at least 17 years old and pay a 75-pound ($97) application fee, the BBC reported. Stalls that sell food carry additional restrictions.
The girl was selling home-made lemonade to fans attending the Lovebox festival when she was fined.
Spicer wrote an article about the experience for the Daily Telegraph that gathered hundreds of comments and shares online.
“Holding the notice of the fine in my hand, I’m reminded just how restrictive we have become with our children,” Spicer wrote. “When I was growing up, my brother and I were able to wander miles from home without adult supervision. We were encouraged to sell things to raise money for clubs we were part of.
“By selling biscuits, we learned about maths, communication and basic business skills. But more importantly, we gained a degree of confidence. I can’t ever recall a council officer popping up and fining us,” he added.
Local officials said Friday the fine will be cancelled immediately.
DCG

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Big government butting in: British man ordered to remove butt-baring gnome ornaments

gnome ornament

Mr. Perry with the offensive gnome butt/Telegraph photo

From NY Post: A British gardener is butting heads with his local council over its crackdown against his bottom-baring gnomes, according to a report.
Lauren Perry, 77, was ordered to remove two cheeky ornaments from outside his Wistaston home because they were deemed a possible distraction to motorists, the Telegraph reported.
“It has been brought to our attention that several displays and items have been placed on the highway verge in Wistaston,” read a letter from the village’s senior highways officer.
“I am sure that your intentions are meant to be humorous and light hearted. Unfortunately, not everyone shares the same sentiment,” wrote Andrea Bickerton, who gave Perry a week to take down the characters. “If you fail to remove them, the Council will remove them and recover from you the expense of doing so,” she warned.
But Perry took the letter as a real kick in the pants. “I feel very disappointed. My daughter bought them for Father’s Day as a bit of fun as she knows I like a laugh. These things are in discount stores in their hundreds on shelves,” he said.
“How can they be classed as offensive? I put them up two weeks ago — no one ever approached me to complain or ask for them to be removed. The next thing I know, this heavy-handed letter arrives,” he added.
Perry told the Telegraph that he had worked hard to turn a rough patch of trash-filled land into a more attractive area.
“It’s all been self-funded as we were turned down for funding by the parish council,” he said. “We even bought the sign that says ‘Wonderful Wistaston.’ Now I feel like replacing it with one that says ‘Miserable Wistaston.’”
Realizing there will be no fairy-tale ending, Perry said he would move one of the gnomes onto a wall and replace the other elf with one with its pants on
Hopefully, no one will find that offensive. You’d think Cheshire East highways had more important things to worry about — like clearing out all the gulleys full of weeds,” he railed.
A council spokesman said village leaders “do not wish to spoil people’s fun,” but that “there is a safety issue here as such objects could easily cause a distraction to motorists and other road users, leading to an accident.”
DCG

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Outrage as Dallas officials threaten to tear down wall honoring fallen police officers because of regulations

last call lounge fence

Fence at Last Call Lounge/AP photo


From Fox News: A downtown Dallas business owner says city officials are threatening to issue summonses over an 8-foot-tall fence on her property that features a mural honoring five police officers killed in an ambush last year.
The large mural pays tribute to the officers who were killed during an attack on law enforcement at a Black Lives Matter rally in Dallas on July 7, 2016. Flowers, notes and other tokens have been left at the mural regularly since its unveiling four days ago.
Diana Paz, who runs the Last Call Lounge, told Fox News Friday that city officials didn’t want to listen when she tried to them about the mural, which is about a mile away from where the shooting took place. “They never gave me the chance to tell them what it was that we wanted to do,” Paz said.
City officials insist the mural is not the problem and that they are wrongly being portrayed as insensitive. They say the fence was constructed in violation of city codes.
“We did not ask that any mural be taken down, this has nothing to do with any mural,” said Richard Hill, the public information officer for Dallas City Hall. “It has to do with the fact that a fence was built without a permit.”
“The building inspector went out and looked at it, and gave them a notice,” Hill said. “They went back and the owners still didn’t have a permit, so they gave them a warning. The city did its job.”
Paz was issued a violation notice May 25 saying that she failed to obtain a permit to use metal siding in the construction and that the fence blocks visibility at a nearby four-way stop.
Paz said her cousin, Cesar Rodriguez, made changes. He moved the fence back three feet to address complaints about visibility at the intersection at an added cost of $2,000, bringing the cost of building the fence to more than $17,000.
“They still said it wasn’t right,” Paz said. “The previous old posts are still there, they can see we moved the posts. They say they’ll keep giving us citations.”
Paz said her intention was to commemorate the shooting anniversary with the mural, which shows six officers of different races carrying a coffin with an American flag draped over it.
She said she vividly remembers that horrible night. Three officers working at her bar took off when they heard the call for assistance. “We saw how they rushed out,” Paz said. “It touched our own employees. We just wanted to do something for the anniversary, to give some positivity” by commissioning the mural.
Paz said she will continue making modifications to the fence until inspectors are satisfied and grant her a permit.
DCG

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How much does it cost to replace a door to a file room in the California government system?

Keep in mind that you can purchase a fire-proof, commercial steel door at Home Depot for $359.
bureaucracy
Via Sacramento Bee: The project seemed simple (yet we are talking about government here): Replace a door to a file room. Following the rules, the California Board of Equalization requested a cost estimate for the project from the real estate unit that oversees state building construction and maintenance. This is what came back: Replacing the door – $3,000.
But here’s where the other cost would come from: Project management, architectural, and construction inspection services, plan review services by the Division of the State Architect and plan review and inspection services by the Office of the State Fire Marshal – nearly $14,000. A GRAND TOTAL OF $17,000.
The door was never built, but those figures highlight how California’s state bureaucracy pumps up the cost of even the most simple projects, according to a new report by State Auditor Elaine Howle. Furthermore, taxpayers shell out more for the Real Estate Services Division to manage projects than when the work is contracted out to private sector firms, the report states, and receive sub-par results in return.
Real Estate Services, a unit within the state Department of General Services, charged $182 per hour in fiscal 2014-15, “or $46 more than the $136 average hourly rate of 26 private firms that conduct similar work for the state,” according to Howle’s report.
The reason for the higher cost remains a mystery.
serious
The division has not performed, the audit states, “an adequate analysis to fully explain the reasons for this difference.” It doesn’t have goals for delivering projects on time or on budget estimates, doesn’t track backlogs or their causes and “has not clearly set expectations” for project managers to communicate cost or time changes to departments relying on the division for services.
Auditors scrutinized 25 projects managed by the division. Of those, four lacked either time frame or cost estimates and the remaining 21 projects “frequently” exceeded stated delivery or budget goals.
For example, auditors noted that the division estimated it would take 5 1/2 years to renovate the historic State Library and Courts building. The project took nine years. (A freeze on bond financing problems accounted for one year’s delay.) Several factors contributed to slowdowns, auditors found, including design deficiencies, inadequate planning, site conditions and plan changes requested by client departments.
General Services agreed with the audit’s findings and said that it will follow with its recommendations to better track projects and use available data to figure out the causes of project delays and cost overages and fix them.
And that $17,000 BOE door replacement? The board, auditors learned, “chose to forgo this project because of the high cost estimate.”
DCG

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Mom Says She Was 'Lunch Shamed' by School for Packing Oreos for Daughter

no cookies
Yahoo: Leeza Pearson was out of fruit and vegetables one day last week, so she tucked a pack of Oreos in her daughter Natalee’s lunch and sent her off to school at the Children’s Academy in Aurora, Colorado.
Pearson said she was stunned when her 4-year-old came home later in the day with the cookies untouched and a sternly worded note from the school.
“Dear Parents, it is very important that all students have a nutritious lunch. This is a public school setting and all children are required to have a fruit, a vegetable and a heavy snack from home, along with a milk. If they have potatoes, the child will also need bread to go along with it. Lunchables, chips, fruit snacks, and peanut butter are not considered to be a healthy snack. This is a very important part of our program and we need everyone’s participation,” read the note, provided to ABC News by Pearson.
school note
Pearson said she is baffled by how the school handled the situation. “I think it is definitely over the top, especially because they told her she can’t eat what is in her lunch,” Pearson told ABC News. “They should have at least allowed to eat her food and contacted me to explain the policy and tell me not to pack them again.”
Officials at the Children’s Academy said they have no comment when contacted by ABC News. However, Patty Moon, a spokeswoman for the Aurora Public Schools, which provides funding for some of the children to attend the private pre-school, said a note in the lunchbox is not supposed to be standard practice. “From our end we want to inform parents but never want it to be anything punitive,” Moon said.
Moon said the school was just trying to promote healthy eating but Pearson said that effort has often been inconsistent. During this year’s Easter holiday, for example, she said the school asked students to bring in candy for the celebration. Her daughter also receives jelly beans as a snack when she stays for after-school care, Pearson said.
“They say I can’t decide what to feed her but then they sometimes feed her junk food,” Pearson said. “Why am I being punished for Oreos when at other times I am asked to bring candy?”
The child was offered an alternative snack, Moon said. But Pearson said this was not the case and her child came home hungry.
“She is not overweight by any means and I usually try to feed her healthy,” Pearson said, noting her daughter’s lunch also included a sandwich and some string cheese. “It’s not like I was offering cookies to the entire class and it’s not like that was the only thing in her lunch.”
DCG

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