May 28, 2009 in City

Doug Clark: Saving money and brain cells: Now that’s efficient

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Proving that they’re gol-darned serious about saving our tax dollars, Spokane City Council members voted Tuesday night to hire a new efficiency expert.

And they’re going pay this person about $120,000 a year (in wages and benefits) until he or she comes up with some really terrific ways to save money.

You know, sometimes I have this horrible nightmare. I dream that something happens to our politicians and they all suddenly start making sense.

Which would leave me with nothing to write about.

It’s awful, I tell you – just awful.

I always wake up, thank God. Then it takes me a moment or two to stop shaking. Once I calm down I realize what a silly dream it was and start laughing.

Making sense? Politicians?

Whoa. No more before-bed pepperoni and pineapple pizza for Doug.

City Hall is never going to stop handing me material.

That’s because getting honest work out of a politician is like getting a retirement fund out of a slot machine.

Now I realize that economics is a complicated subject. I was a music major in college before I decided that a journalism career would pay more.

That should tell you all you need to know about my business acumen.

But though I hardly qualify as an efficiency expert, I think I can come up with a few ways to help the council trim the fat.

First let’s take a look at the facts.

Spokane has been hit hard by the recession. The situation is so bleak that city leaders expect a budget shortfall next year. We may have to lay off a bunch of city employees, and that really sucks.

So what can we do?

Hey. Wait a minute.

Now this is just coming off the top of my head. But I think we can save about $120,000 by …

NOT HIRING an efficiency expert.

I’m sort of surprised no council members saw this, too.

But that’s what happens once you win an election and start representing the people.

You lose your sense of reality as well as your soul.

Take that aforementioned figure – $120,000.

That’s a pile of money to you and me. To an elected official, however, $120,000 is just a couple of numbers followed by some zeros.

This isn’t the first time Spokane has wasted a ton of money to become more financially responsible.

Earlier this year, for example, the council agreed to give some Indiana outfit up to 90 grand to help 16 city workers become better people.

Weird, I thought that’s what the Miss Manners column was for.

And Spokane Mayor Mary Verner decided to ignore that dubious efficiency report from a California consulting group for which Spokane had previously coughed up $260,000.

I wouldn’t have gone along with either one of these boondoggles – especially that California report.

California may be the most mismanaged state in the nation. The only thing running well in California is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s limo.

So, um, let me do some calculating.

Oh, my gosh! I just saved Spokane $470,000.

Well, whattaya know. Becoming more efficient is a lot less costly than you’d think.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at dougc@spokesman.com.


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