OUT ON A LIMB: Mayor in no rush to endear himself to city staff

It’s certainly popular to question the integrity, if not the competence, of public servants

So, the question has been raised and it taints those who are being questioned. Is that fair?

It’s certainly popular to question the integrity, if not the competence, of public servants. Mayor Walter Jakeway has taken another shot at city staff when he proposed that all city contracts worth $20,000 and over be reviewed by city council – as opposed to $100,000 currently. Maybe it wasn’t his intention to tarnish the image of our city employees but that’s the outcome of his proposal. And you have to ask if that is good personnel management?

Jakeway wanted council to set the trigger for council reviews so low because he thinks that the city is paying too much for contracts because staff are setting the budgets too high. The rookie mayor’s reasoning is that contractors see how much the city has approved to spend on a project and then put in bids that – surprise, surprise – are close to the budgeted amount. The mayor’s folksy reasoning is compelling: “When you go to buy (a) computer, you say you have $200,000 to spend…Well, guess how much the computer is?”

But is that really how it is? If so, then the mayor is right to question it. It would be nice if the mayor could table some evidence for his fears, especially when he’s calling his staff’s competence into question. He says contractors are jacking up their prices for city projects. Can he give us an example?

And I mean an example. Not an anecdote. We don’t need The Great Communicator-type of story telling. Has the mayor reviewed specific contracts and what were they? If we have concrete examples we can feel greater confidence in the need for the mayor’s proposal. Or is this just another example of something that’s so common in this community? Everybody suspects our civic officials – both elected and unelected – of thievery if not incompetence. I hear it so often. But where’s the evidence?

The mayor was quick to criticize city staff during his election campaign and it’s a popular stance with some members of the public who are just certain everybody has their hand in the till at City Hall.

Now the mayor has secured his popularity amongst the anti-government faction with a question that seems to have some logic to it. But again, without evidence, city councillors have to weigh the value of the proposal in light of other conditions and the issue then becomes one of micro-managing. The mayor’s managed to shorten city council meetings as it is, maybe he feels he’s freed up enough time to give councillors more work.

Then you can find a way to hire better city staff because who would want to work for such a bunch of control freaks?