Can the Council finally do their job?

By:  Diane Benjamin

Five aldermen stopped the welcoming ordinance meeting for next week.  More important are the names of the aldermen who didn’t sign the request to stop the waste of time and money:  Scott Black, Amelia Buragas, Diana Hauman, and Jamie Mathy

Maybe now the Council’s full attention can be working on the budget.  Are they stupid enough to tax fuel again?  Do they really believe people won’t avoid local gas stations to save maybe .08 a gallon or more?  What about truckers passing through?  Why would they fill up here when down the road diesel will be cheaper?  If they do pass an increase to the gas tax to fund road repairs, it will further prove roads aren’t a priority unless you pay more.  It will also prove they are clueless about economics.  Some on the Council want an aquatics center.  Their priorities have and continue to be a disaster for the people who live, work, and visit Bloomington.

Follow-up to this story:  https://blnnews.com/2018/02/02/citizen-budget-cuts/

If I had been on this committee, I wouldn’t have started with items discussed at the retreat.   The entire budget needs scrapped because it is a budget for government employees, not the citizens.  Starting over now would take a lot of time, it’s too late for this year.

One of the recommendations from the citizen budget group organized by Alderman Diana Hauman was privatizing garbage. I see at least one social media post a week about garbage not being picked up, or ones like this:

It’s ridiculous to believe a private company wouldn’t do a better job – they HAVE to in order to stay in business.  Government doesn’t have that problem.

This document was written by the budget group and sent to the Council – please read it:

 

Observations and Thoughts on – Services Provided by Municipalities

 

Municipalities typically are not models for great efficiency. Capturing efficiency in government will likely always be challenging. Barriers to highly efficient government are many, and include:

  1. Inadequate attention on capturing efficiencies
  2. Reluctance to look beyond historic geographic boundaries to seek creative solutions.
  3. Excessive pride in what we have always been and done
  4. Ambiguous interpretation of roles, and accountability in government
  5. Leaders who lack comfort/experience with their leadership roles.
  6. Change adverse mentality
  7. Lack of government & citizen shared vision for the community
  8. Excessive focus on fixing problems rather developing durable long term solutions
  9. Less than strong and active citizen involvement
  10. Elected leadership prioritizing re-election higher than doing the right and difficult
  11. Citizen reluctance for engage in what some view as the dirty business of government.

One of the factors limiting service delivery efficiency for cities /towns is the lack of competition. Any organization operating in a monopolistic environment tends to be inefficient, due to the lack of marketplace pressures which encourage an ongoing search for improvement in both service level and operational efficiency.

Municipalities often have high expenses structures, particularly related to people expenses. Which is typically linked to employee benefits packages offered by government.

Well managed private businesses typically have a business culture linked to accountability for creating value, which is supportive of improved efficiency.

Many private businesses reward their employee teams for exceptional performance via bonuses and incentive programs. This type of performance linked compensation is, unfortunately rare in government.

The troubling reality, in Bloomington is that citizens have regularly been paying more than what appears on their city/town bill for the full spectrum of waste removal services. The revenue gap between the fees changed for municipal trash services and the full operational and capital linked expenses, to provide the service is not transparent. The revenue shortfall is typically covered by internal fund transfers, which hinders both elected leaders and the publics understand of true costs and benefits.

Some citizens, have expressed concerns about a private company generating a profit on delivering waste management services. One wonders, would those same people worry about the company where they work making a profit? Most likely not, because most citizens understand that stable employment and good service are not provided by unprofitable businesses.

Both public fear of change, council fear of ballot box punishment, lack of full transparency, plus conflicting leadership motivations may cause “trash talks” to demand more time than appropriate prior to April 30.

Government service delivery typically seems to best thrive, in service environments where there is little to no competition (i.e. public safety). Public safety service areas are viewed as essential municipal services and have both emotional and urgency connected to their use and delivery. Therefore, it is difficult for elected leadership to maintain “tight purse strings” on public safety budgets.

But, that is poor reason for simply rubber-stamping budget funding requests from public safety departments. Capture of efficiencies linked to organizational changes and greater willingness to explore and embrace collaboration, are likely sources of significant public safety efficiency improvements for both City and Town.

Municipally provided Parks, Recreation, Sports, and Cultural service offerings often can provide controversy within a community and region. Particular when budgets are tight. Not all citizens or demographic groups view the need and value of these diverse and optional services in the same way. Some view these services as non-essential amenities. Others feel strongly that robust offerings and significant investments in “entertainment & culture, contribute greatly to quality of life, and drawing/ keeping people in the region.

Seasonality of use, need for critical mass, and challenges in measuring efficiencies for this type of optional service offerings typically make investing in this segment risky business for most small to mid-size municipalities.

A local example of the issues linked to lack of critical mass, is the now-Grossinger Motors Arena. Which may be poorly located in the Central Illinois Region … thus fails to draw adequate turnstile revenue and lack efficiency required to generate a profit. (And why else would the citizens of Bloomington want to own this venue… if not for profit)

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17 thoughts on “Can the Council finally do their job?

  1. The City of Bloomington and in particular, the Mayor and City Council, have never been more out of touch with reality than they are today. State Farm is literally on the doorstep of letting 1,000s of people go (with more to come in the months and years that follow), the population is already in decline, and houses are for sale all over the city. So, what does Renner and the City Council do? Well, of course, they ignore the obvious concerns and insulate government and friends of government from the realities all of us have to face every day. Their solutions are nothing if not predictable – higher taxes/fees/surcharges and debt supported government-led development for things they want. If something doesn’t work, “that’s okay” they say, just throw more money at the problem. Rinse and repeat.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Believing that going with private companies vs public is not a cure all, as one should note that the bigger the private company many times the service will languish immensely. For instance, let’s not forget: Dell Computers, ya got a problem? Fine, talk to some foreigner that can’t understand or speak good English. Comcast, so big they name their rates due to little competition. Get locked up in a contract that gives them the right to change the contract but not you. Rates are too high cause there is so little competition. Frontier, worst customer service I’ve ever experienced but where else can I get a land line if I want one? I could go on but the point is there is absolutely no guarantee with private companies. Maybe there is a chance that citizens could choose public or private and then that would make the public more competitive but I do not support the idea of one or the other.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve had private service for 30 years. I’ve never been missed and I pay less than the cities charge. Bloom and Normal are planning to raise rates again. I actually get a phone call if service will be delayed due to a holiday. I never have to guess if they will show up. Give me a break!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I gave you a break with the last two lines of my post, “I could go on but the point is there is absolutely no guarantee with private companies. Maybe there is a chance that citizens could choose public or private and then that would make the public more competitive but I do not support the idea of one or the other.” In all due respect with further explanation as a citizen perhaps I could choose whether I want to use the municipal service or a private contractor for my refuse service.

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      2. How does every surrounding city do private if they are so awful? The biggest threat to private is government won’t reduce taxes. They will just take the money saved on salaries, benefits, and pensions and spend it someplace else. They do claim they are deficit spending now.

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  3. BUT, but, we NEED flamingoes, a NEW downtown HOTEL, and signs to find it, higher fuel taxes, mandatory recycling, brick streets, eucalyptus trees for a NEW koala exhibit at the zoo. a park food concession. etc
    HOW ABOUT, lower taxes, less fees, and BETTER representation, better roads, infrastructure improvements, etc
    Leave the “feel good-quality of life” stuff to private entities OR donors who wish to see something built..

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yup. The Town’s own stats put the number at 1%, which likely means its really 0.4%. This is what happens when ideology trumps common sense and reasonability.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. If I ruled the world, the current council would be relieved of its duties for failure to perform them. All tax dollars would be spent on public safety, public health (sanitation sewers) and infrastructure in the form of streets & sidewalks. Government buildings would be half the size. Government employees would have the same pay & benifits as the private sector. Amenities would be completely supported by private donations and those who use them. Tax dollars would not be given to not-for-profits and special interest groups. The City would be clean. Fines for ordinance violations would be enforced. Taxes would be reduced to attract businesses and allow citizens to have more discretionary income. The EDC would be decommissioned……
    I don’t rule the world and Hales presented this “priority based budgeting” at the retreat. He even hired an “ expert” in priority based budgeting. The work for long term financial stability should begin now while preparing for the worst.

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      1. Notice I said, “If I ruled the world.” If I ran for office, all the current Council seats who are up for re-election would have to be filled with people of the same persuasion as me.

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  5. So you’re saying a private company NEVER misses anyone’s garbage? Come on. Some of these post are from people that set it out late, or as for recycling maybe the wrong week. To say private company never makes a mistake is ridiculous

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