Sunday, February 22, 2009

Stupid in Manteca

This is from a few years ago. You might want to watch this before the next school board meeting.

Monday, February 16, 2009

School district pay chart

(Courtesy Manteca-Lathrop Sun-Post, 6 Feb 2009, pgs 12-15)
The chart is readable if you click on the image to show it full resolution.

This chart is distributed on a need-to-know basis*.

*Those who have a desire to remain ignorant of how your government works do not have a "need to know."

It worked great in '29

This week the Manteca City Council will debate it's own version of "Buy American" protectionism. Under consideration is a new policy that cut bidders for government projects "a break" if they are "local."

I know that some consider this a "no brainer" and if that's the case, you might be surprised if you do some research on what economists say (and most importantly, understand the reasons). Most economists pretty much agree that any attempt at protectionism, which is the proposed Manteca policy, will actually increase unemployment, lower wages, cost more in taxes -- make us poorer in any way you can measure it.

I know this isn't a "popular" idea and I'm sure some are ready to boycott companies that "outsource" and complain bitterly: But the economics are clear, if we try to give special breaks to "local" people and "keep money local" we are chasing a false idea.

Well don't just take my word for it. If you have some time, you can listen to this talk and read more from two very smart economists. If there are any questions feel free to ask.

The Manteca plan sounds harmless enough. The "local guy" is allowed to try to match the lower bid of some "outsider" under some circumstances. Well unintended consequences abound! If you haven't listened to the podcast just think of what will happen when the guy who won the contract by entering the low bid suddenly has his contract ripped away from him? After all that work to prepare a bid? How likely will he be to jump into the next contract the city offers? The result? Only the "local favored guy" bids and knowing there's likely to be less competition and he can later snatch away the contract even if his bid is too high; his incentive will be to enter a high bid (rip off the taxpayer). And this is just one possible consequence. There are many others we don't have to go into.

The U.S. government tried this kind of policy very similar to what Manteca is considering to "help the economy" in the '30's. You know, keep the jobs here, keep out those foreign competitors, what could possibly go wrong? The result was something we now call "The Great Depression" that lasted more than a decade.

Manteca should keep the current bid policy and not enter into the dangerous realm of protectionism.

(The issue will be discussed Tuesday at 7 pm at city hall)

Monday, February 09, 2009

MUSD teacher whines about salary disclosure

Kudos to the Sun Post for making the ballsy move to publish the salaries of Manteca city employees two weeks ago (January 30) and the salaries of MUSD teachers this last week (February 6). In an uncertain economy where ordinary people are getting laid off and fired and state and local governments face huge deficits, government workers think they should be immune from the same financial ills that ail the rest of us.

Today, the Manteca Bulletin printed a letter from a disgruntled school teacher who accuses the Sun Post of lacking journalistic ethics for printing the salaries of teachers. The letter writer whines about how the salaries weren't accurate because they included benefits, and teachers have loans to pay back for going to college, and they buy Girl Scout cookies and help your kids and wah wah wah. I could almost hear the violins playing in the background.

As the writer admits, the teachers' salaries are public record. These are public employees paid with taxpayer money. But HOW DARE anyone be told what those salaries are! Why, it's unethical! The letter writer doesn't seem to have a clue how much she's really paid because she swears that the amount shown in the Sun Post isn't near what she takes home or what she sees on her W-2 (and here I have to emit a big "DOH!" the writer is either naive or ignorant or just pretending to be). Apparently those golden benefits packages are free. And YES, the cost of benefits is part of your salary, you just aren't paying income taxes on it.

Maybe benefits should be taxed as income, then people would know exactly how much health care and retirement benefits cost instead of pretending that they're "free" somehow because they don't see the cost.

Handy city pay chart

Here's a handy email-able version of the city pay chart for those who may have missed it.
(courtesy of the Manteca-Lathrop Sun-Post, 30 Jan 2009, pgs 12-13)
The chart is readable if you click on the image to show it full resolution.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Agenda confusion

Some are wondering what I was talking about at Tuesday's city council meeting. I said there didn't seem to be anything on the agenda about a guy talking about his strip mall plans and the great depression and human psychology, etc.

Well the mystery's been partly solved. On the city website, the pdf file shows an item under "presentations/proclamations" listed as 1. Project Update: Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley. Above at right is the printed agenda I had in my hand at the meeting, which as you can see doesn't list anything. (You can click to enlarge if you have to.)

Obviously it was added at the last minute. And so the city knew it wasn't on the printed agenda. So why didn't they say something or note it in some way?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

City plans value Independence Day

Every year we fight over the 4th of July celebration and costs. This year city officials are really thinking outside the box and have decided that we can get a real bargain if we beat the rush and have it on the 3rd of July!

The proposed improvements:
  • Hold event on 3rd because we can't afford the overtime for the police and fire people. (That's what the report says -- and considering what those people are paid I believe it)
  • Use "community entertainers" instead of "professionals." I'm afraid to think of what this means.
  • Charge a "nominal" fee of $2 adult and $1 child ($6 for a family of four.) This part is being "considered" so you may want to express your opinion to the mayor and council at Tuesday's meeting.
  • Zambelli Fireworks Internationale is cutting us a real bargain on a spectacular 18-20 min fireworks display. Only $16,000 on the 3rd of July.
  • Charge vendors a "nominal" $100.
  • Charge an additional "token" fee of $2 for each child for the kids activities.
By the way, those words "nominal" and "token" fees aren't my words, that's what the planning staff is calling it. I had to read if it a few times, they aren't saying to buy "a token" they are using the word meaning "trivial." See item A.9.

How is it a little city like Lathrop is able to hold an Independence Day celebration, on Independence Day, where everyone is invited free and you even get a hot dog just for showing up? But Manteca can't hold the event at the $29 milion "Big League Dreams" facility, which we already paid for with the promise we could "use it for community events" without pinching pennies and shaking down the citizens with a number of small but annoying "admission fees?"

I don't know but happy 3rd of July! Let freedom make a noise sort of like ringing!

Video shows Manteca cop drinking, shoving at party

The Manteca Bulletin and the Sun Post both viewed the video from the party a few weeks ago where a fight broke out that involved an off-duty Manteca policeman and his son. The Bulletin article stresses that the video showed officer Kirk Doty only "shoved" a party-goer but didn't hit anyone with his fists. An opinion piece by Bulletin editor Dennis Wyatt yesterday defends Doty, again stressing that he didn't "hit" anyone, just some shoving or pushing. The focus of the article is on the underage drinking that apparently went on at the party and Wyatt places blame equally on everyone 21 or over who was at the party for allowing it and says that Doty was probably guilty of "bad judgment." At least one person had to go to the hospital and have reconstructive dental surgery as a result of events at the party, but the Bulletin thinks that's a minor incident...heck, boys will be boys.

The Sun Post article is more objective and provides an interesting time-line of events. According to the video, Doty arrived at the party around 1:45am. The Sun Post says Doty was called to the party by his daughter to "regulate" things. At 2:06am the video shows Doty shoving a young man to the floor. What I find most interesting about the time-line is that the really big fight where someone was beaten unconscious didn't occur until 2:53am when the Manteca police were called "about a large fight in the street." Doty was at the party for an hour before things got really ugly. I thought he was there to make sure things didn't get out of hand? What happened?