Thursday, April 07, 2005

Houston, We Have a Crossover

It brings great joy to my little bureaucratic heart to discuss an article in the PG that discusses not only Pittsburgh Politics but also touches on Pittsburgh Bureaucracy. Now, if the article would only reference The Machine That Goes PING!, I'd get no work done today whatsoever.

Democratic mayoral candidate William Peduto said yesterday that he wants to "professionalize" appointments to city agencies such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority or the zoning board by choosing candidates from a list developed by a third-party panel....

Peduto, a city councilman from Point Breeze, said if he were mayor, anyone could apply to be on the city agencies, and a third-party panel would study the candidates and issue recommendations on appointees to the mayor.

"These authorities spend hundreds of millions [of dollars] each year. We must take politics out of this process to create boards that accurately represent the interest of the citizens, not the special interests," Peduto said at a news conference yesterday....
You'd think that I'd be giddy writing about this, but, ever the knee-jerk contrarian, I am of mixed minds.

First, I wish to reiterate the point that Politics is the Enemy of Good Government [Rule #6], so anything, in my opinion, that reduces Government's dependence on Political Inanities can't be a completely bad thing. It would be nice, for a change, to allow bureaucrats the freedom to "Do What's Right" and not what's politically popular.

ON THE OTHER HAND: Peduto's quote, "These authorities spend hundreds of millions [of dollars] each year. We must take politics out of this process to create boards that accurately represent the interest of the citizens, not the special interests..." is probably one of the dumbest things I've seen in print since I read 1001 Dumb Things in Print by Herb Dumdedumb (Harper-Collins Press).

The POINT of having political oversight, at least in theory, is to ensure that the interests of the citizens IS accurately represented. The POINT of having qualified people on these boards is to ensure some level of responsibility for spending those millions of dollars. SOMEBODY NEEDS TO ULTIMATELY TAKE RESPONSIBILITY AND BE THE FRIGGIN' GROWNUP

If anything, Peduto should be pushing for MORE political oversight, not LESS. Now, we bureaucrats are overly burdened with towing the political line, this is true. From my deeply ingrained passion in political theory, however, I would not like it if us Bureaucrats were given unfettered free reign in defiance of our tradition of local popular democracy.

ON THE FURTHER HAND: C'mon, seriously... does Bill actually expect this to be effective?

OK, let's assume that the 6th Seal is Broken and we end up with a Peduto administration. Bill goes to his appointment committees, who come back with a list of appointees to the various Authorities. These appointees, who are not necessarily beholden to Bill's Political ideals, but operate, rather, on their own skill, independent of the mayor's office.

At least at first.

Then the URA, HACP, SEA, PWSA, PA, etc. goes and does something bureaucratically effective, but unpopular at the mayor's office. Mayor Bill get's leaned on by those that got him elected and is told to "do something about this." ...

Then what happens? Either the Mayor stares down those that elected him (politically risky), or the Mayor interferes where he said he wouldn't (governmentally risky). If it is the former, re-election is going to be difficult; if it is the latter, the Bureaucracies have been put back into the same position where they were before... just where Bill said he wouldn't put them. And now, the Bureaucrats are in this nebulous grey area where they're not supposed to be beholden to the Mayor, but yet they are.

And hilarity ensues.

ON THE FOOT: This is kinda what Murphy did way back in 1992 by promoting various community organizers to positions of power. Mulugetta Birru, formerly of the Homewood CDC, was promoted to head the URA; Stanley Lowe, formerly of Manchester, was picked to head HACP; Tom Cox, also formerly a North Side activist, was chosen as Deputy Mayor for Policy. Murphy's strategy, it seems, was to chose people that had experience in the community and use their talents on a broader scale.

We can debate the efficacy of his choices later.

Now, URA is headed by a former URA Bureaucrat, HACP is headed by a former HACP Bureaucrat, and other agencies are similarly staffed. So rock on Pizzburgh Bureaucratz.

ON THE RIGHT EARLOBE:Is he seriously considering letting anyone apply to be on the city agencies? Really? Obviously Bill hasn't spent enough time listening to people speak at the public comment portion of council meetings. Those people are insane... rip roaring mad... one step away from hanging out with a Doormouse and a March Hare, offering tea to strange girls that wander by.

But more to the point, what would ensure that this appointment committee would appoint people that either (1) know what they're doing, (2) represent the public interest, and (3) can be held politically accountable?

Well.. hey, the school board is elected and they're... well... you know.

So, if ANYONE is actually going to be able to be appointed, I'm nominating me, my drinking buddies, and Sombrero Man. That'll show 'em.

OK, I've enjoyed my nexus of Politics and Bureaucracy.

In sum: this is the most expensive post in the whole hospital. We leased it back from the company we sold it to. That way it comes under the current budget and not under capital accounts. Thank you; we do our best.



CmdrSue said...

And now for further entertainment, some quotes:

"Instead of giving a politician the keys to the city, it might be better to change the locks." ~ Doug Larson

"Politicians are like diapers. They both need changing regularly and for the same reason." ~ Anonymous

"The most successful politician is he who says what the people are thinking most often in the loudest voice." ~ Teddy Roosevelt

"Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers." ~ Khrushchev

"My choice early in life was either to be a piano-player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference." ~ Harry S Truman

CmdrSue said...

"Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned." ~ Milton Friedman (American Economist)

"You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing." ~Thomas Sowell

"It's a poor bureaucrat who can't stall a good idea until even its sponsor is relieved to see it dead and officially buried." ~ Robert Townsend