How Can We Make The Case For Public Employees If This Is How Some Conduct Themselves?—Houston Public Works Staff Need To Get To Work Just As We Need To Fight For The Role Of Government
A recent Houston Chronicle article discussed the large numbers of City of Houston employees who have been disciplined or fired for poor conduct on the job.
“While working on the taxpayers’ dime, Houston’s Public Works employees have smoked pot, driven drunk, packed guns, falsified meter readings and stolen scrap metal, not to mention lunching leisurely for hours at Memorial Park. The infractions are so prevalent that the City of Houston Public Works and Engineering Department …Disciplined employees overall represent 21 percent of all the people who have worked in the department since 2006….Some 560 utility workers, laborers, truck drivers and inspectors have been indefinitely suspended, or essentially fired during the six years. At least 240 have received “decision-making leaves” or temporary suspensions, and 1,170 were given warnings.”
I’m an advocate of public employment and of a clear role for government in society. I know that many share my view.
This is why we need to be upfront and transparent when our people screw-up. Tax dollars are the fruits of our labors. We work hard to send tax dollars to City Hall. We have every right to expect that they will be used well.
Also, we have every right to ask those who are in the public eye to get stuff right when our pro-government views are at stake in the public debate.
How can we say that government does a good job when public employees are conducting themselves in such a manner?
The other thing is that where do these folks think they will find work and benefits after they lose a city job?
It is hard enough to find full-time work with benefits. It is even more difficult to find such work when you were fired from your last job for bad conduct.
When you are paid with taxpayer dollars, you have an obligation to work hard.
When your conduct on the job will impact the climate regarding public workers all across the nation, you have an obligation to work hard.
Most public employees do a good job. Yet it is human nature that people will focus on those who do a bad job to the exclusion of those who do a good job.
The foes of public employment are relentless. They want privatized workers with no benefits.
We can’t live like that as a society.
The actions of others are beyond our control.
Our actions are within our control.
I’d ask public employees to please do a good job.
And I’d ask those who believe in the value of government to demand good work from government employees, and to match that good work with our own advocacy and support.
(Above–Various iconic images from our great City of Houston. We all need to pitch in to keep our city strong. Montage by Yassie.)
From the Houston Chronicle—
“Thousands of city of Houston employees will have to take six unpaid days off in the coming six months, one of a series of actions Mayor Annise Parker is taking to close a $29 million budget gap. ”This is a step that I didn’t want to take,” Parker said on Thursday. Furloughs send “the wrong message to hard-working city employees who get up and pick up our trash, fix our roads, keep our libraries open, mow our parks.” The furloughs will save the city $5 million and will apply only to civilian employees, with a few exceptions in such areas as trash pickup and other positions that generate revenue, Parker said. Employees who make less than $24,000 a year also will be exempt, she said.”
It is important to note that Mayor Parker exempted city employees at the lowest end of the pay scale. In a time when recession has caused many to go after the poorest first, while making sure that tax cuts for the rich stay in place, it is good to see acknowledgment of the needs of the people hurting most from these hard times.
Are public employees the cause of unsustainable deficit-boosting tax cuts that we have seen at so many levels of government in recent years?
Public employees must accept some of the pain of the recession. People taking a public paycheck at any level of government must lead by example. These sacrifices to be made by public employees must also apply to police officers and firefighters. Health and retirement benefits that are a critical longterm cost to governmentt must be on the table for some reconsideration. There is nothing wrong with looking at all aspects of government spending when times are hard– Or, for that matter, at any point.
Yet at the same time, nothing is achieved by allowing Republican politicians to stoke resentment of fellow working people while at the same time they do all they can to protect tax cuts for the rich.
What these Republicans really wish to do is outsource government services to politically connected firms, so that everybody but the people who actually do the work will get the taxpayer dollars.
If you are an average working person going on about a garbage man making 30k or 40K a year, while you vote for politicians who fight for tax cuts for millionaires, you must be smoking some pretty heavy dope.
Don’t we have any remaining capacity for self-respect as fellow working people, and as members of a society?
Must we allow ourselves to be used to get at others not so unlike ourselves?
Here in Houston, the overwhelming number people skip voting in municipal elections, and there have been a number of city property tax cuts in recent years.
It is time for citizens of Houston, and of our nation, to take stock of the public obligations that we all should share.
In addition to leadership from the Mayor and city employees on these budget questions in Houston, tax increases and sacrifices from average citizens may also need to be part of the solution.