While this notion is typically associated with business and profits, it also applies to our government. The goal is slightly different in that the less money spent by councils and commissioners and congresses, the less in taxes they have to collect. That makes all of us capitalists happy because taxes cut into our God-given right to be greedy.
During this recession, cutting costs has taken center stage in all aspects of life, work and government. The Daily Sparks Tribune and other news outlets across the world have carried stories documenting attempts to shave numbers off expense sheets, which often translates to jobs lost. Another such story came across this week when we reported on the city of Sparks’ decision to outsource street sweeping services.
The city has been losing revenue for several years, prompting the enactment of a wide range of money-saving measures. Leaders have sat down many times to discuss the intricacies of the municipal budget in an attempt to balance staffing and services in the face of dwindling dollars. Departments have been consolidated and jobs eliminated, but there are certain services the city must find a way to provide since no one else will. These services include road crack sealing, deep patching of potholes, lawn maintenance and the aforementioned street sweeping.
The Tribune’s city hall reporter, Joshua H. Silavent, reported that the street sweeping contract was given to a California-based company, Contract Sweeping Services (CSS), which came in with the lowest bid of $111,000. This about cuts in half what the city would have paid if it continued to perform street sweeping itself.
Permit me to step into the world of hyperbole for a moment: Imagine an army of people using push brooms to clean city streets. I imagine there are plenty of people who would be happy to have the work. Every day near the Department of Motor Vehicles office on Galetti Way near the Reno-Sparks border, crowds of day laborers wait for contractors to come by and pay them for cheap labor. And although recent reports indicate the unemployment rate has fallen, it also appears that statistic is driven in part by people giving up their search. Let’s give our legions of people who have been looking for work for months and years the chance to earn a buck beautifying the city.
I hope CSS hires local people for street sweeping. The jobs of cleaning streets and filling potholes are among the most visible of city-provided services, not to mention those that residents care about most. If any jobs should be filled by our friends and neighbors, it should be those jobs. If we were to choose the most anonymous jobs in the city for outsourcing, it would be the paper-pushing positions inside City Hall, including the City Council. In this day and age of email, cell phones and fax machines, we could surely find someone in another city, or even another country, who could handle Sparks’ administration.
Let’s run with this idea for a minute: We take the city’s budget and other paperwork and put it all out to bid. Companies or other cash-strapped governments, which probably already are doing the same kind of work more efficiently, can compete to do the tasks associated with running the city. They can make all the same information available online and hold meetings via video conference in the current city legislative chambers, which already has all the expensive electronics necessary for it. All the office jobs that very few people care about could be done in some anonymous office someplace else and the “boots on the ground” jobs could be filled with local feet.
If we start the process now, by next Election Day we choose from a list of bidders instead of from a bunch of individuals. If the ballot included just the bidder and their bid amount, the voters would be more informed than when they vote for a name they’ve never heard of and read the person’s generic “vote for me” drivel in the election guide. The winner would have a board akin to the City Council and the Sparks voters can still call them and track their actions and call for their removal if they make bad choices. Citizens might have to wait to talk to their new leaders on the phone since they might also be busy running several other governments, but it can’t be any worse than having a bare bones government comprised of locals. And you don’t mind if your leaders have foreign accents, right?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to review a list of bidders for the job of editor of the Daily Sparks Tribune. I hope my bid is lowest.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com.