Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Democratic Money Burning

I have to admit: I miss the old Alex Triantafilou--the thoughtful judge who really wanted to get things right. (You may recall that I lamented his decision to leave the bench.) Judge Triantafilou has been replaced by Chairman Alex, a party leader often offering nothing but soundbites, particularly since his side lost the presidential election. He's begun what he's promised will be "occasional" feature on his blog called "Democrat Money Burn." (Alex, of course, needs a grammar lesson. "Democrat" is a noun. "Democratic" is the adjectival form of that noun. The party of the president-elect is the Democratic Party. Alex cannot change the English language just because its suits him.)

To his credit, Alex is batting .500 on his first two "Money Burn" installments. In the first, he questions whether Mayor Mallory needs another staffmember. Griff (who just won't admit he's a Democrat at heart) has also raised that concern, and I joined him in the comments. In fact, I'd go a step farther: not only should Mallory not be given additional personnel funds, but the cost of his personal security (a CPD specialist on special detail) should be moved from the CPD budget to the Mayor's Office budget--and the Mayor's Office overall budget should not be increased. Alex will find widespread support for his relatively non-controversial observations with respect to Mayor Mallory's budget proprosal.

But he misses the mark in his second "Money Burn" post, in which he criticizes the HamCo Commissioners (really, though, just Administrator Patrick Thompson, since the only budget proposal thus far released is his) for failing to decrease the budget for "County personnel," a decision Thompson justifies by pointing to the need for increased "HR" (human resources) oversight during the massive layoffs to be undertaken in the coming months. Alex writes:
Really? We need to spend more on HR staff so that the county can more
effectively fire police officers? Are these our priorities?

As Alex knows, police officers aren't the only ones losing their jobs. And the reality is, laying people off is difficult. Employers have responsibilities towards former employers (most notably under COBRA). Moreover, HR-savvy people should be involved with layoff decisions to ensure that they are undertaken in such a way as to minimize the potential for litigation. If the county is to go through the next few months without the service of people knowledgable in human resources (which over the past two decades has become a highly specialized field), the taxpayers may as well write a check for a half million dollars or more to the Cincinnati Employment Lawyers Association (the plaintiffs' employment bar). A Republican policy-maker's decision to expose the county to massive lawsuits is one of the things that brought us this budget nightmare.

So while we need to make sure we're pinching every penny (at both the City and County levels), we need to make sure that we don't make short-term cuts that will cost us dearly in the long-run.

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