Thursday, July 21, 2011

Let's get real

Mayor Alvin Brown -- ho, hum -- is calling for an "economic summit."
What is that?
It is a gathering of people to discuss how to increase employment in Jacksonville.
Those attending are the same people who have been trying to figure out ways to increase employment for years.
How are they going to be any more effective sitting in the same room? They all know all the remedies available and, truthfully, they are few.
Local government doesn't control local employment. The policies that affect business the most are set in Tallahassee, which is 175 miles away and, even more so, in Washington, D.C., which is 800 miles away.
The further away the politician, the less the accountability. But that is another issue.
Local government can do things to make it easier for business -- especially small business. This includes imposing only as much regulation as necessary, and keeping taxes low. It also helps to make easier access for things like permits.
But local politicians tend to worry more about big business, which really needs little help that they can provide.
What should Brown be doing?
He should be putting his newly appointed department heads in a room together and ordering them to provide him with a list of the cuts they would make in their budgets in case of a 10 percent reduction in funding.
This is an excellent exercise. It exposes the least necessary functions of government and also the management savvy of the bureaucrat.
It also gives a mayor a list to turn to when property taxes fall off, or state and federal funding is reduced. Admittedly, the latter is rare.
He also should be working with the City Council to fashion a smooth transition to a new employee pension plan that will not allow politicians to promise the moon in exchange for votes, and not have to worry about the consequences.
Sound, practical ideas are not likely to come from the dying daily newspaper. They are too busy praising Brown for everything he does. Because he is "historic," you know..
Whatever the hell that means.
If Brown helps get the local government through a tight period without dumping it all on the taxpayer, he might be up for the "historic" label, although other mayors have done pretty well on that score.
At the moment, he is just a guy with little experience in a new job and holding summits that are not likely to produce anything of benefit to the taxpayers.

Featherbedding again

Once again, teacher unions in Florida are proving that the government schools are operated for the purpose of providing safe, secure, highly paid jobs for adults, not for educating children.
A proposed amendment to the state constitution is under legal attack by the unions. What it would do is remove a 19th century provision with roots in anti-Catholic bigotry.
It also is a device the unions use in trying to prevent poor children from escaping dysfunctional, unsafe government schools. They succeeded in destroying one successful program and would like to eliminate all other competition.
It costs about $8,000 to $10,000 per year for a child to attend government schools. Many families can afford to send their children to a private school when they are not getting what they paid for in a government school.
Poor families cannot afford to escape failing government schools.
However, vouchers allow them to send their child to a school that is safe and actually provides an education.
If the voucher is $5,000, that saves the taxpayer $5,000 for each child getting an education.
Union leaders such as Andy Ford are unable to do basic math. They say it costs money when a child transfers from a government school to a private school with a voucher.
But they also say that it costs money for every child who attends a school. You can't have it both ways. There cannot be a cost both for educating a child and for NOT educating a child who attends another school.
All unions want is to force as many children into government schools as possible, whether they get an education or not. Each child has a price tag because the state funding formula funds government schools on a per-child basis. The more money the schools get, the more money unions get. The more money they have, the more they can spend on electing liberal politicians who will vote to give them even more money.
There is no correlation between spending money on schools and educating children.
If the unions want to convince the taxpayers that it is better to discriminate against Catholics, or that they should oppose vouchers, fine.
But what they seek to do is prevent the taxpayers from voting on an issue. They are against democracy.
Vouchers have nothing to do with religion. The parents make the choice where they use the voucher and it could be at a school run by Catholics, Jews, Protestants or any other religion or one that is non-denominational.
It is the state's job to educate children and it is failing miserably, yet at great cost. This is true not only in Florida but in every other state. One major reason is that government schools have no incentive and no accountability. Even good teachers, of which there are many, are handcuffed by red tape and bureaucracy.
The choice of a school for their children should be left to parents.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hear not, know not

The sheriff's office is going to stop people from listening to police calls (if it can.)
This is a major, and rather disturbing, story.
The media and others listen to police scanners to find out what the police are doing. But the cops supply them with the scanners and now say they can't have them anymore, Channel 12 reports.
(I don't know whether people can buy scanners to pick up the calls. Apparently not. As I understand it, the local police use an encrypted signal that is only understood by their own units.)
This is just the latest retreat from transparency by the local police. It has been getting increasingly dark for the past several decades.
Long ago, the police locked reporters and the public out of police headquarters, allowing them access only when supervised and by appointment.
Naturally, the police cite security concerns. That is a poor excuse.
When I was a police reporter in the 1960s I had free run of the building. I spent all day talking to cops and detectives, and reading the reports they file, and going into the jail to read the dockets and see who was booked and why.. Offense reports now are made available to the press only in a room near the front door of police headquarters. No one knows if every report is provided or not.
I also had a police radio. It was not two-way but I could hear police calls. The cops gave it to me because they had a spare in the radio shop. It was a big help. It enabled me to be present at the scene of one of the biggest murder cases in local history, when the pastor of the Beaver Street Baptist Church was shot by his girlfriend.
There were no "information officers" to herd the press in those days, and none of the cops objected to the access we had.
In the next sheriff's election, open access to the public (NOT just the media, who are not anybody special) should be an issue.
It will be interesting to see if the local media push this issue or just continue to be wimpy.