Sunday, August 26, 2012

What's So Wrong With "Kicking The Tires"?

Op-Ed by Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

Editor's Note: This Op-Ed piece was written for the Bosco Fullerton community publication, but I felt it has national implications as well as more and more American cities are trying to stay fiscally sound and struggling to avoid bankruptcy.

When Fullerton, CA Mayor Pro-tem Bruce Whitaker's proposal to just look at getting an estimate (or as he called it "kicking the tires") and what the cost of outsourcing the Fullerton Police Department to the Orange County Sheriff's Department was met with such resounding resistance and a sea of baby blue shirts with "I heart the Fullerton Police" on them.... I was frankly a little stunned.

Isn't this one of the main reasons why we, "the 33%" voted for a "new look" City Council?

That's the main reason why I voted.  We needed our city council  and city management to  "mind the store" and spend our money more wisely. We needed a fresh set of eyes on the situation.

That is because, ladies and gentlemen, quite frankly, we are headed for bankruptcy at this rate. And I don't want our kids living in a Bankrupt Fullerton, my hometown.

I tend to look at things from a perspective of a small business manager.  I know it's a different operation model, operating on a grander scale, but why should it be that much different?

I have my preferred vendors that I use for services in the business I manage.  But I would be naive to think that those vendors will do me the favor of keeping costs under control by always giving me the best prices and best "bang for the buck" if I didn't do my homework and check other possibilities constantly.  These frequent price and service checks keep my preferred vendors honest and keeps my costs down. I have also been known to switch vendors from time to time.

As far as the City of Fullerton is concerned, the Fullerton Police Department is our preferred vendor right now.  I personally want to see that continue, but I also want to see what the competition has to offer.

It's not personal...It's business.

And I respectfully disagree with the head of the Fullerton Police Officers Association when he says we need to slow down in this regard.

That is because we are making up for lost time.

As councilman Whittaker says, "we can not continue kicking the can down the road."  Yes, we need to honor the current Police contract, but before you know it, the contract will be up and instead of scrambling at the last minute when the contract is about to end....why not get a jump now and get our ducks in a row?

And for the record, I am pulling for Interim Chief Dan Hughes to become our City's permanent Police Chief.  This is because he has come up through the ranks in our city from a young age and seems to understand the dynamics of our town and how we have a need for more transparency in our Police Department Chief.  I may not always agree with him..but that's ok. I tend to like people that are giving it 100% effort.  And local guy Interim Chief Hughes is giving it his very best effort to make this work.

But, Interim Chief Hughes (or whoever is chosen to be the next chief) is going to have the biggest challenge of any Fullerton Police Chief in the history of the department.

First of all, we can't dismiss all the major problems the department has had just in the past two years alone.  The Department is reeling from at least two years of one scandal after another which has cost this city a lot of money and the jury is going to be out for  a long time to come on whether this culture of corruption will change.  The interim Chief will be under the microscope to see if he can get that culture changed.

But the biggest challenge for Interim Chief Hughes, that can not be ignored,  is going to be how can we be more efficient and cut costs and the paying out of promised pensions without sacrificing needed services or keeping the idea of serving in the Department as a viable, career choice?  The challenge will be to make the Department the model of all that is right instead of the opposite while not contributing to the bankruptcy of our city.

And as a last point, I am not even sure why a member of the city council or the city manager needs to ask permission or a vote to just get an estimate on services.

Any one of the six individuals (five council members and City Manager Joe Felz) should have the power to do that and then come back with their findings.  As was discovered at the August 21 meeting, any individual council member can have an audience with the City attorney to come up with a drafted proposal on any matter. The same principle should apply when it comes to getting estimates on  public services.

Then, at that point the vote should go to the council and then the public on what we want to do about those findings.

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