toledo (24) cleveland (14) ohio (14) columbus (5)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The paradox of city services

City governments are involved in all sorts of industries that people claim are essential to our well being and can only be provided by government. Furthermore, it is argued that poor people wouldn't normally be able to afford services that are provided by tax dollars from those who are relatively well off. Ultimately, these arguments don't convince me. If you're really worried about poor people, why aren't they the only recipients of these services? Why are the rest of us forced to use city trash, when we could afford to pay for a private, more competitive service?

Another huge problem is that as the economy worsens, cities are forced to cut back on these services. Thus, at times when there are more poor people than normal and they are needed the most, government is busy cutting back or eliminating them all together. Trash collection is a great example of this. Last year, city officials were considering moving to a shifting trash collection schedule. Which ultimately means less and more complicated service. This is a classic case of what happens when you only have one trash collection provider by force to choose from.

Trash is now being looked at again, as Toledo unsurprisingly still has not solved its financial problems.

With a projected 2009 deficit of at least $22 million, Bill Franklin, the city's public service director, acknowledged that the city could no longer afford its $12.7 million trash collection operation.
There are only a limited number of ways the city can address this problem. According to this new Blade article, they are looking at hiring a private company to save money, or shelling out another large sum of money to buy automated trucks.This only goes to show that, once again, city services are behind the curve when it comes to what they offer, compared to what is typically available in the marketplace. Otherwise, the city still went ahead with its plan of raising trash collection fees and reducing the number of trash collection days it provides.

Another great example is how the city of Columbus suspended its yard waste pickup program. While their taxes previously went to pay for it, there will now be a $49.50 subscription fee when the service is reinstated. Clearly, the government provided service there has not been adequate to provide the people's needs. Once again, classic monopolistic behavior: cut services and raise fees. Yet another reason we shouldn't be forced to rely on them in the first place. Do I think people would suffer if the government didn't engage in monopolistic trash pickup? Not really. Nor do I think allowing personal choice in trash service would make the city become a giant garbage heap.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Excessive pay for government employees

At a time when most local government are facing budget problems, the overtime pay for government employees rose to ridiculous lofty heights. Ohio paid out more than $124 million in overtime last year. This only serves to underscore the terrible mismanagement of resources caused by government power. In related news, Toledo's city council failed to increase the taxes of 19,000 people who live in Toledo and work outside the city. So now, the combative mayor is laying off 75 city policeman instead. Just a couple years ago, Toledo policemen were paid over 3.5 million in overtime money. I'm sure it's a lot more now, probably at least $5 million. See this.

Perhaps what we should do is limit all government pay to the median local income. There is absolutely no reason why government employees should make a dime more than those they are supposed to serve. If there are so many people who believe that government is good, there should still be plenty of volunteers who would take the job. It is well known that they enjoy generous compensation and benefits, and getting rid of these would save millions of dollars locally and statewide.

Toledo's mayor Finkbeiner is paid $136,000. Toledo's median income for males as of the year 2000 was $35,407. Dropping the mayor's income to this level would save city taxpayers about $100,000. The average annual salary for a three year Toledo Police officer is $53,657 not including overtime pay or benefits. There are currently 628 police officers employed by the city. At these levels, which are probably pretty low, cutting their salary to the city's average would save taxpayers at least $11,461,000 per year... and a LOT more once their overtime is taken away.

We can no longer afford to sit by while government bureaucrats waste our money on thier own inflated salaries. The benefits we get from having a government (if any) are far less than what these people earn. Important resources are taken from the productive class and siphoned off to the political class, extremely hampering our economic well being. Things will only get worse unless we are successful in taking back our freedom. This would also make existing budget problems disappear.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The police are cracking down

Various media are carrying a small Associated Press report on a 2008 Metro Initiative which supposedly reduced fatal crashes in Ohio's big cities. As usual in the media, it's pretty thin on details and big on how successful the government is. If the government says they succeed at whatever they do, I guess that's good enough...

The 2008 Metro Report on their web site tries to justify these claims. It seems faulty at best, misleading at worst. It compares average serious crash levels from 2005-2007 with crash levels during the 2008 enforcement period. Why average? Why not compare each year individually? If there were tons of crashes in 2005, less in 2006, more in 2007, and less in 2008, the averages quoted in this report wouldn't really tell us anything at all. Sadly, it doesn't look like they thought about that.

When you look at the serious metro crash totals in Table 5 on p.11, it indicates 34,997 in 2005, 33,619 in 2006, and 31,907 in 2007. This corresponds to a steady 4% and 5% reduction between years. However, when you get down to the serious metro crash totals in Table 17 on p. 23, there were 775 in 2008 and an average of 906 from 2005 to 2007. These numbers don't make any sense at all. If anyone sees where I'm going wrong, please let me know.

Table 14 on p. 21 contains traffic stop totals per month in 2008. If they really wanted me to believe their claims, they would include traffic enforcement totals and serious crash totals for each month between 2005 and 2007, and then compare these with each month of 2008. I suspect that if this was done, there would be a lot more variance than what we see here. Which would in turn lead us to conclude that aggressive police enforcement of the metro highways does not necessarily reduce serious crashes.

Putting out such flawed reports like this only hurts the credibility of the highway patrol. If the reports were just a little more detailed, it would probably hurt their cause even more. The media seems like a willing propaganda tool in reporting their claims but not really even bothering to look at the report to see if they are true.

Monday, March 2, 2009

What does "Privatize" mean?

The Toledo Blade is reporting how Republican candidate for mayor Jim Moody wishes to privatize the Toledo Airport. Alas, this isn't really what he said. What he wants is to sell an equity share in the airport for $100 million, but that hardly means the airport will be privately owned and operated. And what will happen to the money after this stake is sold? It wouldn't even be returned to the taxpayers, but retained by the government and spent in some kind of Recovery Plan for Toledo. This hardly sounds like privatization at all.

If the government never went into the airport business in the first place, and we actually had airport freedom all along, that would be one thing. But this is nowhere near the case. Even if a portion of the airport was sold to a private investor we would still have massive airport regulations and Toledo would still own most of the airport. I doubt the presumably liberal Blade writer ever thought of that before he got all upset and wrote that sensationalist headline.

What would it mean to actually privatize our airports? For starters, abolish the FAA. Then, get rid of all the ridiculous TSA security procedures that bog down travel. Then get rid of the TSA itself. It is nothing but security theater, attempting to give us an illusion of safety. Don't regulate or bail out the airline industry. Don't maintain any air traffic control systems. That would only be for starters.

Nobody in government on either side of the aisle would be willing to even remotely approach any of these suggestions. Until they do, nothing in our airports will be private. The number one reason I hate flying is the massive government presence that permeates air travel. Without them, flying might actually be a pleasant experience. One can dream.