Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's a tough job...and I'm glad he's doing it!

Dave Burkland, City Manager for the City of Chico is one of my new hero's. He's a soft-hearted guy with a spine of steel. Just what we need in these wacky economic times.

It's been a tough-row-to-hoe running City government the last few years. Declining revenues that seem to continue a downward spiral, State 'government' (which continues to seem like an oxymoron) raiding our funds and so far very little upturn in the forecast to hang your hat on. Imagine managing this beast is your job...this is the stuff of sleepless nights.

When faced with a nasty situation like this there is very little left to do except cut personnel expense. I know from experience that this is the most difficult business of business. Nobody wants to look an employee in the eye and tell them they are going to make less money at their job next year, or worse, they have no job at all. Employees and colleagues are like family and delivering this type of news truly hurts your heart.

Luckily most of us don't have to face the additional challenge of dealing with labor negotiators (union representatives). Dave Burkland does.

When the true budget shortfall became apparent Dave made the tough decision to fix it with a 5% cut across-the-board and he has had the support of City Council members the entire time.

The process so far probably seems pretty painless to the average Joe Citizen on the outside looking in. Most of the unions have agreed, one hasn't and one is still deciding. But it ain't over 'til its over so we should all be paying attention.

Now don't get me wrong, I love all my City services too, especially Police and Fire. I truly wish there was no limit to the funding available to pay the folks who protect us, the added benefit of course being that would mean that everybody else was doing well, too. Because the simple truth is all that money comes from taxes paid by private businesses who hire people who also pay taxes, who then spend more money that gets taxed again and so on and so forth. You get the idea.

And in case you haven't noticed, private business ain't doing so great. Sure there are some bright spots but the majority continue to limp along, paying less taxes on lower revenue and hiring fewer people to pay more tax on their earnings. Get it?

What isn't being said often enough is that this is a long-term shift in our economy and the sooner organized labor representatives accept that the better off we will all be. There simply isn't enough money anymore and working less (i.e. furloughs) is a short-term bandage on a long-term problem. Let's be honest...when times are tough, working less is never a good idea.

The point of this post isn't to bad-mouth labor or point the finger at anybody embroiled in this mess. It really is meant to give credit to a guy who's doing his damnedest to make a silk purse out of a sows ear.

Throughout this challenging, emotional process Dave has maintained his sense of compassion, his dedication to the citizens of Chico and his humility. And he's never taken his eye off the necessary final outcome. He shoulders this significant burden with class. I'm glad he's steering this boat and I think we're lucky to have him.

Nicely done Dave...nicely done indeed.