Editorial by Matt Marquardt –
MASON CITY – The Bookmeyer regime may be about to eat crow on their quest to shut down the city’s sanitation department.
It shouldn’t be a surprising taste or texture for our Mayor and his gang, however, as they ate plenty of it when they failed to shut down the Human Rights Department. They also tasted that salty crow flesh when they made Brent Trout explain why the arena project was shelved … and when the garbage plant vote was lost.
As these embarrassments unfolded, sights were set on making radical changes at the fire department and rubbing out our sanitation department.
(PHOTO: Bookmeyer needs plenty of water bottles to wash down all the crow he and his gang have eaten in the past 2 years.)
The fire department shift change proposal (predicated on jealousy that firemen were making overtime) led to an investigation that uncovered that proposed shift changes would be costly, impractical, and take the department in the wrong direction. They quietly gave it up in a work session, similar to how they had Trout explain the arena project failure.
A goal pursued under the Bookmeyer regime was his dream of “managed competition” which takes aim at city employees and vital services city hall provides. He may have called it “lean.”
Pursuing this goal has not been easy and took time to set up. Only after Bookmeyer and his team of Council members took office (Travis Hickey, Janet Solberg and Scott Tornquist) could Eric’s dream take flight, and this group has backed him ever since. But three votes are not enough.
Finally this January, through his diligent assistant Brent Trout and with the final piece of added support in a guaranteed “yes” vote in Councilwoman Jean Marinos, Bookmeyer began a serious push to enact his overall agenda and shut down the sanitation department.
Bookmeyer first set Trout upon researching managed competition and putting the sanitation department under the microscope, spending the time and dollars of city staff pursuing and justifying this goal, all the while leaving themselves outs along the way. As Councilman Scott Tornquist said last month, those sanitation workers should “welcome” the managed competition process, as it may “prove” they are efficient at their jobs.
Only now, after a public backlash, is Bookmeyer and his gang considering backing down on eliminating 12 good paying city jobs and killing a great service, recognized as such by the citizens of Mason City and many city hall employees. As pressure from the community has mounted, a source close to the situation has informed me that Bookmeyer is now having second thoughts about the pursuit of privatizing sanitation pick-up in Mason City and wants the issue to go away quietly. It may die in a work session or memo as other projects have.
The backlash from the community could not be ignored by Bookmeyer.
As one high-ranking city hall insider informed me, the sanitation department as it currently exists “works great. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it and no changes are needed. They provide excellent service at a very cheap rate.”
Bookmeyer, a shrewd, calculating man who has eyes on becoming the Governor of Iowa, knows this pursuit now looks bad, and it could cost him the next mayoral election. As cunning as Bookmeyer is, he may be hearing the rumors on the street that folks of high regard are considering a run at his office. He may now know the time to give this up and rebuild his tarnished record is at hand.
As the council will be meeting Thursday night in a work session to discuss managed competition as it relates to the sanitation department, City staff has been investigating “whether our current service charge ($9.60 per month for sanitation) is competitive with other communities,” according to a city hall memo written by Brent Trout (see the council packet.)
Trout’s memo states that research just completed by Finance Director Kevin Jacobson (only now revealed and acknowledged by city hall) indicates that “we are in a very good position with our rates of service compared to other communities.” I wrote about these costs months ago.
The memo goes on to say that “the council needs to discuss whether the level of service is currently the level of service desired in the community.”
Furthermore, the memo states that City Hall has “moved ahead of ourselves in our discussion from the standard model (of managed competition) currently executed in other communities by not conducting a pre-competition assessment of the service (sanitation) to determine if it is a candidate for managed competition.”
Trout also states in his memo that “I am not an expert on managed competition.”
The revelations in the memo generate a litany of questions that beg for answers, and at least one observation.
The observation is this: Bookmeyer and his gang had no idea when they began their pursuit of managed competition of how the sanitation department was performing financially; they had no idea of how good its service was for the city or if it fit properly; they know nothing of managed competition and how to implement it; they cannot even say at this time if sanitation is even a good candidate for managed competition; and they have attacked the jobs of 12 sanitation workers with no justification.
In other words, they have no idea if there is a problem at all with sanitation, but yet they are zeroed in. Why?
The city recently handed a local company $175,000 in infrastructure to create three jobs. Using their logic, that means the jobs of these twelve persons may be worth as much as $700,000 to the city.
Would eliminating the sanitation department be worth $700,000?
Mr. Bookmeyer, I hope you enjoy the taste of crow. You will probably be sampling it often for the next year and a half.