Time to hit reset button | Editorial
August 14, 2012 · Updated 2:26 PM
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made the books of quotations by saying the economy would “reset at a lower level.” He was talking specifically about advertising revenue, but the quote has since been applied to virtually every level of the economy, both private and public.
The Great Recession shows little sign of ending, although economic eggheads claim it ended several years ago based on a set of numbers nobody cares about. In fact, unemployment is high and costs are beginning to soar. It could get worse, not better. Which is why it is time for the city of Oak Harbor to “reset” the way it does business.
At a strange city council meeting last week, a group of council members led by Rick Almberg made contradictory demands of Mayor Scott Dudley. First, they wanted him to hire department heads to replace the ones he has fired since taking office in January. Second, they demanded a hiring freeze in light of the “fiscal emergency” they declare some weeks ago due to declining tax revenues.
The mayor’s penchant for firing department heads has been criticized, including on this page, but it is in fact his right as the city’s chief elected official. He doesn’t want to immediately replace the department heads he cut. He feels the temporary replacements are doing a good job, saving the city money, and there’s no hurry to replace them.
Certain council members see things differently, as if experienced employees cannot do their jobs without a big boss overseeing their work. In fact, most people take pride in doing their jobs and city bosses should confine themselves to budgetary matters and long-term planning, and leave the good workers alone.
Oak Harbor presently has 24 open positions, which is said to be a record. Councilman Almberg is correct that a hiring freeze makes sense but wrong to demand immediate replacement of department heads. Mayor Dudley is correct that it makes sense to get by with effective interim replacements until the budget emergency ends.
The fact that they agree but disagree says more about personal conflict than it does about city policy. Let the mayor make the hiring decisions while the council makes policy. It’s one way to “reset” city government in trying times.