Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Reality check

Saturday, Tonja and I went to the farmer's market downtown.  As the market was winding down, we slipped into Lazlo's for lunch, and took a couple stools at the bar.  Another couple doing the same thing came in several minutes later, and sat down to our left, with one stool between us.

There was a newspaper on the counter, and the man started sipping his black pepper porter, reading the Saturday news and commenting to his wife:

"Well, the mayor's appointing Tom Casady to be a Public Safety Director.  Just what we need: another bloated bureaucrat with a six figure salary.  Casady says he hopes to reduce overlap and redundancy. Apparently he doesn't understand that he IS the redundancy."

A Lazlo's employee we've known for years came by and congratulated me on the promotion.  I figured for sure our fellow diners would pick up on that, but they did not, and he continued to hold forth on the matter.  We finished up our lavosh and headed out, mildly amused.  In retrospect, I should have had the bartender bring him another beer, then tipped my hat and waved as we went out the door--better yet, two beers, just to be redundant.

Not really sure I disagree with him, though, and I'm glad I heard his candid perspective. If I turn out to be nothing more than another layer of management, then this will be a really bad idea that should be abandoned.  I'm going to do my best, though, to try to add some genuine value to the management of these three agencies, and to do so in a manner that saves money in excess of what my services add to the costs.  You can hold me to that, and you can bet your bottom dollar I will know the score.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chief, It's a new territory. But I have a feeling you will do a great job at this. And don't you know, when it comes to tax supported job positions, everyone will have their doubts, complaints, concerns, etc. Don't let the naysayers bring you down. Nobody knows how this will work out but, again, I think if anyone can do it, you will. It won't be the easiest transition you've ever had, however, so hang in there. You can and will succeed with this new position.

Peace and all good to you.

Anonymous said...

I personally read the newspaper daily. Both online and print. I have also lived in other cities. I believe your position will provide a lot of help in the direction the 911, police, and fire department should head in. I also think someone can also help in getting new fire stations in parts of the city that badly need it. Imagine a fire chief and a director presenting to the city council that the funds are well spent on new fire stations. Imagine a police chief getting insight on how to juggle money and manpower. In a couple years we will all say this is a position that is long overdue.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall, just to fly by and buzz in that gentleman's ear that he's an idiot. JMHO
You will do fine, sir! Redundant or not. You are definitely a better man than I, because I would have turned to him, introduced myself and embarassed him to death!

Anonymous said...

You're the man chief. There will always be haters, but you just have to brush them off. As a twenty-something in Lincoln, I admire how you do your job and the way you represent our community. Thanks for what you do and best of luck on this new adventure. And I hope, by some sweet stroke of karma, your hater reads your post. :-)

Anonymous said...

Tom,
I was just curious as to how many gallons of water the fire people expend at every call they respond to since they drive one or two of those big red trucks to EVERY CALL THEY TAKE!!! Seems to me we could save some green if they carpooled in something that doesn't get gallons to the mile...course they wouldn't look near as cool.

Herb said...

I am not sure I fully agree with the other couple, but if I were to play the devil's advocate:

Part of the problem is that your reaction to his rant was that you were, in your own words, "amused".

This perception is the problem. Many who are very concerned about the proliferation of big government and the inefficiency of adding layers are not taken seriously by the power players and good old boys who are creating the additional black holes into which tax dollars fall.

JIM J said...

Hater? I read the article to say that the person did not hate the Chief, but had a preception that an expense is at hand and he thought it a waste.
The population at large has an image of govt that is "spend happy"
Small and large employers nation wide have managers, assistant to the manager, and assistant to the assistant.
how many times have you seen one supervisor or boss shadowing another in your business?
True character shows in situations like this. I would like to think I could ignore it as well, but I think I would have my ego take over (You leave my inner child alone, bully).
At the end of the day, there will always be chickin little types like myself. And there will always be waste and spend happy govt. It is no wonder this person had such comments.
If the PSD can hold the branding iron to the mayor, confront overspending and waste, and no one has done so yet, I say you go dude.
If worst comes to worst, to retire after the budget fight would be a nobel exit for a public employee who will be missed, indeed. And I think Casady for Mayor would be a sign many of us would display.
I want to be the first to sign up as a campaign volunteer..
Casady for Mayor? I need more coffee...

Tom Casady said...

Herb,

No, no, you misunderstand. I was amused by the situation, not by his viewpoint. I can see myself saying the same thing, and it wasn't a rant, just a blunt statement of a guy jaded by government. My while point is that the onus is on me to demonstrate that this arrangement accomplishes something productive.

The amusing part was that he expressed himself so frankly with me sitting in a ball cap right next to him.

Well-wisher said...

Seems the guy in the bar has nothing against you personally. Your haters likely know what you look like.

I'm open minded but how is this new senior executive position anything but a new layer of bueaucratic management?

I don't mistrust you or the mayor so I'd be very happy to be wrong about this.

Best wishes to you, the two new chiefs and especially to the rank and file of all three of the existing departments.

Anonymous said...

Chief,
A subtle change. The title of your blog. I wonder if anyone else picked up on it yet. Nice pick THE DIRECTOR'S DESK. Not so subtle leaving your badge, and gear behind. That would be hard. I hope you kept that call box key. I guess I'm the last to still carry mine to work. I wish you the best in this new job. I believe that you will give it your all as you did at LPD.
As for me, I think I'll stick around LPD and make a career out of it working the street.

ARRRRG!!!! said...

I think 1:18 might be onto something. The fire fighters could "carpool" to the fires to save on gas money.

Anonymous said...

Chief,
Excuse me Director. I think Arggg might be on track with his carpool idea. I have always wondered if there might be a better way of responding to calls than sending out a huge firetruck and an Ambulance to situations where it is obvious a Firetruck is not needed. A small four wheel drive pickup truck with two EMTs and all the basic medical equipment would head out to the situation immediately IF the 911 dispatcher has had NO information about a fire or other danger requiring a firetruck. Several small fire extinguishers would be part of the equipment on the Pickup. With two EMT's and two or three EMTs on an ambulance the response time should be faster. The firetruck would be manned by two people and sent out when a definite NEED for them has been noted. The hugely expensive firetrucks would stay in the firehouse until absolutely needed thus extending the useful life of that equipment. Adding more of the small trucks and Ambulances with people cross trained as both EMT's and Firefighters would increase efficiency and lower costs. It is difficult to explain the concept in just a few words but I think you will get the idea.

Gun Nut

Eric said...

Hey Chief,

If you run for Mayor in a few years, you can count on my vote (just wanted to throw that bug into your ear)! Hope everything works out for you in the mean time - I'm sure it all will... you're just the man for the job! As my Japanese friend would say, "do your best!"

Steve said...

What, you didn't like my photo suggestion? Damn beaurocrats! :)

Tom Casady said...

Gun Nut,

Interestingly, LF&R has thought about the same thing--a Quick Response Vehicle that is equipped for first response to things like traffic crashes and medical emergencies. There are some pros and cons--good arguments both ways, but the bottom dollar is that right now, they don't have that rolling stock anyway. Worth thinking about, however, and a good example of coloring outside the lines.

One of the biggest problems I confronted in my policing career is the unwillingness to try things--experiment--and revert to the previous state if the innovation didn't work. Embracing change is not exactly our strong suit as human beings, no is it? But if you can try something out without a huge capital investment, and without unacceptable risks, sometimes good things result.

Anonymous said...

Gun Nut's idea would not sit well with Fire Union members. They want to glorify and grow the ranks not downsize. I doubt you post this as it may upset the hose pullers. Ha!

Tom Casady said...

7:48,

For what it's worth, that's not what I've been seeing at all. I think you'd be surprised at the strength of desire to do the best job possible with the resources available.

Maybe I can help the general public see that a little more, and maybe I can help internally by encouraging some of the experimentation I value. If the resources aren't available to do it in the optimum way, you look around for ideas on how to do it in other ways that maximize the chance for successful outcomes. You try to keep the risk low, and if doesn't work, you stop and go back.

The easy route is always to keep doing things the same way, and as much whack-a-mole as LF&R has endured, I can see almost anyone developing a risk-averse viewpoint. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Blue 1 said...

Chief, I may be able to save lots of money for you on just a few changes. Here is #1. If the person isn't on fire, don't send a fire truck. Nothing annoyed me more than showing up on a call with , oh, lets say a pedestrian hit by a car, non life threatening injuries. Up pulls a firetruck (very fuel efficient vehicle) and 4 fire guys hop out. They look over the pedestrian and then stand around along side me waiting on the ambulance to come and load the victim up. I didn't need the company while I waited for the ambulance, and I'm sure somewhere in the city some firehouse playstation was awaiting some players. That right there would save lots in fuel costs and make the call stats more realistic, resulting in a more accurate account on the staffing level vs. need. We can call that the "If it's not on fire, don't send a firetruck" rule.

Next, driving a firetruck to the gym, grocery store, etc... is very unnecessary - lots of high dollar fuel being burnt. I have seen this a lot up by the Goodyear Gym in Havelock, and Super Saver at 48-0. But I'm sure it's a citywide practice.

Last, Don't fill the position of Chief in either department. Each could be ran by a "Deputy Chief" as the top rank, and they would both answer to you. This will save each department the costs of filling the highest paid slot on roster. The savings from not paying a "Chief's Salary" in each department will more than cover your salary, and maybe fund a slot for an extra new guy for each dept, each year. If Peschong won't do the new job for his current Deputy Chief salary which is over 100k - I'm sure there are many qualified LPD members who would be more than willing to.

Best of Luck Chief.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that LFR gets a call for service for every vehicle which gets sent on a incident while LPD only gets one call for service per incident?

Anonymous said...

12:29

It is my understanding as well. However LPD makes up for it by excessively reporting incidents which keeps the required stats up to justify budget.

As if this will ever get posted.

I like ya Chief, but from where I sit you are more of a politician than a true administrator.

We both know what is really going on.

If you would like come credibility I would ask you to have the LFD and LPD audited by an outside auditor.

I print screeened this just before submitting it. As I suspect it will not be posted.


Prove me wrong Chief. On all points. PLEASE!

Tom Casady said...

12:29-

Actually, they keep track both ways: unique incidents, which can any number of units assigned, and individual unit runs--a count of the number of times each particular apparatus was used on on incident.

I wish the police department did the same thing, frankly. It would be a nice metric: xxxx LPD incidents, xxxx LPD units.

11:49-

Excessively reporting incidents? An example, please. I think not. The stats are pretty low.

Compare your police departments and fire departments to other cities--any array you want--if you really think either of these organizations is overstaffed. I don't know what else I could do for you. Look it up yourself: it's all online these days, and you obviously think I cook the books, so do your own research. Please!