Did You Overlook A Few Items, Mr. Mayor?

The Flyer’s John Branston calls out Mayor AC Wharton for his recommended budget cuts:

A C Wharton has an aggressive plan to end homelessness in 10 years. He also has an aggressive plan to end the Overton Park golf course in about 10 weeks.

The list of jobs and salaries in Memphis city government runs to 172 pages. The mayor and his division directors, we are told, have been working 24/7, going over the budget with the proverbial fine-toothed comb to find savings and efficiencies.

I believe it. Because you would have to work 24/7 with a fine-toothed comb to find cuts that are more chickenshit than a handful of positions at a couple of libraries and golf courses.

Branston suggests here that maybe, just, maybe that Mayor Wharton should have looked a little higher up the food-chain for cuts:

The manager at Overton Park earns $47,432 a year plus $10,909 in benefits, according to the city salary schedule. The manager at Riverside makes the same. But the savings don’t stop there. The maintenance foreman at Overton makes $35,632 plus $8,133 in benefits, while the same job at Riverside pays $42,511 and $9,777.

All together, we’re talking more than $200,000 in salaries and benefits! And that’s not including the free Cokes that were given away two years ago to a kid who hit a hole in one!

There’s more, folks. Also on the cutting block are branch libraries at Cossitt downtown and on Highland near the University of Memphis. Those notoriously overpaid librarians are raking in anywhere from $31,536 plus $7,253 in benefits to $53,201 and $12,236 in benefits.

We could be talking — take a seat — as much as $300,000 in savings, if the city can whack three librarians at each library. Never mind that Cossitt also happens to be a de facto daytime homeless shelter. Maybe this is part of the 10-year plan.

But wait…

Never fear, the proposed cuts will not impact the library’s director of community outreach and special projects assistant ($92,027 and $21,166 in benefits), the communications assistant ($86,520 plus $19,899), or the manager of public services ($75,712 plus $17,413).

It took a while to dig out this information. You have to flip through page after page of thousands of jobs in the fire department, starting at $54,980 a year on up to $90,891 a year, and in the police department at $53,573 to over $100,000. The mayor proposed cutting back on overtime in the fire department but not cutting back on fire stations.

And, lastly..

The closing of Overton Park might make sense if it is followed up, as John Malmo suggested, with turning the course into a free course and continuing basic maintenance. There may well be a golf angel out there or some senior citizens and kids willing to man the clubhouse and cart concession for $10 an hour. The biggest waste at Riverside was not operations but the new clubhouse and gates. Riverside isn’t visible at all, but the investment in the clubhouse has to be protected somehow.

Branston is spot-on.  One of the disappointments of this Administration has been their reluctance to do anything about overpaid top-end administrators and their costly positions, reappointing old Herenton holdovers, and ignoring potential cuts at the top of the chain rather than at the bottom.  This is one reason Councilor Jim Strickland called out the Mayor last week regarding these cuts.  It’s times like these when I wonder if we really got change at all, except that Mayor Wharton is much nicer person.

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