Wednesday, October 7, 2009

This and that...Wednesday, October 7

Bizzaro Parking?

Am I the only one who thinks the parking slots in the new Maine Street Station are facing in the wrong direction? Are we supposed to back into them? Will we observe British rules and drive on the left side of the street when on the property?

THAT should make things interesting!

Or are we simply the guinea pigs for "outside the box" thinking on street diagonal parking? It could be, I suppose, that the folks who brought us the open school/open classroom design of some decades ago had to find a job somewhere, and became parking design "experts."

I can't wait to hear the explanation. Hopefully it will be a "duh" moment when it arrives.

$400 toilet seats and such

You've heard me chat about my days in the defense business, and how ordinary things like hammers and toilet seats become wildly expensive when the government buys them.

I got a glimpse of the new dais in the new council chambers today, and believe me, the town bows to no-one in finding ways to make ordinary things unusually expensive.

Now I'm not in the dais business, but I might decide to give it a try. I have a pretty good idea how much lumber and plywood and counter tops cost, and from my perspective, it looks like the dais business is pretty lucrative. On the other hand, maybe our dais consultant had to work for a day or two to locate a fabrication consultant who could find someone to build the damn thing.

Under that scenario, $8500 is probably a bargain. And the new "furnishings" should certainly cause residents to view proceedings and officials as far more "honorable."

This little example should cause us to wonder much as $3 million estimates for old Times Record building "renovation" are tossed around and dismissed as too expensive so we can build something new at probably twice that price. Now that I think of it, though, that would be cheap compared to an un-needed $28 million elementary school.

I'll leave you with a passage I've posted before from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy:

Nobody spends somebody else’s money
as carefully as he spends his own.

Ever wonder about those stories of $600
hammers and $800 toilet seats that the
government sometimes buys? You could walk
the length and breadth of this land and not
find a soul who would say he’d gladly spend his
own money that way.

And yet this waste often
occurs in government and occasionally in other
walks of life, too. Why? Because invariably, the
spender is spending somebody else’s money.

Economist Milton Friedman elaborated
on this some time ago when he pointed
out that there are only four ways to spend

When you spend your own money
on yourself, you make occasional mistakes,
but they’re few and far between. The
connection between the one who is earning
the money, the one who is spending it and
the one who is reaping the final benefit is
pretty strong, direct and immediate.

When you use your money to buy someone
else a gift, you have some incentive to get
your money’s worth, but you might not
end up getting something the intended
recipient really needs or values.

When you use somebody else’s money to
buy something for yourself, such as lunch
on an expense account, you have some
incentive to get the right thing but little
reason to economize.

Finally, when you spend other people’s
money to buy something for someone
else, the connection between the earner,
the spender and the recipient is the most
remote — and the potential for mischief
and waste is the greatest.

Think about it
— somebody spending somebody else’s
money on yet somebody else. That’s what
government does all the time.

But this principle is not just a commentary
about government. I recall a time, back in the
1990s, when the Mackinac Center took a close
look at the Michigan Education Association’s
self-serving statement that it would oppose
any competitive contracting of any school
support service (like busing, food or custodial)
by any school district anytime, anywhere.

We discovered that at the MEA’s own posh,
sprawling East Lansing headquarters,
the union did not have its own full-time,
unionized workforce of janitors and food
service workers. It was contracting out all of
its cafeteria, custodial, security and mailing
duties to private companies, and three out of
four of them were nonunion!

So the MEA — the state’s largest union of
cooks, janitors, bus drivers and teachers —
was doing one thing with its own money and
calling for something very different with
regard to the public’s tax money.

Nobody — repeat, nobody — spends someone else’s
money as carefully as he spends his own.

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