Updated: Sep 9, 2022
The City has a problem with overtime. There is a seemingly easy solution. Why is it not being solved?
It’s important to understand the complexity of running and managing a city. My time as a Director in Ventura County had me working with 32 different community services. From the water in your tap, to the sewer down the drain. From the Police and Fire services to the Landscaping and Maintenance Yards, and everything else – Permit Departments, City Inspectors, Health and Safety, Accounting, Recreation, Planners, Roads, Technology. The list goes on and on. Without these services, any Southern California city would revert back to a desert. It takes many people, many departments, and management to prioritize, compartmentalize, and set a culture of service for the needs of the community while balancing the fiscal discipline of the budget. So when I look across all departments of the City of Manhattan Beach and see massive overtime charges, to the tune of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars being paid out to widespread and continual overtime, there is something bigger afoot that needs to be explored.
Now before I attempt to solve it, I try to put myself in the shoes of the individuals who have the problem in order to better understand a solution. Much like a fire, I start at the base, and work my way up. I understand how city government works, and I believe the rank and file members of all departments throughout this city are staffed with hard working people who are dedicated and competent at their duties. I know, I worked for years with many of them, but in most cases they have to follow procedures and protocol dictated from above. They don’t create the structures, protocols, and culture within their department, they carry them out. This gets mandated from further up the chain.
So why is there so much overtime? The answer is shortage.
Too few people necessary to do to too much work. Job vacancies. Too many job vacancies create too much overtime. Overtime that you and I as taxpayers foot the bill for, year after year.
So, I asked myself, is this malicious or incompetence? It’s an “either/or” or “both” question. It’s certainly it can’t be “none.”
When I inquired as to why there are so many job vacancies throughout all departments of the city, I was told that these vacancies pop up when folks retire or move on, and it takes time to fill the positions. Smart planning would dictate a departmental retirement schedules to predict with some degree of accuracy, a “who, when and where” departure calendar and appropriately plan for these types of eventualities. It is also preventing people from being promoted from within. Shouldn’t that be something we work towards as a community? To raise up more people who really appreciate and want to be involved with our city. To have city pride, to make it desirable to work for and in our city.
But I also believe there are other things afoot. The County and the State are eager to consolidate power amongst the incorporated cities in California, and Manhattan Beach is ripe for the picking. An affluent city in the South Bay of Los Angeles, surrounded by LA City and LA County with a wealth of resources and a high tax base - just what LA needs as it tackles the services versus budget issue head on. I really don’t think this could be more apparent than what happened last month with our Fire Department, and I know all current City Council members have gone on record saying they have no intention of handing our Fire Services over to Los Angeles County, but our current path will result in exactly that action. With an understaffed, overworked, rank and file staff heading for the door, our abilities will continue to diminish, and City Council did not want to hear about it. They talked up, down and around the issue, even with an overwhelming outcry from the community.
My goal when I am elected is to dig into this hiring issue so we can ultimately pay less in overtime, get our interdepartmental hiring office online, create a culture of promoting from within when appropriate, and keep our city strong. So to conclude, and to answer my own question, it’s “both.”