Saturday, December 01, 2007
The Very Model of a Modern Inspector General
I haven't met Mr. Cerasoli, although I did go through airport security with him recently.
Pretty much everybody thinks he's a good guy, riding in to clean up the town for the decent people, much like the black and white Westerns I liked to watch on Saturday morning as a kid.
Unlike Destry, he's a gun slinger willing to whip out a quip to skewer his opponents, or stare down the opposition across a table. He has also managed to get support for the budget he proposed and has demonstrated he won't be intimidated or diverted.
I have a lot of hope for him and I hope he causes some important changes.
I do however wish he gave me more confidence in his understanding of cost accounting.
Last week in his appearance before the City council Cerasoli joked that "he wanted one of those $142,000 jobs", referring to the $2,000,000 budget for 14 employees for the much criticized 311 system. I've never used the system. I can never get anyone at City Hall to answer the phone when I call, so I don't usually call.
It's true $2,000,000 ÷ 14 = $142,857.14285714285714285714285714.
I also know it was a joke.
But many people will believe that those operators actually make $142,000. It's the kind of urban myth that just can't be crushed. The $2,000,000 budget would include, in addition to the salaries, the benefits of those employees, the cost of maintaining the office and the equipment they use for their job. I have no idea what those costs are and apparently neither does Cerisoli or the guy who runs the programs. He, the guy who runs the program showed you at a budget hearing unprepared to talk about numbers.
It's also not particularly helpful for Cerasoli to pick on any program for the sake of a one liner. He's supposed to be looking at these things objectively. I wonder what will happen if he were to look at this program and find that the budget was appropriate and make recommendations to improve it's function? I wonder if people will start doing the same kind of loopy math for all manor of things, including his office?
He should be aware of the costs. He didn't include the cost of health and retirement benefits in his initial budget $2,900,000, 34 person budget. I never understood what "good fairy" he thought would pay for those benefits, but maybe they do things differently in Boston. BY the way his revised budget included 24 employees or a per employee cost of $120,833.33333333333333333333333333.
A lot of people wouldn't mind one of those $120,000.00 jobs.
It also seems he picked a number and created a budget to match it. In this kind of indeterminate job that makes sense. There is a virtually unlimited amount any Inspector General could do. They are usually constrained only by their resources.
He has his work cut out for him. I really do wish him well.