Looking For Bureaucratic Efficiencies in All the Wrong Places
There is a famous joke about the State Department. Whenever a president asks the State Department for options on a diplomatic matter, the State Department always gives the same three options:
- Nuclear War
- Total Surrender
- Recommended State Department policy
The understanding of the joke is that whatever policy or ideas elected officials want to enact, it is the government employees—the bureaucrats—who have to carry it out. Too often, the bureaucrats carry it out in a manner that benefits them, not the elected officials or the public. (I care more about the latter.)
The City of St. Louis is experiencing a problem like that right now, with its efforts to combine its three 911 systems into one. Consolidating 911 centers should be one of the low-hanging fruits for service sharing among local governments. There are numerous examples of it benefitting communities in Missouri. Unfortunately, while many efforts have succeeded, a few have been stalled due to resistance from local bureaucrats.
The problems in St. Louis are all the more confusing because this effort is entirely within the same city government. In theory, it should be easier to implement service sharing in one government rather than sharing 911 services across different governments (which isn’t really that hard, either.) But, shockingly, the various city employee unions have thus far been able to stall the reform efforts. The mayor’s plans to consolidate and improve the 911 system have been blocked, thus far, by the unions representing the dispatchers who are currently within different departments. From the article:
One union represents police dispatchers, and another represents EMS and fire dispatchers. The unions have demanded bargaining over any dispatcher cross-training. Uncertainty about which union would represent a combined dispatcher position slowed attempts by Mayor Tishaura Jones and her former public safety director, Dan Isom, to allow dispatchers to handle all types of emergency calls.
The unions complained Jones and Isom’s plans for consolidation were made without consulting them and that the changes in job duties were clearly something that should be covered in contract negotiations. [emphasis mine]
Missouri attempted major public-sector union reforms a few years ago. While some reforms were passed into law, a lawsuit unfortunately led to the reforms being overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court.
St. Louis has public sector unions delaying improvements to a system that would improve the city’s currently terrible 911 system and spend tax dollars more efficiently. But hey, fiefdoms have to be protected, right?
FDR was right about public sector unions. They shouldn’t exist.