Sunday, April 07, 2013

Guest Blog: The Reorganization by John Milardo


Below is a essay by John Milardo. All opinions expressed are that of the author and not necessarily that of the Insider staff. The essay in its original format can be downloaded here:https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1OYjxtLEgUwYmItWUpkc1FmTWc/edit?usp=sharing

The Common Council will the vote on Mayor Drew's proposed budget just around the corner, the Council will be voting on the government re-org soon. Milardo discusses the impact below. See the Editor's note at the end of the article to read our past posts on the same subject for further background. Past newsletters from Mr. Milardo can be accessed on our site by typing in "And Justice for All" or "John Milardo" into the search area at the top of the page.
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“And Justice For All” is a newsletter involving my opinions, views, and commentary as a life long Middletown resident. In my capacity as a former employee of Middletown (retired) for over 41 years, I have a different perspective regarding how and why public figures do what they do.

Middletown’s Mayor Dan Drew commissioned a committee over a year ago called the “Bi-Partisan Task Force on Efficiency in Government”. The committee members were charged with reviewing how City departments operate, look into ways to save money and improve government efficiency. Every Mayor in the past 30 years has gone through these same steps. The only difference is they didn’t commission a group of individuals – mostly outside our town - to review it.


Each year, City departments are asked how they could downsize, consolidate programs, improve maintenance and performance, reduce overtime, and every other related issue. Over the years, there has been a reduction of budgets and employees. Most – and I say most, departments are operating with skeleton crews and the minimal budgets. There isn’t much fat to remove from most, while other departments get nearly everything they ask for…or pretty damn close to it. These same departments are always receiving the lion’s share of LOCIP funding (State grant money awarded to municipalities), millions of dollars in bonding for construction and improvements, and Capitol Budget funding to ensure their department has the proper equipment, vehicles, buildings, and whatever else needed for upkeep, maintenance, and service.


The report recommends the Public Works Department to oversee the Parks & Recreation’s Park Maintenance Division, and the Parking Authority. Currently, the Public Works Department entails the following divisions: the Building Division, Engineering Division, Sanitation Division, Recycling, and Construction. Rumor on the street is Mayor Drew is also entertaining the thought of having the Publics Work Department take over all Board of Education custodial work and employees. The other rumor on the street is the City will be looking into contracting the Board of Educations cafeteria services very soon. If I remember correctly, past history with the privatization of BOE custodial work failed. “Let’s try it again…we’re going to make our own history!”

The committee also recommended the Finance Department oversee the Tax Assessor’s office and the IT (Computer) Department. I don’t know why the committee recommended the IT department to be taken over by Finance; maybe the committee member who also once wanted the IT Director job still holds a grudge. The IT Department should be a stand alone department. Finance also currently oversees the Tax Collector, Purchasing, Payroll, and the Pension System.

Then, there is the Planning, Conservation, & Development Department being recommended to oversee the Building Division Inspectors, and Art’s & Culture Department. Planning, Conservation & Development is already in charge of the following Board and Commissions: Application Review, Citizen’s Advisory, Conservation, Design Review & Preservation, Economic Development, Planning & Zoning, Redevelopment Agency, Wetlands & Watercourses, and the Zoning Board of Appeals. Divisions of the department are: Community Development, Economic Development, Environment, Planning & Zoning, and Zoning Enforcement. Whewwww!! Isn’t that enough for one person to oversee? How can adding more divisions make this department work more effectively and efficiently for the public?

The lowly Recreation Division will keep to themselves and maybe inherit the Senior Center programming. (Since they’ve been doing it for the past several years anyway) What will happen to the employees of various departments if these consolidations take place? From my past as a Union Representative, there are many questions to be ironed out – and I know the public hates to hear this – through negotiations with the two (2) respective Unions; AFSCME and the Teamsters – it’s called Impact Bargaining, and part of our labor law here in Connecticut. Unless Mayor Drew is advised by the new City Attorney from Michigan, where \ labor organization members lost the right for collective bargaining?

If you are going to consolidate different departments into one, there is the question of cross
training all employees, so everyone knows each others work. If you’re not going to do that, what’s the sense of consolidating? If you do, you have wage issues. Public Works for instance has higher paid employees than the Parks Maintenance, Parking Authority, and BOE custodians. What about seniority? Do employees with more seniority and their CDL drivers license move over into a snow routes during the winter and Public Works employees get behind a tractor, snow blower or snow shovel? Do Public Works employees share work and overtime duties in the Parks Division, and the Parks employees with Public Works and the Parking Authority? Does everyone share work and overtime at the BOE? What about budgets? Will budgets be combined and intermingled so Public Works can use Parks funding for their projects, and vice-a-versa? If PW employees are allowed to take vacations during the summer as they do now, it would be no assistance to the Parks Maintenance side, where vacation requests are limited due to work loads. It can go on, and on, and on, and on. Consolidating departments isn’t something that you just do because you want to make “history” and put a star on you chest.

My calculations say this is going to cost the taxpayer more than anyone is anticipating, with no savings at all. How can I say that? Because the politicians who vote for these consolidations are going to appropriate and bond more and more money to make sure it works! Just look at Mayor Drew’s proposed budget for 2014 – new positions hired in the City Attorney’s Office, and the Finance Office.

There are going to be large raises for only a few Directors. The City will have three (3) giant departments which will be dynasties for those Directors, for life. What could the reason be why Mayor Drew wants this to happen? It’s much easier to control three (3) individuals that you have promoted with a hefty pay raise, than it is to control a dozen Directors who may have a different opinion than your own; Directors who only want the best for their respective departments and the public. Are these new Directors going to know how to run the different aspects of the departments they will take over? Absolutely not! There will be either the same managers in place, as well as additional hires. You can’t get a direct answer on issues pertaining to a department from one of the purported dynasty Directors now!

The Mayor has what he calls his “Cabinet” members. (Drew has unilaterally changed the Administrative Aide to the Mayors job title to Chief of Staff). Mayor Drew has also told Directors that they must be part of his “team”, and endorse his proposed budget recommendations, regardless if his budget is not in the best interest of their departments and the public. If they do not adhere to his directive, they will be considered to be insubordinate. You think this isn’t factual? See what Directors say about the Mayor’s budget when the Common Council has there upcoming Budget Hearings.

Some people say that Mayor Drew reminds them of past Mayor Maria Madsen-Holzberg, who ruled by intimidation and threats. Claims are she was charming when the camera was rolling, and vindictive behind closed doors; just like the current Mayor. The similarities are not too far fetched, as rumors have it, she is one of his mentors. The other mentor is a past Mayor who can’t get over he wasn’t elected for a second term and is still holding political and personal grudges.

Stay strong. Stay involved. Stay together. Seek the truth.
John Milardo
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Editor's note background: 
 Want to know more about the Government ReOrg?Read the Insider Staff's analysis of the Government ReOrg here: http://www.middletowninsider.com/2012/12/city-governmen-re-org-part-ii.html  
The misleading merge of City Legal & BOE Legal:http://www.middletowninsider.com/2013/01/apple-oranges-boe-budget-hikes.html 
John Milardo spoke of the downsides of the Governmnet ReOrg in a previous Guest Blog piece here:://www.middletowninsider.com/2013/01/guest-blog-his-town.html
Councilmember Linda Salafia also comments on negative aspects here: http://www.middletowninsider.com/2013/01/letter-editor-government-reorg-costly.html
Chairman of MRTC Ken McClellan discusses the reorg here: http://www.middletowninsider.com/2013/02/letter-to-editor-mayor-daniel-drews.html

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