March 19, 2010

The Bucks Are in Busing

Justin Katz

And for today's Astonishing but True:

The highest-paid municipal employee in Madison, Wis., is bus driver John E. Nelson, whose salary last year totaled more than $159,000. Half a dozen of his fellow drivers also earned in six figures. How is this possible? The Wisconsin State Journal explains: "A high base salary and other benefits for drivers were largely set in the 1970s and 1980s, when the city took over the bus com­pany." Combine that with generous, federally mandated leave provisions that make for lots of overtime, and it's not unusual for a bus driver to out-earn the mayor (and with much better job security).
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Proof that "local control" is not the solution to money problems!

Posted by: Stuart at March 19, 2010 9:08 PM


Do you actually understand the meaning of the word "proof"? I ask because you seem to be using its progressive formulation,not accepted by all, which holds that a single example of anything consistent with progressive ideology "proves" the correctness of progressive ideology beyond any doubt, while any example of anything running counter to progressive ideology "proves" that a problem is too complex to be handled by anyone but the most remote unit of government that is possible.

Posted by: Andrew at March 19, 2010 9:39 PM

Uh, what?

Having been personally involved in local government and seen the part time and volunteer dummies who can't do math be intimidated by residents, parents, lawyers and anyone else who either scares them or bribes able to extort more money from them...

Let's just say that the problem is not addressable by simple talking points like "we can spend our money better". Fact is, you usually cannot.

And, BTW, that would seem to be a conservative position....or at least a common sense one.

The best way to control costs is to limit the inflow - otherwise known as taxes. They will spend anything they get - local, state or federal.

Posted by: Stuart at March 19, 2010 11:24 PM


No, that's not a fact. Suppose a decision of local scope has to be made, from where to put a streetlight or how much to pay a bus driver, to decisions regarding the local schools. If that decision of mostly-local impact is going to get made by your all-wise and more-remote level of government, it's either going to fall to some sub-committee or fall under the jurisdiction of some regional bureaucrat. Either way, when the chain of authority doesn't end locally, it is going to be much more difficult for local residents to influence decisions, because the officials making them won't be as concerned with making the right decision by the localities they are "responsible" for, as much as they will be concerned with pleasing those above them who have given them their positions.

Really, all you've "proven" is that it is much easier to project an infinitely malleable positive image on people that you haven't met (and don't have much chance of ever meeting, except in very short bursts) than it is on people that you have. But in reality, the government officials who are further away from you don't have super-powers, any more than local officials do.

Posted by: Andrew at March 20, 2010 9:10 AM

No Stuart, but it is evidence that the real solution is to privatize business operations that government has no legitimate claim to own or run. Every time government attempts to do so it demonstrates its incompetence, corruption, or often, both.

Posted by: BobN at March 20, 2010 9:42 AM

While I can't say the bus driver situation is a commonplace, it is not all that unusual.

Every year a Boston Patrolam is the highest paid civic employee in Boston. The Globe runs an article on it every years lisiting the top 10 highest paid police officers, the Chief is never on the list.

The answer is the rule on police "details", the so-called "two hour rule". If you spend at least two hours on a detail, you are paid for 6 hours. With a few good details, it is possible to get paid 24 hours a day.

The Globe doesn't get this and questions how it is possible to work 24 hours a day. I think it has become common knowledge since I last spent a lot of time with the Globe.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at March 20, 2010 11:03 AM
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