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Our View: Money well spent

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  • | 5:00 a.m. November 30, 2011
  • Longboat Key
  • Opinion
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If there is one, quick way to win the favor and respect of your new associates in the work place, it’s to do what Longboat Key Town Manager David Bullock did in his third week on the job: Win all full-time town employees a $1,000 bonus/gift.

Bullock asked town commissioners for this Christmas stocking stuffer at the end of the commission’s special meeting Nov. 17. And like any good commander whose job is to lead and motivate his soldiers and at the same time answer to higher authorities, Bullock stood up and advocated on behalf of his beleaguered troops.

Among the many things Bullock has learned in his three weeks on the job, he has judged the town staffers to be dedicated and committed to serving Longboat Key residents; he has seen the disappointment that has come from town employees not receiving a pay raise in three years; and given the turmoil that has swirled through Town Hall the past three months, altogether he has seen the staff’s morale pining. It’s tough to be in a festive, holiday mood at Town Hall.

Bullock, as all good bosses would do, wants to give them a boost.

The total cost to taxpayers: $175,000.

The Town Commission unanimously approved the expenditure.

That money probably will be the best $175,000 the town (and taxpayers) spend this year.

Nonetheless, and even though he asked the question after the fact, Vice Mayor David Brenner asked Bullock an appropriate question: “Why is this good for our taxpayers?”

Responded Bullock: “This modest reward recognizes the dedication to public service these employees hold in their hearts. The taxpayer benefits from a motivated work force [that] wants to serve and wants to come to work in a place that appreciates it. Anyone who has ever held a job knows he did better work when he was appreciated. So is this one-time payment a fair trade for the taxpayer and the employee? Every citizen is entitled to make that judgment for himself. I believe it is, and I believe it is appropriate at this time.”

By all means, most Longboaters would agree with Bullock. They know from their vast professional experiences the importance of showing appreciation to an organization’s associates. As the biblical lesson goes: It’s better to give than to receive. Another business bromide: Happy employees typically translates to happy customers.

So, yes, that unexpected and sincere recognition is important to any organization’s success.

But Bullock’s answer to Vice Mayor Brenner also brings to mind how the fundamental relationship between employer and employee has become distorted in this era of entitlement.

This is a small thing, but for starters, we’ll take issue with Bullock that the $1,000 per employee is a “modest reward.” Everything is relative. But you would be hard-pressed to find private-sector employers and employees in small businesses who think $1,000 is “modest.”

Bullock also said the bonus “recognizes the dedication to public service these employees hold in their hearts.” He makes it sound as if the jobs at Town Hall require some extra sacrifice or dedication not found in the private sector.

To the contrary, as taxpayers have seen repeatedly in recent years, public-service jobs often afford pay scales and benefits that far surpass those of the private sector.

And to a great extent, labeling government jobs as “public-service” jobs — as if they require a special calling — is a bit of a misnomer. In the end, every job is a public-service job — tasks performed to provide a benefit to another or others, who are all members of the “public.”

What’s more, as with every private-sector job, Town Hall jobs are a choice. Every Town Hall staffer chooses to be there. No one is forced to hold that job.

And by making that choice, every Town Hall staffer is acknowledging and accepting that most fundamental relationship between employer and employee: that is, to perform the job as described by the employer and perform it at the level of the employer’s articulated expectations, all in exchange for agreed-upon compensation. That’s it. Neither side owes the other any more than that.

Anything above that basic agreement is a gift. And in this competitive world, from time immemorial, employers have learned what Bullock wrote to Brenner. The value of a “thank-you” or the value of an acknowledgement of appreciation, no matter how large or small, often can be priceless.

Longboaters should have no quarrel with Bullock or the Town Commission awarding $175,000 in Christmas bonuses. It’s good business to bestow an unexpected gift.

+ How Europe affects you
Sorry, the following is rated “DT” — for depressingly truthful.

While it’s difficult for Americans to comprehend the complex European debt crisis, we all should be casting a wary, nervous eye to Europe — kind of like watching whether a chained dog is suddenly going to leap at you.

Here’s the fear among increasing numbers of world economic watchers: When will the merry-go-round stop? At what point will the bankrupt European governments of Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece be unable to raise enough cash by selling bonds to pay their obligations?

And as the buyers of those bonds increasingly demand to be paid higher interest rates for taking the risk to buy the bonds, the greater the pressure grows for the governments to be unable to meet all of their loan payments and entitlement and public-services obligations to their countrymen.

In short, it’s like the U.S. housing bubble. When consumers owed far more than what they could afford and pay each month, they walked away from their debts. The housing market and U.S. economy crashed. European governments are in the same position — “under water.”

The fear here in the United States is as Privateer editor William Buckler recently noted:

“The establishment in the U.S. — and both political parties — knows full well that if Europe goes, the U.S. will follow. There is no difference whatsoever between the debt paper created by the U.S. Treasury and the debt paper created by the Euro nations or any other nation in the world. The U.S. government bought time with its ‘super committee.’ That time is up … ”

“ … The problem the world faces today is that the unfinished transactions — the amount of debt which has been ‘contracted for’ — cannot be made good without inflating the quantity of ‘money’ necessary to the point where it no longer functions as a medium of exchange. That being the case, the only remaining options are a default on the debt or the destruction of the money.”

How do we avoid this fate?

It won’t happen, but the biggest gift of all that Congress could provide is a sudden halt in the growth of U.S. debt.

If Barack Obama were the leader he pretended to be, he would be working over time to craft a deal to calm world markets.

Many of the University of Florida’s faithful football boosters are in an uproar over former Gator coach Urban Meyer signing on with the Ohio State University.

But they should put themselves in his shoes. Even though you said a year ago you were quitting your job at UF to spend more time with your family, when you suddenly found yourself offered one of the premier college-football coaching positions in the country and $40 million, what would you do? Say “no thanks”?

Don’t begrudge Meyer.

We likely will never know the whole story behind Meyer’s leaving his Gator job. That is, until he writes his tell-all book, which, no doubt, will come as long as he is as successful at Ohio State as he was at UF.

But it could be as simple as this: A lot of retired business executives find out that when they retire to spend more time with their families, it’s great for six months. But after six months, their spouses and family members can’t stand to have them around the house. Maybe it wasn’t Meyer who wanted a job; maybe it was his wife who wanted him to get one!

Suffice it to say, Meyer’s going to OSU gives both teams — Gators and Buckeyes — a good reason to put each other on their annual schedules. If you think the Gators and Seminoles are raucous grudge matches, wait until the Buckeyes come to the Swamp. 


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