23 May 2008

Fat Cats or Skinny Cats?

This article describes some dubious behavior at the water district serving the southern Silicon valley. The general manager has expanded staff, paid staff the highest salaries in a California water district, hired friends into highly-paid, unadvertised positions, etc.

The board of directors that is supposed to oversee this manager appears to have lost touch with its responsibilities. One reason may be that many of them have held their positions for more than 10, 15 or even 25 years. Outsiders suggested that Board members step down 12 years, but:
board members rebuffed the idea of putting term limits on the ballot.

"I have met all kinds of folks, and not one person came to me and talked about term limits. No one's ever told me they have a problem with term limits, and I'm out there 7-24," said board member Dick Santos of Alviso.

The board voted for more public hearings on the topic, without setting a timetable.

"I've seen more good people pushed to the sidelines through term limits. It's pretty sad. It's arbitrary," said Joe Judge, a board member who has served 22 years.
Bottom Line: Although we want managers, staff and directors who are knowledgeable about the business, we do not want people who are so secure in their jobs that they forget why they have them. Term limits are appropriate in any elected position because they force organizations to establish clear institutional guidelines, bring new blood (and ideas), and remind managers, staff and directors who they are working for. Throw the bums out!

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