Special Ed Transpo, Firefighter Schedules, Ethics, oh my

Big day today* at the Council. I followed it all on twitter,** interspersed among catching up on 40 years of government property ownership and maintenance history.

Issue 1: special ed transportation. DC spends a bundle on special ed transportation. Everyone has ideas on how to save money. I used to, also. But once you look at the actual data (which I did a few years ago), you see that those obvious solutions aren’t really solutions. Yeah, we spend a boatload on 1-student bus routes. But you can’t just say “combine routes.” Are there inefficiencies? Sure. But the one student route where the pick-up is in northern Virginia (kid in foster care) and the drop-off is north of Baltimore and the kid needs a 1-to-1 aide along with the driver? (I’m making up specifics here, don’t go trying to identify the kid.) Can’t consolidate that route, can’t just give the foster parent a car to drive the kid, can’t even change the kid’s educational placement because it was probably ordered by a judge.

Issue 2: firefighter schedules. DC’s firefighters currently work eight 24-hour shifts a month. I have no idea if this is comparable to other big city fire departments and I have no knowledge if this is generally good or bad. BUT. Because of this type of schedule, a lot of our firefighters live a considerable distance from DC. Why not, if you’re not dealing with a daily commute and it’s significantly less expensive to live elsewhere? The schedule also allows for second jobs, stay-at-home (most of the time) parenting… The Fire Chief (whose title, interestingly, really is Fire Chief, even though the department he heads is the Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services) would like to change the shift scheme to 22 12-hour shifts a month.  I have no idea if this is comparable to other big city fire departments and I have no knowledge if this is generally good or bad. Apparently the union hates this proposal. I think it’s obvious why. I just think it’s impractical. You can’t make such a significant change without severe consequences. And I think that a significant number of firefighters would leave the department if this change went through. Firefighters who live a distance away are not going to move closer to DC, especially if they have spouses who are employed where they currently live or kids in particularly good school settings. Firefighters who have second jobs or who are able to stay-at-home parent will face a substantial loss of income. And I suspect those are quit-worthy circumstances.

Issue 3: ethics. There was a substantial amount of discussion today about Constituent Service Funds, or CSFs. The Councilmember for my ward is a particularly vehement supporter of CSFs. He has used a good portion of the money to buy tickets to sporting events. (I don’t know who uses the tickets, perhaps because I haven’t paid enough attention, even though I just looked up that article for support. You think I read it?) He has spent 4% on constituent needs. Hmmm… Related: ethics legislation would create a separate ethics board. I propose that that it be funded by CSFs.

*Ugh, I wrote this yesterday and then the posting got all jumbled. Just–pretend you’re reading this yesterday, please. ‘Kay?

**I’m not one of those “wow, I got retweeted by an important person, I’m so cool!” twitter-folks (except the time I got retweeted by President Bartlet) but I got retweeted by Martin! and CM Wells! and Mr T in DC!. Big day for me in my nerdity.


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