By Leo Coughlin
While the administration of the city of Largo drifts aimlessly, leaderless and in apparent defiance of elected officials who placidly accept whatever insults come their way, one citizen - now a candidate for office - is thinking.
And that thinking by Curtis Holmes, long a figure active in Largo civic affairs, is innovative and outside the box.
On top of that, his thinking makes a lot of sense.
Holmes's ideas concern the public works department and they are mind boggling in their simplicity - that is, have public works do the work it is designed to do.
For reasons known only to heaven knows who, Largo routinely engages outside contractors to perform tasks that are plainly and obviously within the bailiwick of the city's Public Works Department.
And then (get this - you can't make this stuff up) with the mindlessness that seems to occupy the city administration these days, workers in the PWD are laid off because there isn't enough to do.
Or there isn't enough budget money to keep them on the payroll.
But there is plenty of money to shovel to contractors?
Not saying - definitely not saying - this is the case in Largo, but in the days of the Jim Curley, Bill Thompson et al. shenanigans in the big cities up north this was how the big shots got their kick backs. Those experts in corruption got 5 percent off the top of every contract. Do the math.
Certainly that cannot be happening in Largo where the problem is not corruption of that sort we believe, but where the difficulty is just plain incompetence, lack of experience, and a general demeanor on the part of the city manager of total bewilderment.
And the City Commission renders itself, through inaction and just standing by as observers, powerless - that is, the members negligently fail to exercise the power they legally possesses.
The guy who said all the seven electeds want is to collect their paychecks had it right, unfortunately (worse yet, most of them need the money).
This is what Holmes so rightly points out -
Why has an outside contractor been engaged to demolish the Clock Tower? City employees could do that as well as many of the outsourced projects using simple time management planning - for example, horticulture in the spring and summer, construction in the fall and winter, etc.
Why has an outside contractor been engaged to do boardwalk repairs at Bonner Park? This is simple carpentry, the Public Works Department could handle it. In fact, Public Works built the existing boardwalk; city workers could certainly repair or rebuild it.
Why is the sidewalk work being parceled out? The city could do it.
Holmes, obviously, is onto something here.
And what it comes down to is management. And management, in this case, means the allocation and use of resources. The resources are the employees and their various skills in the Public Works Department.
Those skills are obviously not being used. People who work as "fixers," "repairers," mechanics can usually multi-task. They can take on just about any kind of job.
But it seems employees in Largo get "slotted" into their pigeon holes and become "specialists." Or so it would appear.
In fact, those in charge of the Public Works Department would very much like to have their employees working at activities other than lawnmowers and shovels. There is talent there, but it is not being used.
If the department became - or went back to what it used to be - a place where talent was prized, promoted and used this no doubt would have a tremendous positive impact on morale.
But in Largo, as everywhere else, leadership comes from the top down and there may be a residual fear of avoiding any spontaneous action by underlings.
When Mac Craig, the city manager, first took office he fired a long-term employee in a move to demonstrate his power and throw fear into Largo employees.
His latest power surge was to tell the mayor, who was seeking information on who posted "closing" signs at a couple of parks, to buzz off. And she did.
Management begins at the top, too, and, of course, Largo is sadly lacking there. An experienced, professional city manager would set the correct tone. Analyses of resources would be done.
Instead, in Largo, money is going out the door and employees, who could do the jobs that money going out the door is paying for, are being laid off.
It makes no sense.
But Holmes certainly does.
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