From My View: El Paso, We've Got A Problem
By Cindy M. Ploye
Posted on November 22, 2003
Yes! El Paso, we have a problem -- City employees' morale is low, and we need to find a solution. .
What's the Problem?
The problem is multi-faceted and stems from a new administration that is trying to move El Paso forward while leaving their greatest resource -- the employees -- behind.
Facet Number One: Our Dream Leaders Live in a Dream World
This new administration has not seized the plans that were dreamed and given short-term planning and development by its predecessor. Instead, they have discarded as many of those dreams as they can and have set about implementing their own ideas. They are relying on advisors who collect big salaries for doing the mayor's business -- not the City's business.
Facet Number Two: The Trench People Are Devalued
This administration has made the same mistake that many of its predecessors have -- they do not talk with the people in the trenches. These are the people who will pull no punches and will say it like it is. We are the hardworking, dedicated public servants who do the City's work. We meet the public. We do inspections. We answer telephones and keep the computers running. We attend meetings and collect the tax dollars. We draw up plans for new roads and new parks. We are the City's mouthpieces and ears on a day-to-day basis. We hear the citizens who complain because their streets need repair or because their neighborhood doesn't have a park. Collectively, we represent thousands of years of public service, and many of us hold advanced degrees. Most often, we are the ones with the history of running this Community. We can tell our new leaders if something has been tried before and why it failed.
We, the trench people, are a valuable resource to each new administration. Down here we are not political; we are astute, honest and care deeply that our Community grows and prospers.
Facet Number Three: My COLA Glass Is Empty
Speaking of prosperity! It seems that City employees are not going to prosper any time soon. A cost of living adjustment (COLA) for the trench people did not make it into the budget this year. The morale went very low when that line item was eliminated. We have to question if we were sacrificed in order for the mayor to bring in inexperienced folks and give them huge salaries. Thanks to this administration, we now have many contract positions getting the same benefits as classified positions but paying much greater salaries as a trade off for Civil Service protection. And we are top heavy with high paid managers, directors, and deputy CAOs.
Facet Number Four: Cockadoodledoo
Intimidation rules the roost on the tenth floor. Jim Martinez walks around with a scowl on his face, and when confronted with an "ordinary" employee in the elevator, he just stares ahead as though no other person is present. A most unfriendly sort! And Joe Wardy, well gosh -- he does try to have a friendly persona. But when he makes a statement to an employee in a public meeting that the City is a business, not a democracy, his façade crumbles quite quickly to expose the forked tongue and two faces that lie underneath. What does he think that living within the democracies of the United States of America and the State of Texas and working for a municipality means? We are protected by our national and state constitutions and by our City Charter. We are a democracy, Joe!
And the City of El Paso, Joe, is a municipality, not a business. El Paso is our home, not some business that we can leave after eight hours of hard work. One of the reasons that we take pride in our jobs is because it is our home. We are public employees; we are not a workforce set in place to make you or anyone a "profit". We all profit by everything that moves our Community forward and we lose by all that keeps it down. And you, Joe, are helping to keep this Community down by the shenanigans that your administration has pulled by circumventing the Civil Service and City Charter.
The injurious circumstances and casualties among City employees that began with the current administration is astounding. We have lost department heads, several of our colleagues have been unfairly forced to transfer, classified positions are being replaced with contract positions, and contract positions are not being advertised in order to give employees promotional potential.
Four Major Reasons for City Employees' Low Morale
There you have it, the major part of the story on why the trench people are disappointed, angry and feeling helpless under an administration that seemingly devalues its greatest resource -- its employees. We see a big business, quick-fix approach to managing this culturally-rich City, which deserves long-term planning that will move it into more modernization while retaining its heritage. We see a brain drain to the City as we lose valuable long-term employees and gain inexperienced, self-serving yuppies that are overrunning City Hall.
There are other items that are bothering employees, i.e., increased cost of insurance, irrational dress codes, insufficient parking at City Hall, lack of communication, limited training, how merit increases are determined, and security issues. Perhaps, I shall discuss these at a later date.
For now, I am done, but come back next week when "From My View" will discuss "Resolving Employee Morale Issues or Is It Easier to Play California and Recall".
Viva El Paso!
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