My Turn: Consider outsourcing Juneau city government

Posted: Friday, January 06, 2006

A fter careful thought and deliberation, it has occurred to me that the cure for many of America's woes can be found in the Big Book of Big Business. When a business looks at cutting costs, it looks at its largest expenditure, wages, salaries and benefits. This has resulted in many businesses outsourcing certain positions to foreign countries. These positions are generally those that can be filled by trained representatives that mainly do jobs via the Internet or telephone.

Municipal governments have numerous positions that fall into this category; administrative, finance, planning and zoning, the city attorney, community development, and even the mayor and city council could be outsourced. Part-time (no benefits) figureheads could be hired for ceremonial occasions. This would ensure that Juneau's photo ops are easy on the eyes. Only positions that actually provide a service, such as police, fire, road maintenance, water and sewer or similar positions need to be filled locally.

But what are the true benefits and advantages? First and foremost is the tremendous savings in wages, salaries and benefits. The difference in the cost of living in Juneau (one of the highest) and a depressed, possibly disaster ravaged third world country could achieve as much as a 75 percent reduction in wages, salaries and benefits for the municipal government. With lower health costs in the third world, insurance premiums would also decrease. Savings could be increased by finding a country with an extremely favorable exchange rate.

The results of such savings in the cost of our city government would reduce the need for economic or diversity. No need for mining jobs, no need to lower the cost of goods and travel with a new road. Local businesses can continue to board up for six months a year as increased sales tax revenue will not be needed. With more closed businesses the problem at Pocket Park will not be an issue, saving even more money. If we enter into a trade agreement with our new third world management, we can bring even cheaper and more inferior products to stock our local "discount" stores, sending even more of our money out of town.

As in the business world, help would be available 24/7. No holidays, weekends or "that person is out of town." If you need an answer to a question, it could be found in minutes, not days, weeks, months or never. Comprehension would not be a problem as few of us speak municipalize anyway.

Without a vested interest, solutions to problems could be solved in a logical manner, with the best interest of the entire deciding factor. No personal gain, local biases, influence or emotions would enter into the equation.

Juneau's image would be world wide, not just regional or state. Aiding a developing and/or Third World country would show the world the compassion of Alaska's capital. Those we hire would be better able to care for their family and friends. Plus, they would receive a true education in the attitudes and activities of small town America, thus bringing us closer together. I have to believe that a recovering country such as East Timor would welcome such an economic and educational windfall.

Side benefits would include less crime (nothing worth stealing) and fewer vehicles, resulting in less air and ground pollution, fewer injuries from fewer accidents and fewer citations, thus easing the judicial backlog and need for jurors.

The final benefit could be that if it works at the local level, it could also work at the state government level as well. Just imagine the size of your permanent fund dividend!

• Juneau resident Andrew Michaels is an electronic technician.

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