Comments of the Week: 'You Are Never Really Off Duty' - Voice of San Diego

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Comments of the Week: 'You Are Never Really Off Duty'

What you’re debating in the comments.

How public employees behave while off the clock, and what metrics matter when weighing the city’s priorities were just a few of the debates our readers had last week. Check these out:

• Anthony Finchum on “As a Press Secretary, Lewis Should Have Known Better“:

For those who say this isn’t relevant, perhaps this might help: In one of my present capacities, I work as a fairly low-level, frontline employee for a government agency that is no stranger to controversy. Yes, I do have a private life outside my official duties. However, I also must take a fair measure of care to ensure that my words and actions (especially those I publicize on social media) do not discredit the service in any way. Because my position involves a level of perceived authority, I must be doubly careful. The possibility of giving critics (real, imagined or hyped) fodder for more negative stories about my agency being full of perverts, gropers, etc., or abusers of authority, is always present. So I must use a certain level of discretion and judgement in what I do. Whenever you represent a government, an agency, or an officeholder, to some extent you are never really off duty, off the record or out of sight.

• Cory Briggs on “As a Press Secretary, Lewis Should Have Known Better“:

Now I happen to agree with you that people in public service must comport to a higher standard of conduct — if for no other reason than that the public expects it. But that photo added nothing of substance, absolutely zero, to the debate over Bob Filner. If he were caught walking into a strip club at any time of day, that’d be newsworthy. For you to offer that hypothetical as a defense to Sara Libby makes you look even worse in my eyes because it demonstrates that you are unable to distinguish between what matters and what doesn’t in serious political discussions.

And that is why so many people are turned off on politics: The players spend too little time having serious conversations about the things that matter most, and too much time trying to make other people look bad. Both sides are guilty. I am not picking on you personally or your party (whatever it is). I’m just saying that you’re all tone deaf.

Over in the comments for “The City’s Looming Debate: Build it or Fix it,” a debate ensued over how to prioritize city services:

Derek Hofmann:

Is giving taxpayers the best possible return on their investment a concern? If so, where’s the list of projects prioritized by return on investment determined by cost-benefits analyses? Why would you allocate funds in any order other than from greatest to least ROI?

When you decide to sell a house, do you build a swimming pool in order to get the highest selling price? Of course not. You fix the roof, patch the holes, clean the carpets and do any other tasks that you expect will give you the greatest return on your investment. So why don’t we expect the same from our tax dollars?

This is why we have broken infrastructure and budget problems.

Omar Passons:

Derek, if you are open to alternative reasons to prioritize and the question wasn’t rhetorical, I can offer you a compelling rationale. My point in doing so is not necessarily to say that your approach is wrong (as I personally think it should be a component of the prioritization). Rather, it is just that alternatives worthy of public airing exist. For example, ROI as you’ve described it is about the financial return on tax dollars spent. If that were our sole measure and we determined that, because of the transient occupancy tax, building hotels and convention space yielded the highest return to the general fund, that is where we’d spend our tax dollars. But ROI defined in those narrow terms ignores the role of the city as keeper of public safety. The building of a fire station, unless built in a fire-prone area, is unlikely to pay for itself in total cost savings due to decreased fire damage. But we probably wouldn’t say that the low ROI is a reason not to build one. This same rationale really applies to any city expenditure for which there is no (or even a negative) ROI. If you are a retired senior citizen or live in a poor or working class community, fixing your infrastructure is never likely to be top on the list if we only look at a narrowly defined ROI, and I’d argue that a city ought to consider a wider prioritization policy. Indeed, although San Diego’s prioritization policy has significant flaws, it does manage to address some non-monetary considerations.

Comments and excerpts have been edited for clarity and style. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us here

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