Showing posts with label Neglect. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Neglect. Show all posts

February 10, 2019

The Not So Civil Service

At one time, it was considered a great honor to work for the Federal government, and people fought for the jobs and to take the civil service exam. 

The Civil Service was not only a term, but also a reality filled with honor, dedication, and devotion to one's country. 

Working for the Federal government meant interesting and exciting work opportunities not only defending our great nation, but in making it just and prosperous, and literally a beacon of freedom for the world. 

While no one became rich working for the government, you could make a stable living, build tenure over your service, and finally receive a pension upon retirement. 

Over the course of almost 20-years of my federal career, I have had the opportunity to serve in positions that I only could have dreamed about as a child, and to feel such pride in serving. 

But it seems like times have taken a turn for the worse either willfully or through neglect:

- From Capitol Hill to the Executive Department, we see the extremus of polarization and endless obstacles to getting anything done.  

- With each change in administration, aside from a change of leadership and direction at the top of each Department, the workforce is seemingly accused of subversion for the other side and turned on itself. 

- Just recently, we've seen the longest federal government shutdown lasting 35 days and with hundreds of thousands of Federal workers required to work without pay at the time. 

- We have also seen many years of pay freezes--with not even a meager cost of living adjustment (COLA), while the overall economy is booming!

- The pay for grades at the upper levels are hitting up against the Congressional limits with multiple pay steps being the same pay and no increase for career advancement or growth of responsibilities. 

- Employees have been forced to endure the A-76 outsourcings, threats of disbanding entire agencies, demands to reduce the size of government, and hiring freezes even while serving a larger population requiring ever more services. 

- There have been limitations on the power of employee unions, and an ongoing series of tightening of benefits from CERS to FERS and continuing thereafter requiring greater employee contributions and what feels like ever less benefit payouts. 

- Staff are threatened with firing in a short(er) period of time for making a small number of mistakes to a host of "conduct" issues that may or may not be true, and may at times be the outcome of poor leadership rather than problematic employees.

- The system for employment grievances and judging these has gone without a quorum for the longest period on the books and the backlog of cases continues to build. 

While no system is perfect, and there are bad apples on every side, there clearly seems to be a devolution of the federal service, and what this means for governing and for our defense and prosperity is yet to be fully felt. 

For me, serving the Federal government has been one of the greatest honors and has been many of the best years of my life. My wish is for others going forward to have a positive and productive experience as well. 

Perhaps with an appreciation and true respect for the millions of good men and women that serve our country--from the front lines to the back offices--we can once again create a system that is equitable, fair, and just and that inspires the world-class results we needs for our nation and our people. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 12, 2012

Then Came The Baby In The Baby Carriage


Baby_carriage
This was incredible.

A baby carriage in the middle of this busy driveway. 

And yes, there is a baby in it!

The lady who I assume was the mother was potchkeying around in her car.

Yes, I understand--it's not easy to get the baby in the babyseat, if that's what she was about to do.

But that doesn't mean you leave a baby stroller out there in the middle of the road like that. 

And with a car turning down the way on top of it. 

People are unbelievable--and the poor children suffer for the mistakes of the elders. 

First comes loves, then comes marriage, then comes a baby endangered in the baby carriage--scary.  

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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August 17, 2012

Let The Handicapped In

We can build "the bomb" and sequence human DNA, but we still are challenged in caring for and accommodating the handicapped. 

Some of the major legislative protections to the disabled are afforded under:

-  The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in federal programs, and 


-  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, which covers things like employment, public programs (state and local) and transportation, public accommodations (housing) and commercial facilities, and telecommunications. 


Despite these protections, our world still remains a harsh place for many disabled people--and we see it with older facilities that have not been retrofitted, broken elevators in the Metro, managers being obstinate to providing reasonable accommodations, and people not getting up from seats designated or not, for the disabled.  

In yet more extreme cases, some people can show their worst and be just plain cruel toward the disabled:

On the Metro recently, there was a near fight between two young male passengers squeezing onto the train; when one tried walking away, deeper into the belly of the car, the other guy pursues him, and literally jumped over a guy in a wheelchair--hitting him with his shoe in the back of his head.  

On yet another occasion, also on the Metro, there was a wheelchair with it's back to the train doors (I think he couldn't turn around because of the crowding). A couple gets on the train, apparently coming from the airport, and puts their luggage behind the wheelchair.  At the next station or so, when the wheelchair tries to back out to get off the train, the couple refuses to move their luggage out of the way. The guy in wheelchair really had guts and pushed his chair over and past the luggage, so he could get off.

To me these stories demonstrate just an inkling of not only the harsh reality that handicapped face out there, but also the shameful way people still act to them. 

Today, the Wall Street Journal (17 August 2012) had an editorial by Mr. Fay Vincent, a former CEO for Columbia Pictures and commissioner of Major League Baseball, and he wrote an impassioned piece about how difficult it has been for him to get around in a wheelchair in everywhere from bathrooms at prominent men's clubs, through narrow front office doors at a medical facility for x-rays, and even having to navigate "tight 90-degree turns" at an orthopedic hospital! 

Vincent writes: "Even well-intentioned legislation cannot specify what is needed to accomodate those of us who are made to feel subhuman by unintentional failures to provide suitable facilities."

Mr. Vincent seems almost too kind and understanding here as he goes on to describe a hotel shower/bath that was too difficult for him to "climb into or out" and when he asked the CEO of a major hotel chain why there wasn't better accommodation for the disabled, the reply was "there are not many people like you visiting the top-level hotels, so it does not make business sense to cater to the handicapped."

Wow--read that last piece again about not making business sense catering to the handicapped--is this really only about dollar and cents or can decency and compassion play any role here? 

Yes, as Mr. Vincent points out, "modern medicine is keeping us all older for longer," and many more people will require these basic and humane accommodations for getting around, bathing, going to the toilet, and more.  Let's make this a national, no a global priority--every one deserves these basic dignities. 

I am not clear on the loopholes, exemptions, deficiencies in guidelines, or insufficiencies of enforcement that are enabling people to still be so callous, cruel, and just plain stupid, but it time to change not only what's written on paper, but to change people's hearts too. 

(Source Photo: here)

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April 2, 2012

Mind Readers and The Psychology of Excess

Animal_house
Seeing a number of senior officials in the last year "ousted," I find it sort of scary the risks and travails that executive leadership can entail.

There are so many good, hardworking people at GSA making progress for the Government in terms of property management, contract management, fleet management, and more, that it was a huge shock to many today, when GSA leadership including the Administrator, were ousted for what White House Chief of Staff called "excessive spending, questionable dealings with contractors, and disregard for taxpayer dollars." 

This at a time when the nation is struggling to reduce the national deficit now at $15.6 trillion and avoid another debt ratings cut from the three credit report agencies that would potentially drive interest up and cause even more damage to the nation's economy.

Of course, the GSA is not the only example, just last year, we had the unfortunate "muffin mini-scandal" as reported by Bloomberg BusinessWeek (29 September 2011), where the Government was alleged to have paid $16.80 apiece for muffins.

What causes this psychology of excess where taxpayers end up footing the bill for extravagant items and events? 

1) Hubris--Are there people who feel they are so high and mighty, they just have all the trimmings of office coming to them and theirs?

2) Neglect--Do some executives rise too far and fast, and maybe things get out of control?

3) Misguided--Is it possible that some may actually really think that hiring a mind reader on the taxpayer dime is a good idea?

4) Accident--At times, oversights, mistakes, and accidents happen, and while we may prefer they didn't, they are a learning opportunities.

5) All of the above--Perhaps it is some combination of all the prior four?

It reminds me of something my father taught me that "G-d does not let any flower grow into the sky."

This means that no matter how good we are or how far we go in our careers and in life, we remain mortal and infirm, and subject to human imperfections. 

That's why it's never a good idea to tout your own infallibility.  Just Last Thursday, the GSA Administrator, as reported by Government Executive Magazine, told a conference "Why us? Because we're the expert shoppers. We're the folks you want on your team when budgets are tight, you're making purchases, and there's no room for error..."

Obviously, I assume there was no intent to brag, but we all say things like this at one time or another, and it's good to reflect and stop ourselves from going too far. 

This is not about the GSA or any other agency or organization in particular, but rather a lesson in humility for all of us. 

This unfortunate incident should not obscure the good work, done every day, at all levels, by every Federal agency.  

(Source Photo: here)

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