Thursday, May 05, 2005

Why can't we have federal-style civil service for the city, county and state?

Nobody ever mentions clout or patronage for the feds. Nobody ever gets indicted for political hiring or political work on public time in the federal bureaucracy. And they used to. President Jackson mastered the practice. Postmaster Generals used to be plum patronage positions from big time operatives. I'll bet not a single one of the political types reading this blog can name any Postmaster General in the country. I sure can't. So, it's possible to turn patronage dumps into merit-based civil service. And it's long overdue.

UPDATE AND GRIPE: Thanks to the Austin Mayor for pointing out my post was truncuated. The Treo 600 is doing that to my emails as well. I'm slightly less happy with Sprint. If anyone knows how to fix that bug, suggestions would be welcome.


Anonymous said...

Patronage works. Having a loyal staff dedicated to an elected official is essential. The last thing an elected official wants is to be worried about his staff and their motives. Allowing him or her to pick loyal supporters allows them to ask questions and speak openly and honestly. Certainly there are problems, but the benefits far outweigh the few media scandals that get reported.

Lazerlou said...

Says my favorite state politico. Why are you in local politics in the first place Dan? Becasue all politics is local. The nitty gritty local scene, where the parties really get their work done, especially in Chicago, bringing out the votes, getting jobs for supporters, dolling out contratcs for local construction and garbage pickup and police. Local politics ain't no elitest federal haughty taughty BS regulatory nonesense - damn those egghead bureaucrats! -Think of it this way, cities wouldn't be so powerful and people wouldn't vote and local politics couldn't be so corrupt if people didn't get something for their donations and efforts to organize and get out the vote. You know as well as anyone what a struggle it is and has been to organize and give a voice to the people. The way that happened was organizing the vote with promises of personal gain of all sorts, patronage, contracts, better salaries and working conditions.
That is exactly why I stick to federal politics (and federal law, for the most part in my practice). It is more civilized.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

This is a non-answer. Lou, you are repeating a myth of services-for-votes that no longer applies to modern Chicago elections. And yet the myth persists, so smart people accept it as inevitable. Anonymous, I agree in a very limited capactiy -- those people at the top in a policy-making role should not be civil servants. Everyone else -- secretaries, tollway workers, laborers, assistant managers should be civil service.