Tag Archives: six sigma

Running Government Like A Business

23 Mar

Had he not been such a consistent Collins sycophant for so long, I might just feel some sympathy for Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard. After yet another episode of a dangerous detainee being mistakenly released under his tenure, there was something new in the mix – candor. The new Democratic administration and Legislature weren’t looking to place blame, but to solve the problem. 

A longstanding one that’s been known for a long time. 

Howard and Collins had both viciously fought off any criticism from Democratic electeds and politicians like, e.g., then-Comptroller Mark Poloncarz, about hiring more staff to adequately do their jobs. This despite multiple tragic and embarrassing cases of inmate suicides, early releases, and escapes – most notable among them being Ralph “Bucky” Phillips’ escape from the Alden Correctional Facility, which resulted in three shot cops, one of whom died. 

Most recently, an accused attempted murderer was mistakenly released for about 20 hours on March 8th due to an epic paperwork screw-up. Howard was brought before an Erie County Legislature committee to explain what happened. Now unshackled by any loyalty to the Collins crew, Howard was uncharacteristically forthcoming. He blamed the screw-up on overworked deputies and clerks, many of whom were on their third consecutive 16-hour day. Some had made mistakes when entering information from the court, and rebuffed questions about the release from a newer clerk. 

Legislative chairwoman Betty Jean Grant asked Howard whether the Sheriff’s Department had asked for more staff to rectify this issue. 

Undersheriff Mark N. Wipperman said yes and that the former county executive punished the department for the request.

“We asked for seven additional records clerks at $13.18 an hour for the 2011 budget, and the executive reponded by cutting all of our secretaries, administrative clerks, and eliminating management positions and reducing my salary,” Wipperman said.

Get that? Collins’ relentless push for “efficiency” and “running government like a business” resulted in punishing the Sheriff’s office for asking for adequate staffing. 

In answer to Hogues’ and Grant’s questions on what steps have been taken to prevent further mistakes on improper inmate releases, Howard said:

  • Paperwork from State Supreme Court and Erie County Court on inmates is now immediately entered into the jail’s computer records once it is sent over from the courts.
  • Efforts have been increased to speed up the activation of a new universal computer system that would electronically transfer the most recent court actions inputed by court clerks, eliminating the need for those records to be manually updated by sheriff’s records clerks.

In addition, Howard said the state’s Commission on Corrections, which oversees local jails, will meet at 2 p.m. Monday with his department to review its final draft of a staffing-needs analysis of the sheriff’s jail management division.

That document is expected to require the county to hire 60 to 80 new employees, both civilian and sworn personnel, to meet the manpower needs of the downtown Buffalo Holding Center and county Correctional Facility in Alden.

What we’re learning is that the Collins-Romney Six Sigma, “run government like a corporate raider” ideology is an abject failure. The needs and goals of government services like running a jail and policing the community cannot be held to the standards of the American private sector. 

Just because a corporate worker is overworked, underpaid, given few benefits, and threatened daily with outsourcing doesn’t mean that’s any way to run a Sheriff’s Department. 

The Erie County Executive Race Today

13 Oct

1. Mark Poloncarz’s first TV ad is up and on the air. Check it out:


2. In concert with what I wrote on Monday, Collins and his fumbling divisive crew have exposed their central electoral strategy of suppressing the vote in the City of Buffalo.  The Buffalo News’ editorial page is not amused, calling it “dirty politics”,

We can find nothing good to say about this practice. It is cynical and sinister. Party hierarchies that play this game— and candidates who go along—show they are not about democracy and fair elections but about subversion as their means to an end. They lose any moral authority to demand fairness elsewhere or to claim the high ground.

3. Rod Watson also addresses suppression of the city vote, but instead of targeting Collins, he goes after Mayor Byron Brown.  Addressing Brown’s apparent reluctance to endorse Poloncarz, Watson asks incredulously,

Given how bad incumbent Republican Chris Collins has been for poor and working-class people, how can the Democratic mayor of America’s third-poorest city not come out strongly for the Democratic alternative?

Good question. But when it comes to just about anything not involving a ribbon-cutting, his name on a sign, or a photo op, Brown routinely shrugs off his power and responsibilities as a leader.

Even Collins’ reaction to the poll highlights his disdain for the city. First, the GOP strategizes to suppress turnout in Buffalo, then his minions complain that the poll is off because city residents won’t turn out. This takes “brazen” to a whole new level.

Watson basically calls Brown out as a chump who is more interested in settling age-old, idiotic political scores than doing what’s best for his city and his constituents. Brown’s critics have, of course, known about this since about 2006.

4. Tonight at 9pm, Collins and Poloncarz face off in the only debate between the two that is likely to be televised. We’ll have some sort of live blogging here at WNYMedia.net, so stay tuned.

5. On the issue of money, a commenter very aptly stated,

Is it only me? The media keeps reporting that Collins has $1.2 million and Poloncarz has raised $225,000. If Collins loaned himself $800,000 and got the rest from his appointees and millionaire friends that is saying something. 1st Collins only raised 2 x’s as much as Poloncarz and a very select few of the wealthy want to control our county government with Collins at the helm. 2nd Poloncarz has about the same ratio of funding to run a campaign as Hochul did in defeating Corwin another well to do friend of Collins. Maybe the rich can’t always buy an election.

Indeed, that’s often omitted from the reporting on fundraising. Collins’ campaign is overwhelmingly self-funded.  Now that the Siena poll shows that Poloncarz is well within striking distance of winning this thing, expect the fundraising and big-money campaigning to accelerate for the Lackawanna Kid. The UB Spectrum is reporting that the UB Foundation – a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation – is listed as having donated over $2500 to Chris Collins’ campaign in apparent violation of federal law, threatening its charitable status. The head of the foundation claims it was a minor accounting error, but the record speaks for itself.

6.  Would you consider this to be an “indirect” disclosure of polling data by the Collins campaign to promote Collins’ success or Poloncarz’s defeat? According to Paladino/Collins ally Rus Thompson, Collins sent him a text message that read as follows:

54-37. News oversampled City , union households and under sampled suburbs. We are wining suburbs by 20, Republics 85-15, independents 67-33 and winning 30% of dems. If you want a tight race go to the city which is 7:1 but doesn’t vote in CE races. It’s all BS to help Poloncarz.

7. By way of full disclosure to the Bob McCarthys of the world, I have not been paid a cent of money from the Poloncarz campaign – directly or indirectly – to write favorably about him or his campaign. I have been friends with Mark since the Kerry campaign of 2004, and I support his candidacy because he is the better, more competent candidate, and because his opponent has raised taxes, engaged over and over again in petty politics, has played make-believe with “running government like a business” and “getting government out of” certain businesses, pitted the city against the suburbs and vice-versa, set back regionalism by leaps and bounds, hired his cronies for do-nothing 6-figure jobs while blaming the county’s rank and file for being too greedy and lazy, implemented Six Sigma at enormous taxpayer cost with absolutely zero quantified, proven taxpayer savings.

Collins to Siena: Inconceivable!

11 Oct

The race for County Executive became the Stef Show in the past several hours.

Siena College released a poll showing the race in a statistical dead heat, and almost instantly Collins started ducking reporters, and sending his spokesman, Stefan Mychajliw out to attack the poll and its methodology – Collins and those on his payroll call the poll “fictitious”, and “inaccurate and worthless“. Then, in the next breath, Collins’ camp claims that polls aren’t important anyway.

That’s precious.

Siena College’s pollster responded to the ridiculous “fictitious” charge by pointing out that they sort of know what the hell they’re doing, thanks.  It’s interesting to point out the specific complaint that Collins has here – that Siena vastly overpredicted turnout in the City of Buffalo.  Siena responded that it surveyed likely voters, has a way in which to vet that, and didn’t manipulate the data in any way because, you know, Siena doesn’t care who wins and has no skin in the game.

It doesn’t take much to read between the lines and point out that Collins is secure in his political dealmaking with the Mayor of the City of Buffalo to artificially depress city turnout to harm Poloncarz and help Collins.  Mychajliw all but screamed, it’s inaccurate and worthless because it doesn’t factor in the active voter suppression that we’re going to be engaged in with the Mayor of Buffalo!

[Siena’s Steven] Greenberg argued the poll isn’t flawed and said this is a classic case of the campaign unhappy with the results simply trying to blame the pollster.

“The level of vitriol in their protest of this poll tend to show me that we are dead-on accurate,” Greenberg concluded.

Because the Collins campaign repreatedly referred to its internal polling as evidence the race isn’t that close, Greenberg called on Collins to release that polling. The campaign declined.

The reason this poll is so shocking to Collins isn’t that it confirms the Poloncarz-commissioned polls that were released earlier in the race, or that it supposedly is contradicted by Collins’ own internal polling.  The real reason is that a poll showing the race this close just hasn’t happened in any County Executive race since before Joel Giambra’s election a decade ago. This is a real race, and Collins knows that this poll will help Poloncarz raise needed money – the only disadvantage the Democrat has had so far.

Poloncarz’ press release on the poll says this:

“These numbers confirm what I have been hearing on the campaign trail all along—voters have seen enough of Chris Collins running Erie County like a failed Wall Street business and want a change of leadership,” Poloncarz said. “Despite Collins’ spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a television ad blitz since late August in desperate attempt to remake his image, his record of higher taxes and job loss doesn’t work for Erie County families.  Come November 8th, I am confident that voters will send a message and cast their vote for me.”

The Siena College survey was conducted October 4-5th, by telephone calls to 831 likely voters.  A stringent likely voter screen was applied to the sample of registered voters that had been statistically adjusted to reflect party registration, gender and age.  The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points.

Founded in 1980, Siena Research Institute, is one of the nation’s most respected public opinion researchers.  In the last six months alone, Siena has accurately predicted upset victories for Bob Turner (NY-9) and Kathy Hochul (NY-26) in both of New York’s Special Elections for U.S. House of Representatives.

Collins isn’t talking about the poll because he’s running the Corwin campaign – the same Corwin campaign that helped propel underdog Kathy Hochul to congress. The Collins-Corwin model mandates that the candidate only be trotted out for heavily stage-managed events, is kept away from the press, avoids debates whenever possible, and otherwise relies primarily on the spending of money on TV and radio ads. It works great when there’s no viable competition.

That Collins – well, his campaign people – are attacking the Siena poll is just silly and irresponsible. But that’s par for the course for a guy whose entire political tenure has been based on political maneuvering, petty Machiavellianism, raising taxes, harming our quality of life, and hiring his already-wealthy buddies for 6-figure jobs with the county.

And if you think that any of that is hyperbole, or that he’s run even a single thing over the last four-ish years as a successful business, ask yourself why his campaign hasn’t been Six Sigma-ing you to death. The reason is that Six Sigma has been an utter failure at saving the county money, and has cost more to implement than the savings derived.

The poll just confirms that people (a) don’t like the taste of the snake oil; and (b) don’t much like the nasty salesman.  Collins’ campaign is also horrible at messaging and communications – the poll itself was a blockbuster, but the story about it now has legs because of the Collins campaign’s angry response.

Finally, Collins’ campaign claims that its internal polls show him up more, factoring in the voter suppression they’ll engage in. That’s nice, but it’s also illegal to make that claim and then fail to release the entire internal poll.

§ 6201.2 Use of public opinion polls
 -No candidate, political party or committee shall attempt to promote the success or defeat of a candidate by, directly or indirectly, disclosing or causing to be disclosed, the results of a poll relating to a candidate for such office or position, unless within 48 hours after such disclosure, they provide the following information concerning the poll to the board or officer with whom statements or copies of statements of campaign receipts and expenditures are required to be filed by the candidate to whom such poll relates:
(a) The name of the person, party or organization that contracted for or who commissioned the poll and/or paid for it.
(b) The name and address of the organization that conducted the poll.
(c) The numerical size of the total poll sample, the geographic area covered by the poll and any special characteristics of the population included in the poll sample.
(d) The exact wording of the questions asked in the poll and the sequence of such questions.
(e) The method of polling-whether by personal interview, telephone, mail or other.
(f) The time period during which the poll was conducted.
(g) The number of persons in the poll sample; the number contacted who responded to each specific question; the number of persons contacted who did not so respond.
(h) The results of the poll.

So, WGRZ asked Mychajliw to release the polls he’s claiming show Collins in a lead. He refused.

“We haven’t directly shared numbers outside of our campaign. I have only responded to your fictitious poll that we are comfortable that our internal polling that shows us ahead. Our counsel assures us that we are in compliance with NYS Election Law 6201.2.”

The Siena poll isn’t fictitious. It actually exists. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Rewind: A Collins Carol (2008)

28 Sep

‘Twas 2008, and the county was screwed
the people were not in a holiday mood.
The taxes, they said, were quite high, thanks, enough,
and people agreed that the times were quite tough.

On a floor called sixteen, a man crunched up some numbers
Six Sigma, he thought, would drag us out of our slumber.
Amid raises for managers, programs were cut.
The lawmakers’ charges, he’d always rebut.

In order to pay for his raises so steep,
the people’d fish money from pockets less deep.
Thanks to meltdowns and layoffs – economy dire,
taxpayers had little up there to admire.

But lawmakers thought they could do him one better
and changed his proposals – some letter by letter.
They cut all the raises, revived some dead funding,
and wondered, who died and made this guy the king?

On the floor of sixteen, Collins grew quite enraged,
and the comptroller soon had to become more engaged.
Explaining to Collins his budget was faulty,
but not using language one might think was too salty.

He told the lawmakers that they were wrong, too.
Their outlook was based on too blissful a view.
A budget like theirs, higher taxes required,
a result that really quite no one desired.

The leg passed its budget, some vetoes were used.
The leg overrode some, those cuts they refused.
Then from the Rath Building arose some weird chatter.
The People then wondered, “NOW, what was the matter?”

It seemed a dispute had arisen quite great,
as to which branch of power could set the tax rate.
The executive said, he’s the man with the pen,
while the leg thought that it could. It told him, and then…

To court they all went, led by Lynn Marinelli.
against Collins and Green, (I saw her on the telly).
Judge Feroleto granted Lynn an injunction,
who argued that Collins had usurped a leg function.

Then Judge Peradotto, the leg soon lamented,
ordered that Collins’ bills could be printed.
So from Springville to Amherst and then Lackawanna,
we’ll pay more for less stuff, sort of anti-nirvana.

When green and red budgets were part of existence,
we complained and cajoled, and put up some resistance.
the problems keep coming, they should all feel shame.
For now everything new can seem old again.

(Originally published December 27, 2008).

The Intersection of Taxation and Competent Government

20 May

The image above reflects the two top stories this morning on WGRZ.com. More disappointingly, it reflects two epic failures at the hands of the county government. In the first, the Department of Social Services went out to investigate a literal house of horrors, but only conducted interviews with the perpetrators outside the home, believing them to not be allowed inside unless consent was given. That’s not true, and as a result of the lackadaisical “investigation”, the true nature of Laura Cummings’ living conditions was never revealed. Until she had been killed by her mother and brother, that is.

The second story? It has almost become an annual tradition for the state Commission of Correction to remind Sheriff Tim Howard that he is an utter and absolute failure at managing and operating the county jail system.

The Ralph “Bucky” Philips escape led to a months-long manhunt and two dead State Troopers. Incarcerated alleged rapist Rasheed Milton was mistakenly released, and Milton almost immediately raped another innocent woman. Now we have yet another embarrassment – an inmate labeled an escape risk, Brian Collins, escaped from his cell after disabling the lock (no one checked or noticed), grabbed an unattended two-way radio, used a phone to get deputies to open up the door to his block (they never checked his identity), and ultimately made his way onto the roof of the holding center where he pranced around for some time. In all, Mr. Collins was unaccounted-for for several hours.

The state investigated, and the report gives new meaning to the term “scathing”. It lays the blame for Collins’ escape firmly on Sheriff Howard for failing to properly train and manage his staff. Calling the escape the result of “gross negligence and incompetence”, the state commission added that the escape,

was a direct consequence of the failure of the Erie County Sheriff and his senior managers to implement and follow fundamental correctional and custody practices in accordance with New York State rules and regulations

Howard and his patronage hires are doing what they always do when reminded of their incompetence. They deflect and whine. Howard shunts the blame to individual deputies – firing them and reprimanding them, completely missing the point of the report and of basic leadership. Nothing changes policy-wise; just fire the underlings and carry on. Then they whine about “vicious political attacks”.

The problem here is that their whining might be persuasive if this was the first such event. But this is (at minimum) the third. You don’t have three epic escape failures resulting in death and rape and get to chalk it up to politics.

It’s come time for Sheriff Tim Howard to resign. And it’s time for Chris Collins to do the right thing and join the call for him to go. The time to set up citizens’ commissions to oversee that which is already overseen has come and gone. This has become a pattern, and it’s unacceptable and unsustainable.

Because note the two stories above freshly reveal that county government doesn’t merely exist to sleepwalk its way through a day where the chief concern is lower taxes. That’s where the Collins Administration has focused all of its efforts – on the middle class suburbanites who don’t interact much with DSS or the jails. Collins banks on these people not much caring whether the jails are secure or DSS prevents the murder of young girls in rural hellhouses. They worry about their taxes, so Collins makes sure to remind his only constituents that he, too, cares about their taxes. (Note: The Erie County property tax rate is among the lowest in the state. We also pay sales tax, various fees, and school taxes, however).

So it would be phenomenal if the focus in the county administration would shift a few centimeters from being only taxpayer-centric to also including a bit of consistency and competence. Yes, my taxes are too high, but for the time being I’m still paying them. My expectation in doing so is that my tax money will be used intelligently and competently. Six Sigma seems to be in practice almost as useless as CitiStat.

Oftentimes, doing it right is more important than doing it cheaply.

Chris Collins: Manager

25 Mar

The Collins Administration instituted a new set of rules a week or so ago, and STORYTIME goes over why it’s a really bad of legislative constituents and process.

I’d like to take a moment to send a quick reminder to all of you about the proper protocol for interaction between the Legislative and Executive branches of government. Any and all requests for information, meetings, etc., no matter the issue, must first come through the County Executive’s office.

If a Legislator or a Legislative Aide interacts directly with you or one of your employees, without first talking to someone in the County Executive’s office, do not move forward with any requests. Please respond, asking them to email or call Chris Grant or myself with their request. We will no longer be granting any meetings or requests for information if our office is not the first point of contact.

Chris Collins’ administration is masterful at lapdance remarks, demonizing the tax-sucking poors, and micromanaging bullshit.  Everything else, not so much.

Maybe some cultish Six Sigma exercise taught them that the leanest way for legislators to address constituent issues with the executive branch is to go through Collins’ office first.

The Erie County Legislature Finds Unanimity

30 Jan

Nothing unites the legislature like the control board’s malicious bumbling and stumbling, nor the hamhanded and arrogant incompetence of the Collins administration with respect to the tax bill fiasco.

Wasting money and making huge errors isn’t very Six Sigma-y, is it? Michele Iannello said:

“If we are going to talk about running county government like a business, then there have to be consequences for someone who made a $2 million mistake.”

(Now, if Gramigna will just explain who Legislator Robert Russell is)

(Photo credit: whitneyarlene via Flickr)

Six Sigma This

28 Jan

Could there ever have been a costlier county budget process more fraught with intransigence and stupidity? Giambra’s borrow & spend and reliance on tobacco money and other one-shots seems almost comfortably predictable compared to this carnival show.

During the court battle in December, Collins went ahead and printed property tax bills although the dispute had not been resolved. This necessitated yet another re-printing after Judge Michalek rolled back most of Collins’ hoped-for tax hike. (Hoped-for because it would have enabled him to make the legislature look bad). So, two printing runs, and it now turns out that many of the tax bills that were sent out were incorrect.

Last Friday, Lackawanna Mayor Norm Polanski called Comptroller Mark Poloncarz to inform him that, based on the previous year’s bills, there was an incorrect and higher charge for Lackawanna. Poloncarz’s office investigated and determined that,

mistakes were made by the Department of Real Property Tax Services “(Real Property”) in establishing the tax warrants for the property tax bills for 2009. That mistake resulted in incorrect individual bills being produced for property owners in the impacted cities and towns.

The Comptroller’s Office determined that for some reason, Real Property incorrectly charged 25 of the 28 towns/cities in Erie County on their 2009 tax warrants for the community college chargeback amount. The Comptroller’s Office notes that the Director of Real Property Tax Services has already accepted responsibility for the mistake.

So new tax bills need to be printed – and we get to pay for it – for the affected municipalities. The mistake appears to be based on incorrect community college chargeback figures. The chart of municipalities is viewable here.

The Failboat continues to list.

Byzantine Work Rules & the BMHA

18 Dec

Last week, I linked to a post that Buffalo Geek did about the 72-step process to rent a shelter at a county park and how the parks department is using Six Sigma to streamline that and make it cheaper, more efficient, and customer-friendly. When you see 72 post-it notes representing a step in the process, you realize that it is graphical evidence of the heart and soul of governmental waste and failure.

Buffalo Ideas’ Paul Wolf is a lawyer for the BMHA, and he has a similar post up today:

Everyday I try to make a difference at BMHA, but years of political influence and bureaucracy have made it truly a tough place to work. One time I wrote a memo directing the Finance Department to pay an outstanding bill that was brought to my attention. I was told the memo needed to be on green paper in order for the department to act. What? After asking why and being told that’s how we do things around here, I went to the copy machine and copied the memo onto green paper. The flow chart of how payroll is done is an amazing sight, the steps involved for a contractor to get paid is unbelieveable. I and several other employees with the support of Executive Director Dawn Sanders, are working on obtaining our Yellow Belts in Six Sigma as a tool for addressing bureaucracy issues.

Not for nothing, I’m all for Six Sigma and whatever it takes to make government run more efficiently, but isn’t that something that could have been done just by the use of common sense any time in the last 20 years? Just sayin’.

In any event, the BMHA has two vacancies on its board of directors, and Wolf is openly soliciting applicants with some specific experience and a desire to make positive change to apply via Mayor Brown’s office. The best way to implement change in stubborn, inefficient quasi-governmental entities is to join them and lurch them into the 21st Century.

Citistat, Six Sigma, and Failure

11 Dec

BuffaloGeek compares & contrasts the county’s and city’s initiatives to document and improve various governmental processes, and the efforts to lurch WNY government out of its perpetual state of 1950s-ism.

The process to reserve a shelter at a county park takes 72 separate steps. Seventy-two. Six Sigma is supposed to help the County figure out ways to streamline that process, make it cheaper and more customer-friendly.

In the meantime, while the county is looking into streamlining, “CitiStat” appears to be an utter and complete waste of space and time, with no real dissemination of information. For instance, if you want to find out what the sewer department does, you’ll find it via CitiStat.

If, however, Citistat is designed to be a process improvement program that documents workflow and identifies areas for improvement and cost savings, I’m not really seeing it.

And if that’s true, then what on Earth is the point of the program?