Patterico's Pontifications

6/3/2018

Witness a Real Comédienne at Work

Filed under: General — JVW @ 9:44 pm

[guest post by JVW]

Lost in the whole Roseanne Barr/Samantha Bee Axis of Stupid and Obnoxious is that there are some comédiennes who handle political satire quite brilliantly. Here is England and America’s magnificent Tracey Ullman (she’s a dual citizen) taking the measure of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on her BBC show Tracey Breaks the News this past Friday:

Yep, that’s her in impressively-done makeup and beard playing Mr. Corbyn. The rabid leftists of his party naturally chalked up this sketch as the work of a Jewish writer (the writer said that he did not contribute to the sketch, and Ms. Ullman herself was raised Catholic). I don’t know what Ms. Ullman’s politics are — I sort of doubt that she is a conservative (she describes herself as anti-monarchy and her daughter worked for a Labour party leader and later stood as Labour’s candidate for a seat) — but I very much doubt if any current American comic with a TV show could show such a deft touch in political commentary.

– JVW

Only in California: the Case of the $312k Executive Assistant to the Mayor

Filed under: General — JVW @ 4:43 pm

[guest post by JVW]

One thing about smaller regional newspapers is that they tend to be shrewd enough to focus on covering local stories and local governments. Large metropolitan newspapers oftentimes aspire to be national publications, and thus spill an inordinate amount of ink covering the various ins and outs in Washington. When I lived in Boston, The Boston Globe was the pretentious, elitist lefty broadsheet who had a DC bureau and pompous columnists who wanted to pontificate upon the national scene. The Boston Herald, by contrast, styled itself as the working class tabloid who zeroed in on local stories and gossip and delighted in poking the bubble of the stuffy and pedantic Globe. As an analogy, the Globe was Beantown’s New York Times (indeed, the Times eventually bought the Globe) whereas the Herald was the Hub’s version of The New York Post. In my years there, while the Globe was busy inveighing against New Gingrich’s obstructionism to the Clinton agenda, the Herald could be counted on to investigate stories about crooked local politicians and public employees who were scamming the system. As much as the Boston Brahmins sneered at the provincialism of the local tabloid, it served a valuable purpose in the body politic.

Out here among the palm trees and traffic snarls, the Southern California News Group serves a similar purpose. While the Los Angeles Times (derisively known here as the Dog Trainer; this is Patterico’s first recorded use of the term for blog historians) styles itself as a major regional newspaper, covering Sacramento and the Pacific Rim (the Dog Trainer had to abandon its hopes of being a national newspaper once the industry began to crumble ten years ago), the SCNG has managed to stay in business largely by focusing on issues important to the communities that they serve. The local SCNG paper in my neck of the woods, The Daily Breeze, won a Pulitzer Prize three years ago for uncovering the story about the school superintendent in the small, poor school district who was making $633,000 per year thanks to machinations on his end. And earlier this week a reporter from the Pasadena Star News, another SCGN paper, reported on another taxpayer-funded employee who has won big in the system:

A former campaign worker for Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts lifted her fortunes after following him to City Hall as his assistant in 2011, rebounding from a personal bankruptcy to a position that earned her $312,000 in total compensation last year.

Melanie McDade-Dickens, who served as Butts’ office manager during his first campaign for mayor, is now one of the highest paid employees in his administration. Her total pay skyrocketed from from $73,850 in 2013 to $245,436 last year, according to data obtained from Transparent California, a database of public salaries.

If you go to the Inglewood page on the Transparent California site, you will see that Ms. McDade-Dickens is only the nineteenth highest-paid city employee in terms of combined salary and benefits, but that’s mostly because she ranks behind twelve members of the police department on whose behalf the city is apparently providing some pretty hefty health and retirement benefits. When only pay is considered, Ms. McDade-Dickens leaps up to eleventh on the list. Her official title is “Executive Assistant to the Mayor and City Manager,” and here are the job titles of the people who rank ahead of her in pay: City Manager; Assistant City Manager; Police Chief; Police Lieutenant; Police Sergeant; City Attorney; and Director of Parks, Recreation, and Library Services. Her total compensation for 2017 includes a base salary of $170,569, no overtime pay, $74,867 in “other pay” which reportedly includes a $14,706 bonus she received in January 2017, and $66,627 in health and retirement benefits.

So what are the good people of Inglewood, population approximately 110,000 and median income roughly $45,000, getting for that $312,000 investment? Let’s get back to the article (all emphasis here is added by me):

McDade-Dickens’ title changed from senior assistant to executive assistant in 2016, but city officials argue her responsibilities have dramatically increased beyond her title. Butts said her duties were previously handled by an assistant city manager, deputy city manager and executive assistant.

“This position was created to perform duties formerly done by the three vacant positions as well as serve as Director of Parking and Management Services Division (also vacant) and the Director of the Office of Emergency Management,” Butts said in an email.

“The position also supervises the Administrative Clerical staff. She coordinates major city events, prepares and presents staff reports to the City Council. She serves as needed in the absence of an Assistant City Manager.”

None of those duties was reflected in a job description for the position of executive assistant to the mayor and city manager that, until recently. was last updated in January on Inglewood’s website.

On May 24, the online job description listed qualifications and experience for a secretarial position — five years of experience supporting elected officials, a proficiency with Microsoft Office and a valid driver’s license. The duties included managing calendars, screening communications and greeting visitors.

Hours later, after city officials were contacted by a Southern California News Group reporter asking about McDade-Dickens, a new job description was uploaded to the website, according to the document’s metadata, the forensic information embedded within a file.

The revised job description, allegedly from October 2017, includes many of the same duties but also contains new ones, such as overseeing the parking program and coordinating the annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, among others. The job now requires a bachelor’s degree, five years of experience supporting elected officials and a driver’s license. It does not require any experience in leading departments at a public agency.

What was Ms. McDade-Dickens doing before she assumed this very lucrative and prestigious position? Well, in 2010 she served as the office manager for then-candidate James T. Butts’s mayoral campaign. Once he was sworn-in in January of 2011, she followed him to city hall as his assistant. The Transparent California website only has data dating back to 2013 so we don’t know what her starting salary was, but her pay for 2013 was $73,850 and her benefits were worth $61,219. In other words, over a five-year period Ms. McDade-Dickens saw her benefits grow by a modest 8.8% while her pay grew by an unbelievable 332%. Did she get her alleged promotions by emerging as the most qualified candidate among a regional search? Don’t count on it:

Both Butts and [City Manager Artie] Fields said McDade-Dickens was selected for her new role through a competitive recruitment process. Fields later clarified that the process was for internal candidates only. The city manager declined to provide the applications for the position, claiming they are personnel records.

Fields made the final decision to promote McDade-Dickens from senior assistant to executive assistant, he said. He subsequently chose to assign her responsibility for the parking and emergency management programs, a move that resulted in a significant pay bump.

“There was no selection process in 2017 nor was one necessary. There was no need for a subsequent selection process,” Fields said in an email. “The position had an incumbent.”

This gets more and more unbelievable, doesn’t it? So with her executive assistant responsibilities and the parking and emergency management duties, she must be really busy, right? Maybe not:

Though McDade-Dickens got a pay increase to serve as the city’s parking chief, Inglewood’s website directs visitors to contact Mario Inga, the parking and enterprise services manager, or Tanya Perry, the parking services superintendent, for any questions related to the management of the parking department. McDade-Dickens is not mentioned on the page.

Inga, who touts 27 years of experience in the parking and transportation industry on his LinkedIn, lists duties that include managing all of the city’s parking programs, the department’s budget, staff reports and any human resource-related issues. Inga earned about $105,000 total in 2017.

If you search for Ms. McDade-Dickens on the Inglewood city website, you won’t find her with her own page and you won’t find her listed among the assistant city managers on the management page. Nor does she appear to have a LinkedIn page, and it doesn’t seem that the reporter was able to ascertain any clues in Ms. McDade-Dickens’ background (beyond her political alliance with Mayor Butts) that suggest she is uniquely qualified for this job.

Inglewood, the article goes on to remind us, faces a $17 million budget deficit that they plan to cover this year by using $11 million in reserves and restructuring some pension obligations. The city is counting on a huge financial windfall once the new NFL stadium opens up on the old Hollywood Park site, so maybe in the future every political operative will be able to score a $300k sinecure from city hall. But I think if I were a city taxpayer, I would have an awful lot of questions about this arrangement.

– JVW

Sunday Music: Bach Cantata BWV 76, Part 1

Filed under: Bach Cantatas,General,Music — Patterico @ 12:01 am

It is the second Sunday after Pentecost. The title of today’s Bach cantata is “Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes” (The heavens are telling the glory of God). This half-hour cantata will provide the music for this Sunday and the next, with Part 1 heard today, and Part 2 heard next week. Here is Part 1:

Today’s Gospel reading is Mark 2:23-3:6.

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Jesus Heals on the Sabbath

Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

The text of today’s piece is available here. It includes these words, which describe how God looks after the welfare of humans:

Thus God does not leave Himself unwitnessed!
Nature and grace speak to all mankind:
God has indeed done all this,
so that the heavens move
and spirits and bodies stir themselves.
God Himself has leaned down to you
and calls to you through countless messengers:
rise up, come to My feast of love!

. . . .

Indeed with You Yourself fed and quenched
and given Your spirit,
which continually hovers in our souls.

Happy listening!

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]


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