Jerry and Deborah’s (iPad) Fight
Anyone attending (or streaming as I usually do) last Tuesday night’s City Council meeting could not have missed the latest installment in the long running, knockdown, dragout fight between Boss Tweed Amante and Councilmember Deborah Gavello. Gavello had asked to pull a number of items from the consent calendar, including Item 14 which had to do with the updated iPad policy. The iPads were purchased last year, under the guise of eliminating the reams of paper from agenda packets that cover the dais during a council meeting. Our friends at the Liberal OC recently wrote an article that showed the iPads, which were purchased with reserves because they had not been budgeted for (apparently, this was an emergency), did not save much -if any- money.
So, when Gavello asked to pull this item, it was an opportunity to see what, if any money the City would actually claim to have saved. Gavello gave her usual diatribe against the purchase of the iPads, saying she felt the expenditure unnecessary. But, her focus was on the fact that iPads had been returned and would now be issued to….who? As John Nielsen started to speak, Jerry shoved his black ops guy out of the way and came back swinging, stating that Gavello is the only one who did not accept an iPad (did we mention the city paid for these out of reserve funds so Deborah saved the taxpayer money they weren’t supposed to spend?) and that she, alone, continues to receive a full agenda packet which, Jerry announced triumphantly, average 578 pages each meeting. Every other councilmember receives their packet electronically. He also screeched, “And in addition to all that, we make a DVD for Councilwoman Gavello for the meeting, which needs to be specially formatted which requires realtime conversion so that she can have a DVD.” He goes on to rant that he doesn’t understand why, since the council meetings are on cable and available on the website. He tells everyone about how other councils use laptops “which are far more expensive than iPads”. He even tells us how the iPads actually make government more efficient. Jerry even got his black ops guy, John Nielsen, to tout how, by converting to iPads, they are really environmentalists, leading the way to save the forests of California from decimation by city councils across the state.
Huh… Really… The nerve of you, Deborah, to be concerned over the toys the mayor buys for himself and his buddies.
So, I did a little asking around of my own. And I found out some interesting stuff, including that Hizzoner, Jerry, may have fibbed again. I asked the simple question, who is using the iPads distributed by the city and who is using a personal iPad. I also asked if the city was paying for any part of the cost of maintaining the personal iPads?
City staff were very happy to tell me that Councilmembers Al Murray and Beckie Gomez purchased their own iPads and had turned in the city owned ones. They did not bother to tell me whether the city was paying for connectivity or “apps” on the personal iPads. They did make a point of telling me that each agenda packet averages a whopping 578 pages and it is distributed to each councilmember that asks for one as well as four others and a slew of smaller partial packets. The city staffers also pointed out that Gavello receives, at her request, a “DVD of [the] meeting in real-time conversion”. They also pointed out that many other cities issue laptops, rather than iPads…… wait a minute. Didn’t Jerry just say this? So, if the city staff had the answers all along, why didn’t they give them to The Liberal OC when they asked (I asked for this information, by the way, several days before the city council meeting)?
Another thing I found interesting was the fact that, through the year, I often saw the various councilmembers sifting through reams of documents, even though they had an iPad sitting next to them. So, I asked about that. What I got back was interesting. It seems that “It has taken various council members various amounts of time” to transition to the iPads. In fact, it wasn’t until the October 17th meeting that all four of the councilmembers were using their iPads and stopped using paper agendas altogether.” That is over a year after the iPads were approved for use. So, how much money was saved? I would say, none. Because, now we have the iPads which, for some mysterious reason, the councilmembers had trouble getting used to for an entire year, as well as the 578 page packets for those 20 meetings. Let’s see, if I go to Kinko’s and do this myself, at five cents a page, it comes out to (yes, I am willing to do the math for you) $2,312 per year just for the copies. Now, we have to have someone running the copier, so lets say a mid-payscale city clerk services specialist making $27.00 an hour slaves over a copier to make these copies and probably takes about an hour to do so. That’s about $540 plus benefits just to copy them. Of course, she has to make copies for the rest of the staff at the meeting anyway, so there really is no money saved there.
Let’s see. The cost of the iPads including all the goodies was $4,794.75. So, where is the cost savings? Let’s hear it for our fiscally conservative mayor, who cost the city nearly $5,000 out of reserve funds for unbudgeted toys for him and his buddies on the city council. Instead of saving the taxpayer trees and money, he has actually managed to cost the city more by using the great technology that he claims not to know much about. Remember, he recently stated that he doesn’t know how cellphones and televisions work. Well, he’s a lawyer, not an IT specialist. He’s also not much of an accountant.
Now, don’t forget, Jerry justified this expenditure by saying that all the other kids on other city councils use laptops for their work. And, everyone knows those are much more expensive than iPads. Not. A look at the latest Microcenter ad shows various laptops that are easily capable of doing the job for quite a bit less. In fact, one laptop that could accomplish the job could be had for as little as $249. The iPads without any software or accessories, according to The Liberal OC, cost the city just under a thousand dollars each. Even including software which, I will admit is going to cost more for the laptop, it is still cheaper, as other city councils seem to have found, to buy the laptops. So, there goes another exaggeration by Hizzoner.
And, what about that DVD that is “specially formatted which requires realtime conversion”? Let’s see, an IT guy can do that in about 15 minutes. Cost of the blank DVDs in bulk are about forty cents each. So, really, the cost to make the DVD is minimal compared to what Hizzoner has paid for his new toy.
So, here we go again. A self-proclaimed fiscally conservative mayor who likes to bully other councilmembers from the pulpit, makes another claim that turns out to be false because he didn’t bother to check his facts. On top of that, the iPads that were specifically purchased as an urgent need for the city council, are now being handed off to the “new” city manager and another, unnamed, staff member. Cool. Except, what happens when new councilmembers are seated next year? Do we just buy new ones for them from reserve funds as well? Does Jerry think it might be a good idea for the city to make a plan on disseminating this fabulous technology rather than just buy them willy-nilly? Guess not. It is pretty obvious that, when it comes to Jerry and his Kids getting what they want, planning be damned.
In his parting tirade, Jerry complained that the media, who were badmouthing him (presumably us and the Lib) and his fiscally sound policies, just got it wrong. And we should just sit down and shut up. Dan Chmielewski of The Liberal OC recently reminded me of a quote to the late Finley Peter Dunne, that the job of a journalist is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I would have to add that we are the ones who will ask the questions that will keep our elected and appointed officials accountable to the public. Most officials understand that and consider it part of the cost of plying their trade. Like most things political or technical, Jerry just doesn’t get it. But, after all, he is a lawyer, not a philosopher.
Posted on November 8, 2011, in Local Government, Politics, Tustin City Council and tagged Amante, conspiracy theories, cronyism, deborah gavello, ipad, Jerry Amante, Liberal OC, Tustin. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.