Column: Thinking outside the mop bucket

When Kingman Unified School District Construction Director Oz Enderby threw out the idea of going to bid for custodial services, my first thought was that it was a no-brainer.

The school district forks over $1.3 million a year on wages and benefits for custodial staff, and certainly school board members would be willing to at least look at the possibility of having the work done by the private sector, especially in these uncertain economic times. I suspect the district could get the work done for somewhere in the vicinity of $500,000, and that board members really ready to think outside the mop bucket could strongly suggest contractors hire a few students who could get some kind of work history on their resume, as well as learn lessons about what it means to be in the workforce and the responsibilities that come with having a job.

In case you haven't heard, young workers have been especially hard-hit by the recession, thanks in no small part to voters' willingness to raise the minimum wage someone else has to pay. Beyond that, the school board could have used the opportunity of potential savings in the payroll account to try to do something about the district's abysmal student achievement. In this era of record-keeping and standardized tests, it shouldn't be too difficult for the district to set parameters and offer teachers annual bonuses if their pupils exceed the norm. A particularly stellar performance by an instructor could be worth up to $10,000. Other bonuses could be as small as $500. Of course, many teachers wouldn't earn a bonus.

For those who do, I think it would be a small price to pay to boost student achievement.

But the school board would have none of it, not even going out to bid to find out if it was even possible to save money. By doing so, of course, it saved them the trouble of looking even more like protectors of the status quo (and not the taxpayers) when bids came in substantially lower than what the district is paying now. It also shut the door in terms of pressuring other government entities to do the same thing.

For example, is it possible the city of Kingman could save a few dollars farming out work for upkeep of the parks and golf course? Perhaps bids should be solicited for the operation of Parks and Recreation. Maybe that money pit known as KART, a perennial dollar loser, would take a smaller bite out of our wallets if a private company managed it.

Ditto for garbage service.

In the age of the Internet, the city could post these positions worldwide. With times being as tough as they are, it wouldn't be that far-fetched to think the money savings would be substantial to the point of perhaps lowering the city's sales tax.

Providing the same services while saving taxpayers money sounds like a job description for elected officials. But maybe they aren't familiar with thinking outside the mop bucket.

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Now for a few words about the election:

• Proposition 106 would amend the state constitution to prohibit state and local governments from compelling any person, business or healthcare provider to participate in a healthcare system. It would also allow a person to pay directly for healthcare services and allow a person to purchase any healthcare insurance they wanted.

Some are opposed to this because it will spur federal lawsuits against the state and, some argue, would not make healthcare more affordable. If you've been following the news, you know that Obamacare is going to increase healthcare costs.

If you know history, you know healthcare costs didn't start to skyrocket until the government started meddling in it.

As for the federal lawsuits, some things (freedom to make your own healthcare choices included) are worth fighting for. Too bad Arizona AG Terry Goddard didn't man up. I support Prop. 106.

• Proposition 113 would change the state constitution to guarantee employees the right to vote by a secret ballot when deciding whether or not to unionize.

Some argue that if this passes, it could lead to lawsuits if Congress passes "card check," a really sleazy sop to the unions that donate heavily to Democrats. Secret ballots are worth fighting for. I support Prop. 113.

• Proposition 203 would create a new state law that would allow Arizona residents with certain medical conditions to obtain 2.5 ounces of marijuana from a state-licensed, nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary every 14 days to treat their condition.

My opinion has nothing to do with whether or not marijuana has any pain-relieving properties. In a free country, it is not the government's place to tell people what they can and cannot eat or smoke or snort or inject.

By the way, it's not the government's responsibility to take care of someone stupid enough to eat or smoke or snort or inject stuff they shouldn't.

I support Prop. 203.