Gary Stein: Joy of spending other people's money

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Question: What does my son in college have in common with South Florida public officials?

Answer: Both of them spend too much of my money.

I know a lot of attention has been paid recently to how much officials are getting paid in pension and sick leave when they decide to retire. Case in point would be Miramar city manager Robert Payton, a 36-year-employee who, from the sound of things and the amount of his sick leave package, never took as much as five minutes' sick leave while on the job. Sounds like he never even left work for an hour in 36 years to go the Minute Clinic.

When he left Miramar earlier this year, he also took with him $2.4 million in deferred pension and retirement benefits. With that kind of dough, he could start revamping Sun Life Stadium and bring Super Bowls back to South Florida.

Of course, it's taxpayer money. Isn't it always?

But while we are justifiably paying a lot of attention to what folks can haul off with them after leaving office, we should probably pay a little more attention to what they are spending while in office.

Which brings me to Coral Springs.

You will recall that earlier this year, the city decided it needed a new slogan. Personally, I never knew the old slogan of Coral Springs, or even if they had an actual, official, old slogan, but that's another story.

After what must have been back-breaking effort and an incredible amount of meetings and paperwork and retreats and Power Point presentations, a marketing firm in Tennessee came up with the new slogan for Coral Springs.

"Coral Springs. . . everything under the sun."

Very profound. Your 3-year-old could probably have done it for the price of a Kid's Meal.

Anyway, for this bit of deep verbiage — the city actually didn't like it, because "Coral Springs" was in cursive and that was apparently going to be too difficult for some folks to figure out — the city paid $70,000. Or flushed it down the toilet. Same thing.

And now, while working on about the 15th plan to come up with a downtown area for Coral Springs — and yes, I guess every suburb must have a downtown — the city is going to pay $100,000 in tax money to come up with a plan to create a new downtown.

And then plans might have to reworked, or other plans made up, or these will be discarded,or whatever.

Personally, I have a hunch the plans will eventually wind up on a shelf somewhere along with the other downtown plans that have been discussed over the years. I wonder how much interest $100,000 in taxpayer money gets while collecting dust on a shelf?

What's interesting about the latest idea for a downtown that will attract people and business in Coral Springs and maybe bring a little night life is that a big part of the plan is for a new City Hall complex to start things going, since the present City Hall is more than a tad decrepit.

Earth to Coral Springs: People don't like to go to City Hall. People never go to City Hall unless they absolutely have to. Most people have a colonoscopy more often than they go to City Hall. And they enjoy the colonoscopy a lot more because they don't have to wait in long lines and they get a good nap.

And I wonder one other thing about Coral Springs and other cities in South Florida: With city managers often making over $200,000 a year, and having various deputy city managers and city staffers at their disposal, couldn't they somehow come up with workable plans and ideas for what would be good in their cities, without always looking to spend tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars to have some outside company do it?

I know. Dumb question. It's a lot easier to spend taxpayer money. That's the way government works.

My son, he'd make a great public official.

Gary Stein can be reached at gstein@sunsentinel.com, or 954-356-4616. On Twitter@SSEditorial.

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