The city of Toronto's staffing is out of control.
In 2001 I spent the month of August with my one-year-old son, taking him to the wading pool at the park every afternoon to cool off with a splash. One surly teenage lifeguard, a City of Toronto parks employee, managed the little pool, usually spending the day sitting on a picnic table not too far away.
In 2004 I decided to take time with my kids again, so we headed to the park (I now had two sons) for some fun. Imagine my surprise when I discovered there were now two lifeguards for the same little pool. This is truly just a wading pool. A one-year-old can stand up and the water will not get halfway up the kid's chest. Still, children can drown in a bathtub, which is why parents are required to supervise their children in this tiny pool. The lifeguards aren't watching the kids because that's the parent's job, by law, and it says so on the placard right by the pool.
Last week I headed to the wading pool with my kids. You guessed it: three, count them, three life guards. They tan together, flirt with one another (there were two teenage girls and one teenage boy last Wednesday) and hang out. One of the lifeguards adds chlorine every few hours but otherwise they ignore us all.
So here's the dilemma: as the city runs out of money next year, someone will probably suggest cutting back from three lifeguards to two at each pool, and immediately the picketers will be at city hall decrying the cutback as a threat to the safety of our children. The MSM will ignore the fact that these wading pools operated for 40 years with one lifeguard each without mishap.
Since a fiscally responsible mayor (assuming one is ever elected) will not be able to cut from three lifeguards back to one, the only option will be to close these pools that dot downtown parks, leaving them as little derelict concrete pads, monuments to a greedy city union.
Unfortunately, this is just a symptom of Toronto's disease. Mayor David Miller has hired massively since he took office, including 1000 new hires this year alone, in the middle of the recession. How many of these are as superfluous as three lifeguards doing a job that was filled more than adequately by one for over forty years--until Miller became mayor?
In April of 2010 the city must produce a budget that no longer has a $40 million dollar welfare reserve fund to draw on. It is also far less likely to get a $400 million dollar gift from the province, and Toronto is spending well over $600 million dollars on new street cars. Let's not even get into the price for new traffic congestion causing right-of-ways. Since Miller won't cut staff and won't close downtown wading pools there is only one way for taxes to go: way up.
Even after Miller is gone, the city will have the millstone of a large bureaucracy around our collective necks. Increasing the size of government is easy. Reducing it is the labor of Sisyphus.