City worker identifies process flaw

“Everything looking good back there?” I asked the uniformed man who was photographing the back of the litter bin.

“No sir, it’s not, but we’ll soon have it cleaned up,” he assured me.


You may wonder, as I did, why anyone would be concerned about some scribbling on the back of a pug-ugly litter bin. Who’s going to see it? Besides, the really bad looking part is the front. It looks like a grinning one-eyed toad to me, complete with warts.

Believe it or not, it’s a matter of pride. That’s right. The people who OK’d these things are proud of what they’ve done. So proud that they are only reluctantly (and slowly) replacing them with slightly, but not much, better bins.

How can this be? “They over-consulted,” the uniformed man said. They asked anyone who wanted to have a say. The step-on pedal, which many people miss seeing, is there because nobody wanted to touch garbage. These pedals break or jam when stuff gets wedged under them. The once-green, goofy lids are looking sad and sun-bleached. To put it kindly, they don’t age well. The bloated shape suggests a fermenting stew of half-digested garbage. But their parents love them.

They over-consulted

Ugly street furniture is just a symptom. The over-consulting disease has crept into all kinds of civic processes because we lack leaders who have the courage to lead … to make decisions for us. We pay them to know more about these things than we have time to learn. We delegate authority and they delegate it right back to us. Result? Sloooow, expen$$$ive processes delivering junk designed by consensus.