Last week, Lagniappe reported some customers were concerned the Prichard Water Works and Sewer Board (PWWSB) were not being good stewards of their money by purchasing things like a Yeti cooler and a Michael Strahan jacket and dining at rather expensive eateries for “working lunches,” all on their dime.
But probably the most eyebrow-raising expenditures were for two voice-and-motion-activated garbage cans. Customers who have long complained about very high water bills were quite dismayed to find PWWSB had spent $420 on these two relatively small garbage receptacles. Board officials defended the purchase, saying they were trying to modernize the look of the office.
I am sure customers don’t give a flip how “modern” their office looks, they just want lower bills. And either way, a stainless steel can without all the bells and whistles would have accomplished their stated goal for about $350 cheaper. But who cares, right? Public money doesn’t feel like real money, does it? It seems like something magical that unicorns and fairies poop out for bureaucrats to waste.
And could anything be more emblematic of wasteful spending than garbage cans you can talk to? Wow. Just wow.
But it did get me to thinking maybe in the not-so-distant future, when our robot overlords take over, maybe this won’t be such a bad thing. We just need to wait until the technology advances enough so the garbage cans talk back!
Can you imagine just how much we could save if every governmental entity’s wastebasket could tell us just how much money of OURS they are, in fact, wasting? Like an Alexa for your can, but I am thinking this would be called Oscar, an homage to Oscar the Grouch, and it would have his voice as well!
I was thinking of a few examples of where Oscar could have saved us thousands, maybe even millions!
Let’s imagine the possibilities!
Rewind to 1995 …
Taxpayer #1: Oscar, I feel like Congress is about to waste my money on something that is really going to make me angry. Do you know anything about that?
Oscar: Are you kidding me? They waste your money on lots of things you should be angry about. You know how it is — one person’s passion project is another person’s pork! I think I have some pork rotting in my can right now and it really stinks! You are going to have to be more specific!
Taxpayer #1: I was thinking of something they should be impeached or even go to jail over, but instead my tax dollars will just make it go away instead. Anything like that happening?
Oscar: Oh, oh, oh! I know exactly what you are talking about. These bozos just passed “the Congressional Accountability Act,” which will do nothing to hold these jerkwads “accountable.” Instead it’s going to create a hush fund that will pay out around $17 million over the next two decades to people who have been sexually harassed or violated in some other way by these congressional creeps.
Taxpayer #1: But Oscar, it seems like these congress people should — at the very least — have to personally make payments if they are the ones committing these offenses?
Oscar: Yes, Taxpayer, they should have to pay for it personally and they also should be exposed and held “accountable.” But it will not be this way and it will not be resolved until 2018 unless you do something now! I’ll just be gobbling up all of your money as well as your fellow citizens’ money until you do something about it!
Taxpayer #1: Well, thank you and I am definitely going to put a stop to this nonsense at once. Why would anyone agree to this ever? It certainly won’t make it to 1996, much less 2018. No way!
Oscar: As Alanis Morissette has been singing all year, I just thought it was something “You Oughta Know”!
Rewind to 1985 …
Taxpayer #2: Oscar, I am excited about the newly passed Zoghby Act, which will set up a new and much fairer form of government for the great city of Mobile. But could it one day unintentionally cause problems that will cost me and the other great taxpaying citizens of Mobile money that could go to fixing sidewalks and potholes, but will instead go to paying legal bills?
Oscar: It’s almost like you can see the future, little Port City Taxpayer! And yes, this is a very wonderful and much-needed bill that will transform your city for the better forever, but go tell its authors, Mary Zoghby and Beth Marietta Lyons, to make sure they add a clause that spells out EXPLICITLY what the mayor has power over and EXPLICITLY what the council has power over. Like, down to what ply of toilet paper can be purchased for city hall, how much and who makes that decision. The taxpayers of Mobile will thank them in 30 or so years!
Taxpayer #2: I will go tell them that right now. Well, I mean as soon as I finish making my Madonna/Wham/Phil Collins/Whitney Houston mixtape and crimping my hair.
If only …
Rewind to Nov. 8, 2018 …
Prichard Water Customer: Oscar, I kind of feel like the water board is about to go out today and buy some really fancy garbage cans they really don’t need and waste my money instead of working on ways to lower my bill. Know anything about that?
PWC: But Oscar, I thought you were all-knowing about the waste of public money? An oracle of sorts, the ora-can, if you will!
Oscar (whispering): One of those cans is my mother and the other is my sister. No way I am saying they aren’t worth $210 each! I mean, they are voice- and motion-activated. I may be a grouch but I am no fool. Maybe you should talk to my friend Grover (Norquist) about this. He loves saving taxpayers money too! Or so I hear.
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