Sometimes you have to spend money to save money. And in that context, Youngstown Mayor Chuck Sammarone’s proposal to install time clocks for city employees and GPS tracking systems in all city vehicles makes perfect sense.
Other mayors have talked about making government run more like a business, but Sammarone is pursuing accountability in ways that, in the case of time clocks, has long been a routine part of private employment and in the case of GPS is an increasingly used technology.
Requiring employees to clock in and clock out can’t be challenged on any legitimate grounds.
We suspect, though, that there will be more reluctance by some employees to the emerging technology of GPS and the oversight it provides. Any such resistance should not be permitted to get in the way of purchasing and installing GPS systems in the vehicles.
Police officers have come to accept global-positioning-satellite systems as a safety factor. While the police are routinely involved in potentially more dangerous pursuits than city employees in other department, the streets hold dangers for any employee in a city vehicle.
Only slackers need worry
To the extent that GPS gives supervisors the ability to monitor the whereabouts of employees when they are on the clock, no honest employee should have a problem with that as long as enforcement is evenhanded. Accepting the premise that most city employees are conscientious workers, they should welcome a system that makes it easier for supervisors to identify slackers and take corrective action.
Everyone will know that the devices are in use, so it would seem unlikely that Youngstown would uncover such obvious abuses as those found in Trumbull County two years ago, when GPS devices were placed on the cars of two employees in the sanitary engineer’s office who were suspected of neglecting their duties. During a three-week period, one employee’s car was found to be in unauthorized places 25 percent of the time; the other more than 50 percent of the time. Both were fired.
Such extreme examples not only raises questions about the honesty of employees, but about the level of supervision they work under.
GPS monitoring protects honest employees, puts dishonest employees in jeopardy and places greater pressure on supervisors to make sure their departments are running efficiently. Time will tell if it results in departments being able to get by with a fewer employees.
And in at least one department, GPS, combined with available software, allows any city to keep track during a snow storm of exactly which streets have been plowed and which have yet to be plowed. And that’s a safety feature for city employees and residents alike.