Thursday, March 19, 2009

hey big spender

mayor greg ballard likes to portray himself—and by extension his administration—as being extremely frugal, as almost pathologically obsessed with cutting the budget. i've mocked him many times (and likely will many more) for his statements on the campaign trail that he would cut $70 million of "fluff" from the budget. and it's only going to get worse, as property tax caps will cause revenues to shrink substantially in coming years. not to mention that whole recession thing.

so it's puzzling to say the least that this guy has been chosen as our new airport CEO:

Airport Chief Executive John D. Clark III earned a reputation in Jacksonville, Fla., for being an anti-union spendthrift, cutting jobs while treating himself lavishly as he traveled the world.

He made separate business trips to Paris, London, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Cairo -- four continents, all paid for by the airport and all within one year.

He once authorized $10,000 for a limousine in Paris for an airport board member and a lawyer, and ended up apologizing for it.

in addition to his lavish spending habits, clark also has a reputation for being hostile to unions and treating employees unfairly. he's also known for his battles with the jacksonville city council and neighborhood residents.

to be clear, clark wasn't chosen by ballard, but by airport authority head randall tobias. tobias himself is no stranger to scandal, having resigned from a federal post in 2007 after the revelation that he'd been paying for high-priced "massages" from prostitutes. perhaps the controversy surrounding clark seems like small potatoes to tobias, who has been shamed at a national level. but ballard loves to talk about leadership (and he'll talk anywhere they'll listen), and part of being in charge is taking the heat for those under you.

what we know about clark suggests he's everything that the ballard administration insists it isn't: wasteful, extravagant, arrogant, hostile toward the public, and a foe of transparency. so why is he being hired?

there is one bit of good news regarding his hiring, though: the people of jacksonville are ecstatic that he's leaving.

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