Critics are absolutely right that Earl Jann Jr., the Erie County Water Authority board chairman, should not be handed the $145,000 executive director’s post without finding out if there might be more-qualified candidates around.
In fact, there’s no need to look far.
Jann’s rationale for moving into the administrator’s chair after his board term expires? All of the experience and familiarity with water issues the college history major accumulated by osmosis while sitting at the board table.
But after pondering his justification for this promotion, it’s clear that my background also is chock full of experiences that make me the perfect candidate:
• I drink water.
• I bathe in water.
• I fish in water.
I even know what H-2-0 means; I just can’t write that little, bitty 2 on my computer.
And unlike Jann, I didn’t charge ratepayers $22,500 a year – which the chairman collected as a board member the past six years – to get my expertise. I did it the old fashioned way: I read about the Water Authority in the newspaper.
That’s how I know what everyone knows: This is not merely a question of hydrological competence. Above all, the Water Authority is a well of patronage in which political connections and contributions are as important as knowing how to turn a shutoff valve.
Jann, for instance, is in line to replace a Democratic executive director let go simply because Republicans took over the County Legislature. That’s how it works. And to buttress his credentials, Jann has contributed some $10,000 to Republicans over the past decade, including $2,279 since the start of 2016.
By tradition, that makes him eminently qualified for the $122,500 pay hike to move from chairman to executive director.
But not so fast.
Beyond my technical qualifications, it doesn’t take much ingenuity to calculate my value to the Republican Party.
True, I haven’t donated to GOP candidates to fund those highly informative TV ads. But the political cognoscenti will note that opposition ads are the other side of that same coin.
When you add up all the Democrats I could have donated to, but didn’t, my hundreds of thousands of dollars in non-contributions is way more valuable than the 10 grand Jann gave the GOP.
Clearly, I’m someone the GOP-led Legislature, which controls top jobs at the authority, should feel indebted to for all that I have not done for Democrats.
This is exactly the kind of outside-the-box thinking that is needed, not another insider.
Also consider this: We live right on the Great Lakes, yet our ratepayers don’t win anymore. We don’t have any victories, folks; instead, we got soaked last year with a 3.9 percent rate hike plus a $4 hike in the quarterly infrastructure charge under Jann’s "leadership."
Trust me, when I’m in charge, I will make the Water Authority great again. Our water will taste so good, you’ll get tired of drinking it.
Granted, good-government types are pushing for a national search for an engineer or other expert to run the authority, But that’s not how we do things in Erie County. In fact, I’ll bet the courts would throw that out as a violation of past practice.
So while waiting to be called for my job interview, I’m going out and acquire some more pertinent experience, Earl Jann style: I’m going to water my grass.