Mike Kueber's Blog

April 5, 2013

Getting to a lean, tightly-run city

Last week, I went to the downtown library to attend a VIA presentation on the status of its streetcar project.  While waiting for the presentation to begin, I decided to peruse the library’s New Book section.  That is where I encountered a new category called Express Collection for the most popular new books.  Each book in the Express Collection was stickered, “7 day checkout; no renewals or holds.”

Checking out a popular new book from the San Antonio library often requires placing a hold on the book and then waiting several weeks.  With this new category, I found many desirable new books just waiting to be grabbed. 

With the excitement of finding something free, I grabbed three even though there was no way I would be able to read them in seven days.  They were:

  1. The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver
  2. Tap Dancing to Work by Carol J. Loomis
  3. My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor

Nate Silver is famous for his NT Times political column titled FiveThirtyEight (the number of people in Congress), but his signal skill is prognosticating.  In his book, Silver applies this skill to sports, poker, the financial world, weather, earthquakes, and global warming.  I just scratched the surface of the book during the seven-day checkout period, but Silver’s thinking, especially as related to poker, seems both brilliant and common-sensical.

Which is a perfect segue to Loomis’s book.  Her book is mostly a compilation of Fortune magazine articles on the most brilliant, common-sensical man, Warren Buffett.  Although Buffet is a veritable font of wisdom, something he said about running a lean operation seems expecially appropriate to my race for the San Antonio City Council:

  • Our experience has been that the manager of an already high-cost operation frequently is uncommonly resourceful in finding new ways to add overhead, while the manager of a tightly run operation usually continues to find additional methods to curtail costs, even when his costs are already well below those of his competitors.”

One of my Council opponents, Ron Nirenberg, reminds me of the high-cost operator.  In his campaign brochure, he says:

  • Emergency services are the single largest investment of our tax dollars, and we need to make sure that we don’t cut them in an effort to “get lean” during the budget process….  Police and fire should be our top budget priority even in lean years.

Does that sound like someone who will continually strive for a tightly run operation?  No, it sounds like someone who considers “getting lean” to be something of a last resort.  And that is not what San Antonio needs.

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