But Where’s The Opportunity For Graft?

City comes up with an estimate of $65,000-$110,000 to build a stairway linking two levels of a city park, and replacing a rutted path with a steep incline that was causing injuries.

Citizen builds the stairway for $550.

Retired mechanic Adi Astl says he took it upon himself to build the stairs after several neighbours fell down the steep path to a community garden in Tom Riley Park, in Etobicoke, Ont. Astl says his neighbours chipped in on the project, which only ended up costing $550 – a far cry from the $65,000-$150,000 price tag the city had estimated for the job.

“I thought they were talking about an escalator,” Astl told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.

Astl says he hired a homeless person to help him and built the eight steps in a matter of hours.

Problem solved, right?

Well, no.

Because boy, is the government mad:

City bylaw officers have taped off the stairs while officials make a decision on what to do with it. However, Astl has not been charged with any sort of violation.

Mayor John Tory acknowledged that the city estimate sounds “completely out of whack with reality” on Wednesday. [Noooooo! – Ed] However, he says that still doesn’t justify allowing private citizens to bypass city bylaws to build public structures themselves.

“I think everyone will understand that it will be more than $550,” he said on Wednesday. “We just can’t have people decide to go out to Home Depot and build a staircase in a park because that’s what they would like to have.”

Of course not.

There are consultants – members of the political class – to be paid to study the issue.  There are contractors – favored by the political class, frequently due to polices promulgated and administered by other members of the political class – to whom money must be funneled, usually via other members of the political class.

If people just made stuff work, the system would completely break down!

“But what about the handicapped?”

He pointed out that the park already has an accessible path for those who worry about falling down the incline, which is essentially a shortcut from the parking lot to the garden area.

It’s all about showing the peasants who’s boss.

13 thoughts on “But Where’s The Opportunity For Graft?

  1. Obviously the solution is more goobernment, and to redirect police to patrol the parks to make sure these types of shenanigans are stopped at all cost.

  2. If this was in MN, the MN Dept of Revenue would be stepping in as well to ensure that they got their Work Comp and payroll taxes.

    Sounds stupid, but there’s a precedent. Breweries (and distilleries) used to have bottling parties – plenty of unskilled labor requirements on a busy day that can really speed up the process. Well, fans of these establishments like to help out a business they support. Plus, it’s cool – “Hey, I got to help bottle adult beverages. Way cooler than making spreadsheets and Power Points!’ Oh, and there would typically be adult beverages for after the work is complete.

    Well, the state found out about that. Made them go back and pay the volunteers. And the payroll taxes. Plus a penalty. Needless to say, bottling parties dont’ (publicly) happen anymore.

  3. NW, you heard the mayor, there is a city-sanctioned path in the park where THEY want you to walk. In other words, there is no need for stinking path!

  4. So, Mitch, when the stairway collapses because it was built without sufficient reinforcement, or when the ground gives way beneath it because it wasn’t footed correctly, who do you suppose those injured will sue?

    This is the same laughable line of argumentation which is so often used by people in the private sector about similar issues. We argue that it’s absurd that a new laptop costs us $2500 when we could privately buy a similar one for $500. We forget that the rigors we require those machines to sustain necessarily requires a more robust machine.

    This person BUILT a stairway for $550, so, did they take any pay? Are you suggesting construction workers work for free? Tell me, Mitch, how many commercial construction projects have you run? How many PRIVATE construction projects do you think are done for the cost of materials only and without blueprints or a plan, a plan signed off by multiple layers of management?

    The point is, you ALWAYS do this, this silly clap-trap of pretending that the government is a demon, that they are uniquely corrupt, and for that matter universally corrupt. Where is your PROOF that there are consultants to be paid off? Do you have any here? Further more, you act as if this isn’t very much the same as what happen in the private sector when it IS exactly the same, in fact, it costs MORE to run logistics for our military (after adjusting for inflation) than it cost when we had it done by sailors and soldiers.

    There is enormous inefficiency in large organizations but most of it comes from rules which require review to avoid legal risk, not some pernicious motive. It’s little different from public to private – outside that what motivates public organizations to act is not profit. That can be a BAD thing, I’ve seen it, but it can also be a good thing, like when they say they aren’t going to build a slip-shod piece of crap stairway which no one has confirmed is even properly functional or safe.

  5. Someone needs to apprehend Jimmy Carter. That miscreant has taken it upon himself to provide houses for poor folks. I just checked and nope, no contractor license and nope, no union scale.

    Bastard is just out there runnin wild.

  6. To people who work in city and county government, this is government working more than properly, this is government working at its best. It is government working, not to do what citizens cannot do for themselves, but at doling and meting out privilege.

  7. The problem, Pen, is that if the material cost was sub $1,000, there is not 64,000 to 109,000 of value to the all the things that the city would have paid for over the materials.

    The as-built stairway can be inspected for safety and passed or not-passed. People have been building safe, sturdy stairways for centuries.

  8. ” . . . outside that what motivates public organizations to act is not profit.”
    Public choice theory shows that this makes no difference. People in government spend other peoples’ money to maximize their personal benefit. Government is not a charity. No one goes to work for the government out of the goodness of their heart.

  9. My neighbor’s cement front steps were crumbling, a trip hazard, so he busted them up, hauled them away, and built a nice new set of wooden steps. Three steps in all, nicely stained, looked great. A passing city inspector caught him, no permit, no plans, no approvals. He paid the double permit fee penalty, then the inspector decided the step risers were 1/16 too high to meet building code so the entire staircase had to be torn out and redone. Threatened to put him in jail if he didn’t take time off work to fix it in a week.

    The public is no safer now than when the cement steps were crumbling. You don’t need plans and specs to build a staircase, every carpenter knows how to do it. And I’d bet you a brand-new nickel that if my neighbor had hired a union carpenter shop to build the steps and their steps were off by the same 1/16 inch, the inspector would have overlooked it if he’d even bothered to check for it.

    Petty bureaucrats making an example of citizens to intimidate the rest of the citizenry is a poor justification for official action, in my neighbor’s case or in this case.

  10. Government is not a charity. No one goes to work for the government out of the goodness of their heart.

    Bergs law xx right there.

  11. You’ve got to admit, per Pen’s comment, that government inspections always prevent disasters. Just ask the guys who were on that bridge over the big muddy a few years back, or people who were at the Hyatt Regency in KC back in 1981, or for that matter people who were on the Space Shuttle. No problems there, nosirree.

    Really, Pen, don’cha think that maybe, just maybe, the proper response is to work with the guy who built it and figure out if the concrete was properly mixed and put on adequate footings in the soil?

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