Research conducted by the Houston Chronicle found in mileage reports for 1,200 city cars that these vehicles were used for work only 54 percent of the time (See article here). No employee is accused of wrongdoing; rather, employees with take-home cars are allowed to use their city-owned cars in this manner.
Here is some interesting information the Houston Chronicle found:
44: Number of city employees who live outside the 30-mile limit for a take-home vehicle.
40: City employees who use city vehicles more than 75 percent of the time for home travel.
$10 million: Amount spent by the city in the past three years to purchase new cars.
$4 million: Amount spent last year by Houston taxpayers to maintain and fuel cars for city employees.
Mayor Parker said “‘we just think there just is too much widespread use of take-home vehicles. My pressure is going to be on the department director to justify it.’” I don’t see how this is really going to solve anything. To Mayor Parker’s credit, she said that she will reduce the number of take-home cars and rework the current vehicle policies to save $21 million. That is great, and I commend her for looking to save us money, but what they really need to do is to get rid of this policy altogether. I see no reason to give cars to employees so they can drive to and from work. Unless you are a top executive in a big corporation, there aren’t many private sector jobs out there that would give you a car just to get yourself to and from the job, so why is the government doing it?
On the state level, we log our mileage for state-related meetings and then are paid for that mileage. We can’t even log mileage to or from our homes unless the meeting begins before business hours or ends after business hours. Although it’s wear and tear on our own cars, I think it would be wasteful to give state employees vehicles!
The real issue here isn’t so much the fact that the current take-home policy is bad. The issue is that no one knows about a bad policy or unnecessary spending until someone from the media gets a hold of the story. What we really need in Houston government is a program to monitor EVERY dollar so that they are on top of what they are spending with our money. We somehow have money to spend on take-home cars but not enough to add more police officers this year. Something has to change.