Oct 10, 2022

Sacramento Hires A Nighttime Economy Manager

Isn’t there just one economy? Will there now be a twilight mayor?

By Ed Goldman

Most of us have heard of the Underground Economy, that tax-free mecca also known as the black market. Think Orson Welles as Harry Lime in in “The Third Man.”

Then there’s the Indirect Economy—money that’s generated for businesses other than hotels and meeting facilities when a convention comes to town. Think dry cleaners, florists and escort services.

Edgy Cartoon

Nighttime Economist

When Ronald Reagan was running for President we also got wind of a Voodoo Economy, courtesy of his rival-cum-Vice President, George H.W. Bush (who actually called Reagan’s supply-side plan “voodoo economics“)—but I think that was just hyperbole because no matter how many pins I’ve stuck in my Janet Yellen doll, she still seems just fine and inflation continue to soar.

Now there’s a new economy under the microscope.  Several U.S. cities, including mine, are not only talking in earnest about a “Nighttime Economy” but have also put taxpayer money where their mouths are by creating their first-ever nighttime economy managers.

While the job title may sound like it has an air of danger, conjuring up images of a lonely after-hours motel clerk (paging Norman Bates!), it’s really just a bureaucrat who comes to work as the others head home—if he or she even needs to work at night to understand the economy of same.

This may, in fact, be my point: Why do we need two highly paid city hall officials to oversee what’s essentially a single economy that simply has different features at different times of day?

We don’t have a Nighttime City Manager, Nighttime Mayor, Nighttime City Council, Nighttime City Attorney or Nighttime Firefighters and Cops. True, the latter may pull late shifts, but city councils and mayors also hold night meetings.

And what about cities and counties that barely have daytime economies, much less nighttime ones? Are they going to feel competitive and recruit for Nighttime Volunteers Firefighters and Afternoon Child Protective Services?

If so, I’d like to apply for any of these time-specific jobs:

TWILIGHT CITY PLANNER. I figure I’d show up around 4 p.m. when we’re on standard time and 6:30 during the summer. But as soon as the sky began to darken, I’d pack up the leftovers in my lunch pail and call it a day. Or dusk. Whatever. 

SUNRISE COUNTY TAX ASSESSOR. While I’m not exactly a morning person, I figure I can work my shift at the end of a long night, then head home for bed. But while in the office I’d be sure to levy outrageous property taxes on people living in 1400-square-foot condos (like me, currently facing a $6,000 bill in 2023 even though all of my services come from the city, not the county). Just makin’ hay while the sun shines, podnuh.  

HIGH NOON PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER. While this would mean I’d have to take late lunches, which I prefer anyway (they leave less of a working afternoon to endure), I think I could get into the swing of showing up around 12, when everyone else at City Hall and County Administration leaves for lunch, and having free rein to publish dirty jokes on the government’s website and hack into those emergency sirens they currently test once a week (usually on Fridays around 11 a.m., which apparently is when we’re most liable to experience a flood or nuclear attack) 

HIGH-TEA RISK MANAGEMENT OFFICER. For this, I’d even bring the scones and watercress sandwiches to my 4-4:45 p.m. shift, during which I’d evaluate the odds of my choking on scones and watercress sandwiches, conclude that they were negligible then head to an after-work watering hole for pickled eggs and pretzels.  

EARLY EVENING DIVERSITY, EQUITY AND INCLUSION MANAGER. I would gladly volunteer to do this job alone—but while that would demonstrate equity and inclusion, it would hardly qualify as practicing  diversity. So I’d invite a rescue dog or cat to join me.

LATE NIGHT VIDEO MONITOR. Since Seth Meyers’s show begins at 12:30 a.m., my guess is that many people tape it and watch it the next day at a more convenient time, like on the computers at their desks during work hours. Just in case someone’s DVR or TiVo is on the fritz, I’d be delighted to stay up and tape the show, then make it available on a YouTube channel with a live pay wall. In fact, I could do this job as I leave for my other one as the county Sunrise Tax Assessor. I realize that’s double-dipping, but have you seen my property tax bill?

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).