Public Watchdog.org

Veto Over-Ride Proves Appeasement Alive And Well In Park Ridge City Gov’t

10.19.11

Within the past couple of weeks, the heretofore unthinkable happened.

The new mayor of that political cesspool known as Chicago, and the almost-new president of the Crook County board, both announced that their respective branches of government were going to get salaries under control or there would be more layoffs – in excess of 1,000 at the county level, along with furloughs and the loss of paid holidays; and more than 500 in Chicago, along with eliminating almost 800 vacant positions.

But here in Park Ridge, our public officials not only keep giving out raises without a care in the world, but they also sweeten the pot with additional benefits like the no-layoff provision contained in the new firefighters union contract – presumably to prevent themselves from correcting their mistake at a later date should their judgment ever return.

Monday night, by a 6-1 vote (Ald. Dan Knight dissenting), the Council over-rode Mayor Dave Schmidt’s veto of the contract between the City and the firefighters union – in an empty Council chambers as the clock worked its way toward midnight, after a closed-session discussion orchestrated by the City’s highly-paid “labor attorney” Dina Kapernekas, whose hiring and compensation arrangement we still haven’t been able to find memorialized in any of the Council meeting minutes.

Such 11th-hour maneuvering is a slap in the face of anybody who believes in transparent government.  That’s even more true when the maneuvering endorses a contract that was negotiated under a public-information blackout agreed to by Fire Chief Mike Zywanski without the good sense of consulting with the mayor or the Council prior to agreeing to it; and without the integrity of admitting to what he did when the mayor first asked about it at the May 2nd meeting – unless his initial silence was intended to buy time for him and certain other City employees to get their stories straight and persuade Chief Z to wear the jacket?

Not surprisingly, four of the six aldermen casting over-ride votes (Alds. Sweeney, DiPietro, Raspanti and Maloney) Monday night didn’t even feel any obligation to publicly explain the reason(s) for those votes, limiting themselves to a simple “no” when they were polled on the motion to sustain the veto.  Apparently they don’t care whether or how the firefighters are supposed to actually earn their 2% bump in 2012-13 and their 3% bump in 2013-14.  2-3% quicker response times on fire calls?  2-3% greater success rate on paramedic resuscitations?  2-3% reductions in fire damages?  2-3% more cats removed from trees?

Or is the real point of their sphinx-like silence that they truly believe City employees do not need to actually earn their raises in this madcap world of public-sector unionized employment?  Or in the equally madcap public-sector non-unionized employment, for that matter – as we saw from this same merry band’s approval of an amended 2011-12 budget back in May that included 3% across-the-board raises for the City’s non-union employees – with only Schmidt and Knight dissenting?

Only Alds. Tom Bernick (6th) and Jim Smith (3rd) gave any clue to their reasons for their veto over-ride votes, and Smith’s was little more than a call to “move on.”

Bernick, on the other hand, called it “a very good contract” despite being unable to articulate anything “good” about it other than that it would eliminate any chance of the union demanding costly arbitration.  In fact, Bernick sounds so terrified of arbitration that he may have crowned himself the Council’s new “Chicken Little,” title vacated by former Ald. Jim Allegretti – especially in light of Kapernekas’ admission that the City’s turning down the contract didn’t make arbitration a certainty because the City and the union still could agree to resume negotiations over those two points on which Schmidt based his veto: the 3% year-three raise and the no-layoff provision.

Bernick’s expressed arbitration-phobia and the “sphinx”-aldermen’s unexplained over-ride votes become far more problematic, however, is in how these bad contract terms affect future negotiations and contracts. 

As Schmidt correctly noted in his comments immediately prior to the over-ride vote, by agreeing to these terms the City is effectively setting a new baseline for subsequent negotiations…and any subsequent arbitration award.  In other words, by agreeing to the 3% year-three raise and the no-layoff provision, the City has now given the firefighters union (and every other City-employee union?) carte blanche to treat those terms as an entitlement in future negotiations…and has given any arbitrator carte blanche to award those terms in any future arbitration.

What this vote (and the prior vote to adopt this flawed contract) also does is effectively announce that these aldermen, save for one, are pushovers: six Neville Chamberlain wannabes going belly up for the union and then proudly waving this contract above their heads while proclaiming labor “peace in our time.”  

Can you say “entitlement,” Alds. Sweeney, DiPietro, Smith, Raspanti, Bernick and Maloney? 

We knew you could.

Now, how about “appeasement”?

To read or post comments, click on title.

10 comments so far

Come on PW, give them a break, maybe they’re jealous of Washington DC having the highest paid workers in the country and want to do have the same bragging rights for Illinois? http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-19/beltway-earnings-make-u-s-capital-richer-than-silicon-valley.html

EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey, if that’s what the aldermanic sphinxes are shooting for, they should just say so. At least we know what Chicken Little’s afraid of.

OUCH…I feel the sting!!
I know that these meetings are recorded, but do I have to painfully sit and watch their supposed rationale for approving the 3% raise and no lay off provision? What on earth could be their justification????

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ald. Bernick was terrified of arbitration and Ald. Smith wanted to move past this issue and attend to the pressing problems of pet gerbils, or something to that effect. As for the sphinxes, watch away – but we don’t think you’re going to hear much in the way of explanations.

The fact that they voted to over ride makes perfect sense to me. The expressed their position in the last vote. Nothing changed and their was no new information that would change their prior position(s).

The only strange thing is why Knight changed his vote this time or, put another way, why he voted for it the first time.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you mean that they “expressed their position” simply by the act of voting for the new contract last month, then you’re right. But with the sphinxes offering no explanations, the public presumably can be excused if it thinks the worst of their motives.

this is truly so disturbing…..we left chicago because of the BS and it’s worse here! back to chicago we go as soon as my kids are out of school. what goes on in this town is abominable on so many levels. there’s going to be a very rude awakening at some point.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sorry, anonymous, but we can’t agree with you that “it’s worse here” than in Chicago. From what we’ve seen over more than 20 years of watching Park Ridge government in action, most of what appears to be stupidity is just that. In Chicago, most of what passes for stupidity is graft and corruption.

THis is a revolting development. Didn’t PW support the election of most of these aldermen? What happened?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes it is.

We expected these new aldermen to be better than those they replaced. And they have been – even though, admittedly, Allegretti, Bach, Carey and Ryan set that bar so pathetically low that it wouldn’t pose a challenge to your typical dwarf or midget.

But it is disappointing to watch Bernick, Maloney, Raspanti and Smith make economic decisions that aren’t just economically unjustifiable in the short term, but which (as we’ve pointed out in this post) have created precedents (e.g., the 3-year contract with 2% and 3% out-year raises unrelated to performance standards, a no-layoff provision) that have the potential for jackpotting the taxpayers for years to come.

Unfortuantely, whether that is the product of stupidity, ignorance, politics, or their own personal philosophies of government, is currently unknown because the only one of them who has articulated his view in any detail is Bernick; and if his comments are to be taken at face value, he’s simply running scared of arbitration.

“Ald. Dan Knight dissenting”. Like that’s some big big news. It’s a shame you only have two hands. You can only pull the puppet strings on Schmidt and Knight.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Just can’t stay away, can you?

Are you actually able to fire enough synapses to muster a policy- or issue-based comment, or is your intellect limited to mindless issue-less bashing of people with whom you disagree?

If you’re looking for “puppets,” you might first look at the aldermen who don’t explain their reasoning or positions on the issues before (or after) voting on them. Both Mayor Schmidt and Ald. Knight have displayed their knowledge, viewpoints and reasoning frequently enough and in-depth enough that no informed, rational person would call them anybody’s “puppets” simply because they may happen to agree with some of the positions taken here.

Gee why would you be against arbitration? Give me a minute to ponder that…………Oh!….. Duh! You and your other ambulance chaser mayor friend get the City to hire attorneys to represent the City at the hearing. The City risks a worse deal, but another law firm gets to build up its bonus pool.

Once again, how much was your tax payer funded bonus this year?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ah, something almost resembling an issue-based comment. That’s a start. Now let’s see if we can decipher your question/comment.

As we wrote in the post (try reading it again, and don’t be ashamed to move your lips if it helps your limited powers of comprehension), even the City’s “labor attorney” Dina Kapernekas – who is employed neither by the mayor’s law firm nor this editor’s law firm, but whose hiring by the City we can find no record of in the minutes we’ve reviewed – admitted “that the City’s turning down the contract didn’t make arbitration a certainty because the City and the union still could agree to resume negotiations over those two points on which Schmidt based his veto: the 3% year-three raise and the no-layoff provision.”

But even if the union did demand arbitration when all we’re talking about here is renegotiating a re-opener for Year 3 salary and eliminating the no-layoff provision (which Kapernekas reportedly claimed was an unimportant throw-in), let the union show its true colors to the taxpayers after having its demands and intractability concealed from public view by Chief Z’s ridiculous “Ground Rules” during negotiations.

“If you’re looking for “puppets,” you might first look at the aldermen who don’t explain their reasoning or positions on the issues before (or after) voting on them”.

Knight would qualify. He never explained his original vote. He did not take you up on your offer to explain on this site. Now he has not explained why he changed his vote when nothing change at all in the contract with firefighters.

If lack or explaination is a sign of a puppet he is as guilty as the rest of them. The only difference is that he (without explaination) changed his vote to one you agree with.

EDITOR’S NOTE: You’re wrong again…no surprise, that. You might consider checking out the meeting videos before you demonstrate your ignorance again.

If Ald. Knight was this blog’s “puppet,” then he wouldn’t have voted to approve the firefighters contract back on Sept. 19 in the light of that day’s post against a “yes” vote that night. But as he explained Monday night, he originally intended to vote against the contract but was temporarily swayed by the doom and gloom discussion about how the State Legislature and the union had the City “handcuffed”; his original vote was a mistake and inconsistent with his other votes on spending issues (e.g., his “no” to 3% across the board raises); and that, upon reconsideration, he was going to correct that and support the mayor’s veto.

On the other hand, Bernick’s apparently still terrified of arbitration; and the sphinxes are still silent about who is pulling their strings, since it’s pretty clear the taxpayers aren’t.

Maybe. Or maybe it’s as simple as good puppets versus bad puppets. Good puppets cave into your ranting. Bad puppets do not.\

EDITOR’S NOTE: There you go again, falling into your bad old habits of ad hominem instead of ad hoc (and we don’t mean “Hock”).

Too bad you haven’t been able to figure out from your obessive/compulsive visits that in the view of this blog, there are no “good” or “bad” puppets in government: “puppets” in government are inherently bad.

Now, go away until you can capably discuss a policy issue.

If the Alderman were afraid it would go to arbitration, what is a plausible reason that they would be worried about that?

I understand the frustration that is being expressed by you and the bloggers, but is there an unspoken issue that the fire fighters would have gotten that would have cost the city of Park Ridge even more than what they gave up?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Okay, we’ll try this one more time:

As even the City’s own “labor attorney” Dina Kapernekas conceded, if the Council had sustained the mayor’s veto the union could have chosen to go back to the bargaining table and negotiated the two terms to which the mayor objected. But if the union chose to go to arbitration, there is no certainty as to what an arbitrator may have awarded – it could have been more taxpayer-friendly terms, the same terms, or less taxpayer-friendly terms. But whatever would have been awarded in the way of increases in salaries could have been accommodated in whole or in part by layoffs.

Unfortunately, the Council’s decision to roll over and submit to the bad deal Chief Z and his Fire Guy “negotiating team” put together has turned what might have been into a moot point.



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