Public Watchdog.org

Mayor, Council Not Afraid Of Rats

12.05.14

When was the last time you saw two large inflatable rats in front of Park Ridge City Hall, their inflatable paws holding inflatable sacks of inflatable public money?

Never, that’s when.

So when the rats and their keepers – a contingent of the City’s Public Works employees and their representatives from Local 150 of the Union of Operating Engineers, bearing signs like “Time to Veto Dave Schmidt” – showed up outside City Hall for the City Council meeting on the evening of November 24, it was most definitely a significant event.

As background, one needs to remember that Local 150 has no love for Park Ridge Mayor Dave Schmidt. It was Local 150 that very publicly supported Schmidt’s opponent in the April 2013 election, Larry Ryles. In fact, Local 150’s $1,000 contribution to the Ryles campaign is the only contribution by a union to any candidate for our non-partisan local offices that we can remember or find evidence of.

That’s because Schmidt has been the first Park Ridge mayor to have the audacity to say “no,” or even “maybe not,” to the unions representing City employees. And to public employee unions used to having their way with the majority of feckless public officials who seem to derive more than a little faux self-esteem from spending OPM (“Other People’s Money”), “no” is not an acceptable option.

Especially when Schmidt can back it up with the support of a majority of the City Council.

In this case, as we understand it, Local 150’s beef with the City is the unfair labor practice charge it filed in which the union claims the City is overcharging Public Works employees for health insurance by keeping them on the City’s insurance policy rather than letting them transfer to the union’s coverage. The union claims the City is breaching the contract it cut with the City, while the City says that particular health insurance provision was not part of the contract the City Council approved.

That contract reportedly has not yet been signed by either party, presumably because the draft that Local 150 claims its members ratified contains healthcare terms different from the ones in the draft the City Council initially approved. That confusion is something we blame on City Mgr. Shawn Hamilton and the City’s crack negotiating team, who are very well paid to get this kind of basic stuff right. But that bungled effort has already been the topic of our 06.14.13 post and our 03.14.14 post.

It was Schmidt’s veto of the Council’s 4-3 approval of that bungled contract, which was sustained by a 5-2 vote of the Council on April 7, 2014, that apparently provoked the “Veto Dave Schmidt” signs.

The Local 150 unfair labor practice, and a similar counterclaim filed by the City, are currently being arbitrated before the Illinois Labor Relations Board, a public body which effectively has become an arm of public-sector unions over the many years that public sector union-beholden Democrats have dominated Illinois state government, not only stacking state laws to favor public employee unions but also controlling the appointment of the arbitrators who decide these kinds of disputes. So taking on a union in such a proceeding is an uphill battle.

But it’s one that has to be fought because surrendering would announce to Local 150 and to all other City employee unions that our current elected officials are a bunch of easily-intimidated ankle-grabbers who will sell out the taxpayers almost as readily as their soft-touch predecessors.

If you have any doubt about that point, consider the irony of all these Local 150 types ripping Schmidt and the Council for “wasting taxpayers’ money,” the second most popular Local 150 sign slogan behind “Veto Dave Schmidt.”

In the Bizarro world of public-sector unions and their members – including police, firefighters and teachers – the doling out of tens and even hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in raises and benefits, without any increase in productivity or efficiency, is wise spending. And spending a fraction of that money fighting the unions’ demands, on the other hand, is a waste of those funds.

Which is why Local 150 member Doug Karowsky can shamelessly argue that “the City Council had a duty to the taxpayers to be financially responsible” while somehow considering that such a duty could be discharged by the Council’s rolling over for the union’s wage increases and benefit demands.

In 1798 the French foreign minister Tallyrand demanded bribes of $250,000 for himself personally, $50,000 pounds sterling for France, and a $100 million loan to France, in order to stop French ships from plundering American ones. U.S. Sen. Robert Goodloe Harper responded to that demand with the famous toast: “Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute.” And later that year American warships and armed private merchant ships captured 80 French vessels and chased French warships out of U.S. waters.

We’re not suggesting that the City spend “millions” – or anything remotely close – on battling Local 150.

But Park Ridge taxpayers should be glad that Schmidt and the Council have let the word go out to friend and foe alike that at least one local governmental body will not be seduced or intimidated by public-sector unions bearing signs and demanding unwarranted raises and/or better benefits.

Or by their inflatable rats.

To read or post comments, click on title.

25 comments so far

Based on which way this thing eventually falls and the point being arbitrated, how much will it cost or save the city??

To be clear, I am not talking about attorneys fees. I am talking about the point(s) in the contract on which the parties disagree. What dollars are associated with these points??

EDITOR’S NOTE: As we understand it, it’s not a predictable amount of dollars because by agreeing to insure Public Works employees through the union’s coverage the City gives up control over that coverage and those premiums; and the union’s projections – like many projections – were less than reassuring to City officials.

I for one wish we had officials like Schmidt and several of these aldermen running those other branches of local gov’t. Where I work you get a raise when you produce more, not just because another year has passed. The public sector has no clue of what productivity means.

In the Bizarro world of public-sector unions and their members – including police, firefighters and teachers – the doling out of tens and even hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in raises and benefits, without any increase in productivity or efficiency, is wise spending. And spending a fraction of that money fighting the unions’ demands, on the other hand, is a waste of those funds.

How does one measure a police or fire departments increase in productivity or efficiency? an increase in putting out fires or arresting criminals with a corresponding decrease in number of personnel?
Sometimes comparisons to private sector companues producing widgets efficiently and at a low cost are simple no appropo given that public sector jobs often provide services that are not appropriate for provision by the private sector.
Further, just because a private company may not give its employees COLAs doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do. You need look no further than certain international company sweat shops to see that what the private sector sometimes does to maximize profit By decreasing costs is not right, moral or fair to the workers or their families.
Have you tried taking the challenge of living a week on a minimum wage salary? Sometimes you have to do what is right and sometimes that isn’t nevessarily the cheapest option. Just like council putting through 22 percent increase. They could have cut other things to make up for library and uptown expenses BUT they decided to do what is right- keep the level of services that are out there grit their teeth and bear the brunt of increased expense for the sake of what is right.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If these folks can’t prove they’re productivity has increased, why do they deserve any kind of raise?

This isn’t about producing widgets. These are public sector services, so the comparison needs to be made with private sector service businesses. But the burden of proof needs to be on the folks asking for more money.

If a particular salaray or benefits “is not right, moral or fair to the workers or their families,” then those workers should put on their big boy/girl pants and look for another job, just like folks in the private sector have to do when confronted with that same problem. Nowhere but in the minds of some/many/most public sector employees does it say that they are entitled to a bubble-wrap, risk-free, no consequences life.

This editor DID live on minimum wage jobs, which is why he did what most people who don’t want to do that anymore do: get more education, or develop better skills to get a better job; or get involved in “risky” ventures (like sales, investments, starting a business) where the rewards are less certain but can produce far higher compensation than even those above-minimum wage jobs.

I’m troubled by how the city council approved a contract different from the one the union approved. I don’t understand how that could even happen.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So are we, and that’s something we have not heard about Hamilton or his negotiation team being held accountable for.

Come on PD, there has to be a dollar amount associated with this debate. Are you telling me the Mayor and or council has not looked at what the dollars are (and projected dollars in the future) as compared to fighting it??

EDITOR’S NOTE: Come on, whoever you are, there is no reliable “hard” dollar amount projected out through the contract’s FY2017 expiration – which is one of the reasons Schmidt vetoed the deal in the first place. It also contributed a reason, along with Local 150’s ULP claim (in which it is trying to jam terms the City Council did not approve down the City’s throat) for Alds. Milissis and Maloney changing their positions and sustaining Schmidt’s veto.

So this dispute isn’t just about the uncertainties surrounding the comparative costs of health coverage through 2017, but also about whether Local 150 and/or the City acted in bad faith, a question which does not have a fixed amount attached to it but carries implications for future negotiations.

And we reiterate: THIS APPEARS TO BE SOMETHING THAT HAMILTON AND THE CITY’S NEGOTIATING TEAM SCREWED UP IN THEIR DOCUMENTING WHAT THE ACTUAL “DEAL” WAS.

So who does Mr. Hamilton report to? And when, if ever, will the standards you demand of everyone else be applied to those the current City elected officials oversee?

EDITOR’S NOTE: The City Council. But you knew that, didn’t you?

They should be applied consistently by our elected officials, but the problem with unpaid/low-paid elected officials is that they are trying to oversee – in their “spare” time – full-time employees who, should they choose, can spend their paid time doing things to avoid such oversight or conceal their activities from ready view.

To this day we are unaware of Hamilton’s coming to the Council in a public meeting and explaining HOW he sent the Council for ratification a contract with terms DIFFERENT from the one the union was getting ratified. Should the Council demand that? Absolutely. Is that the most important thing they have on their plates? We doubt it.

There’s no interest in even estimating the dollar amount in play because hostility toward collective bargaining in general — as an alternative to going someplace else to work — is probably the most fervently held value of this blogger and this mayor. It’s not the amount of money that sends them into tizzies, it’s that in the public sector, employees aren’t just commodities to be used up and thrown away. Anti-union efforts, both legal and illegal, have been endemic for decades and with only six percent of the private sector enjoying union protection today (down from about 20% in the ’60s and early ’70s) they know there’s no way “go someplace else” is even remotely rational. It’s “bad faith” when the rank-and-file does it, “just good business” when these types do it. Got it?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Au contraire…this editor has been a lifelong fan of collective bargaining, but in the private sector where actual market economics rather than monopolistic economics – and boneheaded/corrupt politics – govern the arrangement.

But since we’re on the topic, we value the right of the taxpayers not to be compelled to pay (via mandatory taxes) raises to public employees that don’t involve any additional productivity by those employees or any greater value to those taxpayers, just because those employees want more money – especially when they already have guaranteed pension benefits that the taxpayers would need $1 million or more in their non-guaranteed 401(k)s to get close to.

OK, let’s make it easier. Is there a hard dollar amount for year 1?? Come on PD. The council and/or Mayor and/or you must have a number as to what this is going to mean financially, depending on which way it is decided, for year 1…..right??

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Year 1” is only 25% – at most – of the 4-year deal, which makes it irrelevant to the City’s decision, as the mayor made clear that the first year was not the basis of his veto and, therefore, not the basis for the Council’s sustaining of his veto.

By the way, it was you who used the term hard dollar amount, not me. I simply asked for projected dollars, not HARD dollars.

You love to go on about private sector versus public sector. Well in my career we have used numbers that are not “hard” all the time. It is called forecasting or in some companies budgeting or putting together a plan.

SO they never looked at this and said what it could cost/save the city over time??

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since we have no idea who you are, your fictional “career” and “forecasting” experience is meaningless. And the reason the Council didn’t sign onto the deal is because they couldn’t come up with sufficiently credible numbers for the last years of the contract.

Whatever one might feel about unions or the Mayors Veto, this is another example of the ole’ PD double standard.

Ya see when it comes to things he disagrees with he wants actual dollars down to the Gnats eye lash and complete documentation of exactly what the taxpayer will receive for their money. Remember his posts on COC and on what to do about the Ohare Group.

However when it is something he agrees with (as you touched on 5:16) just throw a dart at the wall and that will be fine. GO ahead and spend the money.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We challenge you to find one example of where we have demanded “actual dollars down to the Gnats [sic] eye lash and complete documentation of exactly what the taxpayer will receive for their [sic] money.”

We have no idea what you are referring to by “the Ohare [sic] Group.” But if “COC” is the Center of Concern, posts such as our 02.24.12 one pointed out how totally opaque and unaccountable CofC’s “reporting” was – including its unsubstantiated claims of 6,770 “Park Ridge residents served,” and the lack of any numbers from which one could even begin to estimate the man-hours or cost-units of services CofC allegedly was providing for the money it had been getting from the City.

So instead of “Gnats [sic] eye lash” level documentation, CofC has never even provided elephant ears-level information.

Speaking of double standards, anon posters continue to only be an issue when you do not like a post. Simply don’t allow anon posters. OF course that would mean not posting anyone for this thread so far.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s like Warren Buffett beefing about how he’s taxed too little but then demanding the tax code be overhauld so that everybody has to pay more as a condition for his paying what he says he should owe.

For all we know, you’re a Local 150 guy sniping from the weeds while pretending to be a real Park Ridge taxpayer. But if anonymous posting concerns you, don’t wait for us to ban anon posters: come out of the closet and let your quasi-socialist freak flag fly under your own name, so that if you truly are a Park Ridge taxpayer your peers can show their appreciation for your views.

Your double standard has become too blatant to overlook. Everyone vividly recalls your absolute rejection of elected officials in the City’s past administrations or in other government bodies past and current when their defenders tried to use the “unpaid, too busy at their other jobs, staff is sneaky,” excuses. Yet you have no problem whatsoever cutting the current Mayor and his peeps slack using the very same excuse/rationale. And for a bonus, attacking those who challenge that it’s ok for the goose but not the turkeys.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Every time we publish a post critical of anything the City is doing, we are shining a light not just on Staff but on the Mayor and the Council for those things that otherwise would remain in the dark because folks like you – be you former rubber-stamp officials or apologists for them and/or their special interests – and the regular “media” don’t care enough to make the effort to investigate, think about, and/or comment on them.

But since “[e]veryone vividly recalls” all those unidentified incidents to which you allude, then you should have no problem providing chapter and verse – not just the dates of the posts, but the actual quotes you claim demonstrate that “double standard” – for at least THREE of them.

Tick tock.

Public Sector Unions are so “on message” all the time with BS. I love the fact that the block heads were out with signs, telling TAXPAYERS that they are trying to save us money. How many actually were from Park Ridge?

I really wish, we could privatize all of the city services and never see these pensioned, overpaid “laborers” again. Local 150 is known for it’s strong armed tactics, along with ridiculous demands.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The City probably could “privatize all of the city services” if it tried hard enough, but that’s like cutting down the tree just to pick one apple. The only problem with public sector unions is weak-kneed (or corrupt) public officials who can’t say “no” to raises unsupported by objectively-measurable increased productivity.

“But if “COC” is the Center of Concern, posts such as our 02.24.12 one pointed out how totally opaque and unaccountable CofC’s “reporting” was – including its unsubstantiated claims of 6,770 “Park Ridge residents served,” and the lack of any numbers from which one could even begin to estimate the man-hours or cost-units of services CofC allegedly was providing for the money it had been getting from the City”.

So if such accuracy and data are so important to you why is it OK in this case to provide no data as to what the “potential” cost or saving is for the city versus what the potential expense (legal fees) will be??

The difference is very simple. In one case you are fervently opposed to the idea of the city giving taxpayer dollars to an organization like COC and in the other you are four square the city fighting unions.

Hell, it is entirely possible that the legal costs here will be significantly more than what was given “civic organizations” but you are making no demands for any cost benefit analysis.

EDITOR’S NOTE: When it comes to the CofC and those other community groups, we’re not talking “such accuracy and data”: we’re talking about NO ACCURATE DATA!

The difference IS “very simple.” CofC et al. refused to provide detailed information about whom they served, how they served them, and what it cost per service because (a) they didn’t want to confirm that they were using Park Ridge tax dollars to serve other communities’ residents; (b) they didn’t want to confirm how much of that money was actually going to administration (including salaries) instead of to the actual services; and/or (c) they didn’t want to confirm how costly and/or how economically-inefficient those services were in actually addressing the problems they targeted.

Lastly, and to reiterate, the “potential” cost or savings to the City can’t be calculated because the cost projections for the last two years aren’t credible; and the disputes involve both economic and non-economic issues, the latter of which cannot be reduced to hard dollar values. But because Hamilton and his negotiating team appear to have royally botched this situation and, therefore, want to sweep it under the rug as quickly as possible, Hamilton has projected legal fees of as high as $80,000.

However, we aren’t ready to believe the rumors that Hamilton and/or the other negotiators suggested the “Veto Dave Schmidt” and “Wasting Taxpayers’ Money” slogans to Local 150.

As a long-time reader and commentator on this blog I have to point out how the “apologists” for public employees (specially teachers, but all others as well) talk about them as if they are so delicate and fragile as to be almost frail.

They should not be fired absent the most extreme circumstances. They are entitled to raises just for staying alive no matter what their productivity level is. They are entitled to guaranteed defined benefit pensions that most of us with non-guaranteed 401(k) benefits can only dream of. And they are entitled to all of this while escaping even the slightest hint of criticism because they, unlike the taxpayers who pay their fine salaries and benefits, are doing the work of the angels.

So long as those of us who are not public employees keep accepting these fictions we will see more of our money go for fewer and less service.

EDITOR’S NOTE: That’s just about the size of it.

I am at my day job, so I do not have hard numbers readily available. But to answer the question of some of those concerned, the City will certainly incur more legal expenses than the amount at issue in this particular dispute.

Does that mean we should simply run up the white flag? I think not, because if we run up the white flag every time a union makes a demand or files an unfair labor practices charge because we don’t want to incur the expense fighting it even though we believe we are in the right, we will be inviting more and more of this type of dispute.

Calm down before you have a health problem or something. We bust your chops because we love you. Even the fools in your readership, and we are clearly legion, appreciate that you provide the only real media (medium?) where halfway intelligent debate about facts and philosophies are aired on a daily basis.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Gee, and we thought you all were just being stupid. Our bad.

The alternative to the City fighting this is to accept and bend over for any and every demand the unions make, so long as the cost is less than the attorneys’ fees for fighting each one. So $80,000 for Local 150, $80,000 for the cops, $80,000 for the firemen, $80,000 for the sergeants, icops, etc. That’s real money, people.

EDITOR’S NOTE: But timid and weak-kneed public officials, and/or the bureaucrats who are just looking for the path of least resistance, are happy to throw another bag or two of tax dollars at the problem.

No, not your bad. Just your myopia. I don’t think the taxpayers here disagree with your supporting the City against what it believes are unfair union demands. They do disagree with the notion that it’s OK for management to do anything it wishes to anyone for any reason, but it’s somehow evil for the rank and file to evoke whatever barriers the lucky few have to curtail managerial self-indulgence. Just a few generations ago, police didn’t even get a uniform allowance and teachers lived in various homesteaders’ garrets. And don’t even ask about the pay and conditions of firemen and public works. You’d like that better, I suppose. Believe it or not, everybody out there walking around has the same needs and motives as you do, and a majority of them work as hard as you do and contribute as much in their own ways. There are useless placeholders and malefactors in every type and level of job; just ask anyone who’s ever set foot in an office. We need to establish and enforce productivity standards for City employees rather than trying to punish people for wanting some protection against whimsical damage. Unions aren’t the problem: Bums in the unions are the problem. Ditto for management.

EDITOR’S NOTE: First of all, “[j]ust a few generations ago” is irrelevant to this argument because “just a few generations ago” we still had segregated schools, around a 40% high school graduation rate, about a 7% college graduation rate, and public-sector union membership of only a small fraction of the private sector’s. Public sector unions weren’t even considered “real” unions by most of the private sector unions – the folks who actually fought and even died for all the meaningful improvements in the plight of the worker that the johnny-come-lately public sector unions took for granted, and added nothing of their own.

But if the 1950s (“just a few generations ago”) are your cup of tea, then you should love this 1955 quote from George Meany, the very first president of the AFL-CIO: “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” That’s because the ultimate weapon unions have when bargaining fails to produce the results they want – the strike – ends up being a strike against the taxpayers, something even FDR viewed as “unthinkable and intolerable.”

Second, the premise that City “management” can “do anything it wishes to anyone for any reason” is totally false. City management is bound by civil service laws overseen by a Civil Service Commission comprised of three citizens (John Duggan, Peter McNamara and Peter N Ryan), none of whom are elected officials and all of whom are charged with ensuring that City employees are not victims of “whimsical damage.”

As for your statement that “[w]e need to establish and enforce productivity standards for City employees,” the most strident opposition to that comes from the unions who prefer well-paid uniform mediocrity to the rewarding of pockets of excellence.

But you’re right about one thing: “unions aren’t the problem.” The problem is, and always has been, public-sector unions whose leadership colludes with corrupt government officials, or intimidates feckless government officials, all for the purpose of fleecing helpless taxpayers.

Just a correction, there have been cases of government employee unions backing candidates in our sleepy little hamlet. The SEIU backed a slate in two different Park Board elections. Also, there was a giant inflatable rat outside the park district community center during some recent construction project. So if fighting organized labor is something you like in an elected official, the park board has been blazing the trail in Park Ridge.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We prefer to view it as fighting FOR the taxpayers. And the Park Board’s record on going toe-to-toe with unions on wages and benefits is, as best as we can tell, not as good as the City’s, although far better than either school district.

I did some googlin’ without much luck. How often has this happened in PR. By “this” I mean how often has there been unfair labor or other similar claims filed. I cannot remember anything like this but I have not been here nearly as long as you.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Neither can we.

You say:
“Lastly, and to reiterate, the “potential” cost or savings to the City can’t be calculated because the cost projections for the last two years aren’t credible; and the disputes involve both economic and non-economic issues, the latter of which cannot be reduced to hard dollar values.”
Where, oh, where in circumstances other than the above have you been willing to acknowledge that some big-impact issues are “non-economic” and that they “can’t be reduced to hard dollar values”????
This is what everyone has been trying to tell you for aeons, and you’ve been rejecting it and excoriating anyone who submits it for consideration. Why is this different?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Because what “cannot be reduced to hard dollar values” in this instance is the precedent any “pay the employees whatever it might cost to litigate” might set for the landscape of FUTURE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING. That, in turn, can lead to unpredictably outrageous union contract demands that are some quantification/multiple of the fees and costs the City might incur in fighting a union-filed interest arbitration – which CANNOT currently be reasonably predicted or valued.

There is not quantifiable proof that fighting this issue will somehow decrease labor claims in the future. In fact, in your piece you seem to be saying that this issue only went to an unfair labor practices charge because of the discrepancy (bungled effort)in the documents approved by both parties. It would appear that if that job would have been done right in the first place this issue would have never come up.

Now you and the Mayor use phrases like “ankle grabbing” and “white flag waving” to justify spending more than what this individual issue is worth and with zero proof as to what this might be worth (if anything) in the future. The idea that you and the Mayor somehow think this will affect future negotiations with other unions is pie in the sky at best. Do you think if a similar issue with a discrepancy in contracts were to come up with the police or fire unions they would not look for recourse out of fear for ole’ Mayor Dave and the PR city council?? Please!!

So it comes down to this. When it is an issue you are against you prattle on about the taxpayers money and the budget. You want to know exactly what we are getting for that money. But when it is something you are for you say spend away!!

Based on all the things you and the Mayor have said about spending over the years and yet now you both admit first, that “the City will certainly incur more legal expenses than the amount at issue in this particular dispute” (Mayor Dave), and second that this spend is for some unpredictable benefit that may or may not occur in the future and even if it does cannot be valued.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It sounds like the alternative you seem to prefer – by the way, is it “Mr. Local 150” or “Ms. Local 150”? – is for the City to basically say to all unions and unionized employees: “Demand whatever you want, we’ll give it to you so long as it doesn’t exceed what we think it will cost us to arbitrate.”

Since we’re feeling particularly politically incorrect today: Are you advocating a “Munich” approach to capitulation, or a “Blazing Saddles” approach to coercion ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_JOGmXpe5I )?

Yes, that is right. Anyone who disagrees with you on this issue is clearly in a Local 150. And of course anyone who disagrees with you must be guilty of capitulation. By the way you should really use the word appeasement. It will give you more street cred with the far right.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Okay, prove you’re not.

Anyone who uses the term “far right” is clearly “far left” and should be discounted as such.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So long as the “far right” and the “far left” exist, they can be – although won’t always be – a purely neutral/despcriptive shorthand reference for people who believe and/or act on certain principles. Kind of like “parasites” and “freeloaders” are shorthand references for people who believe and/or act on certain principles. Or without them.



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