Miami-Dade Mayor Recalled; Union Concessions in Canada; Annapolis Ends Binding Arbitration; San Jose Targets Pensions; Mentality of Union Fools

March 16, 2011 05:29

Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas were ousted in recall votes. Both voted for huge tax hikes that will saddle county taxpayers for years to come. This should serve as a warning shot to union sympathizers that taxpayers have had enough.

By Mike “Mish” Shedlock

Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas were ousted in recall votes. Both voted for huge tax hikes that will saddle county taxpayers for years to come.

This should serve as a warning shot to union sympathizers that taxpayers have had enough.

Please consider Alvarez, Seijas trounced in Miami-Dade recall election

With almost all precincts reporting results, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas have been ousted from office.

Results from the recall election, including absentee and early votes, show a vast majority of voters, around 88 percent, want to kick out the two politicians.

Both politicians kept a low profile as results came in, but billionaire auto magnate Norman Braman, who championed the recall effort along with political action committee Miami Voice, celebrated with supporters at a news conference.

“Today is the first day of a new day for Miami-Dade County. County voters have demonstrated by their ballots that they are tired of unaccountable officials, of being ignored, and of being over-taxed in this very difficult recessionary time,” he said. “I say, ‘congratulations Miami-Dade voters!’”

“I knew the decision was not going to be popular,” Alvarez told WURN-Actualidad 1020 AM. Alvarez said his budget preserved “basic” services.

“If I had done what Mr. Braman wanted me to do…I would be facing a recall by the other people” whose funding for arts and social services was cut, Alvarez said.

Look at the self-serving arrogance of Alvarez’s statement. He was ousted 88-12 and has the gall to claim he would have faced a recall for making a different choice.

The New York Times reports Miami-Dade County Mayor Is Removed

Mayor Carlos Alvarez of Miami-Dade County was removed in a recall election on Tuesday as voters punished him for raising property taxes and increasing the salaries of his closest aides at the height of the recession.

Walking out of polling stations, irate voters said Mr. Alvarez’s greatest offense was his effrontery: Two years ago, with Miami sinking under foreclosures and a housing bust, he called on residents and county workers in a speech to brace themselves for “tough times.” But he gave his own top aides hefty raises, including his former chief of staff whose salary climbed to $206,783 from $185,484.

Last year, he pushed through a budget that raised property taxes for 40 percent of homeowners, despite plummeting property values, to avoid laying off firefighters and other public employees. Yet, most county workers are getting raises this year.

And then there is the car. The mayor shuttles around Miami in a sleek BMW 500i Gran Turismo, which taxpayers help subsidize.

The recall campaign was spearheaded by Norman Braman, a billionaire car dealer, philanthropist and onetime owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, who said he was outraged by the property tax increase and the “erosion in the quality of life” in Miami. Mr. Braman spent more than $1 million hiring consultants to collect signatures to call for the recall election. He collected 114,000, more than double the required number. A frequent guest on Spanish-language radio here, Mr. Braman, who does not speak Spanish, succeeded in energizing Hispanics who said they felt betrayed by their county mayor.

Voters favored removing the mayor by 88 percent to 12 percent.

Union Hardball in Canada

In Penticton, Canada, Mayor Dan Ashton forced union to accept two-tier wage system

Penticton has wrested wage concessions from the union representing workers at a new community centre, threatening to turn the facility over to a private operator unless employees agree to a two-tier pay system.

The city laid off 36 employees when the old centre closed for construction last spring. Most were lifeguards making about $23 an hour.

The city offered to bring those employees back at the same pay once the new centre opens, but there was a catch. The city demanded the union accept a two-tier wage system that would see newly hired lifeguards paid a reduced rate of $14.50 an hour. If the union didn’t agree, the city said it would hire a private contractor to run the facility, who in all likelihood would have used cheaper, non-unionized workers.

It backed up its position by issuing a request for proposals that netted two responses.

Mr. Ashton says his community of 33,000 has no choice but to trim its wage bill. In the fall, the city slashed services and eliminated 30 positions – about 10 per cent of its work force – as part of an effort to slay a $1.7-million deficit without raising taxes.

The proper thing to do would have been to outsource the entire operation and be done with it. Nonetheless, Ashton did set a reasonable tone and precedent for a two-tier system. That’s a start.

Annapolis County Council Ends Binding Arbitration of Public Safety Unions

In another vote of common sense, Binding arbitration for public safety unions nixed

Before a packed crowd last night in Annapolis, the County Council voted unanimously to curtail the bargaining rights of the county’s public safety unions.

If a union cannot negotiate a contract with the county, an independent third party will no longer be able to definitively settle the dispute. Under the new law, all decisions will be subject to the council’s approval.

“This is a win for the taxpayers of Anne Arundel County,” said Councilman Derek Fink, R-Pasadena. “The council should decide how every taxpayer dollar should be spent, no one else.”

The 7-0 vote drew an immediate rebuke last night from several county union leaders, who promptly announced plans to challenge the new law in court.

Poison Pill Nixed

The original bill contained a “poison pill” mandating that if the unions challenged the legality of the new law and succeeded in overturning any part of it, the county’s entire binding arbitration process would be repealed.

Unfortunately the poison pill provision was stricken by an agreement. In reality there is no need for the poison pill. The correct procedure from the outset would have been to kill the entire binding arbitration process of every union right up front.

Nonetheless, progress is clearly being made.

San Jose mayor targets pensions in budget

Inquiring minds note good news continues in California where Mercury News reports San Jose mayor targets pensions

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed said Friday the city cannot afford to pare its work force any further to close chronic budget deficits.

Upon taking office in 2007, Reed vowed to end the city’s chronic budget deficits, driven chiefly by employee costs outpacing revenues. Since 2000, revenues grew 22 percent while employee costs rose 77 percent and staffing fell 17 percent. But employee unions have fought his calls for concessions, even after a national recession worsened the city’s financial woes.

Last year, when a record $118.5 million deficit threatened layoffs and budget shortfalls loomed far into the future, a half-dozen city unions grudgingly accepted the city’s demand to reduce their pay and benefits 10 percent, a level matched by the council and top officials.

The city imposed 5 percent cuts on one small union, and police agreed to 4 percent reductions to save 70 officers from layoffs. Firefighters couldn’t reach agreement on concessions with the city, and 49 were laid off. Two other unions still under contract continued receiving raises. Still, the city cut 800 jobs and demoted or laid off more than 150 employees.

This year, the deficit has climbed to $105.4 million, driven chiefly by pension costs that are projected to grow from $156 million to $256 million next year and top $400 million in four years.

Several unions have stepped forward with offers to accept the 10 percent cuts city leaders had called for last year to ease the ongoing budget woes, most notably firefighters, who reached a tentative agreement with the city that will be voted on March 22.

But Reed noted that the worsening budget picture means employees will have to give up much more to avoid further layoffs. The 10 percent cuts would save only $38 million. About 480 jobs would have to be axed to cover the balance.

Reed said the city already is thinly staffed and can’t afford to lose more employees. The city, he added, can’t afford to keep “fiddling around the edges” of the pension reforms he’s sought.

Reed said employees need to reduce pensions not only for future hires but existing workers, including raising retirement ages, reducing automatic pension increases and bonus checks. Eliminating other perks like a provision that pays retiring workers for unused sick leave can also save millions of dollars, he said.

Councilwoman Herrera said shrinking current workers’ pensions is the “800-pound gorilla” that the city must confront to avoid the recurring “Groundhog Day” of budget woes. She also applauded Reed for sparing programs serving kids, including children’s health care and school crossing guards.

“Our children shouldn’t have to pay the price,” she said, “for past bad decisions by previous councils.”

There are a lot more details in the article that may interest California readers.

The actions in San Jose constitute progress, but it’s also like pulling teeth. The correct move is to end defined benefit plans for all new hires and curtail benefits for existing workers as well.

San Jose is in trouble with a $105 million deficit now, yet pension costs are expected to go up anoyther $250 million in the next 4 years. Most likely that assumes rates of returns that will not happen.

Union Jackasses Threaten Wisconsin Businesses

In Wisconsin, unions have not yet gotten the message that taxpayers have had enough. In the wake of much needed legislation signed by Governor Walker, Unions Threaten Wisconsin Businesses.

Here is a snip of a letter sent to Mr. Tom Ellis, President of Marshall & Ilsley Corporation:

Dear Mr. Ellis:
As you undoubtedly know, Governor Walker recently proposed a “budget adjustment bill” to eviscerate public employees’ right to collectively bargain in Wisconsin. …

The undersigned groups would like your company to publicly oppose Governor Walker’s efforts to virtually eliminate collective bargaining for public employees in Wisconsin. While we appreciate that you may need some time to consider this request, we ask for your response by March 17. In the event that you do not respond to this request by that date, we will assume that you stand with Governor Walker and against the teachers, nurses, police officers, fire fighters, and other dedicated public employees who serve our communities.

In the event that you cannot support this effort to save collective bargaining, please be advised that the undersigned will publicly and formally boycott the goods and services provided by your company. However, if you join us, we will do everything in our power to publicly celebrate your partnership in the fight to preserve the right of public employees to be heard at the bargaining table. Wisconsin’s public employee unions serve to protect and promote equality and fairness in the workplace. We hope you will stand with us and publicly share that ideal.

Here is the group threatening Marshall & Ilsley

  • James L. Palmer, Executive Director Wisconsin Professional Police Association
  • Mahlon Mitchell,President Professional Fire Fighters
  • Jim Conway, President International Association of Fire Fighters Local 311
  • John Matthews, Executive Director Madison Teachers, Inc.
  • Keith Patt, Executive Director Green Bay Education Association
  • Bob Richardson, President Dane County Deputy Sheriffs Association
  • Dan Frei, President Madison Professional Police Officers Association

Marshall & Ilsley is a financial services organization.

Marshall & Ilsley, a diversified financial services company based in Wisconsin, provides comprehensive financial products and services and unparalleled customer service to personal, business, corporate and institutional customers nationwide.

Mentality of Wisconsin Union Fools

I suspect the public unions have some money invested in strategies at Marshall & Ilsley. If so, note the foolish mentality of the unions.

The union concern ought to be how well their pension funds are managed as opposed to extorting a meaningless statement out of Mr. Ellis.

However, that is not the way fools think or act.

I know nothing about Marshall & Ilsley, one way or the other. However, it’s crystal clear that union fools would leave a pension fund, no matter how well run it might be, if they could not extort a meaningless political statement from the president of a company.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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