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Dr. Crawford’s fuzzy numbers… and logic

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader


In the spirit of John Crawford’s analysis of how the city will save by ending collective bargaining, I have done my own calculation of how it will affect me. I live in the city, pay property taxes of around $9,000 per year, pay CEDIT, COIT, DAMNIT and LOIT. My savings will be around $1.57. Now, my figures are just estimates and the real numbers, as with Dr. Crawford’s calculations, are nigh on impossible to quantify and, moreover, subject to that bugaboo of old — the law of unintended consequences. I base my calculation of the same whimsy as the good doctor. In fact, it is impossible to calculate what we will gain and what we will lose. Here is something I know for sure: wholesale firings are on the horizon; history tells us that.

Before collective bargaining, here’s how the system worked: if a Democrat replaced a Republican (or vice versa) in the mayor’s chair, every city employee was quickly or shortly fired to make way for a patronage worker. The police chief became a beat patrolman, the head of water maintenance dug ditches, secretaries were replaced by housewives and nearly all the other employees were sent packing to make way for the campaign workers who got the new mayor elected.

Of course, this created more than a bit of chaos in government. The first few months were spent trying to find the proverbial paper clips, and patronage workers could hardly be fired, so who the hell really bothered to look, or to answer the phone, or to go on patrol? After about three years of leaning on shovels of mismanaging contracts, of indifference to the public, of long donut breaks, all those patronage workers spent their work time polishing their resumes and started leaving the sinking ship…yes, like the rats of yore. The last year of a four-year term was as chaotic as the first as more and more positions went vacant or were filled with the nephews of the cousin of the mayor’s astrologer.

When Ivan Lebamoff — the same mayor who laid the groundwork for the Legacy Fund — neared the end of his term, he made the decision to change that sleazy patronage system in favor of merit hiring, work rules, and contracts with workers to define their job responsibilities and the responsibilities of their employer and managers. Unions were seen as part of the professionalization of government, so that you and I could depend upon city officials to deliver on their promises. It was a decision as wise as setting up the Legacy Fund mechanism.

It is simply ludicrous to suggest that without unions and collective bargaining the same old cronysim, nepotism and spoils system won’t return in full force. It will. Remember, Indiana is an “at-will” state when it comes to boss-employee relations, which means a boss can toss you out for whatever reason. It is a form of economic feudalism that will return to our fair city with a vengeance, literally, so the few dollars the city will save from avoiding the hard work of creating nine union contracts will be more than eaten by the losses in productivity, indifference, and ineptitude of the patronage workforce that will replace the professionals currently in place.

Fort Wayne City Government is significantly more customer (you) oriented than any government I have ever dealt with in my oh too many years of political involvement. The Republicans on council would toss that out and return to the days of amateurs running city hall, corrupt cops, and the farcical snow removal effort that Bob Armstong gave us.

But wait, there’s more…

What ending collective bargaining will do is drive down your income if you happen to have to work for a living. To wit; the city is the sixth largest employer in the county, so the lower pay scale for non-union workers at the city will ripple through the entire local employment system, putting downward pressure on your wages, too, whether you deliver pizzas, publish a bi-weekly rag or work in an office. It is simple supply and demand. Given that local income is currently well under the national average, by some estimates only 80-some percent of the national average. It is the Appalachianization of Fort Wayne.

And, another thing…

The income gap that we have read so much about will widen just a smidge more because of the six council members’ effort to end collective bargaining and drive down wages. Pay cuts will ripple across the county. That is part of the goal of this legislation. Simple as that. The builders in the area hate union wages, so they are behind this Republican push with money and promises. Remember when IPFW was caught paying undocumented construction workers through slimy contractors? You can expect more of that sort of thing because cutting corners is cheaper…and helps with that boat payment.
While they are pushing your wages down city council gives away millions of dollars in tax revenues each year in the form of tax abatements to well-to-do businessmen who promise jobs they never quite deliver. The abatements cut millions and millions and millions from the tax rolls, thereby taking away from public education, the roads, funding for parks and the airport and public transit, among many other things. Those hundreds of millions in abatements are one reason you have a smaller paycheck this year! If you have forgotten, city council passed a tax increase last year because they just couldn’t make ends meet after handing out tax break after tax break. You are making up for the abatements. The winners are the businessmen and their investors who belly up to council for a bottom line sweetener, something to help with that boat payment. Where are the jobs? Did they really need that abatement? No. Council knows that, but they don’t have the courage to say no, instead they raised your taxes to cover their giveaways.

So, this bit of legislation to end collective bargaining and to kill unions in Allen County will really cost a lot more than the fuzzy savings Dr. Crawford wants you to swallow. The winners will be those at the top of the local income food-chain or corporations in New York; the rest of us will be the losers.

Yup, I will save $1.57 on my property taxes (fat chance), but the problems this ordinance will create will make the $1.57 look like a tremendous investment in good government.

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