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Blue flu two?
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
So, what is it about the uniformed unions that scare the bejesus out of our rugged, manly politicians? Why is it that Tom Smith, Tom Didier, Russ Jehl, Mitch Harper, Dr. John Crawford and Marty Bender all fear attacking the Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Firefighters’ Union?
After all, who wants another “blue flu?” No one. Not even the anti-union Dr. Crawford and Mr. Jehl.
The question is valid because council recently acted to end collective bargaining in city government. But, they only voted to end collective bargaining for meter maids, water quality analysts and some 500 others, not for police or fire. Meter maids, the Republicans can handle; they are a bit shy, however, of taking on the uniformed service unions.
Politicians first and foremost care about their own reelections. They love the limelight, they love the pats on the back, the crowd, the stage the smiles that come from their adoring fans. “How did I do tonight,” one councilman would regularly ask me. They whine when criticized and cringe at the though of losing their office.
So, why do they fear the uniformed unions?
For one, the uniformed unions are adept at getting out the vote. Leading up to election day unions work phone banks to convert undecided voters. They publicly endorse. They give money in sufficient amounts to pay for all those yard signs, flyers and mailers. Then, they put out those yard signs at homes they have painstakingly identified. On Election Day they even ferry voters to the polls, going “that last mile.” They do the grunt work that really matters.
These politicians also fear you, and fear how you will react if police and fire catch the “blue flue” as happened in the early 80s and before. Councilmen worry that the number of your calls will spike dramatically as you envision a police strike followed by an orgy of rape, pillage and murder. Because, when push comes to shove we can do without councilmen, but not without police and fire.
So, Republicans on council chose not to even vote to end bargaining rights for police and fire, only for the people who clean your streets, keep your water safe, handle the paperwork, keep the street lights on, and manage the city’s property…our property.
Those people do not wear uniforms or carry guns.
Recently, during the heated debate over collective bargaining at least one councilman called on uniformed officers to accompany him to his vehicle after a council meeting, so great was his fear that the angry meter maids whose livelihood he had just attacked might swat him over the head with their ticket books. Perhaps that was why he did not attack the uniformed unions, because he needs someone to protect him from the public.
Meanwhile, city unions, are also up in arms about a “plan” to privatize the city’s water service along the lines of Indianapolis where a private company controls the spigot. Local unions see only two problems should the same happen here: prices go up and service plummets, a net-sum loss. Indy’s water monopoly is managed by a multi-national corporation, Veolia, which is in business first and foremost to make a handsome profit for stockholders, the board and management. Defending your interests is the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission that has a record of cozying with utilities and indifference toward the public.
Maybe you remember the local public hearing last year when scores of angry suburban customers of Aqua Indiana, a private company, lined up at city council to beg for city water, government water. The customers recited a litany of problems with the private company from indifferent service to sludge in their water, or more aptly, water in their sludge. One woman recounted how AI water had killed her goldfish. Clearly, these were fair-haired Republicans from Aboite who knee-jerk hate government and worship privatization as the true embodiment of Americanism. They think privatization automatically makes anything better. But, they begged for government water. Begged.
So, is Mayor Henry is being pushed to turn our water company into Aqua Fort Wayne and bring sludge to your tap? He protests ‘tis not the case but the topic has come up so many times in discussions with other leaders that one wonders whether fire can not be far behind smoke. The private company really doesn’t care if your goldfish dies, or you, for that matter. They have lawyers for that. Shareholders, the board and management come first, you come second. And, management doesn’t care if fire trucks have to retrofit to carry quarters to operate the new fire hydrants. They have PR people to explain how that is a cost cutting advantage. Perhaps Dr, Crawford will find statistics from Mozambique and Puerto Rico to show how big water will save us all a few cents on our bills while still delivering high-quality sludge at no extra charge.
New Media Rules at Council
Marty Bender instituted a new set of rules for the local media recently. Camera operators are to stay on one side of the room, only, and not disrupt deliberations. Suddenly, there is a problem. Suddenly Bender has decided to act. After only some 50-years of cameras covering council, an untenable situation has arisen. Marty has finally noticed a problem and acted to solve it. Right? Wrong. There is more disruption from the audience than the working media. Camera totters are there to record what is said so you will be well-informed, essential to a stable democracy, according to Jefferson. Sadly, none of the local TV stations protested the diktat. The TV people all stuck to their little pen and smiled. I asked Marty if the Ayatollah would allow note passing or whispering or smiles during council deliberations. He sneered. As Secretary Rumsfeld said, “Democracy is messy.” But Marty really doesn’t like confusion, something intrinsic to democracy.