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Inane and cynical

By Jim Sack

Fort Wayne Reader

2014-12-18


Dumb and Dumber

It would have been ludicrous had it not been so inane. There at city council table were three representatives of the mayor, including the city attorney, Carol Helton, Deputy Mayor Karl Bandemer and former councilman Tim Pape. They were at the table to present the first installments of the new city policy book. The War and Peace-sized rewrite was necessitated when council Republicans forced a vote on collective bargaining in July. They won, 6 to 3, then overrode a mayoral veto to end 40 years of labor-management equilibrium.

Helton did most of the talking. She is a lawyer, tough negotiator and used to handling the boys on council.

It was farcical to watch. First, John Crawford, the dogmatist who led the charge against worker protect embodied in collective bargaining, asked what savings had come from the new arrangement. None, was Helton’s answer. Certainly, there would be plenty, retorted Crawford. Perhaps in the years out, she responded. Crawford eventually gave up. She had explained that the savings Crawford had once promised were just not there. You just can’t take away accrued benefits from people who were about to retire, was one of her explanations. She added other reasons why most of the rules created under collective bargaining were just common sense and couldn’t be tossed out without undermining productivity. “We feel a responsibility when we send workers out into sub-zero cold to provide them with work uniforms that will protect them from the cold,” she noted. Crawford’s eyes went blank. The dogmatist had run into reality and lost.

Russ Jehl, Crawford’s Second in the rush to end collective bargaining, said the rewrite was all about protecting workers and applauded the six month redo by the city team and community volunteers. Tom Didier, as he is wont to do, jumped right in to echo that thought. “Ya, what he said!” The irony was lost on both: they were the leaders in taking away the protections for workers fundamental to the collective bargaining system and the subsequent agreements that had developed over decades. As the Romanian saying goes, “are they that stupid or is that just the way they are?” They had taken away the protections and unbalanced the well-working system and there at the table they raised bony fingers and exalted worker protections. Cynical or just stupid. Perhaps that just the way they are.

Then, Tom Smith, another of those who had voted to end collective bargaining, expressed his admiration that the administration “had avoided chaos” in their efforts to calm worker fears. Again, the irony that he voted to create the chaos he applauded the administration for averting. Smith is the mayor’s favorite Republican, as they say, and he was at his best that Tuesday night. “I want to applaud the administration,” he smiled, playing both sides.

So, collective bargaining is gone, a new policy is in the making, chaos has been averted and workers are still protected. The net result is Crawford’s promised savings are and were wishin and hopin, Smith is sucking up to the administration (again) and Didier and Jehl have joined the pro-worker movement, if you believe what they say. Don’t.


Harper v. Henry

As for Mitch Harper’s official announcement that he is running for mayor, we shall see. Mitch has promised legislation that never materialized, he has promised actions not taken and he has threatened to run before and faded away quietly.

But, Mitch is a fine gentleman, an able politician and devoted to the best for the city, so it should be an interesting campaign, if... After the word of the announcement got out a mutual friend of ours, long a resident of Canada, praised Mitch’s vision for the city. Over the past years on council it has been hard to ascertain if he has a vision or just likes reminding us all that he has a long record and has championed one cause or another since his years as boy legislator.

Given the vicious political trends, spouting a vision might take a backseat to a dirty video campaign of innuendos and half-truths. Problem is when candidates have a record or present a vision it can be misrepresented and attacked. Likely we will see a campaign that attacks Mayor Henry without offering much in the way of a vision.

Oh, and expect big money to be spent. $1 million per side.

Me, Me, Me.

Councilman Tom Smith was recently the loudest voice for giving himself a two percent pay raise. This coming from one of the six councilmen who voted to cut city employee benefits and to end their collective bargaining protections. Smith is essentially on a fixed income after his business has all but closed in the midst of the Wall Street Recession. In other words, he needs the money. Perhaps now he has something in common with the employees he forced take reductions in their compensation packets. Now, it would also make sense that council members give up their insurance perk you pay for. That would bring him even closer to his constituents.

Oh, and a footnote. Smith also voted to impose new taxes on you last year, it seems, so he could have a pay raise.

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