Chaos in Cranston
Last evening, the finance committee of the Cranston City Council voted to table the contract negotiated by Mayor Allan Fung with the International Brotherhood of Policemen’s Local 301.
According to Mayor Fung, the contract would have saved the city approximately $1.4 million dollars over three years through measures that include not filling vacancies, implementing an 18-month pay freeze, implementing a gradual increase in employee healthcare co-share, eventually to 15%, and exchanging holiday pay for comp time.
- Mayor Allan Fung presents the contract, Part I
- Mayor Fung presents the contract, Part II
- Local 301 President Steven Antonucci speaks in favor of the contract.
- Steve Bloom, former independent City Council candidate, tells the council either approve this contract, or tell the Mayor an exact figure he needs to try to save.
- A large percentage of the amount saved would come from not filling police department vacancies, but the positions would still exist. Some committee members were concerned that this could trigger a sudden increase in expenses in the future, if the positions are eventually required to be filled. Mayor Fung says in the absence of this agreement, he could be required to budget and fill those positions immediately. (Mayor Fung and Finance Committee Chairman Emilio Navarro discuss the vacancy situation).
- Multiple members of the committee seemed to believe that, no matter what else was conceded by the union, the police should be required to pay a 20% co-share for their healthcare. Mayor Fung’s response was that a) the value of the negotiated concessions is about equivalent to what a 20% co-share would save and b) based on what comparable communities are paying, if this issue is arbitrated instead of negotiated, it is unlikely that the city will get 20% (City Council President John Lanni, Mayor Fung, and Finance Chair Navarro on co-shares, savings and other contracts).
- The contract is automatically reopened, in the event the state requires a 20% co-share in all municipal contracts. The committee was concerned this created too much ambiguity to allow a decision to be made now.
Finally, if there is one thing that this meeting made absolutely clear, it is that tentative contracts need to be made available to the public for a reasonable period of time before they are voted on. I know that Rhode Island public employee union members sometime perceive this idea to be anti-union, but last night’s meeting showed how it is not.
Allow me to defend that proposition by posing a question and by inviting anyone who attended last night’s meeting to offer their take in the comments section: Which of the following options do you believe would best serve the cause of explaining the positions on all sides of a contract negotiation to the general public…
- Posting contracts in some kind of public forum, where questions and answers from knowledgable people could be exchanged for a week or two before a vote, or
- Trapping people in a room with Cranston City Council members, then disallowing them from discussing anything important until Councilmen like John Lanni and Anthony Lupino spend nearly an hour confusing themselves about how “special details” work, and then expecting the Councilmen to be able to understand that issue, all of the other contract issues AND be able to explain it all to their constituents?
I submit that, with direct access to information and a little time to process it, the public will be able to determine what’s reasonable and what’s not, much faster than this Cranston City Council ever will.