Transparency Now Equals Union Bashing
I was in my car yesterday afternoon listening to Matt Allen talking about this new ordinance in North Smithfield and talking with town councilor Ed Yazbak about it. The Town Council in North Smithfield will put new contracts up for public review for two weeks before signing. This ordinance will only cover contracts that the Town Council negotiates, so teacher and fire contracts are not subject to this change.
Imagine that. Openness. Transparency. Accountability. All good things in government.
I had a similar experience in my own town a few years ago when my School Committee was negotiating with the teachers union. I emailed back and forth with a few of the committee members sending a few of my own suggestions and to their credit, they didn’t respond to me like some crazy person from outer space. When I learned through the media that the committee had come to an agreement with the union on a contract and that it was to be signed at the upcoming committee meeting, I asked to see what they’d agreed upon. I simply wanted to comment on it before its signing. One committee member responded that I could see it after it is ratified at the committee meeting. No one may see the contents of the contract before it is signed.
Well that hit me like a brick wall. I can’t see a contract that I have to help pay for before it is signed? This sounds a lot like Nancy Pelosi referring to Obamacare in that we have to pass it in order to see what’s in it.
But now, North Smithfield is attempting to make the change toward openness and transparency. Who could possibly be opposed to transparency in government?
Senator John Tassoni, that’s who. His claims include “union bashing” as well as
“Not only is the recent action taken by the North Smithfield Town Council a clear and obvious attack on the municipal union, it is also a clear indication that the members of the council who support this action are shirking their responsibilities and avoiding the duties they were elected to perform,” said Senator Tassoni.
He goes on to add:
“The council is the duly authorized body to be voting on these negotiated contracts, and shouldn’t be looking to avoid their duty by seeking public input that they are then able to hide behind,”
Hide behind public opinion? So if the public, the ones paying the bill, decide that the contract is not something that they want, if they feel the value isn’t there, then they should have every right to voice that opinion to their town council. If anything, this could put additional pressure on a town council. They spend time working through negotiations only to get hammered by the public? How does that sound like shirking any responsibility?
Also, if the employees covered by the contract are doing a good job and are getting paid fair compensation, then what is Senator Tassoni afraid of? Why does he want the council to continue hiding behind “We can’t show you the contract until it’s passed?” The only people who look to hide things are those who have something to hide. Clearly the town council in North Smithfield feel they have nothing to hide. So why does Senator Tassoni feel that differently?
Among some of the other ludicrous statements by Tassoni comes this gem:
“These people ran for office knowing that they would occasionally face some tough decisions and difficult votes,” said Senator Tassoni. “If they are not willing to live up to those responsibilities, they should get out of office. Seeking public input on union contracts is not, for them, about transparency. It is about stirring up anti-labor sentiments.”
If anything, it would seem the town council is more than living up to their responsibilities, they are demonstrating how they want to be more accountable to the taxpayers and the voters.
When people think of what’s wrong with Rhode Island and more specifically its politics, Senator Tassoni would be one of the poster children. Fortunately however, he announced last September that he will not seek re-election this year. So I guess we at least have that to look forward to.
Congratulations to Councilors Ed Yazbak, Christine Charest and Thomas McGee for voting in favor of good government.