Wednesday, April 21, 2010
At the end of an election night, there is always one politician who must stand before a dejected (and usually intoxicated) group of supporters to concede defeat. (The other politician usually stands in front of an exuberant and equally intoxicated group to accept victory.) The speech that the loser gives is one where he congratulates his opponent on victory, pats his supporters on their collective fannies in spite of the outcome, and concedes that their effort (while noble) was not successful. While there is no election this week, there certainly seems to be a number of concession speeches being given.
In fact it seems that we have heard little else in recent days than speeches about concessions by Toledo Unions. AFCSME locals gave a speech on their concessions of six members, 3 percent of their pension pick up (for 7 months), and spread of retirement payouts for those leaving employment this year. Toledo firefighters had already conceded at least a temporary 3 percent pension pick up and some delayed overtime payments. Toledo fire chiefs also conceded the 3 percent pick up, along with some vacation to be carried over to 2011 and some sick time conversion reduction. The police union (TPPA), has to date conceded nothing to the city and has instead taken it to court. All of this was done in response to Mayor Bell and City Council approving the move to exigent circumstances for Toledo, and the city demand of an across the board pension pick up all 10 percent of the employee contribution by all unions to their respective pensions (for those of you who didn't already know it, the city currently picks up the 10% employee contribution).
Now since this is Toledo, we must defer to the definition of concession in the SOS Dictionary as the final arbiter of meaning, and this tome speaks as follows:
1. Yielding a right or privilege in an argument or negotiation
2. Yielding something barely worth noticing on a temporary basis in a contract negotiation, only to have it returned to you a few months later with interest.
3. The appearance of giving something back when in fact nothing actually has been, so as to make those asking for it appear in some way assertive and those giving it in some way magnanimous .
The problem in this case however, is that I at least am confused about who is actually losing, and who should be giving the concession speech as a consequence. While the unions appear to be giving something back to the city, they don't appear to be giving much ... or for long. The city, having finally taken the principled stand of exigent circumstances to resolve this situation now seems to have conceded that the problem may not have been as great as they made it out to be. They also seem to have conceded that what they originally demanded of the unions to balance the budget is not in fact what they need. Meanwhile, it seems as if the city has merely put a piece of duct tape on the band aid, which is in turn holds on the patch, which covers the money leaking out of the hole in the city's budget through union contracts.
The solution proposed appears to do little to resolve the issue of spending more money than the city is taking in; and instead seems only to push the hard choices out beyond the next election cycle (perhaps what was intended all along). It should also be noted that should TPPA win any part of its case in court, all bets on these "concessions" will probably be off.
I fear that the only concession speech that should be made is the one that will never be given. It is the one where the Mayor and Council concede that they took the best chance they had to permanently fix the budget problems of the city and threw it away in the name of political expediency. It should also concede that far too many City Council members are running for new offices in the approaching election cycle to maintain the principled stand that they briefly assumed, and have once again conceded the city's future to union rule.