Monday, June 12, 2006

Once more the "fish wrapper" misleads the public

Council needs compromise on pay

City police, firefighters also deserve increase.

What the Springfield City Council needs tonight is a peacemaker.

The city's relationship with its police officers and firefighters is deteriorating. Much of that responsibility lies with the public safety employees themselves for turning negotiations with the city over the pension plan deficit into a personal and nasty battle.

I personally can't blame the police officers or the firefighters for this SNAFU. The city leaders PROMISED and then renigged on it. Whose to blame? The City Whose at fault? The City Whose kissing the behinds of the city council? The Springfield News Leader who else!

We continue to believe that the steps the city has taken to fix the problem, from changing management of the board to reducing benefits for future officers and firefighters, are on the right track. So is the plan to contribute additional money to the pension fund — more than $500,000 in next year's budget.

Once you have lied and cheated people they find it hard to have faith in you again. Besides removing a member off of the pension management board and then replacing that person with a personal crony stems of distrust.

But if the council takes that money directly from the salaries of police and firefighters while giving the rest of its city employees raises, it will elevate the dispute to the point of no return. It's unnecessary and, frankly, it looks petty.

City employees seem to be doing quite well on the salary structure and since the average Joe and Jane Sixpack don't receive raises annually I think the city employees can forgo a few raises until the City(Springfield) gets its personal checkbook in order. Since the city seems to be running in the red I believe our city government personal should suck it up a bit and allow the city to become solvent. Promises made to the first responders years ago need to be taken care of first.

We understand the council's frustration with two employee groups who have been tough negotiators. But we also understand the reality of the situation.

The firefighters and police officers didn't create the pension problem. Some of it was plain, dumb luck. Some of it was bad planning on the city's part. There is no doubt the problem has to be fixed and the solution involves tough choices.

Misappropiation of funds is now considered plain, dumb luck. This is the understatement of the century

One of those choices should not be to give 3 percent raises to all city employees — including department heads, minus the police and fire chiefs — and exclude two groups of public safety employees. Doing that will create a morale problem and a recruitment problem that it might take years to recover from.

How about the department heads give up city supplied(taxpayer funded for the government educated amongst us)transportation. Forgo all raises until city obligations are met with those that they made PROMISES to.

We believe a compromise is in order.

The city has no choice but to make the extra contribution to the pension plan. But it must find other sources of money to allow at least some raises for all groups of city employees. Coming up with the extra money might not be as difficult as it seems.

Stop trying to make Springfield "the city of parks". get rid of the newly created consultant position which is a political payback.

Step one should be to reach out to firefighters and police officers and forge an agreement that they will stop with their plans to force an audit of city finances by State Auditor Claire McCaskill. Such an audit is likely to cost more than $100,000, and by state law, the city will have to come up with that money somewhere. Find a way to stop the audit and spend that amount of money — even if it comes from reserves — on raises.

When will you stop misleading the public? The audit is going to cost the city a maximum of $80,000.00 and that breaks down to $.53 for every man, woman, and child living within the city limits of Springfield. As it is right now the city spends almost $1400.00 per year for every man, woman, and child within the city. I'll take my chances on the $.53 option since it is MY $$$$$

Second, the city should decide to leave some of the already vacant police department positions unfilled and apply that money to raises for both police and firefighters. Reducing positions is not an idea we endorse lightly, but we believe that some positions can be lost on a temporary basis without the city losing service.

Are you kidding me we actually agree on something

Finally, the city should further examine changes it is making to various fees and determine whether those that have any connection to public safety can't possibly be raised to levels that better fund both the police and fire departments.

Once again we have a tax increase to pay off a debt because our city leaders have misappropiated money. I know your going to say a fee increase only affects those people that are required to pay the fee. Once enough money isn't raised the fees will be broadened to generate more revenue into the city coffers to pay for mismanagement of the PEOPLE'S $$$$

It seems counterintuitive that the city needs to raise one-time fees for sidewalk cafes by more than 400 percent, for instance, and yet DWI arrest fees are being dropped by $14.

A 400% increase will only move business out of the city, it won't create a bigger revenue stream. I sure hope these arrest fees are collected only after the person is found GUILTY

Singling out two groups of employees for no raises comes off as a punitive action that guarantees that the city and its police officers and firefighters will forever be embroiled in a battle of wills.

The city once more needs to follow through on PROMISES made to our first responders

It also creates a situation — unlike the change to future pension plan benefits — that could seriously affect the city's ability to recruit qualified employees in the future.

The city has made it's bed and now the taxpayers must pay for the city leaders ignorance, however it isn't only the city leaders, it's also the mind numb that continue to put the same people into office. Even when a member of City Council is replaced the position is just filled once more by a big government, big spender clone.

The council would be wise to find a compromise to this volatile situation. Take the first step and begin the process of healing the rift between city government and the men and women who protect its citizens.

I wonder when the News Leader is going to take the first step and correct the misrepresentations not only in this article but on many articles regarding the "city audit issue"

district 139 candidate

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