Thursday, June 14, 2012

Collective Bargaining Should Not Apply to Public Service

Posted by Martin H Block, Ph.D.June 15, 2012 

 As cities, counties, and states across the country continue to face mounting budget deficits, disputes between government unions and the populations they serve are becoming a significant issue, as local and state governments are forced to face the realities that are the outgrowth of unionization of government employees.  Work stoppages and slowdowns by teachers and other non-public safety government employees are an indication of what some cities and counties have faced, or may be facing among their union and non-union employees.  The recent recall election results in the State of Wisconsin, as well as the results of the votes in San Diego and San Jose, California, the 8th and 10th largest cities in the United States, certainly point to a strong public sentiment to reign in some of the costs associated with unionized public employees.   

No less a Progressive icon than President Franklin Delano Roosevelt foresaw the inherent problem with letting government employees unionize, writing in 1937: “All government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. … The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress.”  This warning applies at all levels of government.

Unlike the private sector, governments have no competitors.  When a union reaches a contract with a private firm that grossly increases costs, that firm loses out to competitors. When a union extracts a generous contract from government, there is no check on that spending.   Instead of being disciplined by more efficient competitors, the government most often pays for higher spending with service cutbacks, higher taxes, or borrowing. 

Government unions gained the upper hand through generous political donations and collective bargaining backed up with the threat of work stoppages and strikes; but states, counties, and municipalities across the USA are now facing $2.8 trillion worth of deficits in pension and benefits liabilities.  The City of Punta Gorda is included within that group.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

PGCCC Member Tom Cavanaugh Joining the Punta Gorda City Council

It is with great pride and joy that the Punta Gorda Concerned Citizens Committee has learned that long-time PGCCC Member Tom Cavanaugh, who filed for the District 4 Council seat being vacated by Harvey Goldberg, being the only candidate who qualified for the seat, will automatically assume it and will be sworn in on November 7, 2012. This will mean that the PGCCC will be losing Tom as a member. No doubt but that we shall miss Tom’s invaluable contributions to the PGCCC, and will stand ready to support and assist him in his new role as a member of the Punta Gorda City Council, and of course Tom is always welcome to visit with the PGCCC as a guest, as are all City Council members. We wish Tom fair winds and following seas.

We also wish our best to Kim Nickelson-Devine who will be joining Tom on Council from District 1 and Rachel B. Keesling, who will be returning to the City Council seat for District come November 7. As with Tom Cavanaugh, our door is always open to them, and all City Council Members, to visit and meet with the PGCCC.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Who or What is the Punta Gorda Concerned Citizens Committee

Who or what is the Punta Gorda Concerned Citizens Committee? I think the best way to start off is to introduce you to a group of your fellow citizens of the City of Punta Gorda who first met over ten years ago, at the time with a single major goal, the dredging of Ponce Inlet. Mission accomplished, the group morphed into something very different, meeting twice a month to discuss a broad variety of issues confronting the City of Punta Gorda, and periodically to take positions on those issues, largely by addressing their concerns to the Members of the City Council, the City Manager, and the staff. Over time, the scope of the group's concerns were expanded to cover important issues confronting the Charlotte County Commission, the Charlotte County School Board, and even on occasion the Charlotte County Airport Authority.

Oftentimes the stand taken by the Punta Gorda Concerned Citizens Committee (PGCCC) was not the most popular one, particularly when the group was critical of the actions or lack of action of the City Council. On occasion the group has published articles and letters-to-the-editor in the local newspaper, and on one occasion members appeared as guests on a local radio program. They have on occasion incited the wrath of some local politician, who just did not like the heat. But in most instances, the PGCCC's position was either correct or its concerns were justified; and always expressed with the best interest of the citizens in mind.

With the birth of this blog it is the goal of the PGCCC to stimulate greater interest and participation in the affairs of local government among not only the citizens of Punta Gorda, but those of all of Charlotte County. These are difficult times. Government at all levels is under greater scruitiny than ever before. Punta Gorda and Charlotte County are not immune from the issues that are confronting most cities and counties throughout the State of Florida, and indeed, the United States, issues such as shrinking government revenues and overspending that is leaving them facing greater and greater budget deficits, municipal employee pension plans that are sucking the public treasuries dry, but which themselves are facing serious shortfalls, and political leaders who oftentimes lack the will or vision to make the tough choices required to turn the ship around.

Think of this blog as one more place where you, the citizens, can express yourselves. If you have something to say, shout it out right here for your fellow citizens to listen and to comment. There's no good or bad opinions. There are only opinions. If you disagree with something, fire away. If you think something is great and deserving of praise, here is a good place to make it a matter of record.

We only ask you to please maintain an appropriate level of social discourse. We don't allow cursing or name-calling. Just state the facts, and avoid attacking the personality.

One last thing. Except for July and August, the PGCCC meets on the Monday prior to each of the two City Council meetings, at the Regions Bank, Ann Street and U.S. 41, in Punta Gorda (Except when Monday is a bank holiday, and we move to Tuesday.) We welcome one and all to attend our meetings. Periodically we have guest speakers, whether a representative of the County Commission, the School Board, the Sheriff's Office, the City Council, the city staff, business people, and others from within the greater community.

Once we get this blog more fully developed we shall try to keep one and all up to date on who we have stopping by to address us and when. Nobody shows up that doesn't face a barrage of questions, some extremely probing. We're a tough group to play in front of, but are always fair, and welcoming,and the guests keep coming back for more. Stop by come September, when we are back on our regular schedule, and join the fun. Trust me, you will love it.

Marty Block,
Executive Director