Sunday, August 22, 2010

Editorial: Fiscal emergency announcement was badly handled

The timing of the state’s announcement that Mansfield is in Fiscal Emergency seemed to have more to do with individual politics than with what is best for the city.

State Auditor Mary Taylor made the official announcement in Mansfield on Thursday, but local media outlets were told of the plan a couple of days before that.

When passing the word to the media, the public relations representative for the auditor made no request for the news to be held until Thursday.

Reporters, including one from the News Journal, began to make telephone calls and ask questions of city officials about the pending declaration. A News Journal reporter discovered no one at City Hall had been informed the Thursday announcement had been scheduled.

Mary Taylor is running for lieutenant governor, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why she wanted the spotlight to herself.

A spokesperson for Taylor said the auditor’s office had made it abundantly clear in recent weeks that Mansfield was about to move from the classification of fiscal watch to the more serious fiscal emergency.

Obviously, no one in Mansfield who has followed the city’s financial crisis was shocked by the imposition of this new classification. It has been painfully clear that members of Don Culliver’s administration and City Council are unable to come up with a comprehensive solution.

But, just because the announcement was obviously coming is no excuse for not giving a heads-up to the city officials most affected by the declaration. Professional courtesy seems to have gotten trumped by political desire.

Taylor should take responsibility for this error even if it was committed by someone on her staff.

What is most important here is the positive working relationship that will be necessary between the city and the auditor to get this issue resolved.

Anyone who runs for public office should understand you should never appear to put your interests ahead of the interests of those you serve.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Editorial: Union scare tactics not appropriate in Madison

Union bullying is the wrong way to influence an election.

We take issue with the position of “hire local bricklayers or else.”

We are in agreement that local building projects should go to local workers. It’s the “or else” insinuation that gives us such a slimy feeling.

On Tuesday, Madison Local School District voters will decide whether to support a $35 million bond issue for a desperately needed new junior high school. The old building is 86 years old, filled with asbestos issues and generates ridiculous energy bills and maintenance costs.

But last week, unionized bricklayers said skilled tradesmen and their voting-age relatives living in Madison Township would have second thoughts about supporting the bond unless the district entered into a project labor agreement with the union.

The bond issue failed in May by 42 votes, and this will be the last chance the district has to pass the issue and capitalize on millions coming from the state.

An organized effort by the union to defeat the bond is a very real possibility.

Madison school officials should recognize their role as well.

Board President Jeff Meyers said the district won’t commit to the agreement before the election.

Meyers hasn’t even entertained the idea, and that’s what got the bricklayers so steamed.

It would make sense to at least open a dialogue when the margin of victory or loss is so close.
“Our goal is to get the best deal for Madison, and we don’t want to limit ourselves to any one group,” Meyers said. “What if a local company bids three times higher than one 40 miles away?

Lowest price and best quality are what will be taken into account.”

We agree, and we urge the district to be frugal with taxpayer dollars. But the district should not look just at the bottom line. There’s a strong argument for hiring local labor.

Union members know that just as well as school district officials do. But to hold an election hostage over this issue is wrong.

The future of our children, and providing a quality education in a safe learning environment, is a much bigger issue than a squabble over local union contracts.

We urge both parties to see the value of working together to benefit our children and our local workers.