Endorse GOP’s Terry Johnson

Filed under: ELECTION,Uncategorized — tkm January 15, 2012 @ 23:0 pm

I support Terry Johnson. I believe Johnson is the best person for the Ohio 90th House District and has a demonstrated record that shows his commitment to our community.

John Haas, the other candidate running for the Ohio House, during his tenure on Portsmouth’s city council repeatedly demonstrates irresponsible actions, failure to take action when action is necessary, disregards his responsibility to the citizens of Portsmouth, and exhibits a belligerent attitude towards the citizens of Portsmouth and Scioto County. These are just a few of the reasons why Haas would be the worst choice for the job.

The observations I mention above are all public records.

Unions endorse GOP’s Terry Johnson (link)
1-15-12
By FRANK LEWIS
PDT Staff Writer

For the first time in history several statewide unions and local unions have unanimously endorsed Dr. Terry Johnson for state representative.

“Laborer’s Local 83, the Laborer’s Local District Council of Ohio, and Teamster’s Local 92, are announcing that we are endorsing Dr. Terry Johnson for state representative,” Local 83 Business Manager/Secretary Treasurer Gary Coleman said Saturday morning in his office at the back of the union hall. “This is the first time in the history of this local that we have ever endorsed a Republican state rep.”
Coleman said the local unions had never talked with Johnson prior to the election to find out his views on labor issues, and they had worked hard for Johnson’s opponent, Ron Hadsell, a Democrat, in the 2010 election, raising a little more than $40,000 for his campaign. Then, after Johnson was elected and the Republicans gained control of the Ohio House of Representatives, he had to go to Johnson and lobby for labor issues, most significantly, Senate Bill 5, which Coleman described as being in opposition to the Prevailing Wage laws in Ohio.

“Here I was in a position, one of the leaders in Ron Hadsell’s campaign to defeat Terry Johnson, and now I have to go into Terry Johnson’s office and ask him to help my workers to defeat Issue 2, which they were trying to pass to do away with Prevailing Wage, and some Right To Work stuff they were working on,” Coleman said. “So we asked for a meeting and Terry Johnson walks us right in and rolls out the red carpet, and we explained to him what our issues were.”

Coleman said he told Johnson he was rather uncomfortable after working so hard to defeat him.

“And he said he didn’t care,” Coleman said. “He said he had no problem with our political beliefs before. He said his job was to represent the people in his district, and if it was the right thing he was going to vote for it. He listened to everything we said. And he said he believed that we were right, and he would support it. I was in disbelief, and I thought, that guy is a good guy. And he never once asked us for anything. He didn’t say ‘hey, don’t forget me when I run.’ He never said, ‘I want this. I want that,’ he just said it’s the right thing to do.”
Coleman said Johnson seems to understand workers and the need for jobs in the area and that the Republican party doesn’t do well in representing workers.

Johnson was one of the first legislators in the state to come out in opposition to Senate Bill 5, which became Issue 2 on the November ballot.

“He is one of the very few Republicans who crossed the line to the Democrat side and voted this anti-Prevailing Wage issue down,” Coleman said. “He went against the governor on Issue 2. This guy had to eat lunch by himself.”

Coleman said Johnson fought to keep the Ohio River Valley Juvenile Detention Center open in opposition to fellow Republican Gov. John Kasich, putting an amendment into the state budget that kept the ORV from automatically being shut down. Johnson had challenged the governor’s decision to close the facility, but ultimately Kasich stood his ground, closing the facility.

“I didn’t like what (John) Haas said. I feel like he was just trying to spin and fuzz things up,” Coleman said, defending Johnson’s vote for the state budget. Coleman said the budget was already going to pass with or without Johnson’s vote. “The Haas guy, trying to spin that, absolutely disturbs me.”

Haas recently came out to challenge Johnson in the newly-established 90th District, making his announcement at the ORV facility.
Coleman took the opportunity to compliment Ron Hadsell, also in attendance Saturday, saying he was a good candidate, and would have voted in the same way Johnson did on the key union issues.

Ironworkers Local 172 business manager Kevin Libby also announced several endorsement for Johnson, including the Ironworkers Union in Columbus.

“He’s good for labor. He has been great to work for us,” Libby said. “So we’re here to help him any way we can. This is the first time we have come out and endorsed a candidate. I’m from Ashland, Ky., but our local covers Scioto County, Lawrence County, Pike County, and the Columbus endorsement is for Ironworkers in Pike County, too. We split that county.”

“To pick up the endorsements of our local trade unions here in southern Ohio is enormous to me,” Johnson said. “If you’ve ever paid attention to what I have said, as a county coroner, and especially as state rep., I think what we need to do is pull together as a team. Management and labor need to have a co-equal position at the table. Everyone’s involved in bringing economic prosperity to our region. And we can only do that by working together. So to pick up an endorsement from labor it’s a wonderful thing, and it’s just indicative of what we have to do to turn things around here.”

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at flewis@heartlandpublications.com.

2012 – Now is that Time

Filed under: Uncategorized — tkm January 12, 2012 @ 22:0 pm

I have been contemplating for some time getting back involved in the politics of the city of Portsmouth, and now is that time. With a decision by Charles Horner to run for Scioto County Sheriff and John Haas to run for the Ohio 90th House District I will also be writing and spending time educating the voters on why a vote for either one of these two candidates would be a vote for failure.

Budget Deficit

Filed under: PORTSMOUTH,Uncategorized — tkm July 21, 2010 @ 10:0 am

The City of Portsmouth’s budget deficit is the result of a majority of incompetent elected officials on City Council not taking appropriate actions to control spending. City Council is responsible to the taxpayers for the efficient management of their monies and providing the needed services. The current majority of Council is inept and lacks the ability to make informed decisions and planning. The end result for bailing out the City of Portsmouth may be included in the following example……..

The New York Times

Calif. city fires all staff, outsources everything
‘Our residents have been somewhat pleased’
by DAVID STREITFELD

MAYWOOD, Calif. — Not once, not twice, but three times in the last two weeks, Andrew Quezada says, he was stopped and questioned by the authorities here.

Mr. Quezada, a high school student who does volunteer work for the city, pronounced himself delighted.

“I’m walking along at night carrying an overstuffed bag,” he said, describing two of the incidents. “I look suspicious. This shows the sheriff’s department is doing its job.”

Chalk up another Maywood resident who approves of this city’s unusual experience in municipal governing. City officials last month fired all of Maywood’s employees and outsourced their jobs.

While many communities are fearfully contemplating extensive cuts, Maywood says it is the first city in the nation in the current downturn to take an ax to everyone.

The school crossing guards were let go. Parking enforcement was contracted out, City Hall workers dismissed, street maintenance workers made redundant. The public safety duties of the Police Department were handed over to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

At first, people in this poor, long-troubled and heavily Hispanic city southeast of Los Angeles braced for anarchy.

Senior citizens were afraid they would be assaulted as they walked down the street. Parents worried the parks would be shut and their children would have nowhere to safely play. Landlords said their tenants had begun suggesting that without city-run services they would no longer feel obliged to pay rent.

The apocalypse never arrived. In fact, it seems this city was so bad at being a city that outsourcing — so far, at least — is being viewed as an act of municipal genius.

“We don’t want to be the model for other cities to lay off their employees,” said Magdalena Prado, a spokeswoman for the city who works on contract. “But our residents have been somewhat pleased.”

That includes Mayor Ana Rosa Rizo, who was gratified to see her husband get a parking ticket on July 1, hours after the Police Department had been disbanded. The ticket was issued by enforcement clerks for the neighboring city of Bell, which is being paid about $50,000 a month by Maywood to perform various services.

Acrimony
The reaction is all the more remarkable because this is not a feel-good city. City Council hearings run hot, council members face repeated recall efforts and city officials fight in public. “You single-handedly destroyed the city,” the city treasurer told the City Council at its most recent meeting.

Four years ago, in what was probably the high-water mark of acrimony in Maywood, a deputy city clerk was arrested and accused of soliciting a hit man to kill a city councilman. The deputy clerk, Hector Duarte, was concerned that his salary might be reduced or his job eliminated during a previous round of bad fiscal times; he was sentenced to a year in jail and six months of anger management counseling.

Despite Maywood’s financial difficulties, the opening ceremonies for its Little League program were still held on Saturday.

This time, the councilman, Felipe Aguirre, has received no threats and has seen remarkably little anger. “This is a very bad economy,” said Mr. Aguirre, who like the mayor and fellow council members receives a stipend from the city of $347 every two weeks. Even if city employees lose their benefits, he said, “very good workers are still going to hang around.”

Jose B. Garcia, an assistant city planner, will now be working on contract. “I still have a job,” he said. “In that sense, I can’t complain too much.”

Maywood, which covers slightly more than one square mile, is one of the most densely populated cities in the country. The official population of 30,000 is believed to considerably understate the actual total of about 50,000.

It has some of the ills that plague other cities. Property taxes, a primary source of revenue, have declined to $900,000 from $1.2 million in 2007. Sales taxes have also dropped. But Maywood’s biggest problem by far has been its police department.

A report by the state attorney general last year concluded the culture of the department “is one permeated with sexual innuendo, harassment, vulgarity, discourtesy to members of the public as well as among officers, and a lack of cultural, racial and ethnic sensitivity and respect.”

‘Things were starting to look ugly’

There are $19 million in claims pending against the police, which made it effectively impossible for the city to get insurance for any of its employees. If Maywood did not dismiss the municipal work force, officials said, bankruptcy would have been the only option. The total number of laid-off employees, including those in the Police Department, was about 60, city officials said. “Just like the driver who has three and then four and then five accidents, things were starting to look ugly,” said Angela Spaccia, the acting city manager who is on loan from the city of Bell.

The budget for the Police Department last year was nearly $8 million, more than half of Maywood’s revenues. The contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will cost about half of that. Insurance premiums for the city have fallen to $200,000 from $1 million.

The deputies have already engendered good will, Councilman Aguirre said, by cracking down on a local hotel that was a haven for prostitution.

And others said they have seen an increased police presence in the last few weeks. “The deputies are there right away,” said Maria Mendez, who has lived in Maywood for most of her 73 years. “Before you used to wait and wait for the police.”

One reason for the general enthusiasm might lie in the fact that many of the nonpolice workers have been rehired on contract, so in some cases the faces encountered by the public remain the same. In other words, no one has noticed much going wrong because there was not much to notice in the first place.

The five crossing guards, for instance, are doing the same work but are paid by a security company.

And it is possible the bad news is just slow in arriving. Maywood has dabbled in contracting before, and it has run awry in some instances. Skeptics cited the example of two handball courts in a Maywood park. City officials said it cost an outsized sum — hundreds of thousands of dollars — for a contractor to build three concrete walls.

A few people, extrapolating from personal experience, are convinced that the city is still on a downward path.

Jerald Bennett was on his way to the $2 seniors’ lunch at the bustling Maywood recreational center when another car made an illegal turn and almost rammed him. “It seems like that sort of thing is happening more and more,” he said. “They’re not patrolling the streets.”

For others, however, the celebration here is practically palpable. Freed from its employees, Maywood has nowhere to go but up, they say.

“Remember the Soviet Union?” said Hector Alvarado, who heads a civic advocacy group. “They had a lot of bureaucracy, and they lost. Maywood was like that. Now people know if they don’t work, they will be laid off. Much better this way.”

This story, ” A City Outsources Everything. Sky Doesn’t Fall,” originally appeared in The New York Times.  Copyright © 2010 The New York Times

Small Calif. city plans to disband all services

MAYWOOD, Calif. — The small city of Maywood south of downtown Los Angeles plans to lay off almost all its employees, disband its police department and contract municipal operations to a neighboring city.

Facing a budget deficit of at least $450,000 and unable to get insurance because of a history of lawsuits, many involving the police department, the Maywood City Council said Monday night it had no choice but to adopt the plan.

The 1.2-square-mile city will hire the Los Angeles County sheriff’s department for law enforcement services, and the neighboring city of Bell will handle other city services such as finance, records management and parks and recreation.

Experts told the Los Angeles Times the decision appeared to be unprecedented among California cities.

Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Levee Certification

Filed under: John Haas,Kevin Johnson,Nicholas Basham,PORTSMOUTH,Uncategorized — tkm June 18, 2010 @ 10:0 am

I’m taking a break from involvement in city affairs while we are remodeling our home but I felt the issue of Levee Certification, dealt with in the letters and records posted below, was too important to let slip by.  These records are public information and what they remind us is that John Haas and Nicholas Basham are doing the dirty work for the greedy multi-millionaire lawyers and real estate developers who control Portsmouth economically and politically.  If I needed a lawyer I would never hire anyone as incompetent as 5th Ward Councilperson John Haas.  And if I had a student in any school where Nicholas Basham was a teacher I would transfer them to another school, I would want my children to be taught by teachers with better habits, principles, and judgment than Basham’s.  Haas and Basham are receiving no more scrutiny from the lying Portsmouth Daily Times than Kalb and Mearan did. That’s my opinion, anyway.

I will have two attachments that will have information concerning the Levee Certification –checking back later.
———————————————————————

This morning’s Portsmouth Daily Times article titled “Haas Questions Levee Certification Firm” (see http://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/view/full_story/7953113/article-Haas-Questions-Levee-Certification-Firm?instance=home_news_lead) may have led you to believe that I discounted the possibility of obtaining a lower cost for our project to certify our flood protection system in accordance with new FEMA criteria; new criteria developed following the failure of flood protection systems in New Orleans related to Hurricane Katrina.

Quite the contrary. Though I am indeed concerned about utilizing local contractors and employees, please note my response (below) to Councilman Haas’ email that was referenced in the Daily Times article. Though my response was shared with the press within half an hour of Mr. Haas’ email, my issues were not referenced in the Daily Times article.

A bit of background. As was referenced by the Mayor at Monday’s Council meeting, three bids were obtained for this Levee certification project; one of which came in at over $1 million. Mr. Jeff Peck, P.E. met with Howerton Engineering and Environmental Engineering Services (EES) to negotiate a combined contract which lowered the low bid from approximately $750,000 to $630,000 for Phase I testing, modeling and analyses. For those of you who have the time and inclination, attached are two documents relating to FEMA criteria. The three bids are public documents, by the way; and all citizens have the right to review them.

What occurred at Monday night’s meeting, as regards the FEMA certification contract, was yet another ambush. The ONLY documentation provided by Councilman Basham and New Boston City Administrator Steve Hamilton was a listing of contractors (four pages long). Mr. Haas, in his email, asks “Was Mr. Peck completely unaware of the list of companies submitted at last night’s counsel meeting?” This is a specious question. No government is required to issue bids to some forty engineering firms around the country.

It was “suggested” that Mr. Hamilton had received a lower bid from AMEC of Nashville, TN. No documentation of any kind was presented to support this suggestion. The inference made by Mr. Basham was that the Mayor and Jeff Peck, P.E., did not do their job in establishing and following a proper bid process; an inference not supported by the facts.

In addition, Mr. Basham questioned the utilization of sub-contractors. The use of sub-contractors is an industry standard as most engineering firms, especially those local to us, specialize in various aspects of engineering. The same is true for building schools, automobiles, major military items (space shuttles, jets, ships) or other major projects; at the local, state and federal level. To combine various engineering firms with specific specialties as sub-contractors reporting to a primary contractor benefits the project and the entity paying the bills.

But, my biggest concern is that two members of Council would publicly question the levee certification firm and process without having done their homework. What kind of bid HAS New Boston obtained? Did their bid process follow our own criteria (bid specifications, minimum of three bids, etc.)? Have these members of Council reviewed and compared the bids received by the City as well as those received by New Boston?

Below you will find Councilman Haas’ original email, as referenced by the Daily Times article. I invited you to ascertain whether you might make an informed decision concerning this issue based upon the information he has presented or by that provided in the Daily Times article.

As stated in my email (in response to Mr. Haas) below, “I look forward to reviewing the Village of New Boston’s documentation at our next Council meeting; which I am sure you (Mr. Haas), Mr. Basham and Mr. Hamilton will provide.”

Respectfully,

Kevin

Kevin W. Johnson, Member
Portsmouth City Council – First Ward
1020 24th Street
Portsmouth, OH 45662-2822
740-876-8558 (cell 250-4710)

—– Original Message —–
From: Kevin W. Johnson
To: John Haas
Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 6:00 PM
Subject: Re: FEMA requirements

I thank you, John, for your thoughts concerning FEMA bid and cost issues.

I shall assume that you and Councilman Basham have:

1) reviewed the FEMA documenation provided by the Mayor (as attached),

2) reviewed the three (3) bids received by the City to meet FEMA project requirements (as was offered Council by the Mayor last night),

3) reviewed the documentation and requirements statement developed by the Village of New Boston and the bid documentation received from AMEC of Nashville, TN, as was obviously provided to you by Mr. Steve Hamilton, New Boston Village Administrator, and

4) compared the City’s documentation with that of New Boston to establish that what New Boston has been offered is comparable to the requirements in the City’s bid package.

Assuming, again, that you have done so, and the Village of New Boston truly has a better cost solution in hand, then we should indeed look again at this issue.

I look forward to reviewing the Village of New Boston’s documentation at our next Council meeting; which I am sure you, Mr. Basham and Mr. Hamilton will provide.

Respectfully,

Kevin

Kevin W. Johnson
1020 24th Street
Portsmouth, OH 45662-2822
740-876-8558 (cell 250-4710)

—– Original Message —–
From: John Haas
To: Media and City Officials
Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 5:33 PM
Subject: RE: FEMA requirements

Madam Mayor and the prestigious list of honorable council members, prospective and current contractors and press:

One would think the requirements for New Boston would be the same as Portsmouth since it is the same system. Was Mr. Peck completely unaware of the list of companies submitted at last night’s counsel meeting? Have you had any conversations since the May 24 council meeting with Mr. Hamilton in New Boston about who they are looking at for the project and why they are apparently going a different direction?

Late last week, I heard that New Boston found a firm that was very experienced in performing the FEMA studies and that they were much cheaper than any number bandied about by the current or prior administration. Nick Basham deserves our thanks for doing the follow up and bringing that firm and the list of several others to your attention prior to the authorization of expenditures to Howerton. It would could have been very embarrassing to all of us if we proceeded to overpay a firm with admittedly no experience on this FEMA study only to have it pointed out later we could have hired an experienced firm for much less.

Perhaps after investigating the firm New Boston hired or is considering hiring, they will not turn out to be the lowest or best bid. At that point, I will feel we complied with our due of due diligence expected of us who serve in public office. I believe that when we are spending taxpayer’s money we need to investigate all options and not call members of council “asinine” for asking questions.

John R. Haas
From: Jane Murray [mailto:mayormurray@portsmouthoh.org]
Sent: Tuesday, June 15, 2010 2:50 PM
To: City Officials
Subject: FEMA requirements

Council has been given the attached previously. But, in case you need it again, these are the requirements for levee certification and form the basis of the scope of work for the contract with Howerton Engineering.

Mayor Jane Murray
City of Portsmouth, OH
728 Second Street
Portsmouth, OH 45662
740-354-8807
mayormurray@portsmouthoh.org

________________________________________________________
From: “Kevin W.W. Johnson”
Date: June 16, 2010 8:45:08 AM EDT
To:
Subject: June 14 Council Meeting

Once again I feel it necessary to communicate additional information concerning actions by our City Council.

Monday’s meeting was a financial ambush on the Mayor, City Department heads and employees. What you read in this morning’s Portsmouth Daily Times told but part of the story.

For context, understand that the issue is our CIP (Capital Improvements Project) budget. Five weeks ago it was introduced at the Mayor’s Conference Agenda meeting and three weeks ago it was discussed at length by Council with the Mayor and Department heads. Numerous cuts were made three weeks ago, with participation and agreement by the Mayor and Department heads.

Our meeting this past Monday was for the CIP’s second reading. Imagine everyone’s surprise when, first, Mr. Haas made sweeping deletions to the first portion of the CIP (verbally, not in writing). Ostensibly, this move was to bring our budget in line with income. However, CIP funds may NOT be utilized in the General Fund (salaries, etc.) so cutting the CIP budget, for items such as road repair and equipment for our employees to accomplish their jobs does NOT impact our $1.2 million deficit. (See the Times article for cost details).

Then Mr. Basham introduced even more cuts (and some interesting additions) to the second portion of the CIP… making cuts that would have devastated Main Street Portsmouth and downtown redevelopment, eliminated our participation in (and designation by) Tree City USA and much, much more. At least, however, Mr. Basham’s proposals were in writing, so that Council could review them. (Again, see the Times article for cost details.)

Understand that there is a process in management that calls for communicating major changes to fellow members of Council so that we (on Council) and the PUBLIC are not caught off guard by last minute introductions of major change. Messrs. Basham and Haas had three weeks to provide Council and the public with an indication of their proposals. They chose, instead, to lead a tandem ambush on Council and the public with their sweeping “surprise” changes. Fortunately, certain of the City’s Department heads and community leaders were in attendance to counter and provide real facts and information to members of Council.

I was, to put it mildly, disgusted; and voiced this opinion loud and clear. You will not note this in press reports.

Finally – Mr. Basham indicated he had contacted various employees of the City for the information detailed in his cuts (and additions): bypassing the Mayor and all Department heads (such interference is forbidden by City Charter, by the way), leading Mr. Bill Beaumont to publicly chastise Mr. Basham for going behind his back and claiming that employees were afraid to voice their concerns to Department heads. Again, no mention of this in press reports.

I’ll be writing more after our next Council meeting. It is important to me that you be made aware of what is going on in the background and have historical context to what is now going on.

Sincerely,

Kevin

Kevin W. Johnson, Member
Portsmouth City Council – First Ward
1020 24th Street
Portsmouth, OH 45662-2822
740-876-8558 (cell 250-4710)

Last of the Big Spenders

Filed under: Uncategorized — tkm March 24, 2010 @ 14:0 pm

Do our city employees feel they are better than the rest of us? Let’s look at some of the extras provided to City employees at a cost to the taxpayers.

Last year the former mayor (Jim Kalb) and 4 members of council (David Malone, Gerald Albrecht, John Haas, and Mike Mearan) voted to provide all city employees 100% of their pension pickup. This requires the taxpayers of Portsmouth to assume costs associated with this expense. How many other taxpayers of Portsmouth can say their employers pay 100% of their pension pickup?

In 2009 the City’s Union contracts were presented to Council by Kalb and approved by Council members David Malone, Gerald Albrecht, John Haas, and Mike Mearan, which guaranteed City employees a 3% pay raise for the current year plus the next 2 years. Prior to Council’s approval the Auditor (Trent Williams) stated he could not guarantee monies would be available to meet payout of these contracts. He also reminded Council that his projection for the current year (2009) places the City more than $1 million in the red and next year (2010) looked worse; the City ended fiscal year 2009 in the red and no plans have been presented for recovery.

City employees are required to pay a very minimal percentage of their medical health insurance premiums (single plan $25 and family plan $50). I don’t know of another employer who does not require a larger employee match. I would be willing to bet most taxpayers of Portsmouth are paying to provide better health insurance to City employees than they receive themselves.

A number of City employees are provided a City credit card and cell phone. The past several years the State Auditor’s office has recommended that the City implement a cell phone and credit card policy to stop Waste, Fraud and Abuse; this has not been done.

The City must assess the benefits of supplying a police cruiser or SUV to each police officer and to many City employees during off scheduled work time. It has been reported some Police Officers and City employees are using these vehicles for their personal use and for transporting family members. How is this personal usage abuse affecting the costs associated to insurance and the legal responsibilities and liabilities to the City if an accident involving personal injuries would occur? It is also noted several of these City vehicles are being driven to homes outside the City limits regardless of the distance (some more than 35 miles each way). This practice burdens the taxpayers with paying related costs for transportation to and from work, maintenance for wear and tear on the vehicle and gas usage costs. Just this past year Trent Williams procured a new City owned SUV for the Auditor’s Department. What possible justifications could the auditor’s office have to purchase a new gas guzzling SUV when the city is close to bankruptcy? This purchase sounds a lot like Kalb’s request for a new gas guzzling SUV to drive to the water tower and to provide him a better car than anyone else in the City.

The City needs to establish a centralized car pool and a policy to purchase in the future only gas economy cars. This would help reduce the cost burden on the taxpayers of Portsmouth. Prior to departments being assigned their own vehicle(s) the department heads should provide the Mayor a cost and utilization justification for approval. If approved a formalized departmental policy and tracking system should be established to ensure against waste, fraud and abuse. Also, the Police Department needs to change past practice in allowing officers to drive City cruisers home. Each cruiser should be utilized by all three (3) shifts. For the past 3 to 4 years the Chief (Charles Horner) has authorized replacement of as many as 15 cars in one year. These cars were all new 8 cylinder gas guzzling cars (some SUV’s). By reducing the fleet and only purchasing gas economy cars the City would achieve a big savings for the taxpayers.

After reading the article below I have come to the conclusion that Union officials are requesting the Mayor to scheme methods of placing charge-offs against certain Enterprise Funds to cover employee payroll and benefit package overhead. By law the City cannot arbitrarily use these funds but only use them for costs directly associated to that Enterprise Fund. An inappropriate use of these funds not only depletes available monies associated in each Enterprise Fund (water, sewer, and garbage) but shows a lack of compromise by the Unions during very hard times. If these Enterprise Funds are manipulated and used in order to meet the unrealistic contractual agreements made between the previous Mayor (Kalb) and the Unions you can expect sizeable increases in your water, sewer and trash pickup bills. To raise fees associated to any of the Enterprise Funds would not require a vote of the citizens, but if an increase would be suggested for City income tax a vote of the citizens would be required.

Should taxpayers of Portsmouth be obligated to assume higher payout costs so City employees can receive better pay and benefits than most taxpayers of Portsmouth?

More people of Portsmouth and Scioto County need to get involved in politics to stop Waste, Fraud, and Abuse and to hold public officials accountable to stop Malfeasance, Misfeasance, Nonfeasance and Dereliction of Duty in office.

Union Speaks Out On City Budget Issue

by Frank Lewis

3-16-10

Portsmouth Firefighters’ Association Local 512 is charging that Portsmouth Mayor Jane Murray is creating a “hostile work environment,” with a statement she made to the Portsmouth Daily Times in a story published in Sunday’s edition.

The reference was to the Mayor’s statement: “It doesn’t matter (to the employees) if we don’t have the money to pave the streets. It doesn’t matter to them if I don’t have the money to address our declining neighborhoods’ housing stock and clean the city up. It doesn’t matter to them that we have sewage backing up in people’s homes, and we have a long-term control plan that we have to start implementing.”

“This statement by the Mayor has created a hostile work environment and the fabrication of statements not made by the Portsmouth Firefighters Association is unacceptable,” Portsmouth Firefighter Chris Lowery, of the union’s executive board, said. “The Portsmouth Firefighters deeply care about the infrastructure, the safety and well-being of the citizens of the city. Historically, the Portsmouth Firefighters Assocation has demonstrated that we are willing to work with the city on financial matters. The Portsmouth Firefighters Association conducts numerous charitable events to help the citizens of the city of Portsmouth.”

In speaking to the issue of a hostile work environment, Clint Wallace, secretary of Local 512 said, “She’s putting words in our mouths that we are not saying. We are all proud to work here. We put our lives on the line for the citizens here, and for her to come out and say that we do not care about the city is a false statement. I take it personal. I don’t like it.”

In an interview with the Times, Murray said she has been having discussions with union employees. “I met with them on Friday, and it didn’t go well.”

That is not the same story being told by the members of the firefighters union.

“The Mayor of the city of Portsmouth has never asked the Portsmouth Firefighters Association Local 512 to meet with her in any setting to discuss city finances or any other issues,” Lowery said, reading from a prepared statement in the conference room of the Central Fire Station.

“Our union president, which is Tony Hamilton, has attempted to make appointments with her, and she has declined those. No meeting ever has been attempted from her. No attempt to meet with our union.”

Those city employees who did meet with Murray on Friday, according to Lowery, were there simply to listen to proposals concerning the city’s insurance.

Murray said she attempted to address the issue of having workers take furlough days as a way of bringing down the city’s ballooning budget deficit. Lowery addressed the issue.

“The city of Portsmouth Ordinance 1501.01 states that the city of Portsmouth has adopted and will comply with NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) standard 1710 for manpower, equipment, response times and safety. It states that each company shall be maintained with a minimum of four personnel on each fire department apparatus,” Lowery said. “Hilltop station and Sciotoville station each have two personnel stationed at all times for immediate response for life and property safety. Furloughs will potentially close down already-undermanned stations and endanger citizens’ lives and increase response times while compromising firefighter safety.”

Lowery was quoting from the NFPA 1710 standard Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments. Section 5.2.3.1.1 states “these companies shall be staffed with a minimum of four on-duty personnel.”

Lowery produced a copy of the Codified Ordinances of Portsmouth. Ordinance 1501.1 says the city will be in “compliance with standards of the National Fire Protection Association or other approved nationally recognized standards shall be deemed to be prima-facie evidence of compliance with this intent.”

Murray said the public needs to know that in health insurance coverage alone, each employee pays $25 a month, and those on the family plan pay $50 a month, and that the family plan costs the city of Portsmouth more than $16,000 per year.

“Under our current contract signed by both the Portsmouth Firefighters Association and the city of Portsmouth, signed under good faith, each employee will pay $25 for a single plan and $50 for a family plan per month,” Lowery said. “In total, plus the deductible, each employee pays $860 single and $1,720 per family. The Mayor quoted over $16,000 per family plan; the actual amount is $15,746. That’s a difference of $254.”

Firefighters also took exception to the statement: “They have like six weeks of vacation. So when they take off two or three weeks at a time, then their overtime goes nuts, because they are all taking vacations.”

“Per article six of our current contract, a new employee receives six vacation days and the max that a firefighter may receive is 12 days. In addition, it states that scheduled vacation cannot cause overtime,” Lowery said.

He was also responding to Murray’s statement to department heads: “You are not to pay overtime to pay for this.”

The Fraternal Order of Police/Ohio Labor Council, Inc. also responded to the issues raised in Sunday’s Times article.

“The FOP is concerned with comments made by Mayor Murray indicating that she will implement furlough days for city employees. The City and the Fraternal Order of Police have a Collective Bargaining Agreement in place. The plan to force employees to take furlough days amounts to a change in the current terms and conditions of a negotiated contract. At no time has the Mayor requested a meeting to negotiate any changes nor has she presented any solid figures to show the need for concessions.”

In a release from Wes Elson, staff representative for the state FOP, the union officer said, “From accounts of those present, the Mayor became upset during the meeting, making the comment she would shut city government down and at one point directed the Police Administration to discipline an officer she perceived as being disrespectful when he referred to her as ma’am rather than Madam Mayor.”

In the news release Elson also said: “The FOP is very concerned that the City does not have a final budget in place, and that the question of how payroll will be met with no budget in place comes in question.

“Comments such as ‘because the employees were not willing to talk about contributing to the insurance fund, all I can do is add furlough days,’ and threats to discipline union representatives, is a poor way to ask for cooperation,” Elson said.

FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232 or flewis@heartlandpublications.com

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