In three short months the Sandusky city commission accomplished something previous leaders refused to tackle. As painful as it has been, the commission under ex officio mayor Dan Kaman ordered layoffs in the city's work force that position the city to end 2010 with a balanced budget. The budget approved last week includes a deficit, but that will be addressed in June when the city will no longer be hamstrung by a one-year "no layoffs" agreement the former city manager negotiated last year with the city's union that represents non-safety service employees.
The commission also is poised to approve a union contract for the fire department that includes something that hasn't been in a new labor pact for quite some time -- concessions -- and that certainly is a step in the right direction. The firefighters union, unlike the police department's union, appears to have negotiated a contract that begins to address the need to reduce the institutional costs of operating the city's safety forces. The concessions could allow for some of the laid-off firefighters to be brought back. That is noteworthy because the firefighters union appears to have put the safety of residents above their own personal and individual interests.
There appears to have been no such good-faith negotiation with the Fraternal Order of Police. FOP negotiators have dug in their heels, got raises and will forego a realistic effort to bring back the laid-off police officers. The police department wants to keep living in the past and ignore the financial challenges the city faces, and its union negotiators fail to see the bigger picture.
When the income tax increase was on the ballot last year, firefighters sought to educate the public. They presented clear and concise arguments as to why they supported the measure and opened up the firehouse doors to welcome any residents who wanted to know more. Police, on the other hand, offered no such arguments and seem content in the simple position that they are entitled to raises, short workweeks and a other perks that are fast becoming a thing of the past. The firefighters union appears to have negotiated with residents in mind; the police union appears to have negotiated with only the police union in mind.
Kaman and city commissioners have declared none of the laid-off police officers can be brought back without concessions. They are standing fast on behalf of the taxpayers of the city of Sandusky and, for that, they deserve all the backing they can get from all of us.