Please understand that I never commented on the SEIU contract itself. (even though it is so awful you ought to read the synopsis with a drink in hand..or maybe a whole bunch of drinks....link http://muskegontaxpayers.blogspot.com/2011/02/thoughts-on-tomorrows-union-contract.html)
During the first "public comment" time I asked the commissioners two questions:
"Have any of you commissioners read the entire contract that you will be voting on today."
And "Have any of you commissioners ever seen a full copy of the printed contract?"
There was a "deer in the headlights" response from the commissioners which I took as a "no".
But immediately after my questions, as I waited for the "deer" to blink, commissioner Marve Engle leaned over to County chairman, Ken Mahoney and said "questions are not allowed".
And Chairman Mahoney responded "oh yeah no questions" or something like that.
The official minutes as published today by the county:
(from the minutes- http://co.muskegon.mi.us/clerk/02082011_board_minutes.pdf:
"2011-71 PUBLIC COMMENT (ON AN AGENDA ITEM)
Jim Riley made comments relating to the union contract agenda item.""
And they moved on.
The commissioners then mostly (except for Jager) voted for every spending opportunity and the big union contract.
Again, except for Alan Jager.
So, at the end of the meeting when the gorging at the public trough of spending was over, public commentary was allowed once again and I spoke to my commissioners for the second time:
"In deference to commissioner Engle's aversion to questions from taxpayers, the questions in my statement are rhetorical."
(I didn't want to be stopped in the middle of my comments because of some new prohibition of questions!)
The "deer" look returned, and there was no love that I could detect.
Anyway, here's what I then said, verbatim:
"I have a heavy heart right now.
Today you commissioners, all save one, voted on a very expensive union contract.
And all of you voted "aye", save one.
And yet you tell us all that none of you have read the contract in its entirety.
You haven't even seen the full contract in written form.
And yet you voted "aye".
All of you, save one.
Here is a copy of the memorandum, a "summary outlines the changes in the tentative agreement reached on January 7,2011, between the County of Muskegon and the SEIU Public Works Unit."
But this summary doesn't compare this new contract with the previous contract.
This summary doesn't provide you with any information about whether this will cost the county more or less than the old one.
Whether the employees are giving back or taking more or it's the exact same as last year.
This summary provides words like "county pays 100% for employees with 25 years."
1000% of what?
What will it cost?
What did it cost last year?
Did you know before you voted?
This summary says "county pays 12.99% toward the defined benefit plan".
12.99% of what?
What is the real cost to the county?
How does it compare with last year's expense?
Did you know the answers before you voted today?
And it goes on with more fuzzy vagaries.
Many of you have owned or run businesses.
You would never...never! sign a contract so expensive without fully reading and understanding every detail.
But that would be your money you'd be spending, wouldn't it?
You all have families and households.
You would never enter into a costly agreement without reading and understanding it.
And budgeting so that you could afford it.
But this vote, like so many before, was a nice quick "aye" times eight.
Well, we elected you all to represent us.
We gave you our trust.
We expected you would do the heavy lifting.
That you'd read, do your homework, ask the hard questions and in the end you would be knowledgeable and we would trust in your judgement.
And this is how you reward our trust?
It is a sad day in Muskegon county."
Well, have you ever seen a really ANGRY deer?
Or 8 of them sitting behind a big line of connected desks with microphones?
Well, I saw that today.
But it gets "better".
Commissioner Scolnik, took great umbrage at my comments, responded that he had in fact read a comparison of the two contracts, that the commissioners worked real hard at their jobs and who was I to criticize them when I never ran for election ...and then went on from that.
The official minutes from that exchange:
"Jim Riley addressed the Commissioners regarding the union contract agenda item."
I'll try to get the audio of the meeting that is required by the county board to be made available for all meetings so that I might more accurately recount what was exactly said.
I have offered commissioner Scolnik my public apology if he can produce the comparison report that he told the audience he'd read.
I'll let you know.
No one said that going against the establishment was gonna be easy.
Thanks to my peanut gallery supporters Paula, Sue, Nancy, David, Susie, Eric and us other "great unwashed" Tea Party members!
My heroes are county commissioner Alan Jager, Sarah Palin and Michigan proposal 2 heroine, Jennifer Gratz.