Archive: December, 2009
The PPA has some high expectations. For instance, it wants you to foresee that the spot you're in will become a no parking zone while you're away, and snap some photos to have available in court. If not? Then pay up. City Howl user "pumana" had to.
I went to traffic court to contest an unfair ticket and towing charge since my car was removed from a legal parking spot a couple of months ago. The story? Simple, I left to work and when I returned at 4 pm, there was a storage box instead of my car and plenty of no-parking signs posted on meters (so many that there were some left on the floor). So I go to traffic court and the first thing that this judge asks me to provide is a picture proving that there were no notices by the time I left to work.... yes! I was supposed to be able to provide an image or proof that by the time I left to work at 8 am, there were no notices posted. I had plenty of pictures to share in which I included a picture of my parking permit, all the leftover board signs that were left at the entrance of my place, the spot where my car was parked, the damage made to my car by the towing truck (contested and lost that one too) and on. Nothing mattered, I did not have a picture or anything to prove that I was telling the truth, therefore, I had to pay a $41 ticket and $150 for towing services to the lovely PPA.
Did you fail to see the future, too? Let us know on City Howl.
Today, the Daily News editorializes again about bringing structural reform to Harrisburg. The IOM editorial tackles what might be the biggest problem in the state capitol: the overwhelming influence of lobbyists on the legislative process.
Lobbyists don't just increase the power of special interests. They also diminish the voice of the general public, who don't have the money or expertise to influence the process. Lobbyists help balkanize public policy discussions by fighting for narrow interest groups instead of thinking about what's best for all Pennsylvanians.
The editorial notes that lobbyists spent more than $4.5 million lobbying the General Assembly during the budget crisis. According to Gov. Ed Rendell, the power of special interests was one of the reasons for the long delay. To that end, the Daily News offers some suggestions for beefing up the state's lobbying disclosure law.
Did you wait 45 minutes for a bus that was never coming, with nary a word about the cancellation on SEPTA's website?
Did the Streets Department get the thoroughfare near you plowed in a reasonable amount of time?
Did the school district make the right decision to shut down today?
Yesterday, an arbitration panel announced a contract award for more than 6,700 police officers. You can read an overview of the decision in a post by Sandra Shea here, and responses from other unions here.
One aspect of the contract that caught our attention is a provision allowing the city to furlough officers for up to 30 days a year. Mayor Nutter called this a "key management tool."
A furlough is essentially a temporary layoff. Employees on furlough don't get paid, but keep their jobs when the furlough ends. The arbitration award says the city must give an employee a week's notice before imposing a furlough.
As Sandra Shea wrote earlier, the police arbitration decision is big for the other unions -- it's considered the "ceiling" for other contracts. So what do the other unions think of it? We collected their reactions:
Pete Matthews, president of blue collar workers' union District Council 33 seemed happiest with the news, telling It’s Our Money, “from what I heard it seems to be a good award for the [Fraternal Order of Police]. So I’m glad for them. I think it’s great.”
At the same time, he said that because he’s “quite sure that the people doing arbitration wouldn’t have awarded this if the city didn’t have the money,” he wants his union to “be treated fairly as well.”
Our three word assessment of today’s just-released
finding from the police arbitration board: This is big.
It’s big for the cops: Because it will change the way their health plan is administered, and will now require them to contribute more to both health and pensions, but also gives them raises – 3% for the next two years (with a contract reopener in the third year to determine what the salaries will be). It mandates that the police union administer its own self-insurance program, which means that all doctors and dentists bills are paid directly by the union instead of an outside health insurance plan; the city will get an accounting each year of how much money was actually spent.
The pension plan has also changed, so new hires will have a choice between contributing more of their pay into a defined benefit plan or less into a hybrid plan. It does allow the city to furlough them (up to 30 days a year) but it also allows police with five or more years of service to live outside the city.
It’s big for the city: While there are up-front expenses that the city will have to contend with – primarily related to the raises awarded to police over a two-year period – the city gains big time in the recasting of the health care and pension benefits. While the numbers are still being crunched, it’s clear that the switch from the current health plan to self-insurance, and the switch to a hybrid pension plan will save the city money in the long run and help it gain control over the problem of out of control pensions and health care benefits.
An arbitration panel has awarded a five-year contract to city employees represented by the Fraternal Order of Police. You can read the spin from the Fraternal Order of Police on their website.
We expect to have a statement from Mayor Nutter soon. If the city disagrees with the award, it can appeal the decision. Otherwise, this award will serve as the collective bargaining agreement for more than 6,700 city employees.
Catherine Lucey has the details on the contract over at Clout. Here's the bottom line: a seven percent raise over the next three years, and then a wage re-opener in the final two years (Mayor Nutter wanted zero wage increases throughout the life of the contract). There are also alterations to benefits: the union will switch to a self-insured health plan, which is expected to save the city money, and new hires will either pay a higher premium to stay in the existing pension plan, or a lower premium for a hybrid 401K/pension plan.
This decision could set the tone for the contracts of other city unions, which are still in negotiations.
There has only been one trial, but the “Bonusgate” investigation is already having political ramifications. Yesterday, House Democrats chose a new Majority Whip in a closed-door caucus meeting.
Rep. Frank Dermody, D-33, Oakmont, is the new Majority Whip, succeeding Rep. Bill DeWeese who resigned the post earlier this week after being charged with misusing legislative employees for campaign work in the ongoing "Bonusgate" investigation of the state Legislature.
By a 15-2 vote.
Here's the referendum question that will be on the May primary ballot:
On Wednesday, the city sent out a press release announcing its intention to purchase existing wireless infrastructure from the Network Acquisition Company -- a step toward creating a municipal wireless network. The network will cost $2 million, though the city will need to spend a total of about $17 million over the next five years to get the thing up and running.
The city says the network will have three benefits: public safety (in the form of real-time video surveillance and field communication), government efficiency (again, as a communication tool for field workers), and reduced operating expenses (from deployment efficiency and vendor costs).
The city doesn't mention in the release that it has three applications out for federal broadband grants, and that one of the proposals is for a $21 million network infrastructure project. There's got to be a relationship here, right?