Don Roach: Providence City Council Unanimously Votes Republican
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
Has the world turned upside down? Did I just read this correctly? “The [Democratic] Providence City Council on Monday voted 12-0 to give final passage to a sweeping overhaul of the city’s pension system and Mayor Taveras quickly signed the ordinance following the meeting.” (emphasis mine) Travis Rowley must be applauding the fact that the Providence City Council unanimously agrees with many of the reforms he and other Rhode Island Republicans have been advocating for years. Y-E-A-R-S.
Democrats have been fighting against these ideas for the better part of a decade. It’s not hard to see why, of course, since their constituency contains many union members and many Democratic forebears negotiated these unsustainable pension contracts. Therefore it’s difficult for Democratic leaders to now call for benefit reductions for current employees or retirees since the deals were negotiated by, thank you Captain Obvious, Democrats.
Nonetheless, you have to commend the Providence City Council for finally realizing that pensions as constituted today are…not…sustainable. Republicans have argued that pensions are a drain on government from the standpoint that unfettered COLAs lead to increased taxpayer burden. As people live longer and COLAs continue without an end, the system will eventually collapse upon itself. This isn’t news as Governor Carcieri tried to bring reform during his eight years as governor with little success.
Tom Kenney, a captain for the Providence Fire Department, wrote a guest Mindsetter piece this week in which he called the actions taken by the City Council as lacking courage. He writes, “The members of Local 799 and Providence FOP (at least the ones I’ve talked to) do not understand the Council's actions. We, down to a man/woman, stand behind our words and our agreements.” We can take from this that firefighters, past and present, don’t understand why the city council took the action of suspending COLAs amongst other non-union friendly actions.
Unless Kenney has not read the news, reviewed housing prices in the last few years, nor heard Mayor Taveras musings on bankruptcy what’s difficult for average Joes like you and I to understand is how union members do not realize that we’re living in an age where unions must concede on points or face the consequences of lost pensions. What is worse, losing your COLA or losing your pension?
Union members, I really challenge you to consider that because we’re at the point where the buck has stopped. There’s no more pussyfooting around the un-sustainability of our pensions. Twelve members of the city council, most of whom have probably received support from multiple unions over multiple years, decided that the time was now to save the city versus saving your pension. And trust me, if the question becomes “Do we save the city or do we save pensions?” the answer will be saving the city every single time.
And that’s what the answer should be! There’s no way to pay your pensions if the city has no money. So when Kenney talks about sticking to an agreement he’s being very disingenuous with respect to current economic realities. The firefighters fought with Cicilline for years, those same years Carcieri was talking about pension reform.
COLA suspension is where pension reform had to begin and I suspect that for Kenney that was a non-starter. But, unfortunately COLA suspension is where reform begins and anyone advocating otherwise is living a pipe dream.
So, I commend the city council and hope that this is the first step in avoiding bankruptcy. And for you voters, Republicans have been advocating for these types of proposals. Don’t forget about us at the polls this year.
Don Roach is a member of the RI Young Republicans. He can be reached at [email protected]
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