March 6, 2008

Public Hearings for Public Contracts?

Monique Chartier

Governor Donald Carcieri has proposed that cities and towns hold public hearings on the terms of labor contracts before committing to them.

Governor Carcieri wants to force municipalities to hold public hearings to review tentative labor agreements before they are finalized, a move that union officials yesterday said would lead to harassment and unnecessary political pressure. The plan, submitted as part of the governor’s 2008-’09 budget, would also require cities and towns to submit pending labor agreements and fiscal impact statements to the state auditor general to “note his or her approval as to accuracy and reliability of the dollar estimates….”

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“This budget article will improve transparency of budget decisions in local cities and towns, while giving people a voice in the decision-making process by requiring a public hearing,” the governor’s spokesman, Jeff Neal, said. “If approved, it would enable the citizens of local communities to express their support for, concerns about or opposition to collective bargaining contracts being agreed to by municipalities.”

The NEA is not thrilled with the idea.

“I just think it’s another form, to be honest with you, of causing some undue harassment, whether direct or indirect, by allowing this process,” Henry Boeniger, a lobbyist for the National Education Association, testified before the House Finance Committee. “We elect officials to negotiate contracts. It’s sort of like letting other people negotiate contracts.”

"We elect officials to negotiate contracts" which reflect our will. If this is happening, why would there be a distaste for hearings? Wouldn't the feedback simply affirm what the elected officials negotiated?


Governor Carcieri addressed his proposal this morning on the John Depetro Show on WPRO. He also condemned work-to-rule, terming it "poisonous" and observing that it not only puts teachers in an unfair position but with this tactic, "children become pawns in the negotiation". These remarks can be found towards the beginning of this podcast.

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The beauty is in its simplicity. Letting the people know what they're buying BEFORE they sign the contract? Well, that's almost as crazy as test-driving a car before you buy it!

I can't imagine why the gestapo at the public employee unions would be opposed. If the people are as behind them as they continually claim, wouldn't this just reinforce that with crowds of people chanting "GIVE THEM MORE!"?

Posted by: Greg at March 6, 2008 1:44 PM

Why would the NEA object? All that's being asked here is for taxpayers to have a mechanism in place that allows taxpayer rank and file to review what their elected officials have negotiated. Is that not what NEA members demand of their elected leadership Bob Walsh? Only NEA rank and file take it one step further. NEA members not only demand review but they demand a vote on what was negotiated for them. You were saying Bob Walsh?

Posted by: Tim at March 6, 2008 2:56 PM

Sounds fair. If we held a public hearing on every labor contract AND every other contract municipalities engaged in for goods, services, etc., it would bring the kind of transparency government needs.
Government transparency in its dealings with BOTH unions and corporations is a good thing.

Posted by: rhody at March 6, 2008 3:07 PM

It's always interesting to see these union honchos try to defend the indefensible. Boeniger doesn't even name the group that he fears will be the object of harassment. Who is he afraid will be harrassed here, the school committee? Union officials? The teachers? The administration?

He is afraid that the public (aka those evil "other people") will be negotiating the contract? Give me a break! He knows that all this would translate into is a much more level playing field, more fairness, and some transparancy in negotiating teacher contracts, and it scares the hell out of him.

Posted by: Frank at March 6, 2008 4:28 PM

this is a truly excellent idea - so who do we go to to show our support???

Posted by: danish at March 6, 2008 4:44 PM

It's not complicated. This amendment was added to Woonsocket Ordinance last October.

Sec. 2-13.1. Collective bargaining agreements.

No collective bargaining agreement between the City of Woonsocket and any labor organization shall become effective unless and until ratified by the Woonsocket City Council.

Each collective bargaining agreement submitted to the city council for ratification shall be accompanied by a financial impact analysis for each fiscal year of the proposed bargaining agreement and a separate, complete listing of all language changes being proposed prior to consideration and vote for ratification.

At least one public hearing shall be held prior to city council ratification of any collective bargaining agreement.

(Ch. No. 7357, Sec. 2 10-16-07)

Posted by: John at March 6, 2008 5:40 PM

Union officials think they OWN the exclusive rights to "harassment and unnecessary political pressure." How could we forget Crowley and his one finger salute; how many of those - and worse - weren't documented?

The public should always have the right to review contracts and apply pressure - its necessary, as our current on-going fiscal train wreck shows.

Posted by: chuckR at March 6, 2008 6:50 PM

Really won't do any good. City and town governments need to be abolished period. This way there will only be one dragon to slay. the unions thrive on these council races and school commitee's.

Posted by: Mike at March 6, 2008 8:03 PM

Mike, can we get you some St. Johns Wort tea? Feeling a little gloomy? If it really won't do anything, why is there resistance from the relevant parties?

Danish, to register your approval, you would contact your own state rep and senator as well as Speaker Murphy's Office: 222-2466.

Posted by: Monique at March 6, 2008 8:48 PM

Lets get real here. This is Rhode Island. Why do you think there are 39 cities and towns!

You’ve got a governor telling local elected mayors, town administrators, school committees; departments, city and town councils they don’t know how to conduct their local business.

Almost sounds like a power grab!

Posted by: Ken at March 7, 2008 2:18 AM

What power is being grabbed by telling the towns "Hey, you know what might be a good idea? A hearing in front of the taxpayers before you give the store away to the unions."?

Posted by: Greg at March 7, 2008 7:36 AM

I think it's self evident that "local elected mayors, town administrators, school committees; departments, city and town councils don’t know how to conduct their local business." That's why people are paying $5000 in taxes for 1 bathroom, mundane single level houses.
And no "progressives"-- your whack-a-mole proposal to "raise income taxes to lower property taxes" ain't flying either.

Posted by: Mike at March 7, 2008 8:36 AM

I'm dealing with this in West Greenwich. The union just acknowledged that the teachers are "upping the ante" with a work to rule action, designed to leverage their negotiating position. When was the last time a contract was negotiated on behalf of the kids? It's just a group of people that feel they are above everyone else and deserve more for doing less. Who of us can tell our bosses we are only doing so much and not a speck more without losing their jobs? Who pays 5-10% co pays and thinks it's justified? I personally pay $1,300.00 a MONTH and my wife's job has gone South! You think I feel the need to work harder so these cry babies can do less? I am of the same ever single one of the current teachers and start over. If things are so bad and so tough, how come none of these leeches ever quit? Those obnoxious signs they display in their SUV's and luxury cars also need to be changed from "still working, no contract" to "Thank God I Have A Job". 1,700 jobs lost so far in RI., healthcare going through the roof, gas through the roof, foreclosures, home equity below the price of the house and on and on and they think they have it bad? I would be willing to work under their old contract forever, 180 days, summers off, are you kidding!

Posted by: David at March 7, 2008 2:49 PM


The 39 cities/towns local elected mayors, town administrators, school committees; departments, city and town councils are not state employees of the executive branch and do not work for the governor.


Please show me where I suggested raising taxes.

Posted by: Ken at March 7, 2008 10:12 PM

Well Ken-
If you ain't going to gut spending the only way to reduce property taxes is to "raise other taxes so we can reduce property taxes".
This is the bright "whack-a mole" proposal contained in both the Art Handy-Paul Moura bill and in the Segal-Slater-Almeida, et. al bill.
Me-I wanna gut spending.

Posted by: Mike at March 8, 2008 7:38 PM


I’m all for getting the best bang for the minimum tax dollar spent to get the job or service done.

One thing RI state government has going for it self is top heavy management. I guess it’s a State of RI mind set because two of the reasons for the federal closure of Quonset Point and the down-sizing of Newport Naval Station were high cost of overhead and management cited in the federal studies.

Everyone wants to be a boss! Look at Steve Kass and RIEMA! Is that a spending mismatch?

You can’t spend what you do not have and you can’t tax what is not there to tax.

The RI structural budget deficit is only being addressed and partially balanced at the State of RI receipts and expenditures paperwork level and not addressing real facts of unaccounted loss of federal grants and matching funds, revenues from business closings, people moving out of state, subprime loan and credit card mess with foreclosures, bankruptcies, lower revenue income of local community taxes rates, state income taxes, continued dropping of lottery; video slot revenues, increased worker layoffs; unemployment payments, increased fuel, transportation, utility, goods, services costs and looming nation-wide recession.

Most all local 39 cities/town governments at current have lost property tax revenues due to foreclosures and bankruptcies and once reevaluations are done, property values may be lowered which will force a change in local property taxes. Local governments, school systems, public works will have to cut some unsustainable services.

The state has laid off union workers, some management and forced retirement of workers but continues to carry over 500 private temp workers and continues to add $100K management positions.

Personally Mike, I think Smith Hill is overwhelmed with the RI structural budget deficit and because no one is working together but trying to grab the individual lime-light with an all in one quick fix, you will continue to see knee-jerk proposals and bills submitted to the general assembly and public. A lot of frustrated political finger pointing and attempts to shifting of blame for the RI structural budget deficit to entities not responsible for the total mismanagement of RI taxpayer funds entrusted to all of the current state-wide elected officials.

I suggest the RI structural budget deficit will grow to over $1 billion dollars.

I'm happy to say I moved out of RI just in the nick of time!

Posted by: Ken at March 8, 2008 11:15 PM
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