April 26, 2012

Transparency Now Equals Union Bashing

Patrick Laverty

I was in my car yesterday afternoon listening to Matt Allen talking about this new ordinance in North Smithfield and talking with town councilor Ed Yazbak about it. The Town Council in North Smithfield will put new contracts up for public review for two weeks before signing. This ordinance will only cover contracts that the Town Council negotiates, so teacher and fire contracts are not subject to this change.

Imagine that. Openness. Transparency. Accountability. All good things in government.

I had a similar experience in my own town a few years ago when my School Committee was negotiating with the teachers union. I emailed back and forth with a few of the committee members sending a few of my own suggestions and to their credit, they didn't respond to me like some crazy person from outer space. When I learned through the media that the committee had come to an agreement with the union on a contract and that it was to be signed at the upcoming committee meeting, I asked to see what they'd agreed upon. I simply wanted to comment on it before its signing. One committee member responded that I could see it after it is ratified at the committee meeting. No one may see the contents of the contract before it is signed.

Well that hit me like a brick wall. I can't see a contract that I have to help pay for before it is signed? This sounds a lot like Nancy Pelosi referring to Obamacare in that we have to pass it in order to see what's in it.

But now, North Smithfield is attempting to make the change toward openness and transparency. Who could possibly be opposed to transparency in government?

Senator John Tassoni, that's who. His claims include "union bashing" as well as

"Not only is the recent action taken by the North Smithfield Town Council a clear and obvious attack on the municipal union, it is also a clear indication that the members of the council who support this action are shirking their responsibilities and avoiding the duties they were elected to perform,” said Senator Tassoni.

He goes on to add:

“The council is the duly authorized body to be voting on these negotiated contracts, and shouldn’t be looking to avoid their duty by seeking public input that they are then able to hide behind,”
Hide behind public opinion? So if the public, the ones paying the bill, decide that the contract is not something that they want, if they feel the value isn't there, then they should have every right to voice that opinion to their town council. If anything, this could put additional pressure on a town council. They spend time working through negotiations only to get hammered by the public? How does that sound like shirking any responsibility?

Also, if the employees covered by the contract are doing a good job and are getting paid fair compensation, then what is Senator Tassoni afraid of? Why does he want the council to continue hiding behind "We can't show you the contract until it's passed?" The only people who look to hide things are those who have something to hide. Clearly the town council in North Smithfield feel they have nothing to hide. So why does Senator Tassoni feel that differently?

Among some of the other ludicrous statements by Tassoni comes this gem:

“These people ran for office knowing that they would occasionally face some tough decisions and difficult votes,” said Senator Tassoni. “If they are not willing to live up to those responsibilities, they should get out of office. Seeking public input on union contracts is not, for them, about transparency. It is about stirring up anti-labor sentiments.”
If anything, it would seem the town council is more than living up to their responsibilities, they are demonstrating how they want to be more accountable to the taxpayers and the voters.

When people think of what's wrong with Rhode Island and more specifically its politics, Senator Tassoni would be one of the poster children. Fortunately however, he announced last September that he will not seek re-election this year. So I guess we at least have that to look forward to.

Congratulations to Councilors Ed Yazbak, Christine Charest and Thomas McGee for voting in favor of good government.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

These arguments only make sense in the warped world of union-speak. The only reason why anyone would ever object to this is if they are dreading the public response. But there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in negotiations between public entities. If the union has nothing to be ashamed of, then it should jump at increased transparency in these negotiations. Aren't they always complaining about how unreasonable management is? Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Posted by: Dan at April 26, 2012 3:02 PM

More proof that the phony savior of the bullied is nothing but a bully himself. All he does is run his mouth calling for people to be fired. One conversation with him and you soon realize what an A'hole he really is.

Posted by: Max D. at April 26, 2012 3:59 PM

Couldn't agree more, Max. Shamefully, this shill 'represents' me though based on his voting records he really represents his own self serving interests. CANNOT wait until his days in the GA are done...bye bye tASSoni.

Posted by: JTR at April 26, 2012 4:17 PM

Agreed JTR... can't wait for his "service to the public" days in the GA are OVER.

I think this episode demonstrates a fundamental difference in people's thinking (label each group as you will)..

one group is saying that the town council gets elected to "server the people", yet should negotiate how to spend "the people's" money in secret. And only after the contract has been signed can the public see the contract.

The other group is saying, here we've negotiated a contract, here it is for everyone to see, we're signing it in two weeks. [IMHO the definition of transparency].

Begs the question of why would either side want to hide the details from those who are going to pay for it?

Posted by: StuckHereinRI at April 26, 2012 4:35 PM

Imagine that. Openness. Transparency. Accountability. All good things in government.

Now I know you wrote this with government in mind, but does your concept of openness, accountability, and transparency extend to other organizations as well?

Posted by: Phil at April 26, 2012 8:15 PM

That depends. Where you going with this, Phil?

Posted by: Patrick at April 26, 2012 10:36 PM

From The Guardian,, England
“Now the affidavit released on Tuesday suggests that BP knew more oil was coming out of the well in the early days after the explosion on 20 April 2010 than it was reporting to the federal government or the public.” This apparently is of no concern to Patrick Laverty and his transparency issue. Only Unions come under scrutiny while company actions draw no comment. Mr.. Laverty must look with both eyes, not with just one, or he could be accused of gross bias and a half hearted attempt at transparency truth.
Mr. Laverty might also wish to comment about transparency in light of the following, also from The Guardian: - “A day after the explosion, Kurt Mix, the former engineer charged on Tuesday, began modelling the potential flow rate from the BP well, according to the affidavit. He shared his estimates with an unnamed supervisor, suggesting the well was gushing between 64,000 and 138,000 barrels of oil a day.”
“At the time, however, BP and the coast guard were telling the public there was as little as 1,000 barrels of oil coming out of the well.”

How about some transparency concern here? Oh, I see BP is a business, and businesses are good while unions are bad – keeps the world simple when you blind yourself with your personal prejudices.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 26, 2012 11:01 PM

Perhaps government should install cameras in everyone's home then - just in case you are involved in any "dangerous" activities. Or in every business, if you prefer.

Government employment is a different matter. If you don't want your work activities made public, don't work for the public. Sometimes it really is that simple.

Posted by: Dan at April 26, 2012 11:14 PM

You're attack using what borders on a straw man argument is pretty desperate. Just because Patrick didn't write about it, doesn't mean he turns a blind eye to it. It's ironic that you would draw a parallel between outright fraud and government-labor contract negotiations. Your 'Yea but he did too' argument should be kept in the school yard where it belongs. If you have an adult reason why Patrick is wrong then we'd be glad to hear it.

Posted by: Max D at April 27, 2012 7:21 AM

Depends. You're the one who made the statement.

from your newspaper article this quote from the councilman

"Sooner or later we have to take a stand against the union. That's my personal belief," said Yazbak of the cost, adding that he believes the administrator's objection is based in her sympathy towards unions. "

So this isn't just about sunshine and light. Is it so hard to picture a politician salivating over the idea of leading a circus with tea partiers and anti tax people all hooting and hollering at this meetings. Good for a politician and good for theater but not so good for governing but maybe that's the goal here anyway. Obstruct and frustrate collective bargaining and call it a victory no matter the cost. Isn't that really the point.

Posted by: Phil at April 27, 2012 7:48 AM

Phil, yes, Yazbak let his feelings for unions be known in the article. If that's his motivation for making the process more transparent, fine, the transparency here is still a good thing.

Maybe the council does end up creating a circus for themselves, but that also means they're holding themselves accountable to the public. Would you agree to a contract that you know you're going to get blasted for? Don't forget, the public does not see the contract until it has been agreed upon by both sides. So this is the council saying "here is the contract we agreed to." If my council were to do that and it was ludicrous or reasonable alternatives were found, I'd think that those people might not deserve to be on the Council anymore and would look to replace them at the next election. So they're putting their own seats on the line by doing this. It's going to force them to negotiate what they feel is a contract that they can justify and explain to their constituents.

Posted by: Patrick at April 27, 2012 8:33 AM

Hey OTL, you forgot to mention Watergate too. I never wrote about that one either. So I guess that means I support White House secret recordings.

I never wrote about the Trojan Horse. So I guess that means I support giving a large wooden horse to your opponent and then jumping out in the middle of the night and killing your enemies.

I never wrote about how Princess Leia stored the secret plans for the Death Star on R2D2 either. So I guess I supporte intergalactic espionage too, right?

Oh man, I've got so much to write about.

Thanks for the tip and setting me straight, OTL.

Posted by: Patrick at April 27, 2012 8:40 AM

" Seeking public input on union contracts is not, for them, about transparency"

Yes, it is. The question here is, why are you averse to this transparency, Senator? What is it about these employment contracts that should not be made public? Could it be how generous they are compared to private sector contracts?

Posted by: Monique at April 27, 2012 8:48 AM

Tassoni is the poster child for what is wrong with Rhode Island. How dare the North Smithfield. Town council have the audacity to think the taxpayers have the right to know what they are paying for before they are forced to pay for it. Next thing you know, people will go to the store and want to see the merchandise they are paying for before they pay for it. Where will it end. This is exactly why we the voters need to push for RI to become a Right to Work state. We need to get rid of the Tassonis in the GA.

Posted by: Ron Bernier at April 27, 2012 10:14 AM

Mr. Laverty,
Your sarcasm is clever and totally misplaced. The plain fact is that you only look one way. That is my point and your smarmy riposts don't answer it. I suppose that you please your choir boy, Max D, but you again have failed to address the issue of one eyed looking.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 27, 2012 1:01 PM

Congratulations on receiving your own nickname from OTL, Max. It means that you have become inconvenient enough to him to be dismissed out of hand - a kind of badge of honor. I still have seniority over you, though.

"I never wrote about how Princess Leia stored the secret plans for the Death Star on R2D2 either. So I guess I supporte intergalactic espionage too, right?"

Cue Pat Crowley: The silence is deafening!!!

Posted by: Dan at April 27, 2012 1:08 PM

OTL, I'll make you a truce deal, I will state that BP was wrong and a bad, bad company to grossly understate the extent of the oil spill, if you agree that the transparency that the North Smithfield Town Council is aiming for is a bad thing and Tassoni's comments are misguided.


Posted by: Patrick at April 27, 2012 1:58 PM

Would you agree to a contract that you know you're going to get blasted for?

Yes, if it is the right thing to do. So an elected representative does the hard work and gets what he/she believes to be a just settlement after many hours of discussion just to have a fellow member grandstand for the people who attend your public extravaganza. Why do restaurants seat and serve people? Why not let the sun shine in and throw open the doors to the kitchens and have them roam around sampling dishes ? Why not? They are going to buy the food so why can't they taste it first?
Why not hold elections every 2 to 4 years and allow as many as possible to vote for their representatives and then let them do what they were elected to do. All the people should decide, not just the self styled good government anti everything cranks.

Posted by: Phil at April 27, 2012 3:38 PM

It's a deal Mr. Laverty as long as you expend the same amount of text to denouncing BP as you have in the article that started this thread in the first place. Right here would be a good place to start.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 27, 2012 6:07 PM

Dan plays John Alden to Max D's Miles Standish while Patrick Laverty is Priscilla Mullins.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 27, 2012 6:13 PM

Oh yes, OTL, Priscilla Mullins. She was one of your babysitters growing up, was she not?

Posted by: Patrick at April 27, 2012 7:15 PM

I was a choir boy however I doubt you reached that conclusion through any keen sense of perception. Speaking of transparency, you're veiled attempt at obfuscating Patrick's point by hijacking his thread gets a total Fail. That was pure political speak. Were you a politician in a previous life? You call Patrick's response smarmy ripost. I call your whiny remarks kettle black.

Posted by: Max D at April 27, 2012 10:43 PM

OTL, you bash me for not having written about an event in 2010 when I wasn't affiliated with Anchor Rising at the time? Using that logic, I can say the same about you. Why didn't you write about it? I haven't seen where you wrote about it here.

You want me to write about it now? About an event from two years ago? Yeah, that's timely. I'm sure people really care and will love it if I start writing about things that happened in the past. How far back should I go? Should I denounce Sirhan Sirhan while I'm at it? How about Michael Milken or Ivan Boesky? Would that be just enthralling to you for me to write about them in some negative way? Oh, I know, I can totally get into the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. Now that'd be some good reading, eh?

As always OTL, thanks for reading and commenting.

Posted by: Patrick at April 27, 2012 11:18 PM

Mr. Laverty,
You completely miss the point. To put it in plain terms, you only look at the world with one eye open. You show no concern for abuses by huge corporations and you rail against perceived ones when unions may be involved. You are neither fair or balanced. I'll be waiting a long time before you see fit to write about the next (one is sure to be forthcoming soon) corporate abuse of power. I will point it out to you after it occurs so that you will be aware and timely in your response.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 28, 2012 6:59 PM

Mr. OldTiredLiberal,
You completely miss the point. To put it in plain terms, you only look at the world with one eye open. You show no concern for abuses by unions and you (NEVER) rail against perceived ones when big corporations may be involved. You are neither fair or balanced. I'll be waiting a long time before you see fit to write about the next (one is sure to be forthcoming soon) union abuse of power. I will point it out to you after it occurs so that you will be aware and timely in your response.

Like shootin' fish in a barrel.
OTL, you're not only a hypocrite but you're quite disingenuous.
I believe that makes you a liberal, sir.
Though I will give you credit on one score. You can actually write in complete sentences which puts you light years ahead of John Tassoni on the evolution scale.

Posted by: Tim at April 28, 2012 8:58 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.