As fun as it would be to keep talking about national politics, it’s probably time to return my gimlet eyes to local politics.
(Wait! one last sip:
How awesome are Republicans? They may be drunk with victory, but boy, are they mean drunks!
And then there’s this fresh Hell:
Can you feel the brain cells die as you watch? I know the mere thought of those two getting into a “situation” together makes me never want to let anyone have sex. With anyone. Ever. Again.)
Ok. Gasp! Ok.
No more capitol cocktails. The hypocricy could kill a person. Local brews. Local brews.
So. Been to a Town Council meeting lately? Or are you too busy trying to decide if you should support the Bush Tax Cut sunset? Well. You might be able to catch the meetings on cable access. If you keep the tv on channel 17 for the rest of your life. (Better than DWTS at least).
At the November 8th meeting, the Town Council weighed in (almost!) on the teacher contracts.
What teacher contracts? Oh. These:
Let's pause here. This is a big deal. New Milford teachers and the town’s Board of Education, reached an amicable agreement in July, over salaries and benefits for the next academic year. The upshot is that teachers are accepting a pay freeze. They have also agreed to slightly higher copays for some medical visits. And they did this without a lengthy and expensive arbitration process. So. Tax payers: hug a teacher. And also a BoE member.
Now. Onc e the contract is approved by the teachers and the BoE, it goes on file with thew Town Clerk. Note the date of the article (September 29th). And count 30 days forward. According to the town charter, that’s how much time the Town Council has to approve, reject, or decline to notice, the new contract. The Mayor and TC chose the latter course, but it seems it’s because someone forgot to count.
I guess the Mayor and TC wanted to say something about the contracts, but didn’t realize the contract had been filed (do none of them read the local paper? This was big news), or that they only had a 30-day window. Which, given how long most TC members (not to mention the Mayor) have served this community, seems a little odd. But not as odd as this explanation, from the meeting minuntes:
“[A Councilman] asked why the Town Council was not notified that the agreement was submitted to the Town Clerk. Mayor Murphy stated that it is not required to.”
See? “It is not required.” That’s logical and satisfying, isn’t it?
I know. But … given that the TC agenda from October 25th included this item:
“Mayor Murphy told Town Council members if they know of anyone whom they think should be recognized for something they have done in the community or another accomplishment, they should let her know.”
And, given that the BoE successfully negotiated an even more recent contract, this time with school administrators, also with a $0 salary increase, also with concessions on benefits, also without arbitration
it’s not like there wasn’t anything worth commenting on.
(Um, Mayor Murphy, how’s about thanking the teachers, adminitrators, and the BoE for agreeing to a pay freeze, and saving tax payers money!?! Too much to ask, I suppose.)
Well, even though the magic 30 days had passed, preventing the TC from epxressing their official dis/approval of the contracts, some members exercised their First Amendment right to free speech, and comment less officially at the November 8th meeting.
“Mr. Bass stated that all parties should be thanked. Mayor Murphy thanked all those involved for a good job including those people in the audience from the Board of Education.”
At the risk of sounding ungenerous, these “thanks” were recited with all the passion and sincerity of an 8-year-old thanking their Aunt Myrtle for a hand-knit Christmas sweater.
But, wait, there was more! Following the national trend of seeing one’s first amendment and raising you the second amendment, Councilman Raymond O’Brien had this to say:
“Mr. O’Brien stated that the Town Council usually approves contracts ‘with a gun to our heads’ because it is always told that if they don’t approve the contracts, they would go to arbitration and the town would lose.”
Of course, he isn’t exactly accurate on how the process works. I’ve looked in the Town Charter, and it really doesn’t say “After contract is filed with Town Clerk, a gun will be placed to the Town Council’s head until they vote their approval. If they reject the contract, the Town will automatically lose in arbitration.” But then, my reading of the Health Care Reform Act didn’t turn up any Death Panels either. So, there might be a special ink, visible only to conservatives, involved here.
Well, Mr. O’Brien. Thanks for the statesmanlike response. Honestly. A gun to your head? There’s a lot I’d like to say in response to your stunning hyperbole (not to mention hypocrisy: how’s about that civility manifesto?), but it’s not printable.
But that’s not even the most incendiary part of his comments. There’s more:
“[Councilman O’Brien] would much rather be advised earlier so that the Town Council could have some meaningful input before it is filed with the Town Clerk.”
Ummm ……. Because that’s not how the system works.
So, what? Councilman O’Brien would like a seat at the bargaining table? Should Councilman O’Brien just write the contracts himeslf? Why not just let Councilman O’Brien be in charge of everything? Charter, shmarter.
Councilman Peter Mullen tried to dial back the crazy:
"Dr. Mullen stated that communication is great, but disagreed with O’Brien’s statement. He felt the Town Council is not forced to accept a contract. They are not told the Town will lose."
Yeah. Well. That and telling Sarah Palin she can’t see Russia from her house will get you a blank stare and a headache.
Look. I’m quibbling over a minor detail. The comments of a cranky man about teacher contracts that already passed really don’t add up to major policy.
It’s just so disheartening.
It’s just another casualty in the decline of civil discourse.
These contracts were the result of hard work, good will, community spirit, and mutual trust, on the parts of our educators and our Board of Education. They are an example of putting community before personal gain. The contracts are something to celebrate.
Is it too much to ask that people like Councilman O’Brien not spoil the moment with petty carping (while also attempting some sort of political coup where he actually gets to take the place of the BoE and the teachers’ union in deciding contracts)?
Would it be putting a (metaphorical!) gun to the Town Council’s heads to expect a sincere, full-throated “Thanks!”
Or is it too close to budget season?
(are those crickets?)