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Second Opinion

Curt Leng and Ron Gambardella

February 7, 2007

Due to Ron

By Curt Leng

As some have probably noticed, I have substantially cut down the number of times I’ve written “Second Opinion” columns over the last months. The reason is I can’t bring myself to spend hours and hours trying to translate Ron Gambardella’s intentionally misleading and often inappropriate misinformation articles.

Mr. Gambardella is running for office, using clearly unsubstantiated rhetoric to try to stir people’s hope that he is the one councilmember of 15 people that understands Hamden government and how it really should work. He has a disdain for fellow elected officials that I have never seen in my decade in Hamden government.

The fact is that Ron’s columns consist of inaccuracies, illusions and have venom for fellow councilmembers that is in no way productive to the government process. It’s easy to throw stones. Hard work in government is coming up with solutions -- and I don’t see much of that from Gambardella.

I respect any elected official’s right to speak their opinion. I do take exception to Mr. Gambardella’s intentional misleading of the public. I will not continue to lend any sense of credibility to this person’s deception of Hamden residents.

I will continue to write on topics of importance to me and to the town in letters and forums, but refuse to take any part in an exercise with a councilmember working harder to make fun and make political gains than he works for the benefit of the taxpayers.

(Editor’s note: The HDN has chosen to terminate “Second Opinion.” Councilman Ron Gambardella’s writings now appear under his own column, “Ron’s Rap.”)
February 5, 2007

Oh, What a Tangled Web of Wires

By Ron Gambardella

Levitsky & Berney presented their audit findings to me and several other Council members last Thursday. The presentation was matter-of-fact and fairly mundane until we got to finding 06-4: Department of Education Purchasing.

The auditors stated, “Currently, the financial records of the Department of Education’s are not supervised or maintained by the Town’s Department of Finance, as stated in the Town Charter. The Town’s purchasing agent depends on the Department of Education to deliver the required requisitions. We found that this is not being done and has developed into weakness in internal controls and potential liabilities to the Town of Hamden.” The auditors stated further that “Capital projects were being performed without reliance of the proper procurement procedure and the legal protection of a construction agreement or contractors insurance.”

What does all this mean? Simply put, the school administration authorized work for wiring computers without following the long-established purchasing guidelines. This appears to be willful intent to work around established guidelines to avoid detection. One must ask, why do such a thing and call into question the financial integrity of the Board of Education?

Two reasons: 1) expedite the request as soon as possible and/or 2) avoid a potential embarrassing confrontation with the Council for not disclosing the wiring with the original computer upgrade proposal.

With respect to expediting the request, the ends do not justify the means. It is understood that in order for students to benefit from the new technology the computers must be connected to a network. However, better judgment would have been to inform all interested parties of the oversight and put a plan in place to fix the problem. It would have then been up to the fiscal authority to appropriate the necessary funding to complete the construction. That, of course, would have taken time. You then run the risk of someone saying no, further delaying the project.

It seems a decision was made to move forward out of concern for the students. (Who made the decision is unclear.) While this is admirable, it cannot be a legitimate reason to circumvent the procedures. The outcome may have led to the contractor overcharging or performing shoddy construction from rushing the job to hide detection.

According to the auditors, there was little oversight during construction. Who knows what a properly awarded contract would have cost if it went out to bid. The more subtle issue is that if you are capable of justifying this you are capable of justifying anything. It calls into question all financial transactions and certainly casts a shadow over any future budget requests.

Let’s look closer at the second reason -- saving face. If my memory serves me correctly, it was about six months ago the education administration was before the Council with a bold plan to upgrade student computers. The plan appeared to be well thought out and was warmly received by many Council members including me. There is only one problem: they forgot to mention the additional cost of wiring the computers.

Now what to you do? Do you take a chance and go before the Council and admit the oversight and possibly jeopardize the entire project? Or do you move forward? I guess the auditors uncovered the answer to that question. They went forward without the proper authorization. This is clearly a serious lapse in judgment. It seems the decision was willful intent. In my way of thinking, the bond of trust has been seriously compromised. The remedy cannot simply be swept under the carpet. It would seem an investigation is in order to determine what the administration knew and when they know it. Why was it kept secret? The answer to these questions will ultimately determine the appropriate course of action for all those involved.

Councilmen Curt Leng (D) and Ron Gambardella (R) give us their take on what's happening in town goverment. Gambardella can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net.

January 31, 2007

Friends, Make Sense Out of This

By Ron Gambardella

There are a few items worth reporting to the general public from Monday night’s Council committee meetings. The first item was approval of a lump-sum payment for a longtime employee. I am omitting the name of the employee, since my point has nothing to do with the individual but has everything to do with the recent Council-approved labor contracts.

The town is about to pay this individual $28,168.36. This figure was derived by paying 95.5 days of accumulated sick time amounting to 682.5 hours at a rate of $32.85 per hour totaling $22,419.72. Additionally, this individual was paid 25 days of vacation -- or 175 hours -- times the $32.85 hourly rate totaling $5,748.65.

The town of Hamden offers some of the best benefits in the United States. The Democrats believe these benefits should remain in effect indefinitely. They have sold out the taxpayers for votes. Hopefully, things will change with the next election.

The second item of interest was a request for a bid waiver in favor of Wellspeak, Dugas & Kane, LLC for $6,000. It seems the folks who own 240,000 square feet of retail space at 2100 Dixwell Ave., anchored by Marshals and Shaw’s, are challenging the town’s appraisal of the property. The administration wants to hire an appraiser to counter challenge any claims. Due to the lead-time required to appraise the property, they are requesting a bid waiver.

Not for nothing, but this is the same old tired excuse the administration offers every time they want a bid waiver. It is as if they are surprised that they must act now. Rather than following procedure, they simply request a waiver under the guise of urgency. How nice it is to have an accommodating council to stamp approval on every request. When Mayor Amento practiced this form of government he was summarily dismissed, ridiculed and/or castigated by the same Democrats who are now approving every bid waiver the mayor puts before them. The hypocrisy is sickening. In fact, not only was this no-bid contact approved in committee, but the attorney representing the town also indicated this firm would most likely be called to testify in possible litigation. Now that we jumped into bed with this contractor, the cost to the town will be $225 per hour to testify.

Friends, if this doesn’t seem a little odd, welcome to Disney Land.

My final point of interest is the information session conducted by the Board of Education. The upshot of the presentation was that the BOE admitted that there was a deficiency in the way expenditures were approved toward the end of the school year. The BOE reviewed with the Council a process that they are planning to implement designed to prevent such appropriations as the $6,000 monitor from happening again. What seems odd to me is that no one was aware of these deficiencies until the Council requested copies of purchase orders processed in the months leading up to the closing of the ’05-’06 fiscal year. This has me somewhat concerned. If we are discovering deficiencies only as a result of someone asking a question, then one can only imagine what other surprises may be lurking in the background. I am looking forward to reviewing a preliminary audit report scheduled to come out this Thursday.

More later.

Councilmen Curt Leng (D) and Ron Gambardella (R) give us their take on what's happening in town goverment. Gambardella can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net.

January 23, 2007

‘You Bess be Believin, it’s Election Season'

Original Democrat rap

By Ron Gambardella

Not everyone likes rap music. But the enormous popularity of the genre among young people has convinced me that this form of musical expression is here to stay. The hard- bvcddriving rhythms and poignant lyrics can be an extremely effective means of communication. Youth of today pay very little attention to local politics. So I thought if we could discuss politics in a way that they could relate, we could broaden the base of young voters for the November 2007 local elections.

To that end, I composed the “Democrat Rap.” Here it is.

Yo! Yo! Aw-ight! Aw-ight!
It’s our hour, we have the power!
You bess be believin, it’s election season.
We no fool, we be playin it cool.
It don’t matter, voter getting madder.
Don’t they learn, we here another term!

Lookin at the facts, we gonna raise ya tax
If we tell ya why, ya know it’s a lie.
Know what’s funny? It ain’t about the money.
We don’t care, as long we here.
Tell ya the truth, we own the votin booth!

Yo! Yo! Aw-ight! Aw-ight!
It’s our hour, we have the power!
You bess be believin, it’s election season.
We no fool, we be playin it cool.
It don’t matter, voter getting madder.
Don’t they learn, we here another term!

Look at the May-ah, you know he’s a playa.
He say there a mess, we need a help desk!
He don’t care the coss, he don’t have a boss.
He say to save time, ya jus pick up the line.
We beg your pardon please, its only 50Gs.

Yo! Yo! Aw-ight! Aw-ight!
It’s our hour, we have the power!
You bess be believin, it’s election season.
We no fool, we be playin it cool.
It don’t matter, voter getting madder.
Don’t they learn, we here another term!

Come this Novemba, please don’t rememba
The May-ah bought a car, he don’t drive it far.
The Council try its bess, to justify the mess
They say its urgency, in case of emergency.
With no opposition, the May-ah’s in position.

Yo! Yo! Aw-ight! Aw-ight!
It’s our hour, we have the power!
You bess be believin, it’s election season.
We no fool, we be playin it cool.
It don’t matter, voter getting madder.
Don’t they learn, we here another term!

You should listen and don’tcha be dissen.
The unions think we friends, but they don’t know our ends.
We play to appease, then we slam a hirin freeze.
Did we mention? There was one exception.
We owe some perks, so we hire Public Works.

Yo! Yo! Aw-ight! Aw-ight!
It’s our hour, we have the power!
You bess be believing, it’s election season.
We no fool, we be playin it cool.
It don’t matter, voter getting madder.
Don’t they learn, we here another term!

There you have it. A rap song highlighting the Democrat’s finest moments of administrative and legislative glory. Remember, with no opposition, the Democrats are well positioned to do as they please. The current makeup of the Council is 13 Democrats and two Republicans and zero independents. Is this any way to run a town?

A note to any teacher who may happen to read this: the above lyrics have no meaning unless folks are familiar with what is going on in Town Hall. If interested, I would be happy to participate in your civics classes to unpack the lyrics and discuss the changing nature of local politics and political campaigns as politicians attempt to reach younger audiences.

Councilmen Curt Leng (D) and Ron Gambardella (R) give us their take on what's happening in town goverment. Gambardella can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net.

January 19, 2007

In Defense of Firefighter Buechele

By Ron Gambardella

There is hardly a single American family that hasn’t been touched in one way or another by the ravages of alcohol or drug abuse. The daily papers routinely report on celebrities who have checked into rehab. Society has become somewhat hardened to the death, devastation and chaos resulting from substance abuse. Until, that is, one of our own has been ensnared in a web of wreckage brought about by impaired judgment due to excessive drinking or drugging.

Then we forget that this is a national problem affecting almost everyone. Instead, the self-righteous among us feel justice must be swift and merciless. From what I have been reading in the local press, this seems to be the case for Hamden Fire Department’s superintendent of apparatus, Donald Buechele.

It appears that some of the citizens of Hamden are ready to allow this incident to strip away a man’s entire career as if it meant nothing. I look around and see that he is standing entirely alone. No public words of encouragement. No show of support. Nothing. God forbid a Hamden politician take a position of moral support for a man when he is down and possibly jeopardize his or her own career by caring for the wounded.

Weather this is a single incident or a culmination of an ongoing progressive problem I do not know. Only Mr. Buechele can make that admission. Certainly he is accountable for his actions. I am sure there will be consequences. But let’s not hastily heap judgment on the man and wipe out an otherwise exemplary service record. If he suffers from a chronic problem, then the medical profession has defined this as a treatable illness. We should extend to him and his family the same courtesy we would anyone else suffering from illness.

If this is a single incident, then when the investigation is complete the facts of the case will determine the appropriate course of action. Let it be fair and just. Until then, Mr. Buechele and his family deserve the respect and gratitude for his many years of loyal service to the town of Hamden. I, for one, take a stand on his behalf. I would like to extend my sincere appreciation. I also would like to convey the message that “this too shall pass.” Take courage!

Councilmen Curt Leng (D) and Ron Gambardella (R) give us their take on what's happening in town goverment. Gambardella can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net.

January 16, 2007

Jan. 2 Was a Union Holiday & the Mayor’s in a Pickle

By Ron Gambardella

Recently a union grievance was filed against the town for the town’s failure to give its employees holiday pay due to the death of former President Gerald Ford. The unions claim they have a legitimate right to get holiday wages but the mayor’s administration said NO. Union members are scratching their heads saying, “Didn’t we pay for these Democrats through campaign contributions? What gives? We are holding a Legislative Council-approved contract to prove our point. It was nearly 100 percent approved by members of the Council.”

My theory is this. The unions are experts on what’s in the contract. For the most part, unions write the contracts and the mayor and the Council approve the content. I have yet to hear any significant arguments on the Council against any contract submitted for approval. There has not been a single word of opposition to longevity payments, 35-hour workweeks, accumulated paid sick time, generous health benefits, pension plan calculations, clothing allowances, health incentives and the list goes on. Councilman John Flanagan, chair of the Administrative Committee and a former union organizer, claims every contract has been bargained in good faith. From what I have seen this can only mean that there hasn’t been a union proposal put on the table with which Mr. Flanagan can find any fault. His union organizing background would make his statements less than credible. Unfortunately, his statement reflects the overall philosophy of the Democrats. I beg to differ.

Very little thought goes into the final approval by the elected body. The mayor and the Council simply vote on the contracts as crafted by the unions. You know -- votes for contracts. I seriously doubt any nonunion, interested third parties actually read the content of the contract or if they do, they simply accept the terms without question. For example, I happen to have the recently Council-approved labor agreement between the Hamden Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 2687 and the town of Hamden. Under Article 7, Holidays, subsection 7.3, the text reads as follows:

In addition, every employee shall receive a paid holiday on account of a day that the President of the United States, the Governor of the State of Connecticut, or the Mayor of the Town of Hamden declares a holiday by proclamation.

The mayor and his team either choose to ignore this section or they did not realize this clause existed in the contract. The dilemma is that the mayor either fesses up to the oversight and pays union members for the day, or argues that the unions are not entitled to be paid based on an as-yet undisclosed legal point that will most likely fail in arbitration.

If the unions prevail, they would also have a legitimate claim to not only a paid holiday, but overtime as well. Working on a holiday usually qualifies for time and a half. According to my calculations this oversight would amount to approximately $65,000 to $75,000 from the town side.

It seems pretty silly that the entire federal system recognized the president of the United States proclamation, but Hamden some how superseded the presidential proclamation. My guess is that the mayor and his team are trying to save face by forcing arbitration. It would be perilous to admit they have no idea what’s in the contract. The cost of arbitration has not been factored into the overall projected cost of holiday pay to the taxpayer. As usual, we pay for the oversight.

Friends, labor is the single greatest line item in the town’s operating budget. You would think the Democrats would pay more attention to it. Maybe next time they will take the time to actually read the content before stamping their approval. Don’t hold your breath!

Councilmen Curt Leng (D) and Ron Gambardella (R) give us their take on what's happening in town goverment. Gambardella can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net.

January 2, 2007

What Henrici Really Wrote

By Ron Gambardella

The mayor and his staff wrote more than 1,700 words in his letter to the residents of Hamden, most of which require translation. After reading the mayor’s report I was left with the feeling that the Democrats believe votes in Hamden will buy whatever they are selling no matter what the price. It is certainly easy to govern when there is no resistance or opposition.

Fortunately for the folks reading this article, I can decipher mayor-ese, which is a strange and archaic language meant to confound and confuse the reader. After listening to the Democrats for more than three years, I have developed a unique ability to translate otherwise unintelligible gibberish into easily understandable and precise statements. So please allow me to translate the mayor’s report to remove the doubt, conflict and confusion.

What the Mayor Wrote:

My pledge to voters during the last campaign season was to use fiscally responsible management as the bedrock of Hamden’s resurgence. Toward this end we have been remarkably successful, as evidenced by the Positive Outlook issued to the Town by rating agency Standard and Poor’s this past July. According to these analysts, Hamden has turned the corner based on the sound management team in place and the commitment to operating within the confines of an honest budget. Make no mistake, this Positive Outlook is good news for Hamden, and the support of the Legislative Council and the Town’s residents have made it possible.


“My administration has single-handedly instituted the largest tax increase in the history of the town. Rather than control cost, we simply passed these costs on to the taxpayer to make the town financially sound. I have no plans to change this strategy. It is much easier raising taxes than to control cost. I would like to thank the 13 Democrats on the Council who never object to the most outrageous requests. I really appreciate the way they found the funds to cover errors in the budget I initially submitted to the Council -- especially the overstatement of revenue. What can I say? You’ve got to love ’em. I don’t anticipate any problems winning my seat in 2007 nor do I think we will lose any of the Democrats on the Council. This is important so we don’t have to change a thing. If I had to guess, I’d say residents couldn’t care less what I do so long as I continue to call myself a Democrat. Boy, it sure feels good to be mayor! These are the best of times.”

What the Mayor Wrote:

However, the agencies did identify two areas of concern with the Town’s finances: the long period of inactivity on its labor contracts and the serious under funding of the Town’s pension. We have ferociously attacked the first problem: settling several contracts that had been expired for a number of years and acting quickly to pass one recently-expired contract. These contracts were hanging over all of our heads, and we bargained in good faith for contracts fair to workers and taxpayers alike. The resulting contracts recognize the cost of health care is a problem growing exponentially in our community and we must work to insulate ourselves from these spiraling costs. Too many have focused on bottom-line wage increases as a measure of contract negotiation success when, in fact, the transformation of the Town’s generous health benefit system will have a more significant financial impact on taxpayers.


“In an effort to make good on the deal we cut with the unions, I instructed the Council to approve all contracts without question as quickly as possible. I am pleased to report they did as instructed. This will now ensure steady funding from the unions for the 2007 campaign and virtually guarantee my seat during the next election. Moreover, in exchange for campaign contributions, the unions can expect more of the same in terms of lucrative contracts at the expense of taxpayers. So long as I am mayor and the town continues to elect Democrats to the Council I do not see any changes to the status quo for the foreseeable future.

“With regard to the under-funded pension, any attempt to thwart my efforts to bond the deficit will result in a hellacious tax increase that has never before been heaped upon the residents of Hamden. This is a promise! From my record you can see I have absolutely no problem raising taxes nor do my benefactors on the Council have any problem with taking this approach to solving our problems. In fact, tax increases have been the sole solution for all problems this town faces. Notwithstanding any feeble attempts at resistance from the Republicans, I fully expect to be able to carry out any and all initiatives I deem necessary to achieve my purpose.”

There you have it, a no-nonsense translation of the mayor’s text.

Councilmen Curt Leng (D) and Ron Gambardella (R) give us their take on what's happening in town goverment. Gambardella can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net.

December 14, 2006

Fantasy Council

By Ron Gambardella

I find it interesting that the mayor will most likely not fill the position vacancies and is willing to take it one step further and consider layoffs in 2007. The primary justification for such action appears to be the recently Council-approved labor contracts. I feel somewhat vindicated in my writings that the Democrats are not doing the unions any favors by approving such lucrative contracts.

This is just the beginning of what happens when the Council approves contracts with little or no understanding of economic realities. We simply cannot afford these labor contacts. The mayor seems to be the only person willing to admit it.

I have tried to get the Council to understand that to approve such contracts there must be productive gains to offset the higher cost. Both Mr. Germano and Mr. Gorman responded by indicating the employees are already hardworking. Again, there is a lack of understanding of the most fundamental economic principles. Yet, these are the folks who are voting yes to the most outrageous demands.

For the uninitiated, productivity improvements mean that higher costs are offset by incorporating efficiencies into the process through adopting changes such as departmental consolidation, broadening job descriptions or standardizing the workweek to 40 hours. These are concepts that have been repeatedly discredited, ignored or ridiculed by the sitting Council. As a result, the unions are now feeling the effects of what was once a resounding victory by backing the Democrats to the realities of longer work hours and the possibility of job losses. I say again, the Democrats are doing you no favors.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of the harsh realities of unrealistic contracts. Recently, the union representing library workers decided that their demands were righteous and justified. Unable to reach agreement, the town and union opted for arbitration. The result? The state arbitrators ruled in the town’s favor on 16 of 24 issues. The lesson learned here is that the town can only get a fair deal when reasonable people look at the unreasonable demands and render a fair decision. Arbitration seems to be the only viable option left for the town and the taxpayer. You can’t count on the Council for even the slightest hint of fairly representing the people who put them in office. The Council will approve any contract placed before it without so much as a hint of understanding of the financial consequences. It appears that the only means available to the taxpayer for a fair contract is arbitration. The Council is totally and utterly useless in matters that require an unbiased view on such matters.

In another example, a retirement payment had to be approved by the Council. The total amount was $42,481.45 as determined by the union contract approved by Council. The calculation for the settlement was determined as follows:




Hourly Rate

















The first thing to notice is that none of this payment is considered part of a monthly retirement benefit. It is simply an accumulation of hours earned as an active employee. It is similar to what you and I would have to earn and store away in a self-funded retirement plan. The second thing to notice is that it is payment for unused vacation and sick time. Again for you and me, if vacation is not taken in the year accrued it is lost not accumulated and carried over for life. The same thing is true for sick time. If not taken, it is lost. The Council sees no problem whatsoever with this. It recently approved a set of contracts that continues the practice. Who pays? We do of course! This Council has got to go. This nonsense has got to stop.

On another note, this Council saw no problem with accepting a $30,000 donation from Fairfield Residential, LLC. Apparently, the Council saw no conflict in accepting a gift of $20,000 to the Fire Department while a code inspection was in the very process of being conducted. Folks, with judgment like this, how can we expect that this Council will do the right thing under any circumstance? Say it with me now: This council has got to go!

I will do my best to continue to keep you informed of the ridiculous goings-on from the Council floor. If this wasn’t reality, it would be amusing. Unfortunately, you and I have got to pay for the inept decisions made by this Council. Let’s remember in November and give these folks the heave ho -- they’ve got to go!

Councilmen Curt Leng (D) and Ron Gambardella (R) give us their take on what's happening in town goverment. Gambardella can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net.

November 17, 2006

Making Hamden $ound

By Ron Gambardella

One thing certain in Hamden is that the overall operating budget will continue to rise. The question becomes how the town will generate enough revenue to cover the cost of operations.

The primary revenue source comes from taxes assessed against personal property such as homes and vehicles. Other revenue comes from the state. The primary purpose of the Legislative Council is to balance the need for services against the cost of those services. Like most households, the town must constantly respond to the many pressures from within and without, as unforeseen circumstances cast asunder the most well thought-out plans.

The Council, for its part, has done a reasonable job in attempting to respond to these pressures in a fiscally responsible manner. Party politics dictate the general principles that lead to a specific course of action.

As a Republican, I believe a conservative course of action is best for the town and the taxpayers. Lately, it seems, being a Republican has a negative connotation largely as a result of what is happening on the national scene. When voters cast their votes, they are making a choice concerning the welfare of the town. Would the town be better off run with a Republican or Democrat?

To address that concern, it would seem appropriate to understand the specific course of action a candidate would follow to shape the future of the town. Listed below are several actionable items that I believe demonstrate my overall philosophy of fiscally responsible and conservative government.

  1. Standardize the workweek to 40 hours for all job titles.
  2. Broaden job titles to allow more flexibility when attempting to match force requirement with the changing nature of the work environment.
  3. Grandfather longevity such that new employees would not be entitled to an outdated incentive program.
  4. Stagger start times to allow greater degree of coverage without incurring overtime.
  5. Professionalize key positions, such as the Finance and Public Works directors, instead of keeping them mayoral appointments. This would allow for continuity and stability within the departments instead of major disruption with each election cycle.
  6. Bond the pension. Without bonding, the tax burden will be crushing.
  7. Hire a fulltime project manager to oversee the myriad of projects and ensure the town is getting what it paid for.
  8. Allow the budget to go to referendum to give the taxpayers a direct say in how their money is spent.
The above is a specific action list and effort is to be expended in order to get something accomplished. Thinking about it, talking about it, hypothesizing, theorizing, rehashing, debating, discussing, holding meetings and the like doesn’t achieve the above stated goals. Doing it does.

Councilmen Curt Leng (D) and Ron Gambardella (R) give us their take on what's happening in town goverment. Gambardella can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net.

November 2, 2006

Just Say ‘George Bush’

By Ron Gambardella

Recently, the Council has been going on a bender approving union contract after union contract and more are on the way. The Council has made several points about the intensity of the negotiations and the fairness of the agreements.

As chair of the Administration Committee, Councilman John Flanagan has been leading the parade of approvals. Ever supportive of the unions, he certainly can take a bow before all those who count on his loyal vote to support any contract at any cost. He is truly a man the unions can stand behind while the town of Hamden crumbles under the weight of these agreements -- now and into the foreseeable future.

His insistence that the contracts have been fairly negotiated prompted me to look deeper into how these agreements are reached. I have taken the liberty to recreate for the readers of the Hamden Daily News a typical strategy and negotiation session on part of the unions and the town. It would not surprise me if it went something like this.

Scene One: Back-office union planning session

Union Rep 1: You know this thing of ours is a pretty good deal for all of us. We own the Democrats and the Republicans are not a factor. Folks in town haven’t a clue about how things work in this town. Things are good!
Union Rep 2: Man, we never had it so good. It’s like taking candy from a baby. If it wasn’t for Gambardella making noise about these contracts, nobody would be the wiser. Just like the old days. Can you imagine that guy insisting we work a 40-hour week? He had the audacity of suggesting we get paid overtime after eight hours rather than our current seven-hour limit. We have got to get rid of this guy. He is bad for business. His ideas could spread. Then where would we be?
Union Rep 1: Don’t worry about him. Who listens to Republicans? All we have to do is mention George Bush and that immediately deflects any rational thought about the goings-on in town. However, we do need to be careful. We can’t kill the goose laying the golden eggs. You know, the Democrats haven’t the sense to say no to the most outrageous demands. We have to play this thing right. We have to think for them and us.
Union Rep 2: Yeah! We need to give the Democrats something they can boast about. Let’s give the appearance that we are willing to give a little on health benefits. We will still end up with some of the best plans in America. Here’s the best part: the taxpayers won’t know what’s going on. Thank God I live in Wallingford. I can collect my pay here and live in a town that knows something about controlling cost. I don’t think I could afford to pay the higher taxes that these contracts will bring. If someone gets suspicious, just remember to shout out George Bush.

Scene Two: Negotiating table

Union Rep 1: I am going to write our demands on this piece of paper.  We have thought long and hard on this request. We believe it is a good and fair offer. What say you?
Administration: (slowly taking the paper and reading the demands) OK, I think we have a deal. Man, those were really tough negotiations. I don’t think I have worked this hard on a contract in my entire life. We should have no problem getting this through the Council.

Folks, while the reenactment above is an obvious exaggeration, it does make the point that labor costs are completely out of control. Labor appears to be in control and the rest of us are simply following its lead. Every other operating expense line item is nickels and dimes compared to the cost of labor. Once these contracts are approved by the Democrats, they will dictate the financial future of the town.

The structure of these agreements will ensure that the status quo remains in effect, preventing real cost-saving measures from ever coming to fruition. To achieve any degree of cost savings we will have to change the very structure of government to realize organization efficiencies such as consolidating departments and job titles, streamlining the collective bargaining process and demonstrating to the unions that it is to their best interest to work with the administration in achieving productivity gains.

Unfortunately, the alternative will ultimately force the town to solve the problem by pursuing outsourcing as a viable alternative. The end result will be the loss of union jobs. The unions will unwittingly price themselves out of the market. Don’t think the Democrats are doing you any favors by giving away the store.

Councilmen Curt Leng (D) and Ron Gambardella (R) give us their take on what's happening in town goverment. Gambardella can be reached at r.gambardella@snet.net.


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