Bitterroot Politics

You get what you vote for…

Bitterroot Politics - You get what you vote for…

Chilcott and the truth about unions

In discussing approval of a negotiated labor agreement with one of the unions, Greg Chilcott spoke of his feelings about unions. He was upset that union members would be paid better than non-union members. Arguing that all county employees should be treated the same, he revealed a couple of things.

1) Unions get better compensation from the county than non-union employees. Chilcott obviously believes it’s because they’re a union, which is essentially true… but only because a union has the ability to negotiate the terms of their compensation whereas a regular county employee has no such power. When employees band together to negotiate their pay, they’re far more likely to get better terms than if they try to do it individually. The power of the group is more than the power of the individual.

2) Chilcott would rather pay union members less rather than increase the pay of regular county workers to be on par with union employees. His argument that unions receive special treatment wasn’t about regular employees receiving too little, but that union members should get peanuts, just like all the other county employees.

It was obvious watching the video that Chilcott has a philosophical problem with unions. It was also obvious that he hated that they managed to negotiate better pay.

Some of these unions were arguing for pay that would reward longevity with the county. It would allow them to steadily increase their income to be similar to what they could get doing the same job in Missoula County. Specifically, the 911 Call Center Operators were asking to have pay bumps at 5, 10 and 20-year marks. The longest tenured operator the county currently has is 5 years. The county regularly loses employees to other jurisdictions because they can make far more money somewhere else. Paying them a little more allows the county to retain them rather than constantly having to train new employees. This is an overall cost savings for the county and a boost in efficiency.

It’s too bad all Chilcott can see is his hatred for unions rather than the benefits of paying someone a living wage.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Special treatment for Burrows

The current commissioners are fond of stating their political beliefs hold that a person should take personal responsibility for their actions and not receive special treatment from the government. That’s their belief anyway unless they are the people that want special treatment.

Jeff Burrows recently received some of that special treatment from his fellow Republican commissioners.

Several years ago, Burrows was appointed to fill the vacated seat of Matt Kanenwisher. At the time, Burrows elected to not join the state pension plan. The problem he’s stuck with now however is that once you decline it, you don’t get another chance to get in later. He made a choice, knowing that you only get one opportunity, and, according to his political philosophy, should accept the consequences. He’d just have to set up his own, private, retirement account separate from the county’s plan.

That’s not how it played out though. First, Burrows asked all of the county’s legislators to go to the Legislature and change the rules, thus allowing him to get in on that pension plan. When that didn’t work, he got his commissioner buddies to set up a way for him to get in  on a county-sponsored retirement plan just for him! While he did recuse himself from the vote, there really wasn’t a need as all four of his buddies voted to do him this favor.

This act shows how little Burrows really believes in his political philosophy. He’s just in it to get what he can for himself. His $60k-plus salary plus full benefits isn’t enough, he’s got to have as much as he can. He wasn’t interested in taking responsibility for his mistakes. He was interested in getting as much out of the taxpayers as he can.

This is the problem with a homogenous board of commissioners. They quietly slip this one through when no one is looking and help their buddy take more money from the people, knowing they’ll get the same treatment when they need it later.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Unprofessionalism on display

When watching budgeting hearings with the county commissioners, one thing is abundantly obvious. These five men have no sense of professionalism.

It’s routine to hear joke comments throughout the discussions. It’s equally common to hear them joking that they are cutting someone’s salary in the budget. Or taking a department’s expenses out of the department head’s salary.

I’m sure they would say they’re just kidding and having fun with the department head, but it’s a subtle reminder that they are the ones in control and they can cut your pay at will.

Mostly though, it’s just plain unprofessional. Someone’s livelihood isn’t a joke. It’s not something they should be joking about taking away. The responsibility placed with them by the taxpayers is to wisely spend the money to make sure they are getting the most from their money. They’re not being paid to sit around joking with one another about the very real expenses in the budget.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against a little bit of levity in budget meetings. It’s a long, difficult process that can be stressful. But these commissioners are constantly making side comments that have nothing to do with the discussion or are at the expense of the person presenting a department’s budget requests. This just isn’t professional.

I would hope these commissioners would be capable of treating each department head with the respect they deserve and stop joking about cutting their salaries or their department’s budget. Each department has been running as lean as they can for several years and asking for a modest increase isn’t out of line and it is something to be carefully considered. It’s not something to joke about or dismiss with an offhand comment.

Take these meetings seriously. Setting the county budget is the biggest responsibility of a county commissioner. It would be nice if Burrows, Chilcott, Iman, Schallenberger and Hawk treated it that way.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

The legacy of cutting Title X

During budget discussions with the Public Health Nurse, Ravalli County commissioners showed yet more impacts from the cutting of Title X funding.

Aside from the obvious loss of vital health services for hundreds of low income Ravalli County women, the cut of Title X funds also resulted in substantial staffing changes in the Public Health offices.

When Title X funding was accepted, the Public Health office was staffed by six full time people.

Without Title X funding, the office is still staffed by six people, but only one is full time now. That means less service for people that need it. Fortunately the Legislature finally agreed to expand Medicaid coverage so some of these low-income women will again have access to health services.

It was also telling that when discussing the budget, the commissioners didn’t discuss the possibility of accepting Title X funding and any budget changes that would entail. That tells this writer that they have no intention of pursuing the acceptance of those funds despite all but Jeff Burrows saying they would accept those funds.

It’s too bad this commission, made up of all conservative men, are so intent on denying health services to those who need it most.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

The inappropriateness of JR Iman

This week the commissioners have been having budget discussions for the upcoming fiscal year. In the process they’ve had a number of different department heads in to talk about the budget and the changes they’ve made for each department.

JR Iman has gone above and beyond in making some pretty inappropriate comments to at least two county department heads.

The first was while discussing pay increases for the head of the Ravalli County Weed Department. Ms. Morris had requested pay increases for herself as well as some people in her department. She then explained that for her position as a department head she was paid less than any other department head. Her modest pay increase would bump her up a couple spots and reward her for her longevity and the work she’s done.

Iman, in responding to why another department head is paid more than she is, stated, “Well they bring in a lot more money than you do.”

Really? The amount of money a department head brings in is more important than the work they do? Never mind that the head of the weed department brings in substantial grant money and provides a service that is vital for the community. It was insulting to hear Iman put bringing in money above everything the weed department has accomplished over the past few years.

The second comment from Iman came in discussions with Deb Rogala, head of the Fairgrounds. She  indicated she has plans to bring in a maintenance person at a lower pay rate than she had originally budgeted since the previous person recently left. She was questioned whether she would be able to find someone with enough initiative to be a good worker at the lower pay rate.

Iman chimed in with, “He’ll have two women chasing him around, that’s pretty good initiative.”

Everyone in the room groaned but no one called him on this clearly sexist and inappropriate comment.

So in the end, it’s embarrassing that we have a commissioner who so clearly says inappropriate things in public meetings, but it’s equally embarrassing that we have four other commissioners who sit there and allow him to make those comments without telling him to stop.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

Part time commissioners

Being a Ravalli County commissioner sure is a cushy job. Look at their calendar this week. There’s nothing on the calendar for Thursday and Friday is scheduled as “office management,” which is the same as “we’re not really in.”

This week, you’re paying your county commissioners for 3 days of “work.” These are the same commissioners who earn at least $62,000/year plus full benefits and mileage reimbursement for driving to and from work.

For a conservative group of politicians, they certainly aren’t giving the taxpayers their money’s worth.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail

You’re not getting what you pay for

Anyone taken a look at the Ravalli County Commissioners’ calendar lately? It won’t take you long to read it if you haven’t. We’re seeing an awful lot of “Office Management.”

For those that don’t know what that means… It’s commissioner code for, “We’re not doing anything so we probably won’t bother to come in.”

For this astounding amount of hard work, you, the taxpayer, are paying them more than $60,000/year plus full benefits.

If they truly have so little to do that they only need to schedule meetings one day a week, (or maybe 2) perhaps they should be helping out in other departments around the county.

Maybe they could go downstairs and help the motor vehicles department during busy hours so the line moves a little faster.

Maybe they could head over to the road department and help out there. They’ve already made a big deal about how they’re short on funds thanks to SRS funding cuts. I’m sure the road crews would love to see the commissioners out working to help make things better instead of sitting at home collecting their paychecks. They could be out driving plows to help clear the roads during a snow storm. They could be out patching the holes in the roads that were ignored over the summer while the commission sat by not letting the department head hire workers back.

Or maybe they could actually do the work they were elected to do. They could be working on policy to attract new business growth. They could be working to make things better in our county.

Instead we’re getting none of that. We get “office management.” We get an absentee county commission that complains about an intrusive federal government and its overspending then turns around and complains about not getting enough federal money. We get a group of commissioners content to not do anything while collecting their fat paychecks.

You get what you vote for which is why right now, you’re not getting what you pay for.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmail