Unions push hard for binding arbitration

Arbitration measure isn't about fairness

To borrow a quote from Yogi Berra, "It is déjà vu all over again!" Do you recall? In 2006, a "special election" was held to allow binding arbitration between the city and the police union? Remember? The September 2006 ballot measure could have appeared on the November ballot, but the supporters of this measure were counting on a lower voter turnout at a special election. It's easier to pass a measure when the voters might not be truly motivated to vote or even be aware that a vote is taking place.

Remember? The City Council voted to give an average 4 percent raise to our city employees. Our goal was to match industry standards regarding benefits and compensation. The average salary for a city employee is more than $58,000, plus generous benefits.

Remember? In 2006, paid signature gatherers were telling you that by signing the petition, there would be more police on the street?

Remember? The 2006 special election cost taxpayers more than $100,000 and was soundly defeated by a 2-1 spread.

Well, as much as things change, they remain the same.

Flash forward to 2008.

This week, you will receive a mail-in ballot with language that calls for unionization of our city workers and binding arbitration.

The ballot measure could have been placed on the November ballot at no additional cost to you. Instead, at more than $100,000, this special election is counting on low turnout and an uninformed public.

Paid signature gatherers have once again distorted the language to entice you to sign the petition. I was told by one, "The City Council really wants this on the ballot, but they can't place it there themselves; they want you to help them by signing." Considering that I'm a member of City Council, I can assure you: That signature gatherer was lying.

Here's why the entire City Council is unanimously against this measure:

When binding arbitration is used, an outsider is brought in to arbitrate between parties. It's very important that you understand an arbitrator is not a referee or a mediator. That person passes judgment, and the parties have to live with it. This unelected outside attorney will be making budget priority decisions for the city. Those decisions will ripple through the entire city budget.

The city of Fort Collins pays competitive salaries and offers generous benefits to employees.

The measure has nothing to do with fairness or more police on the street, as the paid signature collectors fabricated. It is most certainly not something desired by the City Council. Read the text of the proposed ballot measure, and you will see that it's about changing the existing collective bargaining provisions that are already in the City Code so that they require binding arbitration between city government and the unions and putting that revised version in the City Charter.

Here we are, again, in cash-strapped times, being asked to pay for another special election when the ballot measure could have easily been placed on the November ballot at no additional cost to taxpayers. This is tough to swallow; paying for this special election twice is reprehensible.

Yes, it is "déjà vu all over again." As in 2006, let's make sure the vote and the results remain the same.

Please vote "no" on your mail-in ballot.

- Diggs Brown is a Fort Collins City Council member representing District 3.


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