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Local 724 Political News
Keep it right here for you latest Team 724 news and events.
Political Director Chuck Flynn will posting vital info to the campaign
and Team 724's next move..

 

CONVENTION UPDATE


AFSCME Council 4 Convention held their convention in the heart of downtown New Haven at the Omni Hotel. By accounts was a huge success attended by over 225 union members. Executive Director Sal Luciano and his staff are commended on a first class presentation.

The sour Connecticut economy and its effect on our union members was the center point of concerns. With 96 bills heard in the Appropriations Committee, 77 of them directly stand to undermine health care, pension, and collective bargaining rights of employees. Closer look at the bills show many are copy cat bills by various legislators to show their constituents they were hard on labor issues. Talks of potential layoffs, concessions and doing more work with less staff for less money and benefits had everyone's attention to resist the attacks and fight anti labor legislation.

SEBAC groups appear to be close with informal talks that will provide $700 million in concessions for the state and in return give no layoff protection to state workers. As for municipal workers participating in CMERS appears to remain unchanged at this time.
Our members are reminded to attend our April 5 union meeting to hear first hand from our AFSCME lobbyist on matters happening at the Capitol important to all of us.

A sales tax and gas tax increase appears likely while tolls may be sidelined this session. With an estimated $300-400 million in new sales tax revenue it may offset the immediate need for municipalities to contribute to teacher retirement contributions. Welcome news to local budgets but may only kick the can down the street to buy more time.


Local 724 leadership had the chance to speak directly with Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman, Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz. Comptroller Kevin Lembo and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. Once the budget is passed all eyes will focus on the upcoming 2018 statewide elections where a growing field of interesting challengers to Governor Malloy are emerging from both sides of the aisle. One astute prediction suggested if Malloy chooses to run again a near certain outcome would be a House and Senate filled with Republicans.

 

 

April Update

 

April 1 means New London Mayor Mike Passero's proposed annual budget is released to the public. The foreplay has been provided with recent news articles laying out the gloomy story line of yet another year with no money. The City has made clear its refusal to raises taxes, has offers no new ideas on finding new revenue sources with hopes to solve the newest budget crisis by more deep cuts to city agencies leaving them impotent while feeding more precious city dollars to the always hungry BOE.

Local 724 members are grateful for many resolved grievances with the City and are enjoying a new cooperative attitude in the building as the new police administration transitions over but are quietly seething that our critical agency needs appear to be met with a deaf ear and blind eye by City administration as we limp along with dangerously low staffing.
Union officials have a seat at the table and have been rather blunt making our concerns known. We remain hopeful the City earnestly works with us to find a positive outcome. We have worked too hard to improve labor relations to see it undermined.


There is some good news to report - our police department janitorial staffer has been making some progress cleaning up the building after some intervention to actually have him do the job he's being paid to do.
DPW has been finalizing plans on some long needed updates scheduled for the lunch room, report room, and men's locker room bathroom. While members are excited about the sudden turn of events, they cast a jaundiced eye at the project since DPW has not provided a hard start date or projected finish date because they don’t like timelines and are easily distracted.

State labor unions have been busy with informal talks with the Malloy administration looking for a way to help close the budget gap with potentially $700 million in concessions. SEBAC previously gave concessions in 2009 and 2011. Union leaders have rightly complained they did not cause the state fiscal mess and certainly shouldn't responsible to solve the problems on the backs of state workers.
Anonymous sources have exchanged proposals during discussions that involve a six year deal with minor raises in first two years, followed by two years of zeros ending with a wage opener for last two years to include concessions increasing employee medical cost share and pension contributions with no assurances of future layoffs but medical plans would be protected and extended.

Hartford politicians seems to be warming to the idea of raising the state sales tax to 6.85%, raise gas tax 6 cents to 35 cents a gallon while many are split on bringing back highway tolls. Tolls could raise as much as $18 billion by 2040 which could be used exclusively for the Special Transportation Fund towards Governor Malloy's aggressive $100 billion proposal for infrastructure improvements, but the legislators would never be able keep their hands off any lock box revenue stream, especially one with some may potential zeros attached suggesting tolls won't pass this year.

Meanwhile at the General Assembly with support from entities like Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) and Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) have many anti labor bills pending set to attack and smear municipal workers who have devoted their careers to the common good and public interest. Funny how CBIA pushes an anti labor agenda while their Chairman of the Board earns over $1.3 million a year in compensation as President of Webster Financial in Stamford.

The most harmful bills propose to eliminate wage hikes, remove pensions from collective bargaining, reformulate pension calculations, reduce cost of living benefits to pensioners, increase employee pension contributions, eliminate defined pensions and replace with 401k type plans to name just a few of the 96 bills aimed at labor. These attacks on public employees who "Make America Happen", are also taxpayers, who are afraid these bills only attack hard working families and create a race to the bottom for all middle class workers.


AFSCME President Lee Saunders recently said, "Public employees don't expect to get rich, but some basic respect for the important jobs they do isn't too much to ask. Instead, in too many states and localities from coast to coast -- and now more than ever at the federal level -- their hard work is rewarded with pettiness and scorn. Not from their neighbors, but from politicians with an agenda. When you attack public workers, entire communities suffer -- their schools, hospitals, roads and more. To undermine law enforcement, social workers and 911 dispatchers, and their counterparts at every level of government, is to hurt the citizens who depend every day on the services they provide." We at Local 724 couldn't say it any better..

 

 

 

March Update

 


March approaches means winter is behind us as we look forward to St. Patrick's Day, March Madness and probably another UCONN Women's Basketball Championship. It also means the cold winter weather will turn into to heated discussions with department heads, city administrators and citizens as New London enters budget season for the next fiscal year.

New London has suffered from perpetual budget crisis for at least the last 4 decades. A permanent casualty of an eroding tax base, generations of bad city decisions resulting in too much deferred maintenance that has now become crumbling infrastructure that may be beyond repair and in need of e replacement. rather than repair. The city has too few dollars to operate a municipal budget and become addicted to state and federal handouts just to maintain a minimalist budget every year. The police department has weathered these storms as best it could but the length and severity of the money drought has severely cut into our ability to provide anything more than essential services. Meanwhile the only growth industry appears to be all the far-flung homeless and social services clients who now call the Whaling City "home".

Good news is Neighborhood Scout no longer lists New London as one of the top 100 worst crime areas in the US for 2017. Bad news is the city crime numbers really didn't improve, rather other cities just got worse. Their description of crimes they provide about New London based on FBI statistics is troubling. The crime rate in New London is considerably higher than the national average across all communities in America from the largest to the smallest, although at 29 crimes per one thousand residents, it is not among the communities with the very highest crime rate. The chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime in New London is 1 in 34. Based on FBI crime data, New London is not one of the safest communities in America. Relative to Connecticut, New London has a crime rate that is higher than 95% of the state's cities and towns of all sizes.

The Heritage Foundation produced a report several years ago entitled What to do About the Cities explaining the rise and fall of inner cities from 1950 onward suggested cities must save themselves. "By placing the primary focus on making cities an attractive place to live, cities begin the process of establishing themselves as attractive places to do business by following a script successfully used by suburbs over the past several decades to attract residents and businesses from the central cities. Cities that have held their populations or reversed the outflow are those that emphasized improvements in the quality of life, a goal most readily achieved by reducing crime…"

A fact we have repeated often is since June 2009 we lost over 40 police officers, some due to retirements most left looking for better working conditions or career opportunities. Instead of replacing these funded police vacancies the city choose instead to use it as a windfall giving those funds to other departments and/or offset budget losses to prevent raising taxes. While some new officers have been hired we are still hovering around 68 officers - 30 patrol officers (boots on the ground) short of our strength in 2010. You may recall in 2013 then Councilor Mike Passero not only proposed an ordinance to authorize a minimum staffing level of 80 police officers but successfully fought off a fierce veto attempt by then Mayor Finizo. While those efforts were appreciated and headline grabbing, neither he nor the subsequent city councils have produced any tangible results to reach that staffing goal.

Chief Reichard has requested a budget to increase police staffing to 76 officers. But history appears destined to repeat itself here in New London. Recall this Day editorial from 12/17/14 "The administration must do a better job of boosting police staffing, the mayor and council having jointly settled on a goal of 80 officers. Instead, the department remains stuck in the mid-60s, arrivals only keeping up with retirements". Seems the only real change around here is the date on the calendar.

Meanwhile the police department's unsustainable budget suffers daily: filth from little or no janitorial maintenance of a 24/7/365 facility while rodent and pest infestation grows exponentially. Roof leaks that have plagued the building since it was built, suffers ongoing residual mold problems. Many computer hard drives are obsolete and unable to operate on most new software, IT servers are maxed out and most repairs are jury rigged due to lack of parts due to old age or lack of money to replace. The cell block area has many officer safety/risk management inadequacies that have been talked about for years but still remain ignored leaving the city ripe for more unnecessary litigation it can't afford. Much of the police fleet is 7-10 years old with the oldest vehicle 16 years old. Many need significant repairs that DPW refuses to perform deemed as too expensive for such old equipment, so they are operated with known defects. Offices often lack basic stationary supplies while using used or broken furniture handed down from other departments and most in-service training has been reduced to state mandated minimum requirements. Despite these increasing daily challenges our members quietly soldier on doing the best they can often times with meritorious results.

Mayor Passero, CAO Fields, Risk Manager Paul Gills and Chief Reichard are acutely aware of these plus many other issues and have promised to help. But promises only become fulfilled when the coupled with execution of a plan. That’s where the disconnect occurs and finger pointing begins. When funds are denied or not obtained it becomes pin the tail on the donkey on who to blame. Insert answer here: the Chief pulled the request, Mayor delayed the request until next year, Finance Director refused funding for now but maybe add to Capitol line item later in the year, Finance Committee reworked the numbers and made bulk program cut , Council needs more time because it has more questions and wants to restudy the sub-committee report so it only approved a lower budget number after some line item cuts and wants to table it hoping other city crisis will pop up and allow people to forget about the issue entirely.

If history is any barometer the new city budget will not raise the mill rate more than .60 mills (currently at 39.40) which means another year without a sustainable police budget where 95% is personnel costs. The City may have high hopes of Governor Malloy's Robin Hood proposal to take money from rich towns and give more money to poor cities will be a windfall of $8-10 million new city dollars. Well don't hold your breath, while Malloy is against raising any new taxes the Legislature is seriously considering a sales tax increase from the current 6.35% to possibly 6.85%. By adding 50 cents to $100 purchases could realize $300 million in new revenues. Such an increase would overwhelmingly pass if most aid to towns can remain untouched.

Furthermore Malloy's plan to infuse new money to poor cities comes with big strings attached -- state fiscal oversight-- of the recipient cities. Malloy's plan would create four tiers of oversight for cities and towns, with most qualifying for the first three tiers that would involve only "low to moderate levels of accountability." Those communities with serious fiscal problems or rely on more than 30% of budget on state aid (New London) could request to be placed in the fourth tier, or those cities and towns could be designated for special accountability by a two-thirds vote of the state oversight board.
The new oversight board would review annual audits for all cities and towns, and also look at budget fund balances, tax rates, local bond ratings, and the amount of state aid a municipality was receiving. Such oversight can be very painful -just ask Waterbury how their oversight experience was.
The Union is an unapologetic advocate for our members on safe working conditions. We are fortunate to have a member sitting on the Council. If he truly believes in truth to power will confirm with firsthand knowledge the problems we are describing as accurate. Yes-- there are other needs city wide. But to hear the education budget is once again first in line with cries for more money for its insatiable appetite at the expense of general government budget is tiresome.

New London BOE has a $64 million budget (one of the highest per pupil cost in the state) while asking for another 5.7% increase next year. They enjoy new or newly renovated school buildings while an entire city infrastructure crumbles making due on $43 million. Simply put the equation is out of balance and we desperately need some assistance. To borrow a line from our March 2014 update: "New London has many problems and we need effective leadership to solve them- now more than ever. President Theodore Roosevelt once said, In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing."

So what can you do? Contact Mayor Passero: mpassero@ci.new-london.ct.us or City Council via their administrative assistant Jen Starts email: jstartz@ci.new-london.ct.us telling your elected officials to insist on a safer community, stand with the police and properly fund the police department budget to increase staffing and improve facilities.
A hearty congratulations to Josh Bergeson on his recent promotion to Detective on February 17th. A tenacious investigator while a patrol officer we are sure his well deserved promotion will be a shot in the arm to the Detective Bureau.

A warm thank you to the Buscetto family for their generous $3,000 donation towards the purchase of two new patrol dogs. The City has agreed to bring on two dogs in the 17-18 fiscal year and a second pair of dogs in FY18-19 to honor the city ordnance of four police K9's. Mike and Mike have always been strong and vocal supporters of the police department and their members. Always quick with kind words and first in line when the call to action goes out. They are true New London Whalers who have unselfishly always had the best interests of New London at heart. Thank You!

You know spring is here and another baseball season soon approaches when President Lynch starts his well deserved working winter vacation with the Red Sox Nation spring training camp at Jet Blue Park in Florida. Never known to shy away from anyone he has become friends on a first name basis with the entire team in the dugout . Only a matter of time before he is found in the NESN broadcast booth on the air at NESN with Hall of Famers, trading inside baseball stories with NESN field reporter Guerin Austin or his photo makes its way into the team program guide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Step Forward Two Steps Back

New council President Erica Richardson owes the public an explanation as to why she threw common sense out the window and allowed the nomination and subsequent confirmation vote appointing Ms. Habibah Abdul-Akeem as the newest member to the PCRC (Police Community Relations Committee) .

With Abdul-Akeem's history of complaints and litigation against her former employer as a state judicial employee and pending complaints against the police department currently pending in the PCRC certainly questions just what council was thinking approving her for this position.

A simple Google search found several events that provide more than enough reason to have tabled her nomination:
• January 2008 a US District Court ruled in favor of Smurfil-Stone after claims by plaintiff Abdul-Akeem sued claiming she was subjected to sexual harassment and hostile work environment. The court found no merits of her claims.

• In May 2011 the near-drowning of a 2-year-old boy in a hotel pool at Foxwoods Resort Casino last year that catapulted a pool attendant to hero status that led to criminal charges against the child’s baby sitter. Habibah Abdul-Akeem was charged with second-degree reckless endangerment and risk of injury to a minor after leaving a 2-year-old child unattended at a pool at the Great Cedar Hotel an area without a lifeguard who slipped off a set of stairs leading into the pool.

• January 2012 US District Court ruled in favor of the state when Abdul-Akeem sued judicial department supervisors who took action against her for a series of problems claiming "she was subjected to treatment that Caucasian employees similarly situated to the plaintiff were not". Court found no evidence from plaintiff to support any claims made.

• March 2015 Abdul-Akeem provided written testimony in support of House Bill 1035 requiring that the Department of Administrative Services report the number of complaints of bullying or abusive conduct to the General Assembly and to create a Workplace Bullying Advisory Board. In her letter she stated she has "developed extreme agoraphobia, depression, PTSD and even suicidal ideations due to her termination from the judicial branch in 2011".

This is the second questionable appointment in less than two months when the prior council approved Ms. Tara Bernoudy to a PCRC seat. Bernoudy has a lawsuit pending against the city after her 6-year-old grandson drowned at a city beach in 2013.

The progressive play book is to seek change by creating or exaggerating problems within the current system to implement their ideological solutions. Outspoken and controversial PCRC chairman Kris Wraight has surrounded herself with many like minded activist members who have a bias against police or the city itself. Such a stacked deck questions the objectivity of this body with issues brought before them for fair and balanced consideration.

Saul Alinsky was a Jewish American community organizer and writer. He is generally considered to be the founder of modern community organizing. He is often noted for his book Rules for Radicals . Rule 10 states "If you push negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive". Rule 11 states "the price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative".

Interestingly The Day Editorial from April 9, 2015 headline read " New London needs to replace weak, dysfunctional police committee" highlighting many internal committee issues and growing animosity with the police union. Coincidence or intentional dysfunctionality for the cause?

The Day also defended Ms. Wraight to have a "voice on strong even controversial opinions" even if disparaging to the police . Using the same logic, Union leadership has just as much a right to express our concerns on the seemingly biased positions of some current seated PCRC members.

The PCRC was created by city council in 1976 "to foster better understanding between citizens and police officers". What has evolved in the last four years is a committee whose members are deeply divided as to how they see the PCRC's role.

Chairman Kris Wraight unilaterally declared "PCRC was created as a watchdog" in testimony before city council in February 2015. The committee has continued to bring on more activists insisting the board has more scope and authority than outlined in its creation, resulting in a division it was supposed to address only getting wider.

In 2005 in southern Oregon a 15-year-old was raped on bike path along Bear Creek by several homeless men. In the aftermath of the event community activists made the bike path safer by cutting down blackberry bushes and other shrubbery and police rousted the homeless out the area.

Wraight then a resident of Ashland Oregon, upset over removal of the thickets and her belief of disparaging treatment towards the homeless who frequented the area wrote a letter to the Portland Tribune stating " Rape doesn’t exist because bushes and blackberry brambles offer hiding places or because there aren’t enough cops patrolling dark pathways. Rape is a struggle for power by people who have been denied access to their own humanity… It’s sickening that the Greenway "cleanup" has no interest in eradicating homelessness and seeks only to incriminate a people continuously oppressed by this classist, racist system".

All good government has public safety at the top of its priorities, common sense would be taking such action to prevent or minimize the chance of another rape in that area. But activists only concerns are the causes they fight, tragically common sense seems in short supply these days.

This is what unbiased objectivity looks like for newest PCRC member.

Screen shot from Abdul-Hakeem
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Why Political Action

THE DECISIONS that a legislative body makes, whether it is a school board, city council, county board, state legislature, or the U.S. Congress, affect AFSCME members and their families in dramatic ways.

Elected officials vote on budgets that affect employee wages, benefits, working conditions and pensions. They vote on issues of particular concern to AFSCME members, like privatization, and they vote on broader issues of concern to all working families, such as health care reform and workers' compensation. That's why working people need to have allies among elected officials. And that's why working people need to work to elect these allies.

The Local 724 executive board has the collective responsibility to provide vision and direction for the local. It is up to the leadership team to look ahead, set goals and develop a plan to make strategic planning a critical element to having a strong union which can only come about when membership is informed, educated and active.

Unions can never hope to match the hundreds of millions of dollars big business pours into every election. But working people have superior numbers, so they can get out in the streets and work for candidates. And if members pool their cash, unions can help make sure that their endorsed candidates have enough funds to compete against business-backed opponents in the ever-more important media ad wars.

Through the political process we can be involved in setting important public policy. Through the political process public employees can elect representatives who are sensitive to maintaining vital public services and committed to dealing with workers fairly.

Local 724 accomplishes this through political action in conjunction with the exercise of collective bargaining process, growth and community involvement to produce a just and rewarding workplace.

   

Local 724 gets recognized on the national level!

On January 28, 2011 at the Council 4 Campaign for the Middle Class Seminar in Meriden The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), AFL-CIO thanked the New London Police Union- Local 724 for their efforts in the Labor 2010 campaign.

Lee Saunders, International Secretary-Treasurer and AFSCME Council 4's Sal Luciano who is also an International Vice President honored Local 724 with a certificate "In recognition of their tireless work and commitment during the 2010 State of Connecticut general elections". To this day labor leaders throughout the state continue to praise our Malloy/Wyman Pre-Debate Rally as a new benchmark of what local labor can achieve when committed to a goal.

Chuck Flynn was honored to accept the award on behalf of our entire membership which will hang proudly in the 724 "Hall of Justice". I want to personally thank everyone that participated in some way no matter how big or small. Our election success was due to the collective efforts of our TEAM-Together Everyone Accomplishes More.

 


724 helps East Lyme fight the cause

Why Political Action


Shooting from the lip
Political Director C Flynn

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