Gray’s gra­tu­ity

Em­bat­tled mayor buys union sup­port on tax­payer dime

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

Amayor rocked by charges of pay-for-play pol­i­tics, a House in­ves­ti­ga­tion and a fed­eral probe into his 2010 cam­paign is los­ing friends fast. To stem the tide, D.C. Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray’s strate­gists are em­ploy­ing politi­cians’ usual method for re­gain­ing al­lies: us­ing tax dol­lars to en­rich spe­cial in­ter­ests.

City rev­enue es­ti­mates in Fe­bru­ary came up with mil­lions ex­tra in an­tic­i­pated in­come, which the mayor is hand­ing over to unions. Mr. Gray dou­bled down on a Jan­uary $44.7 mil­lion fis­cal 2012 sup­ple­men­tal bud­get re­quest by ask­ing for an ad­di­tional $34.8 mil­lion in March. Of this, $19.9 mil­lion is to “re­store” fur­lough days “taken” from city em­ploy­ees in fis­cal 2011. To help close a then-$188 mil­lion bud­get gap, nonessen­tial work­ers weren’t paid in 2011 for four public hol­i­days: Pres­i­dents Day, D.C. Eman­ci­pa­tion Day, Me­mo­rial Day and In­de­pen­dence Day.

An email sent by City Ad­min­is­tra­tor Allen Lew to the heads of all city unions made no bones about the pay­off: “The mayor’s decision to sub­mit this re­quest to the Coun­cil is fur­ther ev­i­dence of his com­mit­ment to our em­ploy­ees, and their rep­re­sen­ta­tives, for their dili­gent ef­forts and shared sac­ri­fice in dif­fi­cult times and re­ward­ing our em­ploy­ees for their dili­gent ef­forts when cir­cum­stances per­mit him to do so.”

This com­mit­ment is ques­tion­able, con­sid­er­ing the fur­loughs Mr. Gray is “re­pay­ing” were his idea in the first place. “Fur­loughs as an op­tion to help save costs were first in­tro­duced in De­cem­ber 2010 by then-chair­man Gray,” the 2011 press re­lease an­nounc­ing the mea­sure bragged. It also noted that the act was in­tro­duced by coun­cil Chair­man Kwame R. Brown at the re­quest of Mr. Gray. “The fur­loughs are the first of sev­eral cost­sav­ing mea­sures we will have to im­ple­ment to en­sure that the city is fi­nan­cially sol­vent,” Mr. Gray ex­plained at the time. A year later, it’s un­clear how spend­ing in­stead of sav­ing tax­payer money is fi­nan­cially re­spon­si­ble.

Some union rep­re­sen­ta­tives see Mr. Gray’s new tune as a step in the right di­rec­tion af­ter get­ting off on the wrong foot. Geo T. John­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State, County and Mu­nic­i­pal Em­ploy­ees (AFSCME) Dis­trict Coun­cil 20, told The Washington Times, “He had a marred be­gin­ning; he’s try­ing to turn things around.” Mr. John­son, who says he sup­ports Mr. Gray “110 per­cent,” stood in for la­bor in March 9, sign­ing agree­ments with the Dis­trict, but he only rep­re­sents 40 per­cent of the city’s union­ized em­ploy­ees.

Unions rep­re­sent­ing teach­ers, fire­fight­ers and po­lice weren’t in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in the event, her­alded by city hall as part of an “ef­fort to reestab­lish pos­i­tive re­la­tions with or­ga­nized la­bor,” be­cause they don’t sup­port the mayor. “The idea that this is some bridging [of] the gulf with la­bor is disin­gen­u­ous,” one union of­fi­cial who re­quested anonymity told The Washington Times. “They needed some sup­port from some­body some­where. Gray is such a mess, no­body trusts him right now. They don’t trust Gray; they don’t trust Lew.”

Ap­par­ently, money can’t al­ways buy love. Mr. Gray will need to earn the sup­port of his con­stituents with means other than your hard­earned dol­lars.

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