March 8, 2010

Virtuoso Again Praises Union's Biggest Enemy

The Buffalo News had a piece yesterday about the search committee the Niagara County Legislature is putting together in order to find a new county manager. The current placeholder, Greg Lewis, has informed the legislature that he will not be seeking another appointment. His current contract expires (as if any regular reader of this blog needs to be reminded - see the clock to the left) on November 30 of this year. Of course, we all know that the only reason that Lewis came out publicly with this announcement is that he knows full well that there isn't a chance in hell that his contract will be renewed. But, we'll revisit Lewis' impending departure at a later date.

What stuck out from the story is what Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso had to say about the legislature committee that was formed to find the county's first manager back in 2003. In recommending David Reilly, a political science professor at Niagara University as a citizen member of the search committee, Virtuoso is quoted as saying, "Last time we had a county manager search, we had a professor from Niagara [Sean Q. Kelly] and he was a political science professor, and I thought that worked out very well".

"That worked out very well". Now putting our own opinions of Lewis aside, let's take a look at that assessment of Lewis by Virtuoso from the perspective of the county unions.

Lewis came to Niagara County and immediately set his sights on closing the Mount View Health Care Facility. In December of 2007, Lewis was successful in shuttering the eighty year-old building, putting 200 full-time and part-time county employees out of work. I wonder if Ed McDonald, President of the AFSCME union that was most heavily impacted by the cuts at Mount View, would agree with Virtuoso's statement that Lewis has worked out very well.

During his nearly seven years in Niagara County, he has overseen what has likely been the most contentious period of relations between that county and its employees in history. He's fought the unions at every turn, creating a work atmosphere that is less than conducive to improving employee productivity and morale.

From our perspective, that's probably the only thing he's done right. Our feelings on public sector unions are no secret. But Dennis Virtuoso is a diehard Democrat who is supposed to be fighting to protect the interests of the unions. Instead, he once again publicly praises the person who is most directly responsible for the loss of approximately 350 county jobs over the past seven years, Greg Lewis.

The irony is that the unions continue to support Virtuoso. They tossed thousands of dollars to him during last year's elections, despite Virtuoso's unwavering support of Greg Lewis. How the hell is this possible? Is the union's blind faith in their Democratic elected officials so strong that they refuse to actually hold them accountable for their actions? In this case, it certainly seems so.

We'd have thought that Virtuoso would have recommended someone with stronger union ties to the search committee to, if nothing else, give at least the appearance of taking the concerns of the unions into consideration in the choosing of the next county manager. Then again, why would he even be concerned about it? He does what he wants, continuously and consistently showing his support for Lewis, and the unions still endorse him and fill his campaign coffers. Obviously the word "accountability" doesn't appear in the union's dictionary. All they see is a "D" after Virtuoso's name. Apparently that's all that matters. No wonder the unions are becoming more extinct by the day. If they've got a guy like Virtuoso fighting for them, their days are surely numbered. It's just too bad, for them, that they are unable to realize it.

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