August 16, 2010

You Work for Them!

Gary Franklin is the reason your taxes are so high.

Or, more accurately, public sector union members with Gary Franklin’s attitude are the reason your taxes are so high.

Who’s Gary Franklin?

Gary Franklin is the public works director for the City of North Tonawanda. He’s also the acting wastewater superintendent. He’s been acting in that capacity ever since the City of Niagara Falls decided to lure away NT’s long-time wastewater superintendent by paying him a higher salary composed of casino dollars.

He’s also the man who singlehandedly prevented the City of North Tonawanda and the City of Lockport from an innovative move that would save both cities’ significant taxpayer dollars—the merging of the two cities’ water and wastewater superintendents.

How did he do this?

Well, as we alluded to on Friday, North Tonawanda is a strange little place, where the rules of normalcy that balance the rest of the galaxy don’t apply. In North Tonawanda—and, we guess, Bizzaro World—department heads have a union. Everywhere else, of course, new administrations get to hire new department heads. They’re, um, what’s that expression? Oh yeah: Management. But not in NT. Nope. There, they’re virtually immune to firing, or to doing anything that might rock the union boat. So, unlike virtually everyplace else in America, in NT, a mayor can’t even count on his department heads to help him implement the policies that the voters elected him to implement.

So, back to Gary Franklin. In addition to being the head of the DPW—which normally would make him answerable to the mayor, but again, not in NT!—Gary Franklin is also the president of the department head union, something called the Office of Professional Employees International Union. And his objection, according to the Buffalo News, goes something like this:

Acting Wastewater Superintendent and Public Works Superintendent Gary J. Franklin said the majority of the union members believes that combining the two jobs, while maintaining current staffing levels, creates a position with more responsibility than one person can handle. Such a deal is not in North Tonawanda's "best interests," he said.

Ah, yes, North Tonawanda’s best interests.

Unfortunately, the Buffalo News, itself a union shop, stops there. Maybe a little bit of investigative journalism—something so often lacking at the once-great News—is in order here.

What News reporters don’t tell you, but we will, is this: the total payroll and benefits for the 10 unionized department heads in North Tonawanda comes to $1,138,588. That is to say, the average salary and benefits paid to each department head comes out to $113,859. (And incidentally, the highest salary and benefits in the group comes to $149,806.)

Now, think about that: ten people are costing their neighbors way north of $1 million—every single year. A million dollars. Their average compensation is well over $100,000 per person, per year. And Gary Franklin is worried that a combined position with Lockport would be too hard for someone making those kind of bucks.

Of course, Gary Franklin has a novel solution: If North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt would just agree to create some additional union positions, then the union would be happy to support merging the two jobs.

Which, of course, defeats the whole purpose of the merger.

To protect the union’s turf and their high-paying union jobs, Gary Franklin and his public sector union friends have no problem taxing their neighbors to death.

Thanks, Gary.

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