Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Yeah, what Greg said

Posted by David Keelan on Sunday, August 26, 2007

County Councilman Greg Fox had some words of wisdom to share with Ken Ulman in the Baltimore Sun.  Among Greg’s points:

  • The 6 percent pay raise guaranteed for four years for county firefighters 
  • Teachers and police 5 percent raises for two years
  • Hiring large numbers of new employees.
  • The county’s general fund, or locally funded budget, went from $734 million last fiscal year to $812.5 million for the fiscal year that began July 1.

“We knew that the state was looking at us as being part of the solution, and we shouldn’t have been spending and spending as if we weren’t going to be part of it,” Fox said.

Fox and other members cautioned the council during budget talks in May that the county needed to limit new spending given impending state cuts, federal accounting changes requiring an escalating annual payment for future retirees’ health benefits and the looming need for a new county government and courthouse complex.

We are going to now see the mettle that Ken Ulman is made of and I hope for Howard County’s sake we are not disappointed.  Ulman expects:

But Ulman said the county is prepared for “reasonable numbers,” such as a state cut of $5 million to $8 million.

Let us hope he is right because the County can absorb that through property tax assesments.  It won’t be easy but we alway exceed projected income in that area.  But if it is $40M then Ken has a problem – and we all share in it.  What will he do?  Raise property taxes is my guess.  Although he says he would not do it lightly.

Ken Ulman the Conservative

Then the best quote of the article

“We think we budgeted conservatively for the outlook,” he said. “If we don’t pay our police and firefighters a competitive wage, we lose them.”

Loose them to where?  Baltimore City?

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18 Responses to “Yeah, what Greg said”

  1. Freemarket said

    Well, we could lose them to Baltimore City, Montgomery County (or any other County for that matter), private ambulance companies, construction contractors, hospitals, security firms, public safety consulting firms, starting their own businesses, pharmaceutical firms as sales reps, or an infinite number of other employers. I don’t know enough about the market wages of police and firefighters to know if they making a fair wage in Howard County, so I don’t know if the raise was a good idea or not. However, there is competition out there from other employers.

  2. Lance Armstrong said

    Maybe Ken can get his friends Lance Armstrong and Cheryl Crow to give them a call and convince them to stay. I mean, can Shiela Dixon compete with that?

  3. observer said

    Howard County is the fourth best place to live in the country, why would they go anywhere else? Freemarket makes a good point though, maybe we could privatize our ambulance services and save a few bucks in the budget.

  4. Matt said

    The firefighters and police officers have nothing to gripe about. If there is a group in this county that has a legit beef it’s the general county workforce who get screwed year after year. This past July they received a 3% cost of living which essentially means that their salaries are flat. They have no staff senate or union to collectivly bargain so they get left behind with the scraps. Personally I think the fire and police are deserving of competitive wages however why isn’t the rest of the county workforce entitled to that same piece of the pie?

    The county needs to find ways to control their spending and get their priorities straight. Surrounding jurisdictions including Carroll County have new court houses and county facilities. HoCo the third richest county in the nation is still conducting business out of the same old run down buildings. When is the last time you folks have gone to District Court or wandered the halls of the Dorsey Building. It’s embarressing.

    Matt

  5. Public Servant said

    The last county executive proposed building a new government complex just a short distance from the current aging complex and he was attacked on the idea as being to expensive and not needed.

    Another new complex is being proposed on the current government site to include a new Circuit Court House and this idea is also being attacked as being to expensive and not needed.

    When the public saftey training building was proposed it to was attacked as being to expensive and not needed.

    Does anyone see a pattern here?

    Propose a new county building to replace an aging building or accommodate growth and each project is attacked as being to expensive and not needed. This is part of the reason we do not have nice new buildings like some other counties.

    Instead the county leases space, buys vacant buildings or tries remodeling current space to try an accommodate its needs.

    In regards to the payraise issue, for many years all county employees received the same raises, unionized or not. This attitude has changed over time due to recruiting demands for public safety jobs and the competition the county faces in attracting/retaining public safety officers. The “market” has been driving the pay and benefits for public safety officers and the county is responding to the “market.”

    If you feel you are being under represented than organize and start becoming active. There is a large group of unorganized employees who are eligible to unionize/organize and elect not to do so for whatever reason.

    The unionized employees have worked hard to improve the pay and benefits for their respected groups. So don’t hold it against us because we are active and we work to improve our working conditions on a daily basis.

  6. observer said

    The last time the non union county employees tried to form a union, their leader had his position mysteriously removed from the budget. So long they said, have a great life! Correct me if I am wrong Matt, you probably know all about it. Even so, isn’t safe drinking water and keeping raw sewage out of our streams and the bay just as important as our first responders services. I agree with Matt the rest of the county workforce is neglected compared to the unions and probably only so because the unions have a good number of their members working the polls on election day to make sure they get the BIG raises every year.

    With regard to new public facilities why doesn’t someone find a site that isn’t right on top of the most congested intersections in the county. There are valid reasons why most of the new facilities have been rejected. They can’t pass the county’s own APFO or SWM requirements without granting themselves multiple waivers, these sites wouldn’t even be viable. Maybe if the budget was managed better, there would be money to build or improve new county facilities.

  7. Public Servant said

    Two unions were formed in the county in 1997. It took one union 2 years and the other 4+ years to finish the certification process and no one lost there jobs. It did help that there was a change in county executives (Ecker to Robey) as both groups moved through the certification process.

    I recall some employees trying to “organize” theirself into an association between 1991 -1994 without actually unioninzing. Ecker’s administration did everything possible to block the attempt and the group quitely faded away.

    As far as the value of other employees, everyone is equally important as we support each other directly or indirectly in our jobs. However, don’t fault the union’s for improving their members pay and benefits. Many of our leaders have had their careers hurt for taking leadership positions. But than again we would not be where we are without their sacrifices and our group efforts.

    No one, not even a pro-employee county executive, is going to give you something for free. You have to work for it. Just like your fellow employees who decided to unionize and work for better pay and benefits.

    As far as new public facilities, you say there are vaild reason for the facilities to be rejected. You point to the waivers that the county must grant itself for the sites they select. Here is the otherside.

    Most of the sites the county has chosen to build on were sites that the county already owned and they were trying to reduce the cost by using already owned land. The properties were orginally in unpopulated areas. Growth came about and the county land was surround by homes. The new homeowners opposed the construction of new county facilities near their homes saying it would decrease the value of their homes.

    Even in the undeveloped areas where the county still owned land, residents opposed new facilities saying the character of their community would changed with the building of these facilities.

    Examples:

    1. The Western Region Park and Community Center were significantly scaled back from their orginal plans, not because of money, but because of nearby resident opposition.

    2. The Public Safety Training Complex was that is being built on top of the Marriottsville Landfill was orginally to be built on county owned property in Cooksville. Area farmers and horse breeders opposed the Cooksville site. It would be a decade and one-half before this facility got off the ground on another piece of county owned property.

    3. Plans to expand the current vehicle maintance facilty on Mayfield Ave was opposed by area residents. Than the proposed new site near Meadowridge was opposed by residents there. Than the county leases an old car dealership and people say the area is to congested to handle such a facility. Just recently it is rumored that the maintance facility will not go there and the BoE will use the property instead. So where is the maintance facility going now?

    4. There is opposition from nearby residents to a proposed new regional county facilty in the southeast portion of the county. Will this project be scaled back or scrapped? At this time nobody knows.

    And I haven’t even touched on the opposition that has come from politicians when plans or ideas are floated for new facilities (don’t need them, to expensive, wrong location, etc…)

    The point being, most facilities are delayed, modified or scrapped altogether due to some sort of opposition somewhere. And in the end, we continue to make use of the same rundown and cramped facilities.

    So don’t say “Maybe if the budget was managed better, there would be money to build or improve facilities.” There have been attempts to improve/build facilities, but the opposition always seems to win!

  8. General Zod said

    People are threatened, fired and essentially mopped under the carpet by even thinking about organizing and you’re naive if you think it does not happen. Ken Ulman and the rest of them tolerate the existing unions because they are obligated to. Otherwise they wouldn’t win elections. It’s basic Public Policy 101.

    There is a general fear among the county work force. Even organizing a staff senate is better than nothing but they will do everything in their power to keep people in their place.

    If Ulman truly is pro labor than he should support the general workforce without being pressured by some union. His rhetoric is getting tired.

    Step outside of your bubble for two seconds and come back to reality. The general employees (non-union) of Montgomery County saw a 4% cost of living plus a 3.5% merit increase this past July. Why is it that one competeing municipality can pay their employees a repectable living wage and Howard cannot. Howard is supposed to be the 3rd richest county in the nation.

    No one is trying to take anything way from from the Fire and Police departments. I think there is a general consensus that they deserve a good wage. However, the rest of the county is getting left behind. If you’re a citizen of Howard County you should be concerned because these are the very people who provide your services. One of the problems is that the Fire and Police don’t want another union competeing against theirs.

    Union or not we’re all competing to for a better pool of employees and that is the bottom line.

    People need to start shining a light on the issue and stop giving Ulman and the County Council a free pass. There is strength in numbers so it will take more than one voice to make a change in this county.

  9. observer said

    General Zod, Kudos to you, you are right on the money and I couldn’t agree with you more. The more I hear from Public Servant, the more it seems he is on the gravy train, must be a member of one of the privileged unions, or a good Robey/Ulman lackey. All he does his attack Ecker and promote his own well being. When I think of what a Public Servant is, I think of someone who has the best interests of the County and its citizens close to their heart. Maybe Public Servant should change his name to “Self Servant” seems more appropriate. Might be good for the county and its citizens if we get some of these “lifers” out of the system and replace them with some fresh, non indoctrinated workers.
    If you think unions are so great, why don’t you lead the effort to help the rest of the workforce get organized? I guess if there was parity amongst the workforce there would be less going into your coffers.

  10. Public Servant said

    General Zod, there is no doubt people are targeted (fired, harrassed, etc…) when they try to or form a union. I am not naive and don’t live in a bubble as you suggest. Yes Montgomery Co employees (non-union) recieved raises higher than Howard Co. Even the unionized work force of Mo Co received higher raises than Howard’s unionized work force. Does that mean that the unionized workforce in Howard Co should get the same raise as Montgomery County’s unionized workforce? If that’s the case, I would love to have Mo Co’s raises verse our raise.

    Heck, I would even like to have the raises that some of the unionized workers in Baltimore County recieved. One union recieved a 6% COLA plus 4% merits for 1 year.

    I want to clarify a few points:

    1. Besides the 3% COLA the Howard Co non-unionized workers are recieving, they are also getting their merit steps, which I believe is 3%, longevity steps and performance bounus, if eligible. Not just a straight 3% COLA as is being suggested.

    2. There are a total of 6 county employee unions, at least 2 employee associations (non-unionized) and 3 BoE unions in Howard County, all competing for a piece of the pie.

    Observer, how dare you question my commitment to the citizens of the county or my fellow co-workers. Yes I do attack the policies of past county executive Ecker. County employees lived through some of the worst times in their careers here under him. Layoffs, no pay raises (including COLAS and merits), positions left unfilled, maintance and replace projects put off, all to save money. So yes, I am anti-Ecker as his policies hurt not only me and my co-workers, but also our families and the citizens of the county.

    I will also tell you this, I HAVE LEAD THE EFFORT TO UNIONIZE EMPLOYEES IN THIS COUNTY. The last two unions were organized under my guidance. One thing about unionizing workers, you need a commitment from a core group of people to make it happen. Without that that support, the effort will go nowhere. Right now no one is willing to step up to be the core group and until that happens, these workers will stay unorganized and non-unionized.

    As far as your statements reference, lifers, parity and coffers, that is a typical statement I see from people who are anti-union/employee. It is ashame you have to suggest a person lose their job because you do not like their status in the workforce.

    Taking your position on “lifers”, perhaps we should set a standard that when you reach a certain age or time on a job, you lose you job so an employer can replace you with fresh, non indoctrinted workers.

    What do you say to a law that if you are over 40yrs old and/or have 20 years or more with the same employer, you must lose your job so fresh, non indoctrinated workers can be hired. I’m sure you will find alot of takers for that kind of law.

  11. observer said

    maybe if Ken Ulman continues to hire more county employees at the pace he has started out at, we can have more cuts and layoffs when someone responsible, has to come in and clean up his mess. I guess then you will blame that person for all of the cutbacks. BTW, I am not anti union. I think all the county employees should be in the same union to guaranty parity and fairness and to take all of the political sucking up out of the process. Public servant, why do you so easily condone the county punishing those who tried to form their unions? This is certainly an abuse of power in the least. County workers shouldn’t have to live in fear of retaliation when they stand up for their rights. When the county is run like the mob, I guess that is what you get.

  12. Public Servant said

    Appearently you know nothing about unions and how they are organized and under what laws they operate under. Or the internal operations of a union. Your idea of one large union to gaurentee parity, fairness and taking the political sucking up out of the process sounds good in theroy, but would fail in practice.

    This same concepted failed when employees first started talking about organizing in the county in the late 1970’s. News articles from that time showed disagreements between the various workgroups on a number of issues.

    I was not around when the one union idea was discussed. But, I have personally talked to some of the people who went through the initial talks of one union and why it failed. Internal conflicts, priorities and which union to form under headed this list.

    Discussions about affiliating with a general union such as the Teamsters, AFSCME, SEIU, etc., or the possibility of remaining independent of any national affiliation occurred. The police objected to the Teamters, Fire objected to all of them, Corrections wanted Teamsters, general employees wanted AFSCME or Teamsters and so forth.

    The idea of an independent union was rejected as well as forming an association only and not unioniozing at all. In the long run the various groups felt is was better for each workgroup to decide their owns fates.

    The police officers went with IUPA (police union). Fire fighters went with IAFF (fire union). Corrections and a portion of General Employees went with AFSCME. And another group of general employees and police officers decided not to pursue unionization or organize at all. That is the landscape you have today.

    To your comment,”Public servant, why do you so easily condone the county punishing those who tried to form their unions?” I do not condone this type of action. I simply replied to General Zod that I was not naive to this type of thing happening.

    Your anti-union sediments and your dislike for County Executive Ulman come through strong with your statement “When the county is run like the mob, I guess that is what you get.”

    The fear of firings and retaliation for standing up for your rights pre-date Ulman. I have not seen this type of conduct from Ulman nor do I expect it from his administration. But I have seen it under Ecker’s administration, and the Robey adminstration did attempt to stop a group of workers from unionizing by utilizing the arbitation process and failed.

  13. observer said

    your sediments have blinded you, the reason their are so many different unions is that every one is out for themselves. In the end the county suffers because of it. Yes and I will bash Ulman, I don’t ever remember 60 firefighters ever showing up to march for Ecker in a political parade. My dislike for Ulman is well deserved.

  14. Public Servant said

    Dr. Ecker laid off over 100 employees, failed to fill critical job vacanicies (health, inspections & public safety), forced employees to work 80hrs without pay under a furlough plan to keep their jobs and a host of other wage related losses and you expect county employees to show up and march with Ecker in a political parade. Your sediments and dislike for Ulman appear to have blinded you to the point that common sense does not even come into play here.

    Even your posts don’t make sense.

    * You bash the the unions and than you say you are not anti-union

    * You bash me as being self servant because I stand up for what I believe in.

    * You bash senior workers and advocate them losing their jobs and replacing them with fresh non indoctrinated workers.

    * You bash the county if they punish workers for exercising their rights.

    * And than you bash employees for exercising their rights by backing a candidate who they feel supports them.

    What are you going to bash next.

  15. General Zod said

    I’m sure if Ulman were the Executive during Eckers time he probably would of put up the same resistance. Like I said earlier Ulman and current politicians tolerate unions otherwise it would be political suicide especially in a county that tends to lean Democrat. If Ulman is pro labor than he would show support for the entire county workforce not a select few who have the right to bargain.

  16. Public Servant said

    General Zod, you have been a gentleman (or lady)when you reply to a post. You make your point, counter-point or arguement from a consistant and respectfully platform. A healthy exchange of positions, veiws or ideas is always good and you have help facilitate such discussions on a number of occassions.

    But when I see posts from people and their only goal appears to be to attack, disrepect or tarnish peoples imagines/beliefs because they can and don’t have to be held responsable, you begin to wonder what level they will sink to accomplish their goal.

    I don’t post often, but in this case I did. General Zod, keep up the good work along with the respectfully exchange of position(s).

  17. observer said

    public servant, you are so indoctrinated into the me first mentality, it is hard to make a point without you getting strung out over it. Let’s just say you would love your union to get a big 10% COLA every year so that you can enrich yourself on the backs of the taxpayers and ride the Ken Ulman gravy train off into the sunset and Ecker is just an evil man who just liked to punish folks like you because he got off on it. Don’t worry about the rest of the county employees who don’t get a big COLA, they didn’t work hard enough at organizing their union or working the polls and going door to door for Ken, to really deserve it. Sorry you don’t like my biting sarcasm, I just call them like I see it, that is why I am observer. Sometimes the truth hurts.

  18. Public Servant said

    To me, normal sacrasm usually is said with a smile and a small jab to make a point. Biting sarcasm is with no smile and is meant to degrade someone. So if you are proud of your biting sarcasm, so be it.

    I’m going to devulge something about myself and if you research it hard enough, you can find out who I am and than out me to everyone else.

    I work hard at my job. Last summer I nearly lost my life doing my job. I spent 7 weeks recovering from my injuries. I considered retiring on disability, but I elected to return to work, and continue serving the citizens of this county. By the way, had I died, I would have left behind a wife and 3 children.

    So go ahead and find out who I am. I am sure you will enjoy outing me. You can than use that biting sarcasm of yours to make your point(s) about me, or any of my fellow county co-workers.

    In the meantime continue with your biting sarcasm since that appears to make your feel superior to everyone.

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