Greensboro News and Record reporter Joe Killian attended the Greensboro City Council's work session yesterday and tweeted out information to the public on the agenda and discussion of those items. City employees need to pay attention; shots were fired in your direction by council members and you are in the cross hairs. Apparently the City Council wants to find places to cut expenses by shrinking the work force and restructuring salaries and compensation packages. It appears they believe that their structures as is might be "too" competitive when compared to other agencies or even the corporate and private sector jobs. Mike Barber even went so far as pointing out that current city retirement benefits are "generous" compared to the private sector and that the city for its' financial health must change that. Justin Outling seems to want to include benefits as well as salary when deciding our total compensation for "salary" comparisons. Both of these guys are attorneys. They don't work for anyone.
So folks, our city benefits are under attack yet again. Why? Because it's easier for this City Council as currently configured to attack the little guys (city employees) than to stand up to the real drains on our tax dollars. Over the years we have seen benefits that attract qualified, educated young people to work for the largest employer in the county reduced or even taken away. Lawsuits from current employees are still being decided in the courts because of the city's refusal to honor benefits that were contracted for employees when they were hired. Longevity pay has been eliminated now for new employees. It was reduced significantly by percentages around 1994 and eliminated and turned into a "service bonus" for all employees in 2012. This was done because the city was not including that pay in retirement percentages though they were taxing that money. They lost that lawsuit. Now, they are fighting honoring raises in percentages based on years of service (actually freezing those increases) and refusing to pay earned longevity for an employee's final year of service if they are not present to receive it on the day the "service bonus" is paid. In other words, you have to stay past your retirement date to get paid what you have already earned in your last fiscal year.
This is just one example of what has been going on in city government with employees the past decade or so. The job market being bad in the country and worse in this city have allowed the council and city manager's office to hold city workers hostage. They can reduce benefits and not have to worry so much about folks leaving as jobs with benefits such as health insurance or even full time jobs in general are hard to come by given these newer Federal Government regulations.
Yet, we find plenty of money to give away to political supporters and other cash sink holes without batting an eye. For example, in this same meeting Mayor Vaughan and Councilwoman Hoffmann declared that it is important for the city to make the last payment of the loan ($250K) to the protect the city's investment so far in the Civil Right's Museum. Dictionary.com defines investment as being "the investing of money or capital in order to gain profitable returns as interest, income or appreciation in value". Have we seen that? We have been watching the museum for the past 20 years. That 4.8 million dollars you have already invested is gone. If you give the museum under its' current management another $250K it too will be gone, in fact almost immediately. You would give over 5 million dollars to an outfit that has a history of mismanaging or losing large sums of money during their history but have no problem removing benefits and reducing salaries from arguably the only investment the city has that actually works and work well; the city employee? Again, as much as our citizens must look at the council from the outside in and scratch their heads, city workers also scratch their heads when looking from the inside up.
Newsflash Mr. Barber; city employees pay into their retirement systems substantially over their 30 years of service. They make an investment so that they can achieve a long term reward. The city invests in them to achieve 30 years of return on their investment in the form of superior city service and retention of talented individuals that could make more salary if they went elsewhere. That money is not just given to them for producing no results. If you want to compare our retirement packages to those of the private sector, are you willing to compensate the reduction with profit sharing, stock options and higher salaries that are paid in the private world?
We continue to provide service with a smile to our citizens though we get no support from our city manager or the council. If you are a city employee that lives within the city limits you have to vote in this upcoming election to change this. The current "gang of eight" is not your friend. They will take from you because they believe they have you at their mercy. You do have the power of the vote. Though limited this election, you do have alternatives.
If you live outside the city but still work for the city, you too have an interest in this election. Though you cannot vote you can encourage your friends and acquaintances that do live inside the city to vote. These attacks on your hard earned benefits affect you too. To stand by and do nothing would be shooting yourselves in the foot.
I am willing to be the guy to stand up for city employees. The road to make the change we need in the At Large City Council race is going to come down to name recognition and how far we can get the word out to those not familiar with the activities and decisions of our city government. Campaigning is not hard for me but this part is; asking for money. I am competing with established politicians who more than likely had enough money left over from their last election to cover this election's expenses. My campaign is very much grassroots but I still need financial support. Any donation, be it $1 or $50 will help. I do not have to record your name on any official document for a donation $50 or less. Police Officers and Fire Fighters are prohibited by city rules to actively campaign for candidates. You are however, allowed to talk with family members, friends and each other. We can spread the word and make changes to benefit city employees. You need a voice; currently you have NONE.
Extend me the honor and privilege of being that voice!
Marc Ridgill Campaign Fund
PO Box 612
Brown Summit, NC 27214