Playing Privatization Russian Roulette

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BY: Janice Coakley, President, AFSCME local 3293

Dwindling budgets and skyrocketing costs have municipalities across Florida looking to save a buck by privatizing city-run services, including solid waste and recycling. Sanitation services are just one of the often under-appreciated services provided by our cities. These essential services keep our neighborhoods clean and eliminate serious public health hazards. When sanitation services don’t work, the whole community pays the price. Is privatization of essential services worth the risk? Or is it more like playing Russian Roulette with only one empty chamber?

Advocates of sending tax dollars to private companies promise that privatization can deliver the same service for less money but many times the projected savings fall short and quality declines. Private companies deliver cheaper services by cutting expenses like workers’ healthcare and hourly pay, and by cutting maintenance costs for their collection vehicles. What this ultimately means is that although the service is cheaper, the service, the employees, and ultimately the local community, suffer.

Because employees make less money, they have a reduced impact on the economics of the local community. And, the municipal tax dollars enrich the foreign companies and their CEOs, further reducing the recirculation of tax dollars in the city. This impacts local businesses who depend on local residents’ spending their money locally. What we then see is something more like cost shifting. The costs are shifted from city coffers to the shoulders of local businesses. When you consider the downstream effects of privatization on the local economy, it hardly makes sense to take the chance that your city will be the one to dodge the bullet.

But, Mayor George Vallejo, and the North Miami Beach City Council, are doing just that. Looking only at numbers on a balance sheet that does not consider the impact of downstream effects, the city is looking to generate huge savings by privatizing essential city services. They are considering a proposal to outsource the jobs of the city’s dedicated sanitation workers that will strip them of their voice on the job and reduce their pay and benefits.

The reason for privatizing this essential service is due to a bloated budget rife with pet projects. Blaming the cost of sanitation services for poor budgetary decisions is like blaming the life boat because the ship is sinking. Wise fiscal decision-making means understanding the distinction between a “need” and a “want”. Sanitation is an essential service that once privatized, can be difficult to undo.

Playing Russian Roulette with city services and taxpayer dollars is rarely the right public policy decision. Sanitation workers, their families, labor and community supporters will rally outside the North Miami Beach City Hall on August 4th at 5:30p.m. They are asking the Mayor and City Council to consider the wider implications of their decision and keep tax dollars in the city, working to improve the local economy, and not lining the pockets of private companies and CEOs.

For more information, check out the event on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/1716578108578268/

Can’t make it to the event? Sign the Petition at https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/stop-north-miami-beach-from-gutting-quality-public-services

Miami WorldCenter: A Rose is not always a Rose

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By: Carlos Ramos, South Florida AFL-CIO

At first blush…. When the Miami-Dade County Commission voted unanimously to grant Miami WorldCenter’s application for a Community Development District (CDD) encompassing Miami’s historic Overtown neighborhood over the fierce objections from a coalition of faith, labor and community stakeholders and residents, it didn’t sound like such a bad idea. Although normally CDDs are used to support special purpose taxing and development districts like financing a new public library, improving public sanitation, funding public improvements and other public purposes. CDDs are an alternative to municipal incorporation for managing and financing infrastructure. The purpose of a CDD is to promote needed community infrastructure investments to revitalize neighborhoods through the use of tax-free bonds. Bonds are then re-paid by residents over a 10-30 year period via an additional tax. Looks pretty great.

But when you look closer….At the issue with the creation of the special taxing district for Miami WorldCenter is that CDD’s are intended for residential community projects, not huge, profitable commercial projects. Granting a CDD to a commercial developer gives the developer the power and authority to make all the major-decisions without input from the community or the oversight of local elected officials. Once the decisions are made, whoever resides in the new district is taxed for the improvements. In short, the CDD Board of Supervisors becomes the “alter ego” of the developer with the power to tax the residents. Not so pretty now.

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And inhale….
To make matters worse, the developer is not even trying to hide it’s intentions and has hand-picked five of their own to sit on the Board of Supervisors, all hailing from Boca Raton. With not one single appointment from Miami-Dade County, it’s hard to imagine that the needs and interests of Overtown’s residents will even be considered. Adding insult to injury, these out-of-town developer bootlickers will now be eligible to receive benefits from the lucrative and stable Florida Retirement System.  Since these Supervisors are appointed and not elected, it becomes a situation of Taxation without Representation, sanctified by the Miami-Dade County Commission. Whew, that is pretty stinky!

Not a rose after all…With the approval of the CDD, the socio-economic and racial divide between Overtown and the rest of Miami-Dade County will only continue as the gentrification gardener pulls out established roses in need of a bit of fertilizer and replaces them with the flashy flower du jour. Leaving Overtown, a historic neighborhood once known as an economically thriving African-American community, as their latest victim. Now that stinks.

What type of candidate would you be? Take the quiz and find out.

CANDIDATE QUIZ

By: Phyllis Garrett, Director, Florida AFL-CIO Farm Team Program

Who hasn’t sat back and mused, “Politicians are a joke. Even I could do a better job than that clown!” Let’s face it, we’ve all thought about it but most of us just as quickly dismiss the idea. “No way I’d ever do that. I’m just not the type.”

There are five main candidate types: the Egoist, Hater, Materialist, Opportunist and the Hero. Of the five candidate types, Donald Trump wins the trifecta since he’s clearly an Egoist, Hater and Materialist with a side of Opportunist to boot. He’s obviously special.

Ever wonder what kind of candidate type you are? Take this simple one question quiz and find out.

Question – Dig deep and explain why you want to run for office. (Don’t spin it, just spill it)

Now compare your HONEST answer to the following:

  • The Egoist. Are you thinking about running to “be” something rather than “do” something? If your ego needs stroking, if you need to be in the spotlight or just like the possibility of all the attention of being in the political spotlight, than you fit the Egoist profile. You’d be happier auditioning for America’s Got Talent than running for office.
  • The Hater. You just can’t stand that Politician but you can’t beat him to a pulp either. So, why not beat him where it hurts the most, his reputation. You’ll run every negative ad you can regardless of the truth until you destroy him. If this sounds like you than you fit the Hater profile. Think twice before running, the world has enough haters.
  • The Materialist. If you think being elected to public office could help you sell your book, or bring attention to your pet issue of stolen puppies (pun intended), or make you rich, like all those lobbyists, than you fit the Materialist profile. Running for public office is not about making you rich. Get rich on your own back, not ours.
  • The Opportunist. If it’s not the seat you want but the race is winnable and will position you to pursue the seat you really want, then you are an Opportunist. If you are willing to put in the time into learning how to be the best “mosquito control officer” or “soil conservationist” you can be, then you should think about running as long as you are doing it for the right reasons.
  • The Hero. As in working class hero. Are you someone who wants to fight so that everybody has a fair shake, equal opportunities and a real shot at attaining the American Dream? If you want to run because you legitimately want to help your fellow man and make a difference in their lives, then you are a Hero. You are one of the few and far between. If you run for office than it’s important to set reasonable goals for your campaign so that you don’t disappoint yourself and your supporters. To make a difference in the lives of working families is a noble calling, but know that the system is stacked against you. It will be difficult to accomplish most of what you want to do, so make sure you are realistic about what can be accomplished. The world needs more brave people just like you.

If you are a Union member, then you have resources that other Heroes don’t. For those valiant enough to take on the challenge, the Florida AFL-CIO has developed a Farm Team candidate training program. This program can be an equalizer and set you on the path to a successful campaign by teaching you the skills you need to be a winning candidate. Skills such as creating a campaign plan, fundraising, reporting, accounting, public speaking, media strategies and how to deal with those pesky reporters are just some of the things you will learn during the three days of intense training. The State Fed’s expert staff will be there to help and support you throughout your campaign.

We need more Hero types and less of the types that pervade our system today. If you have ever thought you could do a better job and if you have a passion for changing the world, then contact your local Central Labor Council and get the process started today. A Hero isn’t born every day and we desperately need real Heroes.

For more information on the Florida AFL-CIO Farm Team program please call them at 850-224-6926 or email Phyllis Garrett at pgarrett@flaflcio.org.