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Managing City Hall 

by Ted S. McGregor Jr.

One of the reasons Mayor John Powers is facing not only four challengers but also one de facto recall is for the way he related to the unions. Of course for some, standing up to the unions is a badge of honor. To others, however, it represents an unnecessary rocking of the boat.

"I look at what Powers has done to the bargaining units," says Steve Corker. "He says it's greed -- no they're not greedy. They weren't asking for big raises; they knew the financial situation. It's far beyond that. The other issue has to do with civil service. He's tried to kill it, I don't care what he says. His approach will hurt the city."

Corker also wonders how an administration with a person supposedly designed to be the liaison to the unions, Randy Withrow, could fumble the issue so badly.

Powers says the negotiations are settled; in March, he told The Inlander that "I respect and value our employees and think they do a great job. I believe they are fairly compensated. What occurred this year is I asked them to work with us in a new paradigm, to start to share in the ever-rising cost of benefits. That created a great deal of consternation because really no one had ever asked them to do that before."

Corker is also critical of the size of the mayor's staff. He and Tom Grant both say they would act as their own Chief Administrative Officer, a function handled by Jack Lynch in the current administration.

"Corker and Grant should plan to hire a CAO," advises Steve Eugster, who wrote the position into the system of government. "Neither has the capability to run the city on a day-to-day basis."

Sheri Barnard says she would plan to cut at least 10 percent from the mayor's current staff. James West says he might retain Lynch and other political appointees; he would make them all reapply for their jobs, however.

Because he is a Republican, unions might be even more wary of West on the other side of the negotiating table. West says the issue of morale at city hall is about the effectiveness of services delivered. "It's not all about the money and pay," says West, "it's about motivating them and helping them do their jobs."

Publication date: 08/14/03
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