South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Asks Local 1889 ‘to bury the hatchet,’ start working with MFPD board

To the editor:

As a longtime resident of the Mehlville Fire Protection District, I’ve watched with careful interest the dealings of Mehlville firefighters Local 1889 since the team of Aaron Hilmer and Bonnie Stegman won positions on the district’s board.

I’ve seen this team implement financial reforms and a new era of openness. Sure, they haven’t been perfect, but compared to the old days when union-appointed candidates controlled the board, conducted business behind closed doors, where money was just flat out wasted, it clearly has been refreshing.

We citizens of the district are experiencing the fruits of their work with better equipment, new firehouses and a better-trained work force.

And guess what — we’re not paying more taxes as the union-appointed former board had suggested as the only way out; we have actually seen something unparalleled in America, a tax cut.

This is truly more for less.

Yet all the while, this union has invented more and more ways to be obstinate, to refuse to get with the program and in general, they have postured themselves as a roadblock to progress.

I saw this story the other day and I was reminded of our firefighters. They have benefited with extremely well-paid positions — how many of you are making more than $90,000 per year and only working 10 days each month? — generous pension plans and other benefit programs.

Here’s the story. See if it fits Local 1889’s situation and ask yourself what is behind the union’s ongoing obstinance. It is a story in the New York Times about the government employee pensions that are bankrupting cities and states across the country. The story is as much sad as it is enraging because it shows how machine politics can corrupt everything and everyone within its reach.

The article details how government employees, including police and firefighters, are encouraged to game the pension system to achieve extraordinarily high payouts in retirement. They do this by racking up overtime pay in their final year that the pension formula then uses as a base salary from which to determine their pension. The article quotes a police officer who retired at age 44 earning $74,000 a year and now, three years later, draws a pension of over $100,000 a year. He claims he has done nothing wrong, that the ability to retire after 20 years with a high pension was the only reason why he joined the police force, and that he “held up [his] end of the bargain.”

There is a certain logic to this, and explains why unions — especially government employee unions — are going to fight so hard against the reforms we need. Indeed, it is hard to say to police and firefighters, who risk their life to protect the public, that we now have to change the terms of the contracts they signed.

However, that logic does not justify abusing the rules of the pension system to achieve higher payouts than were intended or can be afforded.

Nor does it justify the actions of those union bosses and shortsighted, dishonest politicians who, to expand their political power, set up a system that encouraged corruption and promised something they knew could not be delivered. This sad reality, where civil servants have been corrupted into being the bane of taxpayers — come on Mehlville, admit it —is the direct result of the secular-socialist machine’s deliberate strategy to use our tax dollars to expand its power.

The anger that police, firefighters, teachers and other government employees will no doubt feel as states around the country engage in pension and other types of reform to correct extremes and downright abuses should be directed at those who lied to them, not those trying to clean up the mess the machine politicians have left behind.

Come on Local 1889, if you’re angry, I understand. But let’s direct the anger in the right direction. In regards to your feelings and attitudes toward the current Board of Directors, I’m asking you to bury the hatchet, put away your signs, stop playing us versus them, tell your lawyers the game has changed, and look for ways to cooperate and improve and move this district forward in a model of labor cooperation.

Show us the type of leadership we’re looking for in a community representative. Let’s start today.

Joe Coleman


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