Town resident urges cooperation over dissolution
When people try to justify dissolution, they often say that talks were getting nowhere. Mayor Meier called it a brick wall he was up against. But when I analyze that wall, I can’t help but ask: Who laid the bricks?
Shared services discussions started and then fell apart a couple of years ago. Happily, talks resumed. There were cautious overtures made between individuals on all three sides.
But then, right as things were getting going, the mayor made the choice to seek a grant for a dissolution study. This was after that same agency (CGR) he tasked with developing a feasibility study which had already recommended shared services as a better option for Medina.
Most recently, even when the community made it clear they were ambivalent at best regarding the prospect of dissolution, and village trustees insisted the mayor renew shared services talks with Shelby and Ridgeway, Mayor Meier worked alongside the group One Medina to collect signatures to force the vote for dissolution. I know he felt strongly about it. And I know he truly loves Medina, his home.
Yet, by primarily focusing on dissolution efforts, in the midst of shared services talks, feelings of disbelief, mistrust, and betrayal developed amongst both town boards. Never were shared services, and the elimination of duplicated services, truly explored as extensively as they should have been.
Seeking dissolution smack dab in the middle of shared services talks is like asking your cousins to help you fix up the family homestead grandpa left everyone, and then, right when everyone’s set aside the time, gotten their tools ready and rolled up their sleeves, your cousin Jeb shows up with a bulldozer. Just in case.
It begs the question: Why? Maybe, just maybe, dissolution is being sought so aggressively because it means dissolving existing contracts between the village and its workforce. Maybe those employees will make out fine, maybe not. I doubt they’ll be just fine. The very community Medina was asked to compare itself to, Seneca Falls, admitted that their police officers faced a $2/hour wage cut after they dissolved.
It doesn’t sound that bad until you do the math: working a regular 40-hour week, that’s $80 a week. That’s a major portion of the week’s grocery bill. We’re not talking chump change. We’re talking about a living expense. We’re talking about upwards of $4,000 in a year.
Proponents of dissolution talk often about how the village will keep its services and village employees will keep their jobs. What they’re much less forthcoming about is in terms of what happens to the public employees’ contracts. And that’s just not right. Dissolution will wreak havoc in the lives of village employees, change the quality of services and throw this entire community in to a tailspin, with Ridgeway and Shelby being left to pick up the pieces.
If the village thinks there are employees who make too much or who need to make concessions, there’s a way to deal with thatthe bargaining table.
I saw my father-in-law go through this same scenario after he retired from Harrison Radiator. Two years into his retirement, they jerked the rug out from under him and said, “Oh hey, sorry about that. Your contract doesn’t exist anymore.” Gone was half his pension and gone was more than half of his health insurance benefits. Anyone who knows people in the area that went through this know what I’m talking about. It’s criminal. To see a similar situation brewing on Medina’s own horizon is horrifying. And to see it possibly happen to the people who risk their lives for us? Even worse.
So what to do? It seems as though everyone is being told there are only two solutions: Dissolve, or Be Crushed (by overwhelming taxation and duplication of services). But this notion that there is only one solution is not true. There are at least two other options.
One, the three sides need to get back to the work already begun on shared services talks. If voters (from any of the three entities) feel that there is stonewalling or an unwillingness to cooperate from any elected official then that is the time to exercise your voting rights and your right to run for office.
And two, the towns and the village need to press the state to be more forthcoming with the monies that are rightfully ours. (Click here to see “State shortchanges villages with aid, leading to their demise” and Click here to see “Here’s a resolution that every elected official in Orleans should support.”
Both ideas are a place to begin. I hope that on Tuesday, the villagers of Medina vote No on dissolution, and give shared services and cooperation a real chance.
On Wednesday, I hope all of us can begin anew: the Village of Medina, the Town of Ridgeway, and the Town of Shelby, dedicated as one to autonomy, to representation, and to cooperation.