Archive for October 30th, 2007

Chapter office hours

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

I’ve begun holding “union office hours” over the past few weeks. The following is the tentative schedule for the rest of the semester.

  • Tuesday, November 6 — Sarasota, 1-2:30 pm, Einstein’s.
  • Tuesday, November 13 — Tampa bookstore cafe, 10-11:30 am.
  • Tuesday, November 27 — date held open (for St Pete if a conflict does not arise).
  • Tuesday, December 4 — Tampa bookstore cafe, 10-11:30 am

Draft agenda for Nov 2 meeting

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Tentative agenda for Friday’s meeting, 12 pm, EDU 413, Tampa campus:

  1. Agenda amendments/approval
  2. Introductions
  3. Specific concerns
    1. Nursing
    2. Lakeland
  4. Taxation and Budget Reform Commission
  5. Bargaining
  6. Reports (grievances, treasury, communications, political action, membership)
  7. Other business
  8. For the good of the order

When rigidity is the rule

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

At yesterday’s collective-bargaining session between USF’s administration and the Police Benevolent Association, the administration proposed one-time cash bonuses this year (beyond the legislative mandate) that would be tied to disciplinary records. This isn’t a bonus on top of some base increase but the vast majority of whatever university police could receive.

I’m sure that the administration wants to impose this condition to rationalize, incentivize, or at least jargonize supervision of university police. But the no-reprimand condition on the main chunk of money in the first year of the contract would have unintended consequences. My understanding is that a significant proportion of mild reprimands come when members of a police force exercise their discretion in a situation where their supervisor disagrees with the judgment of the officer on the ground. If the person has met the standards for the department with mild reprimands, then there are two fundamental problems:

  • If the person is on the force with reprimands that prevent a raise — and denying a raise is a significant punishment for behavior — then the university is saying that they’re keeping substandard people on the force merely because they can fog a mirror.
  • If a police officer knows that using her or his discretion is the greatest risk to a raise, then there will be no discretion used. If you’re going 3 mph over the campus speed limit, you get a ticket. If there’s any doubt about what happened in a dormitory argument, the police officer will have a significant incentive to intervene instead of trying education and conflict management.

UFF doesn’t represent police; PBA is a separate union, but we have to watch what happens with our fellow unions, and sometimes attempts to “rationalize” are simply irrational.


Property taxes and public services

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

While the legislature agreed on a second property-tax-cut deal, the signals (see the article) are that the Florida Education Association will oppose the proposal. Though it will not directly affect education, the rhetoric around property taxes assumes that we can have a free lunch in Florida. If we want a state economy that relies on more than tourism and agriculture and that provides equal opportunities for all, we have to spend money. The state cannot go into a deficit, and in the past decade the state has put a greater burden for education funding onto local property taxes. So the money has to come from somewhere. While I’d love to see the distribution of funding shift back towards the state, I fear that slashing local tax revenues will put a greater burden on the state at a time of significant economic weaknesses.

And there is already the need at the state level to invest more in education… or, as the St. Pete Times editorial put it today, we have tough choices for higher education (and all education).

Governments need to be frugal, and I am not going to defend irresponsible spending. Personally, I agree with those who think higher education is a cheap date. But other services cost money, and the reason why spending has risen at the local level in recent years is partly because spending in Florida was depressed for so long. We don’t know what the effects of the proposed tax cuts will be, and I am skeptical that it is wise policy. To pretend that eviscerating the tax base is good governance is not fiscal responsibility.

Update:  According to analysts at the Florida Education Association, the proposal that will be on the ballot in late January will take almost $3 billion from K-12 school funding over 5 years.