MOSTLY TRUE: Gainey’s Reliance on Union Making Messes

A big service workers’ union helped elect a mayor to better support its own interests and those of its allies — instead of building trades unions, the “nonprofits” or private enterprise. Nice.

All the same, that service union is now defensively blundering through the whole Mayor’s administration inflicting real costs attempting regulatory capture.

City voters have made pretty clear they want their Mayor to challenge the “nonprofits” property tax exemptions as best appropriate. Meanwhile that Mayor also needs to negotiate developments, philanthropic initiatives, and investments that might be considered payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) in the event those taxing challenges are successful.

Dramatically preconditioning effective cooperation on unionization invites blurred objectives and missed opportunities. Delivering that precondition at the outset of negotiations with new leadership on both sides can seem like a shakedown. Seeing the whole spoonfeeding process from the interested political benefactor exposed must be embarrassing. And nominating that SEIU Heathcare’s VP / mayoral transition chair / negotiating czar to the City Planning Commission might raise enough red flags for City Council to pocket it pending a hard think.

When it comes to cozy deals on the building trades side, the harms of a Weinstein are as difficult to quantify: less competitive contracting here, less flexible management there, more neglect in the blind spots of the special interest, until we wind up with 10 years dithering and missed opportunity at ALCOSAN.

When it came to the public schools, we saw the pattern reflected with the teachers and administrators under Superintendent Hamlet, the flying over-promiser under-deliverer whp resigned under cloud of an ethics report.

Soon we may see it when UPMC countersues the City for impartiality either to retain its tax exemptions or grow its footprint on its own wholly legal terms or both — or else simply in terms of a “cold war” of spite more costly than it needs to be.

But even now we see it in an administration that moves slowly, haltingly and secretively on its commitments from public safety to bridges to shepherding development: one outfitted to guard ambitious but narrow interests, loath to fully empower other experts and overextended. The other, former SEIU VP is in charge of 10 City departments and all but formally outranks the chief of staff, but without prior government experience and little oversight. They’re emulating Alexander the Great in a quest to roll up an empire while the weather, luck and supply lines hold out, but they’re getting stretched thin.

MORE: Lamb says we’ve got to engage with our largest employer, even/especially as they’re our largest pain. He also calls the $8 million a year “left on the table” a “big number” though I’m not sure if that was a fungible $8 million or all tied up with strings.

MEANWHILE: The latest from Rick Earle on the incoming police chief with more on the process from Kail-Smith, who’s in accord with the Director of the Citizen’s Police Review board on this, which is wild.

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