After sitting in on the hearing at the Common Pleas Court on the morning of December 1, 2011, I reached the following conclusions:
1. One of the reasons the city is in a fiscal crisis is because historically city officials and the mayor in particular get in bed with municipal employees unions, particularly the police and fire unions.
2. Elected officials do not negotiate with the municipal employee unions, they collude with them because the bottom line for elected officials is getting elected and getting elected or reelected without the support of municipal employees is hard as hell.
3. One of the ways elected officials have paid off municipal employees for their political support is transferring money out of the Capital Improvement account into the General Account.
4. Elected officials are reluctant to spend the Capital Improvement monies on capital improvements—roads, sewers, municipal buildings—because capital improvements do not vote.
5. People vote and municipal employees are people; increasing their wages and benefits makes political sense because they not only vote for the colluding public officials, they campaign for them.
6. The police and fire personnel are very good at campaigning. They do not hesitate to use scare tactics to get voters, especially elderly voters, to vote for measures, such as the increase in the city income tax, that are favorable to police and fire personnel.
7. Now that the city income tax has passed by a narrow margin, police and especially fire personnel are campaigning to get the transfer of unused money in the Capital Improvement account, where it can be used only for capital improvements, into the General Fund, where it can be used to further increase salaries and benefits for police and fire personnel.
8. Municipal unions, and particularly the fire and police unions, give unionism a bad name. Unions that must engage in real negotiations, such as teachers, who are not invited to get into bed with elected officials, are blamed for the higher taxes that result from the increased cost of salaries and benefits of public employees, particularly the police and fire personnel.
9. City solicitor Mike Jones represents the interests not of the taxpayers of Portsmouth but of the municipal unions, particularly the fire department union.
Fiscalholic CitySolicitor Mike Jones, who represents the Police and Fire Unions in city government
10. Both Auditor Williams and Solicitor Jones vowed to Judge Marshall that if he transfers the funds, they will do everything they can to see that the city puts its fiscal house in order. Williams is not an alcoholic but he is a fiscalholic. Some of his answers to questions were so non-responsive and strange as to suggest he is in an extreme stage of fiscalholicsm.
11. If Judge Marshall agrees to the transfer he will be enabling fiscalholics in city government to continue what is by now a long standing practice or robbing the Capital Improvement Fund to pay for salaries and benefits for municipal employees.
12. The Municipal Building is the most glaring example of what happens when Capital Improvement monies are not used for capital improvements. People are very important, including rank and file municipal employees, but so is Portsmouth’s infrastructure, and that is what Capital Improvement monies should be spent on.
Capital Improvement funds have not been properly used to maintain the Municipal Building
The participation of Frank Gerlach and Jane Murray in the hearing, speaking against the transfer, was outstanding; they are probably the most capable mayors Portsmouth has had in the last half century. We should not give up on Portsmouth when we have people like them speaking up for taxpayers.