UPDATE: Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Harris, a pledge opponent, said Berding's description of the pledge is disingenuous. "Did Berding's anti-layoff pledge in any way make furloughs a condition? No," Harris said. "The effect of the pledge would have been to prevent the FOP from making any concessions because they wouldn't need to. The manager's only leverage is the threat of layoffs."
ORIGINAL ITEM: Cincinnati City Councilman Jeff Berding believes a council majority is being self-defeating by refusing to sign a Berding-created pledge not to lay off police officers or firefighters in 2010 or 2011.
Also, although Berding concedes he originally included the pledge in a draft motion — which would be a formal government action for City Council’s consideration — that was circulated among council offices, what Berding and three others ultimately signed was merely an informal pledge for campaign purposes.
In an e-mail to CityBeat, Berding wrote that pledging not to lay off police officers or firefighters would help their unions accept a six-day, unpaid furlough to help avoid a $20 million budget deficit this year. Without the assurance, the unions won’t accept the furloughs.
“The pledge will be used by the FOP and Local 48 Firefighters to see where candidates are and help educate members and the public,” Berding wrote. “The draft motion had a Bortz signature line, but we did not proceed with it. The pledge did not have any specified signature lines.”
Berding, a Democrat, and Councilmembers Leslie Ghiz and Chris Monzel, Republicans, held a press conference Thursday on City Hall’s front steps to announce the pledge.
Berding’s e-mail added, “The Police and Fire (departments) will not and should not be held harmless, that they need to work with the administration to come up with cuts to balance the budget. I mentioned the word ‘concessions’ in regards to their contracts. I do want to exempt them from layoffs as I do not think that layoffs in public safety are a wise decision, and would therefore not support them.”
After Berding’s press conference last week, a council majority issued a statement criticizing the pledge as possibly hampering negotiations between the unions and City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. It was signed by Vice Mayor David Crowley and Laketa Cole, Greg Harris and Cecil Thomas, all Democrats; and Roxanne Qualls, a Charterite.
The only councilman who didn’t sign either document was Charterite Chris Bortz.
Berding states that Dohoney told him the pledge wouldn’t be counter-productive.
“I met with Milton Dohoney on Wednesday, in advance of my press conference, and was satisfied that the pledge for 2010-2011 in no way undermines his ability to get help from the unions as we balance 2009,” Berding wrote. “It is ironic that the majority who passed the budget which counted on furloughs is not willing to sign the pledge which would help make the furloughs agreeable to Police and Fire.”