Franceschini, Jachniewicz and Walsh announced earlier this month that they were not seeking, and would not accept, the unions’ endorsement. “Basically, someone will be evaluating how the costs and givebacks work on all contracts with the city,” Franceschini said, “and we wouldn’t want to give an impression that we were siding with any particular union.”
Last year, the City Council approved a 6.6 percent “deficit reduction surcharge,” bringing the total tax increase for the year to 14.5 percent. The $83.4 million budget the council approved in May for fiscal 2013-14 includes a 1.5 percent tax increase, which is below the state’s tax cap of 2.19 percent.
Mandel and his running mates attributed the increases to “the extreme financial mismanagement that the prior administration kept secret from residents.” They insist that the city is in much better financial condition than it was two years ago, when they took over, after four years of Republican “mismanagement.” The city lifted its declaration of a fiscal crisis last month, after Moody’s Investors Service revised its Baa3 credit rating outlook from negative to stable, citing the current administration’s “improved financial controls and policies leading to two balanced budgets.”
Mandel also said that the recently approved contract with the PBA — a compounded 22.7 percent increase that includes five years of retroactive pay and incremental hikes through fiscal year 2014 — brought an end to years of costly contract negotiations. Last year, the City Council voted to give an arbitrator the authority to decide on a seven-year deal, retroactive to 2008 and running through June 30, 2015.
“We came in after the CSEA was awarded their contract and the PBA contract was decided by an arbitrator,” Mandel said.
In a statement, Franceschini, Jachniewicz and Walsh emphasized that they are not anti-union, but that elected officials should not be beholden to any special interest group. “We have seen too many sweetheart deals that have been made at the taxpayers’ expense,” the statement said. “We are running as independent, reform-minded candidates and as such we feel it’s important to take this position for the residents of the city.”
They told the Herald that they are committed to the city’s recovery. If elected, they said, they would evaluate the city’s post-storm projects, and they criticized the administration for placing too much emphasis on the boardwalk instead of critical infrastructure, saying that the city is not prepared for another major storm.