As I’m sure you are aware, on July 25th Governor Patrick signed into law key provisions of the Municipal Partnership Act. These provisions are designed to cut costs, as well as create new revenue in order to facilitate meaningful property tax relief in cities and towns across the Commonwealth. Paramount is the focus on PARTNERSHIP and providing cities and towns with “options” to promote fiscal well-being. One such option is allowing municipal unions to collectively join into the State’s Group Insurance Commission Health Plan. This option, known as GIC, has received broad-based support from many government officials, community leaders, professional organizations, labor unions and ordinary citizens who have given their time and effort to lobby officials on Beacon Hill and rally support in their communities.
However, it has been acknowledged by the Governor, members of the Legislature and the Massachusetts Municipal Association that ALL options within the MPA may not be equally beneficial or appropriate for ALL cities and towns. Recognizing that fact, the MPA is very specific as to “how” a municipality joins the GIC. It is a structured, evaluative and deliberative process.
Despite this FACT, Mayor Phelan has decided to disingenuously suggest to the residents of Quincy that this is a simple process and that members of Quincy’s Municipal Unions are seeking to financially torture the taxpayers of Quincy to the tune of 8.2 million dollars.
This oversimplification is particularly egregious because Mayor Phelan, who had previously stated in a Ledger OPINION piece last April 16th, (“City employee benefits: Toward a fair solution”) that he felt “honored” to be apart of an organization that had participated in shaping the language, for this specific section of the MPA. For those of you who missed it?
“I was honored to have been appointed a member of the Metropolitan Mayors Association’s Municipal Health Insurance Working Group, where for 18 months I worked with representatives from municipal governments, employee unions and retirees, legislators and executives from the Group Insurance Commission to create such a solution. Our working group crafted legislation, included in Gov. Deval Patrick’s recent Municipal Partnership Act, that would allow communities the local option of joining the state’s insurance plan.”
Mayor Phelan being fully aware that this (1) is an “option” and (2) may NOT appropriate for all cities or towns, is now publicly posing the question as to “WHY” Quincy’s union members feel the need to evaluate the option and its impact, as is permitted for in the provision itself! The impact of selecting the GIC option could have profound ramifications for city employees and their families. It is intellectually dishonest to suggest otherwise to the residents of Quincy and disrespectfully to Quincy employees who want to make an informed decision about something as critical as healthcare.
Mayor Phelan chooses to ignore facts (Quincy’s lack of a PEC and the October 1st deadline) as he ponders what appears to be a mystery to him, while distributing “Taxpayer for Phelan” bumper stickers.
One has to wonder, is it possible he lacks the critical thinking skills to understand the very legislation, that he feels so “honored” to have played a role in developing? Or is there possibly some OTHER motive for publicly making such an absurd query? It is almost if he may have a vested interest in stirring up emotions and dividing the good people of Quincy during a heated election season.
As a strong supporter of the Municipal Partnership Act I have a practical suggestion for Mayor Phelan, if he would like to truly live up to his campaign slogan. (“He is moving Quincy forward.”)
STOP “PLAYING POLITICS” WITH THE MPA!
Last Spring, prior to the legislation’s passage Mayor Phelan attempted to use the MPA as political cover, when at the center of what can only be described as a profound failure of leadership. Essentially, issuing ultimatums to Municipal Union employees to acquiesce their right to the collective bargaining process or direct their concerns towards Beacon Hill (“City employee benefits: Toward a fair solution”, Patriot Ledger, April 16, 2007).
This Fall, Mayor Phelan is attempting to use the GIC option of the Municipal Partnership Act in such a divisive manner, that it is an affront to its most central tenet? Progress towards property tax relief through “PARTNERSHIP”. I respectfully suggest that if Mayor Phelan truly wants to attempt “moving Quincy forward” and encourage the adoption of GIC provision of the MPA, it may be helpful to remember the philosophy of governing from which it was conceived.