At the 11th hour -- and on the eve of the all-important absentee ballot mailing in Hialeah -- el alcaldito Carlos Hernandez stood for a photo op on the back of a fire rescue truck with the president of the firefighters' union, a man he has maligned for weeks, and basically thumped his chest.
He's going to make it look like he saved the day, like he got the firefighter paramedics in the city -- who have only asked for transparency before they give up everything they have earned -- to let go of some of their "juicy" pay and benefits. But he didn't. The union leadership bent over, er, I mean gave up two days of holiday pay in order to keep paying the 23 fired firefighters (14 working and nine in the academy) until Nov. 30 -- and then they might get fired anyway with the other 35 Dec. 1.That's right, the firefighters are paying their salaries. For this sacrifice out of their own pockets, the city will withdraw it's illegally-imposed impasse -- declared less than two hours into the last bargaining session -- and withdraw the third appeal of a PERC ruling against Hialeah for unfair labor practices (which they would have lost anyway). Oh, and they will "open" their books (which they had to do anyway).
Really? REALLY? The city is going to open books that are public records by Florida law and have to be opened to anybody who asks? I'll believe it when I see it. Or ,maybe they're cooked to look like they're good books, but they won't be. I don't believe that they will show the firefighters everything because there is money hidden there. People have found some already, just in the proposed budget. And the agreement hammered out Thursday after hours of hand-wringing negotiations -- the first time su alcaldito is involved himself -- says the city "agrees to expeditiously provide all financial data requested by the union not otherwise shielded by law from public disclosure." Which sounds like a loophole to Ladra. What's expeditiously? They won't say tomorrow that they are in election time and too busy to look for the records, will they? What financial data is shielded from public disclosure or exempted from public disclosure as per the Florida Government in the Sunshine statute?
What even a dog like Ladra knows is that this was a political strategy thought out weeks ago. If the city had made the offer to the firefighters of giving up the holidays on July 20, when they declared impasse less than two hours into the meeting, there wouldn't have been hundreds of firefighters from the county, Miami, Miami Beach, Broward, Pembroke Pines and other departments there Thursday to show solidarity and basically force su alcaldito into action. But, then again, if the offer had been made then, there likely wouldn't be so many TV cameras to capture the moment a day or two before the absentee ballots -- which have more importance in Hialeah, where AB fraud is rampant and regular. That's why this press release was sent out at 5:40 p.m. (obviously in the works before the agreement was announced at Station One, a block from City Hall):
Under the title, "Hialeah Fire Union Has Made Concessions," the mayor made a self-serving statement that is total spin: "Today, the Hialeah Fire Union has made the necessary concessions, as they have agreed to give up holiday pay for two days in the calendar year. These concessions will allow the City to reinstate the 14 fire fighters who were separated from their jobs on October 1st, 2011, as well as the 9 presently in the Fire Academy."
What he doesn't say is that the savings the city makes of $230,000 on the holiday pay is what they will use to pay those firefighters. In other words, these concessions allow the firefighters to reinstate the 14 firefighters who were fired illegally to pass a bogus budget and the nine who the city has already invested around $100,000 in training and educating (which would have been money down the drain). But let's let him go on.
"Today's actions demonstrate that when two parties negotiate in good faith, a compromise can be achieved for the betterment of our community. I trust this is the beginning of fair and honest negotiations on behalf of the Hialeah Fire Union. As Elected Officials, we recognize that residents and business owners of this community are enduring tough economic times. As leaders, we should tighten our belts during such tough times and not further burden the community by granting concessions on salaries and benefits to unions. If the residents who we work for are making difficult financial choices in their personal lives, then we as public servants must do the same in government. I understand that taking this position is not a popular one amongst unions and employees, but I firmly believe it to be the right one for our community and its residents."
What he means is that today's actions demonstrate the lengths to which the Hialeah firefighters and the fire union leadership -- whose president Mario Pico has worked for 23 years in this community -- will go to protect Hialeahns. That they are better at being public servants than he is. "This allows us to keep serving the residents," Pico said on the fire truck next to his new best friend. "'Cause at the end of the day, it's all about them."
That is why the firefighters have been holding out for so long. It was not to protect their salaries and benefits. The city even offered them a raise three years ago that they declined because it made no sense. They were saving the citizens of Hialeah in a different way. They were treating a different disease -- the tumor and bloodletting at City Hall. And many were not happy about the deal they struck with the devil Thursday.
Hernandez said he, too, did it for the residents "and the future of this city." But if that were true, he would have faced the firefighters himself before. He would have made this offer on July 20. No, this was all about him and the spin and getting a nice photo and statement out before the absentee ballots "drop" (are mailed out) -- which is tomorrow. Friday. They could be in mailboxes as early as Saturday or by Tuesday for sure. Watch for a robocall on the issue to come in the next few days.
On the truck, next to Pico, a man he has lied about and made the focus of his wrath for no good reason, Hernandez stumbled and fumbled -- which usually means they are lying or have something to hide -- when he said the accord showed "we're a family in Hialeah. And sometimes things have to get a certain point. But you know what, I've always said that we might not always be on the same page, but we are a famly in Hialeah... from the top to the bottom, from the residents to the employees. And again, a new day for everybody, the residents, for all the employees, this union -- which again, we have been in sometimes stuck in argument. But you guys know, we know, that at the end of the day we are a family." See the whole video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbIi80As_9Q
Well, if that's true, su alcaldito is the abusive deadbeat dad that pretends to stroke your face while he slaps you with tough love.
And Fire Chief Marcos de la Rosa is some kind of uncle (you know, the one who's always tapping the scotch). "It's a proud day for the city of Hialeah," said de la Rosa, who told Ladra he didn't know the details of the deal . "Our family is back together... and at the end of the day that's what's important. My focus, Elaine, is that I can maintain and keep providing the services and keep my fire department whole. And that's my important part to me." See the video interview, courtesy of Raul Torres, on our youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OT5wawc3W-E
But, wait a minute, Chief. Didn't you and el alcaldito say over and over again, at the budget hearing and all over the place, that there would be no impact to the services from the loss of 40 percent of the fire rescue personnel? Or was that another lie? Political justification?
"Like I said, today is a good day," de la Rosa said.
Not for him, Ladra hopes. The union membership is expected give the chief a vote of no confidence when they meet tonight. He had an opportunity at the budget hearing to couch his words and be a little more compromising instead of handing his guys up. But after the last 24 hours' events, Ladra is not sure of anything. Well, anything except that come Columbus Day and Veteran's Day, the 23 firefighters who were fired will be paid with money taken out of the pockets of the other 248.
And that if Hernandez takes this "victory" -- as he and his lackies have already claimed this deal is -- to the polls, the firefighters who would be fired will likely be paid from giving up Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well. And who knows what else.
Maybe a little respect, too.