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Longboat Key Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 10 years ago

Letters to the editor


+ Firefighters’ union contract is
a tool for labor and management

Dear Editor:
After reading several less than flattering articles in The Longboat Observer’s “Our View” column over many months, the Longboat Key firefighters union feels compelled to respond.

Union contracts are a tool for both labor and management. They allow both sides to negotiate a document, which sets forth both managements rights, organizational control and individual employees’ rights within a collective bargaining environment. The document also identifies labor’s responsibilities to the town.

In regard to our negotiations with the Town of Longboat Key, all the union is looking to do is to negotiate a safe and equitable workplace. Our responsibility is to make sure employees are treated fairly but to also be fair to the town. An up-to-date competitive labor agreement is a mechanism to help keep the town equal in regard to comparisons with other fire-rescue agencies in the surrounding area, which provide the same services. This aids the town in the recruitment of quality, experienced firefighter/paramedics — a point stressed by the town manager many times in the past. It also helps in the retention of quality personnel.
Individual parts of any proposal to the town are simply negotiable items; there are no expectations from our side that every part of a particular proposal will be agreed upon in its entirety.

The addendum items submitted by the union represent the “quid pro quo” of collective bargaining. The last two years, employees have received no cost-of-living allowance (COLA). Step-plan, pay-grade increases in the contract were withheld. Our health-insurance premiums were substantially increased. This year, benefits were further cut from the health-care package. We have given concessions to the town over the last few years.

The town’s negotiator is unwilling to negotiate in a reasonable manner. Any and all proposals the union brought to the table have been rejected. The “new work schedule” proposal made to the town by the union was found to be both beneficial to management and employees alike. This finding was made after researching fire-rescue agencies currently utilizing the schedule. Hours worked do not change with this schedule (56 hours per week). There is no cost to the town and there may even be some savings in the areas of overtime cost and sick leave.

The union also feels that The Longboat Observer’s accusations of the organization having a “monopoly cartel” are insulting, inaccurate and irresponsible journalism. In this great country we have the right under our system of government and laws to negotiate a labor contract based upon fairness, equity and free speech; the very same rights that gives The Observer the ability to publish “Our View” in the first place.
Finally, in regard to putting out a request for proposals to invite competitors to bid on providing fire-rescue services here on Longboat Key, please note that this was already performed. The town manager did research and found that neighboring fire-rescue agencies could not provide cost-effective services at the same level that the town is paying for its own tax-based funded agency.

Our question is, if this letter ultimately is not published by The Observer, who has the monopoly then?
Keith Tanner
District vice president
Longboat Key District of International
Association of Firefighters

+ Commissioners should allow Harry’s to have an exemption
Dear Editor:
I would like to add one short statement to the thought-provoking letter to the editor that Connie and George Cosbar wrote on Nov. 26 concerning Harry’s Restaurant. I would hope that the commissioners, in their infinite wisdom, can find a way to allow this lovely restaurant to have an exemption of some sort so that there can be outdoor dining this season until a more legal way can be found in the ensuing months. If there is a will, there is a way.
Jack Eagleton
Longboat Key

+ Lee Pokoik would be an asset
as a town commissioner

Dear Editor:
Lee Pokoik will be an asset to the Longboat Key Town Commission if elected. He is a successful business leader in real estate, retail and other industries. Pokoik is currently the president of Country Club Shores Unit V and has a long history of community involvement. He has always been a catalyst for meaningful change and will be a facilitator for change in Longboat Key.

Pokoik is a concerned Longboat citizen who wants local government to work as hard as he will for the taxpayer. I am pleased that we have a candidate who is successful both in his profession and  as a community leader — a man  who is willing to lend his experiences and expertise to our community.
Rosemary and Bill Dilgard
Longboat Key

+ Commission needs to change its thinking
Dear Editor:
I’ve been coming to Longboat every year since 1986, have had a home here long enough to consider myself a resident and love the island. I am a travel writer and author. I am very worried about the thinking of our current Town Commission.

The fact that Longboat Key Club was forced to plead, like an errant school boy, to invest millions of dollars in our local economy is baffling. In such difficult economic times it is verging on fiscally irresponsible to risk losing such an investment, especially by a highly respected contributor to the status of the island.

The most frequently voiced objection was increased traffic. This would seem to be a valid concern until one realizes that the vast majority of vehicles thundering through Longboat is thru-traffic. I understand that as many as seven out of 10 vehicles are simply using our island as a fast, stoplight-free alternative to Highway 41. Thru-traffic is a destructive parasite, contributing nothing but noise and pollution.

There seems to be obvious solutions to this: Zone Longboat Key as a tourist/retirement/residential community, ban heavy trucks (unless for access), introduce bridge tolls, have traffic lights that limit speed to 25 mph, have mandatory-stop pedestrian crossings — cheap and effective. (These are) all the basic things that, in Europe, we would expect in a tranquil resort.

There is no place on an island like Longboat Key for a fast highway. The Town Commission’s utter failure to discourage thru-traffic seems to me to be negligence. Instead, it has wasted countless hours and money on trivial matters and high-profile public hearings where I was embarrassed to witness certain officials grandstanding, pontificating and drawing as much attention to themselves as possible.

The council has spent thousands of dollars meddling in Sarasota’s affairs. Sarasota should be commended for proposing to encourage pedestrians by building roundabouts linking downtown and the Bayfront Park/Marina Jack area. Why is our Town Commission butting in? It seems to think that high-speed roads are the best way to keep traffic moving quickly through Longboat Key. It seems to think that fast-moving traffic means less traffic.

And this, I think, is the heart of the problem. In prospering cities and towns all over the world, local governments have learned that pedestrian-friendly streets bring friendly pedestrians and a much more pleasant quality of life. St. Armands Circle is a shining example of this. Fast roads only bring pollution, noise, failing shops and businesses and, inevitably, increased crime. It has been proven beyond doubt all over the world that faster roads simply attract more and more traffic.

In failing to act on the huge amount of thru-traffic on Gulf of Mexico Drive and trying to stop pedestrian-friendly initiatives, our Town Commission shows tired and outdated thinking. We need fresh minds, we need lively commissioners who are not entrenched in old ways and old-fashioned ideas that simply don’t work. We need a Town Commission that can rise to modern challenges before Longboat Key becomes like Daytona Beach.
Graham Forbes
Longboat Key


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