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January 26, 2015

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North Las Vegas officials say forced concessions were only option left

The unprecedented decision for North Las Vegas surprised no one at the special city council meeting Friday.

City council members voted unanimously to grant special authority to City Manager Tim Hacker to force unions to agree to concessions to balance the $30.9 million budget gap. Union leaders in attendance met the decision with a resigned silence, predicting the outcome days before the meeting, while city officials remained stoic.

No one claimed to want this course of action, but city council members and Mayor Shari Buck deemed it necessary after nearly six months of failed negotiations.

“We hoped that the council would hear the action, consider the backup material and realize, as I think was said several times, this is not a chosen course of action, just one that they were pressed into taking,” Hacker said.

The result of the city’s action means starting July 1, salaries for police, firefighters and city workers will be frozen, layoffs will occur and non-emergency city services will be cut back, among other concessions.

More than 75 citizens and union members attended the meeting. Most sat emotionless, accepting the fate, but a few voiced frustration or support for the decision. City employee Daniele Monroe-Moreno received the loudest applause for her speech.

Her words tumbled out rapidly, as if trying to suppress the anger lumped in her throat. She expressed frustration at the city’s mismanagement, and cited it as just another case of the city breaching contracts as far back as 2009. When she was done, many of the attendees erupted with cheers against the unfazed city council members.

“We felt pretty confident from what we were going to hear from some of the speakers,” said Pamela Goynes-Brown, councilwoman from Ward 2. “Some always throw a monkey wrench in it or say something unexpected.”

Although no police or firefighter union leaders spoke in the public forum, they will now decide if they will file a lawsuit against the city. Both Mike Yarter, president of the Police Officers Association, and Leonard Cardinale, president of the Police Supervisors Association, said they will look into lawsuits.

“The problem is not the concessions, it’s that they’re violating the law to get them,” Cardinale said. “We cannot stand back and allow them to reach into a contract and take stuff whenever they want under some provision in a law that doesn’t apply.”

If the unions win the lawsuit, Hacker said it could mean more than 217 layoffs among the police and firefighters, even those in emergency services. Cardinale said that is something the city would decide to do, not a direct result of union actions.

Hacker said the city is prepared to go to court and thinks if the judges see all the facts, the city will win the case.

“I just hope if it goes to court … it takes the time to evaluate all the facts and doesn’t rush to a conclusion one way or another,” Hacker said. “I think there needs to be a fair evaluation of the facts.”

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  1. Under Mayor Buck's shaky leadership, this long over due action was necessary. However,because the NRS statute that is being relied on by City appears clearly to not cover financial emergencies, I would expect that any lawsuit brought by the unions against the City will ultimately prevail. I therefore expect the court to reverse this City Council decision.
    Nonetheless,the City will of necessity be requiered to slash more costs, and if they do not, the State will enter the picture and take over the City's finances, in which case the already hard pressed residents of North Las Vegas will be faced with tax increases.

    One thing is certain. New leadership at the Mayor's position is required. Mayor Buck has presided over the creation of this financial crisis and she must go. Former Councilman Richard Cherchio who lost his seat by a disputed one vote in the last election will hopefully find his way back into a leadership role on the Council to work with Anita Woods, who has done a terrific job as well. Cherchio is a dedicated and tireless servant of the people of North Las Vegas, and the City would be well served by a return of Cherchio to a leadership postion on the Council.

  2. Finally some leadership. This won't be enough to cut city employee compensation all the way down to REASONABLE levels. NLV (and LV, CC, CCSD) have some of the HIGHEST PAID public employees, according to the LV Chamber of Commerce. We are overtaxed to support unsustainable greed. Let's hope we get enough rational action even though it's gonna hurt some.

  3. If North Las Vegas (which already has the Highest Property Taxes in the Region) increases taxes, they will just take a Hit on Property Values and Taxes will again decline and any potential future growth will be Dead.

    I just paid for a building Permit in NLV, which I was told is twice as much in NLV as anywhere else. So guess what - most people are no longer getting Building Permits for small jobs, the City gets a Poor Reputation and Much Less Income because of poor rule making.

    The level of City Incompetence seems Stunning. From unopened Parks (Craig Rd), to Sewer Plant run-off Bug Infestations, to the Police not responding to Burglar Alarms unless a Real Person at the site calls, to the numerous unfinished land parcels without sidewalks and proper drainage, the list just goes on and on.

    This city charter should be eliminated and the city brought under Las Vegas Control. The savings from the expenses to maintain NLV's bureaucracy should keep Las Vegas from incurring additional expenses.

  4. Love the Union Haters...

    rhetoric & meaningless, misplaced anger at public employees will not help NLV one single bit.

    This maneuver is destined to fail, of course, and rightly so; law-breaking as budget-balancing is not a logical approach.

    Leadership is essential in tough times;
    too bad NLV, like the rest of Nevader has a gigantic, humongous leadership vacuum.

    From the Gov'ner on down...
    to the lowest political clown
    the likes of Sheri Buck
    have made this place a cluster puck.

  5. A bad situation for all concerned, the unions refusal to conduct themselves in a respectable manner is appalling. Accusing local elected officials of lying, using tactics of intimidation and coercion on the citizens and choosing loss of livelihood for some of their own over forgoing future increases is almost impossible to put into perspective.

    If these union members were given fitness reports that graded their loyalty, that category would be unacceptable. If like Marines, one of the many critical criteria on their fitness reports was the reporting seniors comments on whether they would want to serve in combat with this officer or not, I'm afraid based on what I have seen and heard, I would have to write Do Not Desire. Both are career killers in that service, but apparently acceptable by their standards.

    When faced with a serious crises that could impact on the safety of our families and communities these folks chose to cannibalize their own ranks and threaten those they protect. Given the opportunity, I would choose to clean house and start over. Let them find employment elsewhere. I don't know if I can trust them. I wonder.

  6. Dale Swanson: I'd serve with you. Great post!!

  7. As Mr. Lucky points out, contract signers have been pressured by unions and "arbitrators" that figure the city can always raise taxes so lots of money is available. There is no way these contracts are legal--they are not negotiated in good faith. Say, and wouldn't new employees at entry level help clear out the deadwood? We can eliminate all the seniority and "merit" raises and perks.

  8. I am truly sorry to see good people out of a job. But wonder why Unions are so out of touch with our new reality. Our country is in financial troubles, to the point where a tiny nation called Greece can make or break our own recovery. I am just a regular guy who has been underemployed for more than two years without benefits, pension, or paid sick leave. I don't hate Unions members just wonder why they don't feel my pain.

  9. It's outrageous that they are allowed to continue like this. Their positions,their promotions and their salaries should be "frozen" immediately until further notice..END OF SUBJECT !! There is NO backbone to any of the local officials.what a town !!

  10. Perhaps it's time for the Nevada Legislature to consider passing the requisite law to allow public agencies to file "municipal bankruptcy". I say that for two reasons.

    First municipal bankruptcy keeps the elected officials in power, so they have to act in a rational way to resolve the public agency's debts...or answer to the voters. Orange County and the City of Vallejo California have successfully worked their way through and exited bankruptcy in an orderly way which treated all unsecured creditors equally, which is what the Bankruptcy Code requires.

    Second, the alternative of "state control" of a local public agency usually has results which makes voters feeling disenfranchised and very unhappy. The State of California has taken over the operation of 2 public school systems, controlled them for many years, and accomplished nothing in terms of improving academics. In New York State, state government appointed financial controllers have taken over cities, counties and school districts all over the state, and it's rare to find a voter who is happy with the decisions by the financial controller or the results of the financial controller's decisions. Allowing not-elected financial controllers to "raise local taxes" is particularly abhorrent to voters who believe in the Founding Fathers maxim "No taxation without representation".

    Nevada has 4 very bright bankruptcy judges, and I personally think that they could keep a bankrupt city, be it North Las Vegas or some other agency, on the straight and narrow in terms of treating all creditors equally. Even though he decided that the Las Vegas Monorail was not a public agency, Bankruptcy Judge Bruce Markell did an exemplary job forcing Monorail's managers and creditors to be realistic in straightening out the mess Monorail's founders had created.

    Without public agency bankruptcy being allowed in Nevada, there are no meaningful rules of the road like there are in bankruptcy to insure fair and equal treatment for all unsecured creditors. Instead, if the state takes over North Las Vegas or any other public agency, there wil be chaos and wasteful litigation. Imagine what would happen if a big public agency like Southern Nevada Water Authority or Las Vegas Valley Water District went belly up.

  11. Take it easy everybody! Everybody is right and everybody is wrong, disagree to agree! This city has been in trouble since before 2008. North Las Vegas grew too fast, with homes that were more than the market ever needed, built by some homebuilders that were looking for the fast buck before the bottom fell. Believe me, they knew it was coming down the road! The simple fact that the city counsel and staff knew the end was near, didn't mean that the ride was over yet. "Ride that buck bull till it don't buck no more" says my daddy.
    You think they cared when they had the ground breaking for the new $127 million dollar government building in North Las Vegas in June '09? Okay financial problems in '08 and the housing is hitting rock bottom and ground breaking for this building in '09, really?
    There was a lot of people opposed to this, but the city counsel and staff stabbed at it again and greased their own palms folks! Look at the builder and all the people that were all involved, that's your homework if you really care! The city is down and out since before '08, and as long as it still bucks my friends, they are going to ride you till the ends!
    Oh and before you start blasting me that is was the only error the city has ever had you best look into all the wasteful money decision issues the city counsel and staff have had compared to the other city counsels in the Clark area! And I don't mean union contracts either folks! It's called bad decisions, look up Reno!
    The city is DEAD and bleeding! What do you do with something that has no life left, start over folks! Becoming part of Clark County and/or the City of Las Vegas isn't bad. Just going to jack up the money flow for the first four years, and you might still lose about the same amount of jobs that you are right now. Seriously! Had this been done before, none of this would of happened!
    But nobody wants to be called a quitter, even though you know your down by 30 points with no time on the clock! Sorry North Las Vegas, the leaders weren't there for you, but for themselves! But you've know this because of the issues you've had for the last 4 YEARS!!!

  12. We need to see REASONABLE compensation, salary cuts until on par with similar work else where but in the area. Like would a line supervisor (who in the city starts about $80K plus benies) get more than $50K and only SS coverage? Cutting just to close the budget hole is not enough--do a 10-15% right away and discuss the research on what comparable pay is. GET IT DONE. Otherwise we're holding off real recovery. We should be CUTTING TAXES instead of spending excessively. "Make up" for the lack of stewardship in the last 10 years. Make up for reckless arbitrators who've awarded unconscionable raises.