Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bodack speaks...

I've been in talks with Len Bodack, a candidate for the state house seat in the 21st district, and he has responded to comments left on this blog and outlined his platform. I'll be posting this in three parts since there is a lot to cover.

I also plan on scheduling a sit down interview with Bodack to learn even more about his campaign.

From Bodack:

As a member of City Council my duty was to represent the residents, not the newspapers. I have always disagreed with the state’s granting tax exemptions to special business interests like insurance companies, financial institutions and newspapers.

It was a campaign issue when I ran for office, so I never expected them (local newspapers) to endorse me for anything. As a result, when I make positive news, I usually don’t receive any mention, unless it’s something that may be negative or controversial.

What you won’t find in the newspapers:

One reason that members of city council held out on the Act 47 vote (June-Nov 2004) was to protect our work force from being completely dismantled by the Republicans in the legislature. While demanding that the city privatize its workforce, there was no mechanism in place for displaced workers to bid to keep their jobs.

That standoff by Council resulted in language being added to the Act 47 legislation to allow “managed competition” enabling city workers to competitively bid on services they provided to residents as an alternative to privatization. This gives the work force a chance to cut costs by competitive bid, and also protects the taxpayers from being overcharged by the private sector for services.

A few examples:

The forced privatization of the city garage ended up costing taxpayers $1 million more in 2006 than budgeted and another estimated $2.5 million in cost overruns in 2007. Act 47 projected $1.8 million savings per year. The city has just renewed the contract with First Vehicle for $14.7 million over 27 months, $3 million more than the original 36 month contract. That’s a 67% increase.

Where are the savings?

When city refuse workers bid the trash contract through managed competition, the net result equaled $1.2 million savings for city taxpayers. The working people knew the job. They showed us how to do it better. Now we have a happier, more productive work force and the taxpayers benefit. I have always and will continue to stand up for working people.

You may have recently heard how city refuse workers began trash pickups for Wilkinsburg residents. (The eastern borough pays the city about $722,000 a year, saving an estimated $250,000 from what it might have paid a private hauler.) The city is discussing similar deals with other governments. That is inter-governmental cooperation. Working together to find cost effective solutions using shared resources.

In 2006 we didn’t ask to be removed from Act 47. We were asking the Secretary of DCED to evaluate our progress and establish benchmarks, to gauge how far we had come and understand where we needed to be, to remove the negative stigma of being a distressed municipality.

We passed a similar motion last fall and are waiting for the Secretary’s response. When I was elected in 2003 we had a staggering budget gap and were projected to end the year $35 million in debt. In the 2005, we took advantage of a favorable bond market and managed to refinance and reduce long term debt and put together a modest capital budget ($26 million) to pave streets, buy police cars and fire trucks without borrowing ($50 million new bonds were recommended by the Act 47 recovery plan).

We reduced our workforce by 23%. Council cut all departmental budgets by 15% and its own budget by 34%!

The legislative process is difficult to understand. The best analogy that comes to mind would compare it to attending a Steelers game. Your perspective of the game has a lot to do with where you are seated. You may not be able to see the replay if you are seated under the scoreboard, but may have a totally different opinion of the game from seats on the 50 yard line.

Even as we continue to move towards more open and transparent government, it is difficult for people to see everything that is happening at any given time. In today’s busy world we rely on the media too much for information. It is unfortunate that there is so much news for public consumption and someone else gets to decide what is important to people.

All that I can do is try to set the record straight. As I am not in the business of selling advertising or newspapers, I don’t need to manufacture the news or promote any agenda other than that of the people that I was elected to represent.

I think it's great that Bodack has addressed certain issues such as the Act 47 recovery plan. More information will be forthcoming and will help local Democrats make an educated decision on April 22.

Working to keep you posted...


Anonymous said...

Thanks Len for addressing the negative remarks against you. We will back you 100%. We need someone like you to represent us.

Anonymous said...

I will help you get elected in any way I can.