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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

PPL Board Talks In Circles




PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - October 23, 2012

Ever see a blind dog chase its own tail?

After sitting in for over two hours at the Plattsburgh Public Library Board of Trustees this evening I felt I had witnessed a lot of circling around issues, the same points repeated ad nauseam, but no decisive action.

Yes, it’s not easy working with others in a group setting.  Various viewpoints have to be considered.  That’s how the democratic process works.  Unfortunately at times the process is inefficient.  Group dynamics twist upon themselves.

I can’t criticize every individual on the board.  Each one cares in his or her own way but in the end the PPL Board of Trustees comes across as dysfunctional.
There are problems the Board must address, especially in the area of the city budget process.  Mayor Donald Kaszpzak’s proposed budget for next year includes cutting out $60,000 from PPL.  If this action does proceed, certain undesirable matter will strike the air circulation propeller.

As I detailed about a year ago at this blog there was a lot of controversy about how to address a budget shortfall at the public library.  The trustees decided to take the simple way out and lay off staff.

Fortunately city Councilor Tim Carpenter came to the rescue with an alternative plan that meant no layoffs, just hours cut and other concessions.  It seemed that this would be the set-up for the next four years, the city contributing $60,000 per year to keep the library going.  But the catch is that contribution has to be approved every year.

This evening at the PPL Board meeting there was discussion, more discussion, and even more discussion how the trustees should present its case on behalf of the library to the city council.  As council liaison Tim Carpenter pointed out, the mayor proposes a budget but the council has the final say.

After Carpenter left the meeting John Prim (Ward I) proposed that the Board should act as if the $60,000 wouldn’t be approved, going back to the option last year to lay off people.

Board Vice President Sally McSweeney (Ward IV) mentioned that if the $60,000 contribution from the city didn’t continue, the new agreement made with the PPL employees union would be null and void, thus the old contract would kick in.

As one observer familiar with the situation has mentioned to me such a scenario doesn’t bode well for the city.  Besides the public backlash over PPL employees who made concessions in good faith and still end up being tossed out in the street, other city unions could also raise a stink.  The city has been pointing at the PPL contract, telling other unions that if PPL had to make concessions then they must also.  A return to that old contract wouldn’t give the city anything to point at.

For some reason trustee John Prim acted as if he shouldn’t be an advocate for the library, its patrons and employees.  He had admitted defeat, ready to cut jobs.  Ward III trustee Harold Brohinsky pointed out that it seems that the mayor won’t fight the council over the $60,000 to avoid another public relations war.  But Prim didn’t pick up on that.

The meeting spun around and around.  A consensus couldn’t be raised about how the Board should present its case to the city council.

A couple of trustees said that the Board should have a united front, advocating for the best on the part of PPL.  On the other hand John Prim was ready to wave the towel as a white flag before throwing it into the ring.

The Board then went into executive session to secretly discuss who knows what.  I had to leave, walk away.

I didn't mind.  It was a relief to my sore ass.

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