December 23, 2009
Alderman McCarthy settles in on Finance Committee
Alderman Terry McCarthy is proving to be a thoughtful member of the City Council's Finance and Personnel Committee - arguably the council's most powerful committee.
On Monday, McCarthy raised questions about a collective bargaining agreement with the city's public health nurses. At a glance, the contract seemed straight forward. The nurses agreed to a 1 percent raise in 2009 and a 0 percent increase in 2010. That adds about $4,100 to the 2009 budget and zero dollars next year.
But McCarthy spotted a provision that would allow city nurses to be paid for unused sick days if they're laid off or their job is outsourced. The clause in the contract is relatively minor. The city rarely lays off or outsources employees, and the payouts for sick days are actually credits for health insurance, not cash payments.
But McCarthy also discovered the nurses would be the first employees in the city to receive this benefit, and the contract could possibly set a precedent for other city unions. Uncomfortable with that possibility, McCarthy voted against the contract.
The contract still passed 2-1 with Alderman Q.A. Shakoor II and Mike Shields voting in favor. Alderman Jim Spangenberg, chairman of the committee, didn't vote because there wasn't a tie. Alderman Bob Anderson, who sits on the committee, wasn't in attendance.
McCarthy's questions, while unsuccessful from his perspective, brought the provision to the public eye and opened it up for debate. Without his inquiry into the contract, it would have passed without consideration. His attention to detail, and willingness to act on that attention, seems to be a good fit for a finance committee that's in charge of taxpayer dollars.