City Labor Workers Disrupt Budget Meeting

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A disruptive union protest temporarily halted the ongoing budget hearing of the council chamber on Tuesday. The members of the Union local 521 that represent about 455 city landscapers, parking attendants, library workers, and others protested at the Town Lock, prior to their march to the city hall for the public meeting.

In the middle of contract negotiations with the city, the union members rallied about their “poverty wages.” The Region 2 SEIU vice president Matt Nathanson told the city leaders that the county, despite the recession has now recovered because of the city workers. He complained about the 5 cents up to 10 cents pay decrease as the city labor negotiator’s offer, asking the council to accept the $4.4 million in capital project proposal in exchange for a pay increase.

Doris Henry, the local SEIU President said that the city workers have been left out, although the city has started to financially improve, alongside the revering economy. Henry said that the road towards recovery must not continue to pave on the workers’ back.

Together with 6 other protesters, Nathanson was later arrested as they locked their arms in front of the chamber’s speaker podium. The organization refused to stop chanting at the mayor’s request. The room was cleared then, and all 7 were cuffed using plastic zip ties. All of them were charged with misdemeanor and disrupting a public meeting. According to Kevin Vogel, police chief, the 7 protesters were expected to be cited and to be released from custody short of further issues.

After nearly 15 minutes, the council chamber reopened the meeting and resumed the city budget discussion to the public, leading to an implicit approval of community program funding, which has been drafted by an ad-hoc committee of the council.

Jannan Thomas, executive director of the Homeless Services Center was amongst the other agency directors who talked about their services, sharing the news of the agency’s significant lack of federal grant funding.

An earlier topic in the budget meeting involved the council voting without discussion to employ Victus Advisors so as to conduct a $56,000-worth of market and feasibility study for a stable arena facility. The study will last for 4 months. The move was prompted by a seven-year lease of the Kaiser Permanente arena by the 3 seasons of ever-increasing popularity of the county’s basketball team that represents the national level.

The council also approved a pilot project, allowing a limited number of restaurants in street parking spaces so as to extend the seating capacities. The program was initially envisioned as a method to capitalize on a trend that is sweeping the state, creating miniature parks, also called “parklets”, which feature variations of creative public and private use.

But, because of the limited time in creating the pilot program, the city opted to piggyback on the current café extension ordinance, aiming only at restaurants that want to expand their services onto the city sidewalks.

There is also a possibly contentious discussion about the proposed introduction of water system development charge, which will be applied to new water hookups developments, but was tabled to the next meeting.

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Jennifer Alvarez is the Pakistan correspondent for USA News and she is based in the capital city of Islamabad. She had never dreamed that she would become a journalist and was happy and content in her married life after she finished her Masters. She used to move to different cities with her husband and had no firm career in mind. It was then that she joined a women’s magazine as an editorial assistant after she saw an advertisement and appeared for the interview. From that small start, she is now a freelance journalist who works for various reputed newspapers and publications from around the world.

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