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Published: Thursday, 6/18/2009

Facing economic reality

THE brave men and women of the Toledo Police Department deserve the best a grateful city has to offer them in salary and benefits. Unfortunately, because of the city's current budget problems, there is less to offer now than there has been in the past.

Remarkably, the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association and the lawyers representing the union seem oblivious to that basic fact, believing instead that it's business as usual in the rough-and-tumble world of public employee contract negotiations.

It is understandable that the police do not want to make the wage and benefit concessions demanded by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner as he attempts to close the $12.5 million gap in the city's budget, a gap that grows by $100,000 every day nothing is done to address it.

But union officials have their heads in the sand, insisting that income tax revenues will be much better in the second half of the year than the city predicts. Meanwhile, most experts are predicting that unemployment nationally will remain high or even increase for the rest of 2009 and into 2010.

The union's lead lawyer dismisses the seriousness of the fiscal crisis that has led to double-digit unemployment and a precipitous drop in income tax revenue, instead appearing to claim that seeking wage and benefit cuts means Mayor Carty Finkbeiner "doesn't respect the badge."

One could argue persuasively that the mayor, who's had numerous run-ins with residents and employees during his three terms, doesn't show a lot of respect for people in general. But to suggest that asking police - or firefighters, for that matter - to make concessions similar to those being made by all other city workers "disrespects the badge" is a shameful bargaining ploy designed to take advantage of the public's high regard for police and concern that layoffs will lead to more crime.

Mayor Finkbeiner and TPPA are in a standoff, and each is waiting for the other to blink. Barring a miracle economic recovery, time would appear to be on the mayor's side. Every day that goes by without a budget solution makes it harder to fix the problem and more likely that additional layoffs will be necessary.

If more police are laid off, both the out-of-work officers and the residents of Toledo - who expect and deserve adequate police protection - will be the losers. Mayor Finkbeiner and TPPA have it in their power to prevent that, but it's going to take flexibility that has so far been absent.

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