City of Toledo truck drivers who use their coffee breaks and lunch half-hour to read a newspaper to catch up on sports or a favorite comic may want to consider taking up meditation.
A new policy from the management of the Division of Streets, Bridges, and Harbor prohibits the possession of newspapers and magazines in vehicles owned by the division.
Mark Marzec, superintendent of the division, issued the order June 21, effective July 20.
The policy says, "there will be no types of newspapers and/or magazines allowed in any Streets, Bridges, and Harbor equipment and/or vehicles. Personnel caught with these items will be disciplined."
Mr. Marzec could not be reached for comment.
Bill Franklin, director of the Department of Public Service, said the policy is aimed at avoiding a situation that might irritate taxpayers as they drive by. He said department officials want to improve productivity and resident pride in their work force.
"Being a city worker in a large orange vehicle at a busy intersection is like being in a fish bowl," Mr. Franklin said. "Although most of our workers are productive and aren't goofing off, the perception that a few can give by spreading out a large newspaper across the windshield can cause the perception that we're lazy."
The new policy has caused some consternation among employees of the division, said Don Czerniak, head of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7.
"You're telling me that even on a time period that I'm not being paid for, you're going to control my right to read the newspaper?" Mr. Czerniak asked.
He said workers get two 15-minute breaks and a half-hour lunch break, and it's not uncommon for them to bring a newspaper and read it at those times.
"Usually one guy brings it so everyone can read it," Mr. Czerniak said.
David Welch, commissioner of the division and a former elected member of the Toledo Board of Education, did not accuse drivers of reading the paper while on city time. But he said residents don't know when employees are on break.
"People are out there watching. Let's not be sitting in the truck reading the newspaper," Mr. Welch said.
He said simply prohibiting the reading of newspapers while in a city vehicle would not have been adequate.
"If you have it sitting in the truck - a newspaper or a magazine - you're liable to pick it up," Mr. Welch said.
Mr. Franklin said attempts have been made to discourage reading newspapers while sitting in city-owned vehicles, but the gentle approach wasn't effective.
Mr. Czerniak said for the policy to be applied fairly, employees of city offices in Government Center should be barred from picking up a newspaper from one of the news racks in the lobby and taking it with them to their offices.
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