Reporting Natalia Zea
MIAMI (CBS4) — Miami’s city manager officially declared a financial urgency Friday afternoon, which will give the city commission the power to cut into the unions, despite what their contracts say.
The City needs to fill a 40-million dollar gap and for the fourth straight year, it appears police, fire, and general union employees will take the hit.
In a letter released by City Manager Johnny Martinez, he stated, “I am declaring a financial urgency with regard to our collective bargaining obligations involving the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 20, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 587, AFSCME Local 1907, AFSCME Local 871.” He stated, “The City will contact the representatives of these employee organizations and begin the 14 day period of negotiations.”
Some Miami residents are not happy with the decision. Maria Schenk said she no longer feels safe living and shopping in Coconut Grove. Her elderly neighbor was attacked recently.
“Ten in the morning two guys from a car slapped her purse, its crazy. We are having a lot of crime,” Schenk told CBS4′s Natalia Zea.
She was upset to learn the City will soon ask for concessions from the police and fire unions to help pay its 40-million dollar budget shortfall.
“I don’t like it, I don’t agree. I think they should find other areas where they can cut because the security of the citizens is the most important thing,” insisted Schenk.
At a meeting Thursday night, the City Commission voted not to raise taxes. In fact, Mayor Tomás Regalado is hoping to lower them. But for the fourth year in a row, City Manager Johnny Martinez declared financial urgency which allows the Commission to make the unions take cuts. Those cuts will likely be to their equipment, salaries, and retirement benefits. Regalado said they need the unions’ help.
“We want to be partners and not adversaries, we want to be a family that works for the City of Miami,” he told Commissioners.
Miami resident Maricarmen Martinez said she would have been willing to pay more in taxes to prevent cuts to police and fire.
“If they don’t have the equipment they need it’s going to impact what they can do for the people. I also think that people need to be paid fairly for what they do and compensated for what they do,” she told Zea.
But Paulina Pina, who moved to Miami from Mexico, said unlike the police in her country, she has faith Miami’s officers will continue to serve and protect no matter what.
“I think they’ll do what they need to do. I really trust them.”
The Commission has now passed the deadline to raise taxes, so the tough task of coming up with the cuts continues. Commissioners will now meet with the unions to hash out an agreement, but as one commissioner put it, the unions are not likely to be in a giving mood.