This is the worst trade-off ever. Hopefully there are enough votes against a 10% tax increase to force the multi-hauler dead-enders to buckle:
The plan includes cutting five firefighters and raising property taxes up to another 1 percent on top of the 8.5 percent hike already proposed for 2013 by Mayor John Callahan, council members said. Council members Karen Dolan and Michael Recchiuti say they’d much prefer switching to a single garbage hauler over either of those options.
But a majority of council members don’t favor changing Bethlehem’s private garbage collection system, which would leave a $500,000 hole in the 2013 budget. It’s also looking more likely that Bethlehem won’t get $1 million in contributions from nonprofit organizations, Evans said [...]
Increasing property taxes above 8.5 percent and cutting firefighters is council’s last choice, and Evans said he is hopeful Callahan might have better suggestions. About $1 million of the $72.1 million spending plan could be cut without increasing the tax hike or cutting jobs, Evans said.
Clearly the 10% tax hike and firing firefighters is not “Council’s last choice” because Eric Evans and Bob Donchez prefer that choice to the much better option of saving people money on their garbage bills.
The smart political strategy now for John Callahan is to publicly balk at “Councilman Evans’ 10% property hike” and promise to veto any budget that lays off more public employees.
The way the veto works is that the budget is vetoed if Callahan doesn’t sign it within 10 days. Then Council would have to come up with 5 votes to override the veto within 3 days.
The veto threat turns the tables on Council, and raises the political cost to Council members of not passing the single hauler plan for several reasons. First, it makes this a more interesting story, and drags it out for longer in the media. Second, it makes it harder for Council to kill the the single hauler without a vote. The math’s not going to work without the 10% tax hike or more layoffs, so it will likely force a vote on single hauler.
Having to overcome a veto in order to pass a 10% tax hike and more layoffs puts opposition Council members in a real ugly political position, and single hauler starts looking like the better choice. Between the intense media focus on the 10% tax hike vote, and union pressure backing up Callahan’s no-layoffs position, either Donchez or Evans (and if they’re smart, both) is probably going to crack and sign off on the single hauler plan.
John Callahan might be able to win the single hauler fight once and for all if he’s willing to win ugly. It would be a gutsy move, but I think it would pay off to show Democratic primary voters that he’d be willing to play hardball with a Republican opposition as Northampton County Executive.
(Thanks: Lynn Olanoff)