City-County Merger Plans Going Nowhere and That’s a Good Thing

Today's Post-Gazette examines the lack of momentum on plans for a City-County merger, mainly due to a failure to act on the part of the state Legislature.  You can read all those exciting details about debt reduction and political machinations here.

I live in the City and my partner works for the City.  I also own a house in the suburbs which I rent out so I have multiple investments in how this plays out, especially in terms of how I pay taxes. 

However, my biggest concern is another dialogue that isn't happening — the disparity between benefits and protections for City employees versus those of the County employees, Specifically, City employees have access to Domestic Partner benefits and civil protections in terms of their job.  County employees enjoy neither benefit. 

The merger of the 911 call centers is proof positive of a group of City employees LOSING benefits and legal protection to further political ambition of Dan Onorato and Luke Ravenstahl.  Sorry, but let's call it what it is.  Onorato could offer those dp benefits with the stroke of a pen.  It is not controversial.  It IS cost effective in terms of recruiting the best and the brightest to any level position — there are plenty of unmarried heterosexual couples who might take advantage of these benefits, too.  According to the City Personnel Department, there are more heterosexual couples signed up than LGBT couples.  It was 60:5 last time I checked. 

If Onorato would offer the benefits and work with Council to pass the anti-discrimination legislation, he would win a lot of good will among City employees (and their councilpersons) for the merger.  And he might just overcome the perception that we more backward than 13 other Pennsylvania municipalities. 

Or he could continue to ignore the questions as he has done with the cyber town hall meeting questions related to LGBT issues.  He's clearly the most powerful man in Southwestern Pennsylvania because none of our champions can persuade him to move one iota on these issues.  None of our media outlets seem inclined to cover this aspect.  I guess once the rallies are over and the sound bytes from passionate people on both sides of the issue are over, it just isn't interested.  I can see that.  There isn't much a headline in “Dan Onorato Won't Answer Questions.” 

City Council President Doug Shields and City Controller Mike Lamb have publicly pledged to block any further mergers until this is addressed.  Still,

On the drawing board is a merger of the city's financial management system into the county's — a move that would immediately save the city the hundreds of thousands of dollars it spends yearly on a payroll service.

Any employees impacted by this?  I'll find out and let you know.

I encourage you to contact your City and County Councilpersons and remind them that stripping City employees of benefits is not progress.  Mr. Onorato can't be so unreasonable and invincible, can he?

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