Jack Mann

Post image for What the Redskins Can Teach Loudoun County

Proponents of Phase II of Dulles Rail often appeal to the notion that having a metro station marks a community as significant. Metro seems to be a symbol to these people (like Shawn Mitchell), a symbol that Loudoun has “made it,” a franchise player for our faltering transportation lineup. These people would do well to take a cue from the Redskins’ recent history and re-think their position.

Dan Snyder’s Redskins have a long history of making terrible free agent acquisitions. Deion Sanders, Mark Carrier, Bruce Smith, Donovan McNabb, the list goes on and on — but arguably the worst decision of all was Albert Haynesworth.

When the Redskins signed Albert Haynesworth in 2009, they paid a hefty premium for the “most dominant defensive player in the league,” a player his peers felt was more terrifying than Ed Reed or Ray Lewis. They forked over a big chunk of the $100 million they promised him up front, leaving little room in their salary cap to make midseason pick-ups and leaving little incentive for “Fat Albert” to, you know, show up to practice and be a contributing member of the team.

Phase II is a huge acquisition, a big bet in a “rebuilding year” economy that will take at least $200 million off the table for other transportation improvements in Loudoun County in the near term, plus tens of millions in annual costs to staff and maintain the network. Rail means we’ll have to rely on our inadequate road network even longer before we start making improvements.

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Recent events have exposed unions’ troglodytic views on race relations.  Basically, unions seek to preserve the current racial makeup of their workforce, regardless of changes to the area their workforce is drawn from.

Consider the example of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) in New York and New Jersey:

Last year, the Port Authority, in accordance with state regulations, asked the ILA for a list of candidates to fill 60 baggage-handler and driver positions. The union’s list turned out to have just one non-white on it.

That prompted the Waterfront Commission, which is mandated to ensure fair-hiring practices, to ask the ILA to certify that it doesn’t discriminate against minorities.

The ILA’s answer came last month: It refused to acknowledge the commission’s authority to enforce federal employment law.

Notice that the union didn’t bother denying that its hiring practices were discriminatory — after all, the New York City area is one of the most diverse in the country. Instead, they intransigently refused to acknowledge the problem, retrenching to defend its “jurisdiction,” in the words of ILA President Harold Daggett.

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Post image for Throw Dulles Rail Under the Bus

Last week, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and the Fairfax Board of Supervisors granted the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors a 30-day extension to review the final cost estimates of Phase II of the Dulles Metrorail project. Unless MWAA agrees to drop a provision giving preference to bids that include a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) by then, Loudoun County’s Board of Supervisors will likely opt out of participating.

And, since the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has admitted that Phase II would be built to Route 28 with or without Loudoun County’s help, why wouldn’t they?

It would be politically suicidal for a board of first-term republicans to sign off on a scheme that gives a 10-percent scoring bonus to firms who use union labor, effectively shutting non-union contractors in Virginia (a right-to-work state) out of the contest.

The Virginia legislature passed a new law banning discrimination against bidders for refusing use PLAs this year, and Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton has pledged that he will use the law to withhold all Virginia funds (no matter how much the Senate appropriates) unless MWAA drops the provision.

It’s possible that the unelected and opaque MWAA might drop the provision, since losing Loudoun County and the State of Virginia would mean losing hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding.

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Post image for Think of the Children

Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers’ Union, has alleged that Rahm Emanuel privately told her that “25 percent of the students in this city are never going to be anything, never going to amount to anything and he was never going to throw money at them.”

This is only the latest example of a classic teachers’ union tactic: using the children they are supposed to care for as human shields during contract negotiations.

Mayor Emanuel is pushing back against the CTU’s request for 30 percent raises across the board over the next two years and $713 million in new spending to reduce class sizes by hiring more teachers (swelling union rolls).

Never mind that the impact of class-size reduction “has been found to be mixed or not discernable” for a “very expensive” program (according to the Brookings Institute), teachers unions maintain that opposition to this sort of wasteful spending is tantamount to abandoning a quarter of Chicago’s children.

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Post image for Workers Deserve the Right to Remain Silent

The California Legislature is considering a “Public Employee Bill of Rights” that (among other things) would restrict the state’s ability to hire outside contractors and swell SEIU’s membership in the Golden State.

California’s public employee union, SEIU Local 1000, is actually co-sponsoring the bill according to Assembly member Roger Dickinson’s website.

The irony is that SEIU Local 1000 currently stands accused of violating the First Amendment rights of the public employees it is supposed to represent.

The First Amendment reads “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech.” Legally speaking, that’s pretty cut-and-dry. That’s why the Supreme Court has so roundly rejected prior restraint, flag-burning laws, and campaign finance restrictions.

It’s clear that the court respects the individual voice, especially in a political context. But what if an individual prefers to remain mute?

Political speech permeates every activity of a union, and since unions are statutorily mandated in many states and enjoy the protection of federal law, they argue that their political activities are essential to ensuring their survival.

So essential, they argue, that they are entitled to use agency fees (paid by non-union workers represented by the union in collective bargaining cases — also known as “fair share fees”) for political purposes.

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The California State Assembly is considering sweeping legislation aimed at protecting the “rights” of state employees.

According to its sponsor, Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento), the bill will “ensure that essential working conditions are met, enhance and clarify the expectations of employees and management alike, and improve the working relationship between rank and file workers and state managers. In turn, these changes will result in improved worker productivity and more harmonious personnel relations.”

Of course, the notion that a bill that would bar California from imposing work quotas on public employees, would keep supervisors from “unreasonably prevent[ing] the employee from using his or her daily rest and lunch periods,” and says “an employee shall not be compelled to perform extra work” will improve productivity is dubious at best.

What does the bill define as “extra work?” Anything that is not described in the “current, detailed, and accurate job description” that the state would be required to provide “at the onset of employment” and at “regular intervals” to employees. The content of that job description, and all performance reviews, would be required to take “significant input” from “peer review committees” that will be “authorized to have regular input regarding the operation of the workplace.”

In the “harmonious” workplace that Assemblyman Dickinson envisions, workers will be afforded every possible legal advantage over the state. If the state misses any deadline in responding to any complaint filed by any employee, the grievance “shall be considered to have been resolved in favor of the employee.”

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Oklahoma taxpayers might be able to breathe a little bit easier this year thanks to two important pieces of legislation making their way through the state capitol.

A proposed amendment to the state’s constitution would enjoin any Oklahoma municipality not “to become indebted or contractually obligated, in any manner, or for any purpose” without the express approval of the municipality’s governing body, the municipal officer charged with budgetary oversight by the governing body, or a majority of the municipality’s citizens.

The amendment’s sponsor, Senator David Holt (R-Oklahoma City), has dubbed it the “Lincoln Amendment” because it “enshrines in our state’s Constitution a basic premise of American democracy — that our government is by the people and for the people, just as Lincoln said at Gettysburg.”

From Senator Holt’s office:

Recently, Oklahoma was ranked the most anti-taxpayer state in the entire southern United States by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. This was primarily because in Oklahoma, the wishes of local taxpayers and their elected representatives are routinely trumped when it comes to spending tax dollars, causing local governments to take on expenses they cannot afford, resulting in service cuts or requests for more taxes. The Lincoln Amendment is a response that shifts the power of the purse back where it belongs, to the taxpayers.

The state Senate is also considering the Oklahoma Paycheck Protection Act, which would amend the state code so that the state’s Office of Personnel Management can only direct payroll deductions to an organization if “the primary or core function of the organization is nonpolitical and nonpartisan.” The bill would also prohibit Oklahoma school districts from directing payroll deductions to teachers’ unions, and would prevent Oklahoma municipalities from writing union payroll deductions into employment contracts.

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Post image for The Silver Platypus

Last week, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority announced it was considering scrapping the Silver Line stop at Dulles Airport.

Though the Silver line was designed specifically to provide service to Dulles Airport, MWAA Board Member Bob Brown said it “wouldn’t be much of an additional burden on riders because even if Metro stopped at the airport people would still have to take a hike to the airport terminal” (1,150 feet – more than three football fields).

That’s right, MWAA just admitted that the proposed metro stop at Dulles Airport would be so inconvenient that air travelers aren’t likely to use it. So if the Silver Line is really just a westward extension of commuter rail that might not even stop at Dulles Airport, why is MWAA still involved?

More importantly, why would Virginia (one of only eight states with a AAA bond rating and the only one to have kept it without interruption for the last seventy years) surrender authority over a $6.8 billion infrastructure project to a notoriously secretive and debt-addicted semi-private entity like MWAA?

Virginia turning the reins of a large and complex project over to an opaque agency with a worse credit rating than France might seem completely backwards, but maybe the alternative to MWAA is even worse. One argument in favor of giving MWAA jurisdiction over planning the Silver Line is that it is a less wasteful and incompetent entity than the Kafkaesque Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which will ultimately run it.

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