What hath the Tea Party wrought?
I ask that because of what I see they’re doing to my town, Gilbert.
With the Town Council now in the almost complete grip of the Tea Party, some, ah, interesting things have happened.
About a year ago, the majority decided to phase out the town’s contributions to non-profit organizations around town, groups like the Boys’ and Girls’ Club, the Gilbert Senior Center, the Salvation Army, the Child Crisis Center, and Save the Family.
This funding amounted to at most $500,000 yearly. But the majority voted to get rid of it, one councilman calling it welfare, and the majority believing it should be done in the private sector.
Soon after, however, the same folks voted for corporate welfare, giving a large development along the San Tan Freeway a nice tax break, amounting to millions of dollars. In fact, the town has now set up a formal mechanism to dole out corporate welfare.
So oddity number one: The Tea Party folks who don’t believe in welfare apparently are very selective about what that word means.
Oddity number two came recently, courtesy of a Tea Party favorite in new Councilman Jared Taylor, who used his government position to pry into others’ privacy.
Taylor sent a questionnaire to certain Town of Gilbert employees, what he called a “Getting to Know You” form.
Most of the questions were innocuous, but three were clearly political:
“When was the last time you had a meaningful study of the US Constitution?’
“What do you believe is the role of government?”
“What do you do in your day-to-day tasks to protect the rights of Gilbert residents?”
Why ask those questions? According to an Arizona Republic article, Taylor believes he has the right to know the ideology of Gilbert employees.
Which begs this question: Why? And what did he plan to do with that information?
I asked him those two questions via email, and have yet to receive a reply.
I thought the Tea Party types believed in the sanctity of our privacy; Taylor’s intrusion into the privacy of Town of Gilbert employees seems to be, well, odd. Not to mention disturbing.
Most disturbing is how the Council has handled the unions representing many of the employees, including police and fire. At a recent meeting, after declaring the firefighters to be “a valuable part of the Gilbert family,” the Council voted to end meet and confer with police and fire unions next year.
Why disturbing? Two answers. “Meet and Confer” means just that — unions in our state cannot force binding arbitration on any entity. If in negotiations with the firefighters union the Town didn’t like what was happening, the Town could simply impose its decision on the union. No strikes. No work slowdowns. Meet and Confer simply gives employee groups a formal way to negotiate and cooperate with the Town.
Beyond that, according to a Republic article, the town administrators like the process.
So if it’s been successful and creates no danger of strikes, why change the process? And to what?
Who knows? The Council didn’t say. But we know why — the Tea Party loves to demonize unions. Any unions. Including those that have little power, like here in Arizona.
So here we are, one year into Tea Party rule in Gilbert, and this is what they have to show for their efforts. Lord help us.
Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.