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Letter: Defending Local Public Employees

The wages and benefits of local government workers, police and school teachers are being discussed and debated across the country. Some have directed their anger at the above who provide the essential services that help our country run.  Others wish to take away the collective bargaining rights in place for decades. With no negotiating rights, recognition and respect would be missing. Kind of like a batter already having two strikes on him when he steps up to the plate.

Our police department is the front line keeping our citizens safe and secure. They are special people who put on their uniforms every day not knowing what they may face or whether they will return safely to their families at the end of their shift. They are in the line of fire. In 2009, seven police officers across America were killed in the line of duty in a two-week period. In Pittsburgh, the killer phoned in a domestic call, then laid in ambush. In cold blood he shot down two responding officers and another off duty officer who stopped to assist. Could that happen in Glen Cove? We pray not, but anything can happen, anytime, anywhere. Police officers overpaid? I think not. All officers are college graduates in Glen Cove. Their salaries are not set by the mayor but according to their rank achieved through promotional examinations. Other factors include years of service, advanced training, additional college courses, etc.

Our teachers are really the backbone of our community. They are a highly educated and dedicated group. I used to think teachers worked a 9 to 3 day, but learned quickly from my daughter that’s not so. They work much longer hours, often take work home on weeknights. Many times she works on papers and projects on weekends. Teachers all have at least a master’s degree and many take additional evening and weekend college courses.  Good teachers make a good school district and in turn educate our children who are our country’s future. A good school district pushes the value of our homes higher and brings prestige to the community.

Thirty some years ago seems like a long time but it really isn’t. Back then the starting salary for a City of Glen Cove public works employee was $10,600.  The fine staff of women who worked at City Hall back then started at considerably less. We worked for that while others in the private sector earned quite a bit more. Good benefits kept us on the job. Over the years salaries have risen but how much do those public works employees make today?  The ones who provide the vital services that help keep the community strong make a modest salary on average. Most all have families to support.  Do they need good benefits? You bet.

Glen Cove sanitation workers are on the job picking up the garbage in 90 degree heat and through snow-covered streets in bitter cold. The fields at the John Maccarone Memorial Stadium are the finest on Long Island. Ask the coaches and officials of the Junior soccer, baseball and football associations.  Ask the men’s senior citizen softball team. The employees at City Hall perform tremendous work with little recognition.  Ask the senior citizens who visit the Senior Citizen Center daily if they feel the few dedicated civil service employees make too much money and have too many benefits.  I know their answer. The highway crews, those at the golf course and at Morgan Park do wonderful work. Do they need benefits and pensions?  

There is no doubt that times are tough and we all must share some sacrifice, but some wish to increase resentment of public workers in order to strip them of their rights. So please don’t make Glen Cove’s police, teachers and public workers the chief target in our budget crisis. And let’s not call a police officer’s salary obscene. That’s crossing the line. Words matter.

Dave Dailey