Tuesday, February 28, 2012

TriMet GM Sees A Problem, Will CRC and C-Tran Take Note?

The excessively high cost and expense of the Columbia River Crossing project is no secret. This blog, other Conservative blogs such as Clark County Politics, Couv.com and even the Columbian sometimes have spoken about it.

The Oregonian, Willamette Week and the Reflector in Clark County have lent their voices to the problems seen by citizens and some elected officials, to no avail. Any and all voices are written off as “designed to stop the project” of replacing the aging Interstate Bridges and dragging Portland’s financially ailing Light Rail into Clark County, even though 3 times in the past voters indicated in election we did not want it.

Even an independent forensic audit was soon shoved aside by WSDOT officials who seem to have no problem with millions of our tax dollars being unaccounted for in this project.

Tiffany Couch, the forensic auditor stands behind her report.

Couv.com recently informs us of how business owners downtown Vancouver are being left “in the lurch” as CRC admits their scheduled date of 2013 to start likely will not happen until 2014 or later.

They also inform us of officials looking for new ways to squeeze funds out of citizens for transportation upgrades, realizing there just is not funds readily available in this “Great Recession.”

So what possible problem could Portland’s TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane see that hasn’t been already seen?

I’ve not seen mention of it in the Columbian and honestly, I was surprised to see the Oregonian publish, TriMet general manager tells Portland crowd that union contract is ‘slowly strangling’ public transit.

The Portland Business Journal also covered it with a softer headline of TriMet officials say union must give concessions.

Mr. McFarlane states TriMet’s union contract is “one of the richest in the country and ultimately unsustainable.”

He continued, “If union employees don’t contribute more, TriMet is on course to pay more than 50 percent of the payroll tax it receives for services toward benefits by 2020. Currently, those benefits not only include $5 co-pays, no deductibles and no premium contributions but lifetime health care up turning 55 after just 10 years on the job.”

McFarlane added, “The agency’s Blue Cross health care bill averages $22,000 a year for each union worker. The agency is on a path to becoming a health care agency not a transit agency” as TriMet is facing another budget shortfall of $17 Million!

Not too surprising, the Amalgamated Transit Union 757 is hoping to have the two-year old contract dispute brought before an arbitrator and settled in their favor, not contribute more to their own healthcare premiums or care.

C-Tran also has union representation and as was brought out during the Proposition 1 debates last year, to raise our sales tax, C-Tran claiming they had to have to keep bus services at current levels, C-Tran union members have received steady wage increases while the rest of us have cut corners, tightened our belts and bore increased costs, “paying our fair share.”

Portland’s Light Rail is also operated under TriMet and I have to imagine Light Rail operators are covered by the same union currently “strangling” Portland’s public transportation. Is there any reason to believe that once that same Light Rail is drug across the river into Clark County that we won’t be paying part of TriMet’s union employee wages and benefits, as well as those of C-Tran?

As we saw recently with the union representing employees of the downtown Hilton Bed and Bankruptcy, demanding a 54% wage and benefit increase because union employees in Portland are paid more, will C-Tran employees begin demanding equal pay and benefits as generous as TriMet was dumb enough to capitulate to?

C-Tran intends to seek yet another increase to our sales tax in this years’ election to cover Light Rail operations & maintenance.

We already know this $3.6 Billion boondoggle will likely cost closer to $10 Billion and destroy downtown Vancouver during the upwards of 10 years of construction that will drastically increase the congestion seen daily in that corridor.

Now, we can add the union strangling us just they are doing in Portland.

Isn’t it time to reel in this monster before it consumes us all?

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