By Kevin Kelley
By a 5-2 vote Monday night, City Council passed a controversial ordinance that requires numerous disclosures from firms making competitive bids on city projects.
Ward 2 Councilman Bill Minek and Ward 4 Councilman John Hinkel voted against the measure, which applies to municipal projects estimated to cost $50,000 or more. Both councilmen had said they saw no need for the ordinance, as the current process of selecting bidders is more than satisfactory. Minek is council representative to the city’s Board of Control, which grants final approval of city contracts.
Nine residents formally spoke against the ordinance before the final vote. During a public comment session that sometimes became heated, many said the new law favors union contractors over nonunion ones, and larger firms over smaller, local ones. They pointed to the required disclosure of a bidder’s participation in a certified apprenticeship program as an element of the law that favors unions.
“Let’s not make Fairview Park Unionview Park,” one man told council.
Several criticized Mike Kilbane, the vocally pro-union council president who introduced and pushed the proposal through the legislative process.
Kilbane repeatedly said the ordinance does not shut out anyone from bidding on city projects.
Calling the battle over the ordinance “another needless union fight,” Hinkel read a statement that was surprisingly critical of the council president. The Ward 4 councilman said a reference to “the house of labor,” made at a previous committee meeting by Kilbane, reflected his true allegiance.
The five votes for the law are enough to override a potential veto by Mayor Eileen Patton, whose administration questioned the need for the law and said it could make future projects more costly.
“We follow the law and we do it well,” Patton said after the vote, apparently indicating she would not issue her first veto in her 13 years as mayor. Later, she told West Life she had not yet given any consideration to vetoing or not vetoing the ordinance.
Patton specifically criticized one of the ordinance’s introductory paragraphs, which stated that “unscrupulous contractors” cut corners on wages, craftsmanship and worker safety. She called the wording “sad” and “insulting.”
“In my 13 years as mayor, this is completely untrue,” the mayor said.