Fall River Does What New Bedford Can’t [OPINION]
Fall River's police and fire unions have reached agreements with the city on new contracts. Each of the public safety unions has agreed to a two-year deal with Mayor Paul Coogan. The police contract expired in 2018, the fire contract in 2019.
The Fall River City Council has approved the new police contract and is expected to approve the contract with firefighters soon. City Council President Cliff Ponte tells me, "We should have no issue" with approving the agreement with the firefighters.
The contracts provide for a 1.5 percent pay raise in each of the two years. Both labor groups will get right back to the bargaining table with the city fairly quickly as the new retroactive deals expire at the end of June.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell appears no closer to an agreement with the police and fire unions. The police contract expired in 2018, the fire contract in 2019. The relationship with both unions has been acrimonious at best. When union leaders bemoan budget cuts within their departments, Mitchell dismisses their concerns as nothing more than a negotiating tactic.
Fall River has also begun to rebuild its fire department, decimated by budget cuts a few years back. Not that long ago, Fall River fire apparatus might fail to start or perform when needed for an emergency, and firefighters were using outdated and failing breathing equipment. That is no longer the case.
Fall River has also re-committed to funding education. For several years the city has managed to meet 100 percent of minimum net school spending requirements. New Bedford routinely misses that goal.
I'm not sure what Fall River is doing that New Bedford is not, but things have turned around in the Spindle City. Perhaps the Mitchell Administration ought to call Mayor Coogan for some tips.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.