Scott Tibbs

Speech to the Bloomington City Council
March 23rd, 2005

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Do not pass the "Living Wage Ordinance"

Hello City Councilors. My name is Scott Tibbs and I am a resident of the 2nd City Council District. I come before you tonight to urge you not to pass the living wage ordinance.

I certainly understand and appreciate the desire to pay a "living wage" to city employees and employees of firms that do business with the city. However, as a taxpayer, I want to make sure city monies are spent in an appropriate manner, and this includes paying market value for work done by city employees. That, however, is not my major objection to this ordinance; if the LWO only covered city employees I would likely not be speaking before you tonight.

My objection is a governmental mandate that any organization that does business with the city pay a "living wage" to their employees I do not think it is appropriate for the city to mandate wages for private business. While I understand that this ordinance covers only businesses that contract with the city, I do not believe the City Council should be mandating above-market wages for the private sector.

I do not approve of applying this ordinance to charitable organizations that take subsidies from the city. Many charitable organizations do not have a large amount of funds available to them, and this will put further pressure on their already strapped budgets. Please do not make it more difficult for charitable organizations to achieve the objective of the Living Wage Ordinance: help the poor.

While charitable organizations would do well to recognize that "with government money comes government strings", that does not make those strings justified. I would prefer that you not make the choice for me which charitable organizations I donate to, but that is another topic for another day.

As has been pointed out, there are always unintended consequences of governmental mandates. Some could lose their jobs entirely, and others could see their hours reduced. Still others could rise above income limits for some government assistance programs and wind up taking a net LOSS of income.

There are alternatives to a blanket mandate. One possible alternative is to favor firms that pay higher wages when the city needs a project done. Alternatives should be explored before you enact a blanket "wage floor" for everyone that does business with the city.

I have been disappointed by some of the rhetoric used to advance the ordinance, especially considering it has basically been a "done deal" since it was introduced. No one really doubts that the LWO will pass tonight by a comfortable margin.

As the Herald-Times pointed out in an editorial, no one supports "poverty wages". No one wants people to live in poverty. To paint opponents of the LWO as "poverty wage supporters" is an unnecessary and irresponsible personal attack. Sadly, this is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the hate that has been directed at those who do not support the LWO.

This past fall, Democratic candidates for County Council signed a "clean campaign" pledge in which (among other things) they promised to renounce uncivil tactics by their supporters. Why should this only apply during election season? I encourage City Council Democrats to join with their County Council colleagues and make it clear that personal attacks and demonization of political opponents is not acceptable.

Thank you for your time.