The Common Council took two actions regarding jobs at their monthly meeting last night. It rejected the hiring of permanent replacements for three recently retired city workers, and approved the expenditure of $40,000 to help businesses which are experiencing economic hardship to pay low to moderate income employees.
One month prior to the election, the Council enacted a hiring freeze: "... no vacant position(s) due to retirement shall be filled until such time as the Finance and Government Operations Commission has had time to review said position as to its effectiveness and efficiency."
The Finance and Government Operations Commission (F&G) last week heard from the City Attorney, the Tax Collector, and the Health Department that they were understaffed, and approved three new hires. The Hartford Courant reported that Mayor Dan Drew on Friday refused to proceed with the hires until after he heard from a task force on efficiency and consolidation of city departments.
The F&G recommendation was on the agenda to be approved last night, and two members of F&G maintained their support for the three new positions. Ron Klattenberg said "These positions are urgent and they are critical." Phil Pessina told his colleagues, "We really did look at these positions really seriously."
They failed to persuade other council members, and the council voted 10-2 against the F&G recommendation.
Mayor Drew said that he would consider hiring temporary workers to fill pressing needs. He said that the budget outlook was as grim as it has been in any modern time, and he repeatedly said that he did not want to hire someone who might then be laid off due to budget shortfalls.
"Bridge Construction Small Business Disruption Job Retention Program"
Afternoon traffic on North Main Street is badly hurting the retail business, according to the owner of It's Only Natural. The Council debated whether to implement a $40,000 program (with disharmonious title above), to support such businesses, as a way to spare them from having to lay off their low and moderate income employees. The program would require companies to divulge financial information to demonstrate that a drop in business correlated with the onset of bridge construction. This information would be kept confidential.
This confidentiality bothered Councilwoman Deborah Kleckowski, who argued that applications for public funds should be open for the public to see. Kleckowski also suggested that it would be very difficult to determine how much of an economic hardship was due to traffic and how much was due to other factors. She questioned the fundamental logic of giving a business money to pay workers whom the business itself is arguing are not needed because of the traffic problems.
Kleckowski and Councilman Grady Faulkner said that the money would be better spent by improving access to the buildings.
The majority of the Council viewed the program as a natural extension of all the support that the City provides to local businesses, and voted to approve it.
Councilman Bob Santangelo said, "The real issue here is the retention of small businesses. ... This is not a giveaway."