Something Could Be Done To Help City’s Financial Mess

It seems like no big deal for the state Legislature to pass laws that would break contracts between a private individual and their condominium association or a bank.

So what would be the big deal in breaking union contracts to help the city of Jamestown get its costs under control and restore some fiscal sanity to the city budget?

Near the end of the state legislative session in June, the Assembly and Senate passed legislation that would allow someone who wants to install an electric car charger in their condominium to break their contract if the condo board doesn’t acquiesce to the request quickly enough. And, legislators took another swing at zombie properties by allowing municipalities to certify a home as abandoned and then force a foreclosure action even if the mortgage on the property is being paid.

Passing these laws means the state is saying if a homeowner enters a bad deal with a condominium board, it’s OK to break that contract if it lines up with the state’s aim of increasing electric vehicle usage. If a bank makes a bad deal with a homeowner, it’s OK to break that mortgage contract if the home is abandoned because it serves a public purpose.

Perhaps, then, the state should follow its own logic when it comes to Jamestown’s union contracts. For too long, city residents who pay hefty property tax bills have heard that costs can’t be cut because of negotiated or imposed contract terms. For years, city officials have said things like the James Prendergast Library or Jamestown Senior Center need to have their city funding cut because personnel costs are crowding out all of the other spending in the budget. The state itself has recognized the problem by appropriating additional state aid to the city in each of the last two fiscal years.

Why, then, can’t the state break the contracts? They certainly don’t mind doing so in less important cases. The state can’t have you believe that all contracts are unbreakable and then pass legislation that breaks “unbreakable” contracts. Something could be done to help Jamestown out of its contractually bound financial mess — but that doesn’t line up a clean energy plan or come with a nice sound bite about neighborhood revitalization.