Monday night’s Franklin Economic Development meeting contained no surprises as far as the proposed anti-Sick Pay ordinance - - at least from my standpoint. There were, however, probably a few EDC members who were unaccustomed to one of their own making arguments for a more long-term economic benefit than the short-term business benefits generally advocated for by the commission.
I’ve previously written about this ill-advised ordinance here, here and here, so there’s no sense in rehashing it again. Unfortunately - - though the debate was lively and, I feel, instructive - - Monday evening’s discussion spent far too much time on Milwaukee’s Sick Pay law and not enough time on the specific ordinance drafted by Alderman Steve Olson (who was admittedly jumping on a bandwagon; the language and intent were largely lifted from ordinances created in West Allis and Bayside). Olson’s ordinance does not at all mention “sick days,” though the ordinance is clearly intended to provide “protection” for Franklin from the “threat” of a future Sick Pay law.
No, our job should have been limited to determining whether the EDC should recommend to the Common Council that they vote to pass a “me-too” ordinance that preemptively addresses an issue that is not before this community at this time. The issue of whether sick pay is a good policy is immaterial; the issue is whether the EDC should encourage the city of Franklin to pass an ordinance that does little more than vandalize the Milwaukee law, and indeed tamper with its integrity as the law is inevitably going to face a court challenge.
Another reason we should not have discussed the sick pay issue separate from Olson’s proposed ordinance is the fact that the members of the EDC were ill-prepared for that kind of debate.
I asked the commission as a whole if anyone could tell me what year the sick pay law went into effect in San Francisco. No one knew the answer. I asked, then, if they knew anything about the impact of that law in S.F. Apart from Chairman Ken Skowronski mentioning anecdotally that personal friends in the region who work in the area of development and remodeling in San Diego and Los Angeles as well as S.F. told him that the law has had a “big impact” (though I can think of other reasons for that downturn), no one had an answer.
I, however, did have an answer. Despite an economic downturn affecting all counties in the Bay area, following adoption of the sick pay law San Francisco maintained a competitive job growth rate that exceeded the average rate of nearby counties (thank you Profs. Marc Levine and Michael Rosen). This despite the predictable wailing and gnashing of teeth from the SF business community when the law was proposed.
Then I asked if anyone present had actually read the Milwaukee Sick Pay legislation. No one had. So I showed them my copy, which is tabbed and yellow-highlighted with my own notes and concerns on what is, frankly, a flawed law at this point. Flawed, but the basis for a family-strengthening principle that can be solidified during the court challenge. And strong, financially secure families lead to strong, deep economies.
But, should we really have been discussing legislation no one else had bothered to read?
How about data suggesting that a sick day law would adversely affect Franklin? None present. My packet for the meeting did contain, however, a printout of a PowerPoint presentation by a law office that I would consider anti-sick pay.
It is also interesting to note that the fear here (legislation based on fear; wonderful) is that Franklin might someday face direct legislation that would foist a sick day law on the city; Olson’s ordinance apparently prevents citizen action.
So, let’s repeat that: An ordinance that prevents citizen action. In other words, we are supposed to fear the will of our own citizens, from whom such a referendum would spring?
The vote was 8-2 to recommend the Council pass the ordinance. (Jon Zawacki and I were the sole "no" votes; another member was on the fence and could have easily voted "no" as well but instead voted "yes, with reservations.") Chairman Skowronski exercised his discretionary vote, adding the extra "yes."
"Yes" and "no" were the only options presented to us. The Finance Committee handled things differently and, I think, in a superior manner. More on that later, as well as information on the Staybridge grant issue I brought to the agenda.
One additional point: It’s interesting to note that one of Franklin’s few direct legislation episodes created the city’s Ethics Board.
And the city no longer has an Ethics Board.
(See also Franklin Today)