Thursday, April 13, 2006

By MARK PETERS, Portland Press Herald Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH Town employees are being told to lay off the horn when driving a municipal vehicle. The call for quiet comes in response to school bus drivers, rescue workers and public works employees who tooted to show support for police officers picketing Town Hall this week.

Town Manager Michael McGovern placed a ban on horn blasts after the Monday protest, saying employees shouldn't use municipal vehicles to express their own political views.

"The vehicles don't belong to the employees. They belong to citizens," McGovern said.

Employees, however, are free to blow the horns of their own cars and trucks, he said.

A leader of the union representing dispatchers, police officers and sergeants said McGovern's requirement that town-owned horns go silent is ridiculous. The tooting isn't an issue McGovern should get involved in, said union President Mark Dorval.

"I think this is absurd. (McGovern) is blowing it totally out of portion," said Dorval, who is planning further picketing.

Negotiations between the town and police union have stalled over retirement benefits. The officers have been working without a contract since July.

McGovern said the horn issue is about more than the picketing by the Cape Elizabeth Police Benevolent Association. He reviewed past court decisions and found that once a community allows one group of employees to use town property to express political views, others have the same right.

"Once you begin to allow it, where do you draw the line?" McGovern asked.

Michael Starn, a spokesman for the Maine Municipal Association, said communities have to be consistent in what they do. It makes sense to prevent all groups from using town property for political purposes, so municipal officials aren't accused of playing favorites, he said.

Public comments on this story from (god I love liberals)

gk of St Joe, MO
Apr 13, 2006 11:04 AM
I believe Mr. McGovern's order is reasonable since the vehicles belong to the taxpayers, not the person driving the vehicle. He is not stating that they cannot show support when they are in their own personal vehicle. I currently work for a municipality and as such, I work for the taxpayers. While I am at work, my actions are governed by the administration. In addition, our code of conduct would prohibit employees who are on the clock or in uniform from honking the City owned vehicles horn in support of the picketing police.

Dennis Whitten of Farmington, Me
Apr 13, 2006 10:52 AM
I agree with the Town Manager that the vehicles should not be used to any promote any politial position.
Should they be used for parades? funerals? or anything but for the purpose for which they were purchased?
Employees do get breaks during the day. Are we going to prevent them from carrying their own air horns to blow out the window?
I agree with jame, there are more important issues for the Town Manager to be concerned about than horn blowing.
I'm glad I am not paying his salary....

Apr 13, 2006 10:04 AM
I've worked for Municipal Govt in Public Safety for almost 25 years - and have been both Union President and Managerial Administrator.

The answer's simple. No political activity nor speech, including such displays of support - while on the Taxpayer's Time and with Taxpayer's property.

The ex-governor of Illinois, George Ryan, is now on trial in Federal Court, and fifty-six former state employees have been found guilty of federal corruption charges - as they couldn't quite maintain that line between working for the citizens and working for their own interests while on the taxpayers dime.

Dan of S.P., ME
Apr 13, 2006 9:51 AM
A municipality (or any employer) has every right in the world to tell employees what they can and cannot do in a municipal vehicle. Its not the employee's private "joy" wagon.

Its not an issue of "power" - its an issue of responsibility. The employees need to take responsibility and follow the employer's rules about their conduct while in municipal vehicles. If municipal employees want to show support for the picketing police, let them do it on their own time, in their on vehicles, with their own shoe leather.

jame of south portland, me
Apr 13, 2006 9:22 AM
Here we are in the midst of a war in Iraq and you people are fighting over horn beeping. Really, take a hard look at how rediculous this all is.

K of P, ME
Apr 13, 2006 8:52 AM
Cape is stupid. Does DPW mow their lawns?

Darren of Cape Elizabeth, ME
Apr 13, 2006 8:39 AM
No Larry, it is not about 'Power". It has to do with who owns the vehicles they were driving. They do not. I, as a taxpayer in the town, do. I do not want them used to promote either side of this issue, period. Town vehicles are there to serve the citizens of the town, not single issues of a group of employees. Would you be happy if this was happening in Portland?
Mr. McGovern does not have complete power over employees and I can assure you he does not want it. Many employees, he included, live in the town. So they have a strong interest on many sides in this issue. To denigrate his many years of service to our town is beyond reproach. You should be ashamed. And perhaps you should pay attention to your own house and leave us to handle ours, Thank You Very Much.

Rob of Portland, Me
Apr 13, 2006 8:11 AM
This seems to be a matter for Cape Elizabeth residents and so far nobody from the town has weighed in, but it's still early.

When was the last time anyone saw a union picket directly on the propert boundaries of the business they have issues with? They don't. Using city vehicles is the same as picketing on their employer's property.

The town has every right to tell it's employees not to use the taxpayer's vehicles (or other property) to express personal opinions that may confict with their employer's (the taxpayers) points of view. Private business have mandated this for years so why should this be any different? I wouldn't appreciate having city employees in Portland using taxpayer owned equipment to express their personal opinions because those opinons don't necessarily reflect the views of their employers (you and me).

Do it on your own time and off city property.

Steve O of Westbrook, Me
Apr 13, 2006 8:03 AM
Mark in Biddeford won't be crying about Municipal Unions when he calls 911 become some lunatic is breaking in his home trying to hurt him or his family. He'll be very glad when he hears that siren and sees a police officer come to his aid, maybe at the officer's own peril. Support your local Police, Mark. It is worth every penny! God bless them all. A pox on Mark and like minded people.

DP of Westbrook, Me
Apr 13, 2006 7:36 AM
Town/City unions will go the way of many other unions of today with employees contributing to their retirement benefits,i.e.401k, as well as their fair share of health costs.To keep taxes in check, demands by unions have to be more flexible.Maybe the state can pay for Maine State Retirement benefits for police and fire, but even this comes out of the Town/city tax income in some way. Times are changing and sadly not too good, but to keep taxpayers heads above water, so to say, expenses have to be kept in check.For every increase in the town/city taxes and those that apply for the Circuit Breaker Program, this money also comes out of every taxpayer in the state.We live in difficult times with all expenses climbing for every family , but somehow things have to stay in control.I shudder at the value of a dollar in years to come!

Larry of Portland, ME
Apr 13, 2006 6:55 AM
"Employees, however, are free to blow the horns of their own cars and trucks, he said."

"Once you begin to allow it, where do you draw the line?" McGovern asked.

Sounds like someone has some "Power" issues.
What is the harm, beyond the fact that McGovern feels like he hasn't got complete power over town employees. I thought we wanted employees to work together, support each other. That makes a town/city work better together. We get more back for our money if they are happier working together. Does he allow them to talk on "his" time? hahaha
I am guessing that most that agree with McGovern here are upper echelon people that don't cope well in the real world. They need the "power" of a work position to feel in control.

Learn to cope in the real world people and don't hide behind a position of "power". haa

Apr 13, 2006 6:54 AM
Number one,it is too bad things had to come to picketing in the first place.
Two.... The employees should buy pocket sized horns seen at sporting events or kept on the boat and roll down the window for a quick "blast"
Three.. they can roll down the window and yell"toot-toot"
Four... isn't this all kinda silly?

Mark of Biddeford, ME
Apr 13, 2006 6:45 AM
Municipal unions, another reason why we pay high property taxes.