Tappan Zee would be good for test

As for how to save money on the construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge, I’ve got an idea: Put it ou

As for how to save money on the construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge, I’ve got an idea: Put it out to bid two different ways – locking up the work for union labor, and not locking up the work for union labor – and see how the bids come in, see which way is cheaper.

This occurred to me upon learning that Gov. Cuomo and the Thruway Authority have agreed to lock up the bridge job for the trade unions. They say it will save $452 million on an estimated $5 billion project.

They don’t say the construction trade unions are major contributors to Cuomo’s shadow campaign organization, Committee to Save New York, providing a counterweight to the public employee unions he has been trying to bring to heel, but that’s OK. We don’t expect total honesty in such transactions.

But we would like to see some comparative bidding if such extravagant claims as $452 million in savings are going to be made, or at least I would like to see it. All well and good that the trade unions are going to make little concessions, like working four 10-hour days rather than five 8-hour days, for the sake of efficiency (claimed savings: $123 million). Let’s see what non-union contractors can offer. Might they not offer the same thing? Or even better?

A cost-conscious employer might want to find out, but the governor does not want to find out, and neither does the Thruway Authority. They are happy that the unions agree not to strike while on the job, which is certainly very generous of them. Might non-union workers agree to the same thing? We don’t know.

A majority of construction workers in New York are not unionized, but it’s tough luck for them. Not being organized, they don’t have the clout.

So when this $5 billion job goes out to bid, it will go with the requirement of a “project labor agreement,” as the union lock is officially called.

Ratings agencies have already downgraded the Thruways Authority’s bonds on account of the uncertainty about how this is going to be paid for.

Veterans memorial

And speaking of bridges, the recently rebuilt bridge over Saratoga Lake is going to be called the Saratoga County Veterans Memorial Bridge, of course. It couldn’t be called anything else.

It’s a law that all bridges and parks be named Veterans Memorial bridges and parks — or if it’s not a law, it’s a political requirement, which is practically the same.

I don’t know how many Veterans Memorial bridges there already are in New York. There’s a big one in Queens, and another big one in Rochester, over the Genesee River, but there are so many little ones around, like the Mechanicville-Hemstreet Park Veterans Memorial Bridge carrying Route 67 over the Hudson River, that I can’t keep track of them. There doesn’t seem to be a central registry any more than there is a central registry of Veterans Memorial parks.

Veterans’ groups come along and demand that these facilities be named for them, modestly asserting that we owe everything we have to them, and politicians fall all over each to sponsor the necessary resolutions and bills.

It was a little short of a miracle that veterans didn’t get the new Champlain Bridge named for themselves. They tried but came up short. It was one for the history books.

Teacher evaluations

And as for teacher evaluations being kept secret from everyone but parents, stop complaining. It’s another near-miracle that there are going to be evaluations at all, though I don’t have great confidence they’re going to make any difference.

It won’t be enough that a teacher be given the lowest ranking of ineffective in order to fire that teacher. That would only be the first step.

The second step will be to provide that teacher with an “improvement plan,” and to further provide mentoring and coaching, at the school’s expense, of course.

At the end of a year of such coaching and mentoring, the teacher would again have to be ranked “ineffective,” again below the euphemistic “developing,” in order to be on track to be fired. And you can guess that a school would be hard put upon to indict its own coaching by so ranking someone.

If it does so rank someone, it still cannot fire that person but must conduct a hearing, with the teacher represented by a lawyer, the only limitation this time being that the process must be completed in 60 days and so cannot drag on forever.

The awkwardness of this procedure and the continued obstacle it’s likely to be to getting rid of poor teachers seems to me a bigger issue than the secrecy of the evaluations.

Categories: Opinion

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