Today’s news:

If you are an elected official in New York City, you cannot go wrong siding with a union. Unions contribute campaign funds and play a major role in getting out the vote. So when the mayor announced he was cutting funds to the city Department of Health, it was not surprising Queens City Council members lined up to warn that the borough would be overrun by rats if this happens.

Last week, several Council members joined city employees and union officials to condemn Mayor Michael Bloomberg for cutting the agency’s funding. Getting right to the point, Councilman Danny Dromm told reporters, “We feel he’s allowing the dirty, rotten rats in our neighborhood.”

Dromm was joined by Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Julissa Ferreras, state Sen. Jose Peralta and members of Local 768 Health Services Employees Union. They are angry that $1.5 million was cut from the department when the city budget was passed in June, eliminating the jobs of 63 of the city’s 84 pest control aides.

Van Bramer’ district is on one side of the railroad. One union boss added that the city was losing the war against rats. Eddie Rodriguez, president of Local 1549 New York City Clerical-Administrative Employees, said, “It’s not fun when you get bitten by a rat.”

Those attending the rally said the department could avoid the layoffs by cutting consultants. We are not convinced that this would be enough to help the Health Department meet its mark. Consultants do not qualify for health care and other benefits. They also have no union to fight for them.

The truth is that the mayor has found it necessary to demand cuts from every city agency. There are no more easy cuts left. We are pretty sure no commissioner wants to lay off any workers. But there are limits to what can be accomplished through attrition and cost-cutting. The workers who may soon be laid off across the city are not surplus.

Until times get better, we see no reason why people placed on probation should not be required to perform community service. The same holds true to people who plead guilty to status offenses such as underage drinking.

Tough times call for creative solutions, not just complaints.

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