CSEA's machine to save the Chautauqua County Home from being privatized has moved into overdrive.
Not only has the union representing the County Home workers had a filming crew do a 30-minute piece for YouTube, it has also continued its "Save Our County Nursing Home" sign displays and done two radio "Viewpoint" programs on WDOE-AM to bolster its message of keeping the home under county control.
"The Chautauqua County Nursing Home is for sale," states Snowshoe Documentary Films. "This is the story of those opposed to selling off the county's safety net, opposed to the capitulation to privatization. People who say government can't do it better shouldn't be in government."
But what is not discussed anywhere in the documentary is the losing proposition that is financially facing the Home and its future.
According to the dictionary, a documentary is "a factual record or report." There are some facts in the piece, but overall, this is propaganda. Here are some of the important information that you will not see included in the film:
In 2002, wages for Home employees were $7 million. In 2011, that number was $8.6 million, a 22 percent increase over 10 years.
In 2002, health care and pension benefits for Home employees $2.2 million. In 2011, those numbers have hit $4.9 million - a 123 percent over that same 10-year period due to locally negotiated contracts.
In August, the CSEA actually went to the table - when the future of the Home was already on the line - and asked for a 5 percent increase for all of its employees in the county. They still have not offered concessions at the Home to be part of the solution.
In all, Home benefits and salaries made up 67 percent of the $20.2 million budget in 2011.
None of these facts are addressed in the video, on "Viewpoint" programs or on the signs in people's yards. It is a campaign run on emotion.
As one county legislator put it, the "documentary," which is linked to this column online, is driving fear in many. "They are focused only on trying to intimidate the (County) Legislature into doing nothing," the one official said. "I have been trying to keep an open mind on this and really investigate what options are best for everyone. But seeing this video and seeing the fear on the faces of those County Home residents really opened my eyes to what the CSEA is willing to do to protect it's interests."
Of course private firms accept many patients - just like the County Home does - who are unable to pay for care. "Eighty percent of long-term care patients in New York state are paid for by Medicaid," said Greg Edwards, county executive.
Edwards' point, to be clear, is nursing home patients can be cared for - and are currently cared for in this county quite well - by private nursing homes.
Americans and Chautauqua County residents should be aware of tough financial conditions at home and abroad that are facing all taxpayers including NRG, which is facing a crisis of its own.
If the CSEA is so concerned about jobs, why are they not doing more to save a major taxpayer that has local union jobs? If that tax base leaves we are all in trouble, especially the public-employee work force that relies on that $10 million in Payment in Lieu of Taxes money.
I have seen one sign in front of Hometown Insurance on Lake Shore Drive in Dunkirk, but nowhere else, calling on county residents to help "save" a $40 million economic engine in our region. Yet the economic impact of the County Home is much less than that - and the County Home is not a taxpayer.
There are my facts. If you disagree and believe it is one-sided, I have added a link to this column online to the YouTube "documentary" that is just as one-sided, if not more so, since there are few facts in its message.
Emotions are what drive our county divide - it also adds to the lack of trust between neighboring schools and municipalities that currently exists. It is exactly what the "documentary" aims to get across to viewers.
Just how exactly how are those emotions working to our county's benefit when we have lost 12,000 people due to high taxes and too much government over the last 30 years? You know the answer.
John D'Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-3000, ext. 401.