Editorial: OPC mess needs fresh eyes

It’s no surprise that a budget compromise offered by Rochester City Council was rejected by the Older Persons Commission governing board Feb.2. The two sides aren’t getting any closer to resolving the dispute that has dragged on since fall. If anything, the debate seems to become increasingly difficult with each passing week.

OPC Executive Director Marye Miller says lies are being spread by Rochester City Council; Mayor Stuart Bikson calls her comments “inappropriate” and reminds her that she doesn’t run OPC; the board does.  When discussing who is using the right or wrong numbers, Rochester Hills Councilman Michael Webber takes a completely uncharacteristic shot at Bikson; he later apologizes.

The positions of both sides in the budget dispute rest at least partly on principle, making it very difficult to find common ground. Each side feels that to cave in is to set a precedent that bodes ill for the OPC’s future.

In a nutshell, the dispute boils down to this: Rochester City Council feels the OPC board is being too generous with pay and benefits for its staff in a recessionary time. The OPC board and leaders of the two other member communities, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township, say the OPC board’s right to govern must be preserved.

After writing about this and a previous disagreement over OPC pensions for the past year, we have no idea how it is going to be resolved. So may we suggest that cooler heads prevail?

We propose that a committee comprised of the three OPC member communities’ CEOs take a crack at crafting a compromise: Rochester City Manager Jaymes Vettraino, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, and Oakland Township Manager Jim Creech.

Here’s why: None of the three has a vote on the OPC budget at any level. None serves on the OPC governing board. None has a personal stake in the outcome. All have exhibited successful management and political skills. Each can be relied upon to understand what his elected officials would and would not accept.

We have faith in these three men, but if there are any better ideas out there, someone needs to speak up. Perhaps a dozen residents would be willing to take on the task of crafting a compromise. This is a tried-and-true approach to problem solving which, unfortunately, elected officials are often slow to accept.

Let us all agree that no one wants to hurt the OPC and no one is against seniors. No one wants the partnership between the three communities that has worked so well for so many years to dissolve. And let’s end the personal attacks–now.

We all learned in high-school civics that politics is supposed to be the art of compromise. Unfortunately, compromise is unpopular these days in our national discourse, in Michigan and even in our small towns. We need true leaders to step up and seek true solutions.

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