COLUMNS

UPDATED -DeWayne's World - 'Blacktop Reform' has putrid stench of partisan politics

DeWayne Bartels

UPDATE: The following is on the agenda for the upcoming Peoria City Council meeting:REQUEST for the COUNCIL to REVIEW the RECENT ORDINANCE Passed by the COUNTY BOARD Regarding BLACKTOP for PRIVATE CITIZENS

Council Member Spears referred to a recent suggestion regarding assisting private citizens with blacktop for their private parking lots and he requested that the City Manager provide the Council with a copy of the Ordinance recently passed by the County Board.  He said there were different blacktop mixes provided by companies in the area and the City Council may want to discuss passing a similar Ordinance for City residents for their protection.  He requested this information be provided in a City Manager Issues Update.

Peoria County Board member Merle Widmer also responds to this column.

"The Land Use Committee was misled. After realizing our mistake, eight of us tried to rescind our vote at the last full board meeting. We were defeated 10 to eight. Only two  Democrats voted with we six Republicans. At our Land use meeting this week, we voted 4-1 to try to make some correction to our mistake. At least six of us now believe this was an action pushed by IDOT,  the county board chairman and city engineer, Tom O'Neill and our administration and by most Democrats to unionize all unionized labor in Peoria County. Smoothly disguised.

Only the Times-Observer covered this story with the truth.

Will the full board meeting in Feb. take any action? However, all of you that are going to be financially damaged by this county board action should attend this meeting,  arriving before 6 p.m. to sign in to voice your concerns.Would the ordnance stand up in a court of law?

If this is on the city council agenda Tuesday night, I suggest the audience be packed.

I sincerely regret my  mistake.

Merle

Healthcare reform may be a ways off, but “Blacktop Reform” has come to Peoria County.

A new ordinance is poised to roll over small non-union paving contractors — potentially costing people their jobs and add costs to something that was working just fine.

But, that’s beside the point.

In order for this to truly be reform of a Democratic nature, there has to be an origin with smoke and mirrors, a victim and a benefit.

What do you know? We have all three in  “Blacktop Reform.”

This reform will benefit the unions, potentially kill jobs at non-union paving contractors, cost consumers more and pave over the concept of free enterprise.

Breathe deep and savor the putrid stench of partisan politics at the local level.  

The origin

“Blacktop Reform” began at the Dec. 10 meeting of the Peoria County Board.

Patricia Hidden, (D-District 18), proposed an asphalt paving material ordinance requiring blacktop projects to use only asphalt produced at a plant certified by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Hidden told the board this ordinance will protect consumers and eliminate substandard asphalt mix.

Hidden told her fellow county board members some older people have been scammed by unscrupulous blacktop contractors

Hidden said, in the long run, people will save money because the driveway or parking lot paving work they contract for will not have to be re-done.

The ordinance passed by a roll call vote of 15 ayes and  three nays and “Blacktop Reform” came quietly to Peoria County.

A victim

Brian Bougham, president of B&H Blacktopping, and a share holder in Consolidated Paving in North Peoria, was unaware of what had happened.

The vote never made it into the pages of a newspaper or a TV newscast.

Bougham, without any work in the winter, was at home caring for his kids.

He found out days later about “Blacktop Reform.”

“We had no chance to make an argument against before the vote,” he said. “It got ramrodded through.”

Other area non-union paving contractors City Coal and Asphalt, Perdue Sealcoat and Paving, Potter and Sons and Pete George and Son Blacktop were also unaware. It did not take any time for the owners of these non-union paving firms to figure out how “Blacktop Reform” would burn them.

Several of these non-union contractors banded together more than a decade ago to create their own manufacturing plant on Galena Road in North Peoria. Bougham said they had to create their own plant since union manufacturers would not sell to them.

“This measure by the county board makes Cullinan the only place to buy blacktop,” Bougham said. “And, they won’t sell to non-union contractors.”

Bougham said he fears this could cost jobs for small businessmen.

Bougham said his firm does blacktop or asphalt work on only about 100 driveways and parking lots a year. 

It may not be fair, but this will make consumers safer from unscrupulous non-union paving contractors, according to the argument in favor of “Blacktop Reform.”

It turns out, though, when I checked these firms out with the Central Illinois Better Business Bureau there were no consumer complaints to be found.

B&H Blacktop has an A+ rating, and has been a BBB member since 2001. City Coal and Asphalt has an A+ rating and has been a BBB member since 1995. Perdue Sealcoat and Paving has an A+ rating and has been a BBB member since 2005. And, Potter and Sons has an A+ rating and has been a BBB member since 2004.

These small businessmen can apply for IDOT certification. But, there is just one minor wrinkle. It will take months and, according to Bougham, cost about $200,000. The IDOT certification will make them eligible for IDOT road projects — although these firms are not big enough to handle these projects.

The benefit 

“Blacktop Reform” motivated Bougham and other non-union paving contractors  to attend the Jan. 14 county board meeting to address this issue. They wanted the ordinance rescinded.

“I think strong unions got this slipped through,” Bougham said he told the county board.

When Peoria County Board Republican Bob Baietto heard those comments and realized what “Blacktop Reform” meant he fumed. Baietto had voted in favor of the ordinance at the Dec. 10 meeting.

Baietto said, last week, he challenged his fellow board members in support of the measure to explain to him how this would benefit the citizens of Peoria County.

“I didn’t get an answer,” Baietto said.

Baietto’s anger has not subsided. Baietto, who represents North Peoria in District 12, told me last week he is “pissed” about “Blacktop Reform.”

Baietto said he was misled, and his trust in the Democrats he serves with on the county board has been damaged.

“It was sugar-coated. Stupid me, I bought it,” Baietto said. “This thing got on a fast track by our chairman.”

Baietto is suspicious because Peoria County Board Chairman Tom O’Neill is a Democrat and a union electrician for the city of Peoria.

“I smell union all the way on this. This is an effort to shut down non-union shops,” Baietto said. “These people were not notified ahead of the vote ... This is not American.”

Baietto said he tried at the Jan. 14 meeting to get the ordinance rescinded. That failed. So, now, Bougham and other paving contractors are considering a lawsuit against the county.

Baietto said he is mad at himself for being played by some county board Democrats into supporting a measure that will potentially cause the closure of several area blacktopping firms and land the county in court facing a lawsuit.

“Blacktop Reform” is a lose-lose for non-union paving contractors and consumers who will see their choice of blacktop contractors limited. that will likely drive the cost up.

However, this measure is a win-win for Democrats and unions.

And, isn’t that what they wanted.