On Monday, the City Council put the finishing touches on a months-long process initiated by Seward voters to opt back into the state’s Public Employment Relations Act. The council voted 6–1 to repeal a 1975 ordinance that initially exempted the city from PERA. The sole dissenting voice was Mayor David Squires.
The vote came to the council as a means of ratifying the March 18 special election on the issue, in which voters decided to opt in. PERA governs the relationship between public employers – such as the city of Seward – and organized labor. In Seward, it will now affect the city’s negotiations with the Seward Public Employees Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
After the vote, there remained a legal question about whether further action by the City Council would be required to give full legal force to the referendum. Monday’s vote should head off any question on that front, since the citizenry and now the city’s legislative body have both voted to opt back in.
“I want to thank the citizens that took the time and effort out of their day to work through the initiative process,” said Council Member Suzi Towsley.
The repeal was expected to be a foregone conclusion, as council members have previously stated that they would not go against a vote of the people. Nonetheless, one council member did vote against the repeal, saying he had been approached by a number of people who urged him to vote no.
“Since the election, I have been approached by many people about the passage of the vote and how deeply concerned they are,” Squires said. “My first question on it was, ‘Did you vote?’ If they said no, I said, ‘It’s too late to complain about it.’”
Although Squires did not explicitly say he would vote against the measure or how many comments he had received for and against, he foreshadowed his decision in a remark before the vote.
“My vote tonight will be with the majority of the comments I received after the election,” he said.
Squires subsequently voted against the measure. He was the only council member to do so.
Squires was not able to be reached on Tuesday for further comment about his vote.