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For city unions, hope lies with 3

Just one councilman who supported ending collective bargaining for non-public-safety union employees needs to change his vote, and the whole thing goes away.

Even what few opponents of collective bargaining there seem to be beyond the council itself might understand why someone could have a change of heart in this situation.

In the six weeks since City Councilmen John Crawford and Russ Jehl proposed it, little public support has emerged for their union-busting plan. Opponents have jammed the council chambers every step of the way. As of this morning, The Journal Gazette has received and printed two letters in favor of the Crawford-Jehl plan – and 32 against it.

The last council vote against collective bargaining cleaved along party lines – all six Republicans voted for it, and all three Democrats voted against it.

Then, as he said he would, Democratic Mayor Tom Henry vetoed it.

In a piece on our Opinion pages Monday, Henry, who had suggested a bipartisan study of the supposed shortcomings of the non-public-safety union agreement process, made one last offer to work with the council.

“We have not been given the opportunity to share facts and knowledge, and that's why this rushed decision is so wrong,” the mayor wrote.

Jehl and Crawford, of course, are unlikely to back down at this point. They probably have a solid ally in Tom Smith.

But what about Tom Didier, who seemed so willing to listen to all the arguments when the measure was introduced, and who later said he supports police and firefighters' union negotiations because those departments are on “on a different level”? In voting not to override, Didier could simply recognize that the get-it-through process this bill has received has steamrolled the kind of considered public conversation he wished for early on.

And what about Marty Bender, a deputy chief of a police department that is highly respected for the work its unionized officers do alongside Bender every day? How much of a stretch is it for Bender to say he's reconsidered, based on his own experience?

Or perhaps that experience has rendered Bender too close to the situation to make a truly objective judgment. If so, he should abstain from voting.

Finally, there is Mitch Harper, the only announced candidate for mayor in the 2015 election. Will Republicans really doubt that Harper is conservative-Republican enough if he jumps off the union-busting bandwagon?

Perhaps Harper, coveting the role himself, will accord the office of mayor the respect it deserves in a situation such as this.

A person in a role such as Henry's has to take a longer and broader view than individual council members. If anyone on the council understands that, it would be Harper, a veteran of state politics and a knowledgeable student of local history. Harper could reiterate his support for the concept Crawford and Jehl are pushing, but he could question the urgency of their mission.

It only takes one vote, from one councilman.