August 30, 2002

Mayoral Snub Is PBA First

By William Murphy STAFF WRITER

In a public slap at the mayor, the city's main police union did not invite Michael Bloomberg to its annual convention this week in upstate New York.

"He did not get an invitation," mayoral spokesman Jerry Russo said yesterday. He declined further comment.

The union, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, did not return telephone calls for comment yesterday.

It's not that the PBA dislikes politicians. The union named Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) as its Man of the Year during the convention yesterday at the Hudson Valley Resort & Spa in Kerhonkson.

The difference between Democrat Schumer and Republican Bloomberg is that the senator is calling for using federal 9/11 aid to the city for pay raises for police, firefighters and other uniformed personnel.

Of course, that money only would pay for the initial year or two. The cost then would fall on the city in future years.

Bloomberg, meanwhile, has been making the argument that the 5 percent annual pay raises that an arbitration panel is expected to award to police are sufficient, given the city's budget problems.

The union's frustration may be understandable, but its actions fly in the face of tradition and political sense.

New mayors traditionally are invited to speak to the union's delegates at their annual meeting. Even Mayor David Dinkins, who was widely and deeply disliked by police, spoke at the annual convention in 1990 after he was elected.

The hundreds of delegates paid more attention to their own conversation and the beer pitchers at their tables than they did to Dinkins.

But then-PBA President Phil Caruso gamely introduced Dinkins and the mayor gamely tried to talk over the dining-room chatter.

The current PBA president, Patrick Lynch, may have to answer to his membership for spending millions of dollars on arbitration lawyers, rather than negotiating directly with the city.

Now, he also may encounter a higher level of frostiness from the Bloomberg administration when union officials try to arrange transfers and other favors for their members.