Tornillo Toasts Your Health

Teachers union to school district: We demand higher health insurance costs. School district: Okay, boss. HMO to lobbyist: Thanks a million.

In political parlance this is called picking your battles. What helps Tornillo's argument is Sisser's long history of contributing to and arranging fundraisers for school board members. He's done it for Betsy Kaplan more than once, and for many previous board members. Several school system insiders say Sisser helped Perla Tabares Hantman hold on to the coveted chairmanship of the school board for a second year by convincing the favorite for the job, Kaplan, not to accept it. Last November it was Kaplan who nominated Hantman for the chair. Sisser helped Manty Sabates Morse collect about $11,000 at a fundraiser he set up for her this past March 1. Sisser himself wrote a $500 check, plus another $500 from his company, Employee Relations Services.

Frank Cobo, a board member elected in June, made a big deal in his campaign out of Sisser's and UTD's support for his opponent Jacqueline Pepper, because the price for that support was her hearty endorsement of the union's position. But will the politically savvy Cobo find it difficult to say no when he gets a call from his old friend and former Miami mayor David Kennedy, also a HIP lobbyist? The potential vote of newly appointed board member Frank Bolaños is a an X factor, but, interestingly, he once worked for HIP before landing his current job at BellSouth.

Union leader Pat Tornillo is a tough negotiator, which is good if you're a teacher and great if you're a major health insurance company
Steve Satterwhite
Union leader Pat Tornillo is a tough negotiator, which is good if you're a teacher and great if you're a major health insurance company

But anything can happen to change the balance of power in the weeks before the school board meeting August 22. Tornillo isn't making any public guesses about the outcome. "I have no way of knowing," he maintains. "We'll have some meetings in the next couple of weeks. Maybe I'll find out then."

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