MANSFIELD – Readers who responded to an unscientific News Journal poll were divided on whether city government should always buy American-made vehicles.
The online survey focused on Mansfield Mayor Tim Theaker’s recent decision to purchase three Nissan vans for use by water repair and utility collection workers.
Dan Mapes, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers, criticized the mayor at two city council meetings for departing from the city’s long-held policy of buying American-made vehicles for municipal use.
Readers were asked what policy they’d favor, among three options:
• Thirty-nine percent of the 87 readers who answered the poll clicked on “Yes, always buy American.”
• A smaller group, 35.6 percent, opted for “The issue isn’t that simple.”
• The smallest group, 25.3 percent, chose “Always go for the lowest price.”
Readers supporting strict “Buy American” policies tended to make a similar argument:
“American manufacturing money stays in America and helps support the infrastructure of cities,” said one person, who did not leave a name.
“We are America and even though the mayor bought local, the company is foreign and all the profits go back to a foreign land, so buying local didn’t keep the money here,” Arnold Salyers said.
“It seems to me that the City of Mansfield, with all its fiscal problems, should understand the value of American manufacturing,” another reader said. “The lost tax base from the loss of manufacturing helped put Mansfield in financial distress. Save $3,000 per van, what does that cost in the big picture?”
“To me when gov buys Non American that is a slap in the face to all our veterans,” said Tammy Clapper.
Readers who responded by saying the issue is complex mentioned a variety of issues:
“Frequently people only see that the “label” is not USA. They don’t seem to realize how many U.S. products are in part manufactured overseas and shipped back for the assembly process,” said a reader who didn’t leave a name. “In the recent past, U.S. automakers charged high prices and put out an inferior product compared to the foreign auto makers. I think this is slowly changing because of the consumer.”
“Not all American-made vehicles have American-made parts,” Deborah Mount wrote. “I would rather know the quality of the vehicles and buy the one (new or used) that is the best value considering the price and repair costs. Will the Nissan vans last well and not need repairs? If so, it may have been a good idea. If they don’t last and cost a lot to repair, it was a bad idea.”
“Lowest price doesn’t mean best deal. You need to look at the total cost of ownership, (i.e. repairs, fuel mileage and price of vehicle),” another reader wrote.
“I’ve owned GM vehicles all my life and my father spent 33 years as an employee of GM,” a reader said. “The day they closed the most efficient GM stamping plant, I said ‘adios’ to buying any more of their products. How many slaps in the face do you take?”
Mansfield Safety-Service Director Lori Cope also was among those who responded by saying the issue is complex. City officials put considerable time and research into the decision, and the repair garage supervisor was asked whether that department could manage Nissan repairs, she said.
“It was not an ‘off the cuff’ purchase, but a well thought one,” Cope wrote. “We struggled as an administration and made a final decision to do what was fiscally responsible for the taxpayers’ money, rather than be concerned with a company who closed its doors and left our city. We answer to the public and cannot allow ourselves to be bullied into spending their money unwisely,” she wrote.
The readers who said government always should opt for lowest price included John Rutledge. “It is a good business decision. It’s about time that the taxpayers’ money was spent properly. Taxpayers are not here to support organized labor. Especially at an additional cost,” he wrote.
“GM left us. They walked away,” said another reader who opted for seeking the lowest price. “It was a business decision; Mansfield made a solid business decision to buy the best priced vehicles to do the job needed. If GM felt any obligation to the area, they would have negotiated a better price.”
“Unions have been fighting for years for fair wages and benefits for existing workers all the while companies have steadily moved production out of the country. Until this is addressed at a national level ‘Buy American’ has little meaning,” said reader Mark Ritchie.