Thursday, December 31, 2009

The End of 2009 – NOT the End of the Pain

The final hours of 2009 are ticking down and none too soon as far as I am concerned. Dwelling on the events of this past year will simply cause the removal of even more enamel from my teeth and renewed tension to my mandible. Many contemplate resolutions for a new year. By March, these resolutions will be gone from memory and people will revert to the comfort of the past. Politicians will use this time to pontificate and proselytize their agenda, disguised as "New Year's Resolutions." The first to hit the air waves is none other than the "little rube."

Disguised as an "Opinion" piece in the Union Tribune; "Resolutions for San Diego City Hall" the little rube continues his attempt to sell the taxpayer on his vision for policies, "that help create jobs, a truly balanced budget, reductions in unfunded pension and health obligations, and improvements in the water rate structure." The little rube said, "I'd like to suggest four self-improvement resolutions for my fellow city leaders and I to focus on in 2010."

The first of four resolutions; jobs friendly policies that promote putting San Diegans back to work. The little rube boasted of "holding a 'small-business' summit where he compiled a laundry list of examples where city government has been a hindrance rather than a help to job creation." Does the label "Hypocrite" ring true to anyone else? This carpet bagging, spin master, has gone out of his way to ensure the un-employment lines in San Diego continue to grow. His goal is to eliminate as many positions within the city as possible so he can grease the way for his cronies in the name of "Managed Competition." If you think for one second, his resolution of "jobs friendly policies" is altruistic, I would suggest you wake up and smell the coffee. The little rube continues to rail against raising revenue, demanding City leaders reject tax and fee increases, so he can ensure the city continues to face budget deficits. He can then continue to blame employees and sway the taxpayers to eliminate pension and retiree health benefits earned over the past thirty years.

The second resolution; a real balanced city budget, is the little rube's continued cry for managed competition in the name of "structural change." This is the where the spin machine kicks into high speed. The 15 percent to 25 percent cost savings the little rube says will be achieved through managed competition is simply; NOT REALISTIC. Government was not set up, nor is it in the business of "making" a profit. The only part of the little rube's continued diatribe related to this issue I will agree with is the need to conduct a performance audit and ensure the benchmark for performance meets private sector performances for all city services. This not only makes sense but is something good government does as a routine. Many of these audits have been completed and structural changes have already been implemented. When managed competition is employed, minimal savings is realized in the short term, and then experience has shown the companies providing the services realize the need to turn a profit and begin to make changes to meet this goal. The result of this selling of government services to the lowest bidder will be higher cost to the taxpayer and inadequate service in the long term.

The third of the little rube's New Year's resolutions; pension, health benefits reform, is buoyed by his playing loose and free with reality and facts. The numbers this pathetic politician uses to inflame taxpayers is nothing but short of criminal. His use of numbers, facts and spin have created a hysteria and hatred toward city employees and their wages and benefits that are all part of a larger scheme. The little rube uses facts and figures out of context to fit his argument and bolster his false claims. An example is his statement, "Over the years, city leaders granted employees generous pension packages and free taxpayer-funded health care coverage for life." His omission of how the retiree health care benefits came to be is egregious. He refuses to acknowledge the deal Pete Wilson put together to save the city money in 1981, to have employees withdraw from Social Security/Medicare with the agreement of providing city sponsored retiree health care insurance. The City saved money and in theory used the savings to provide these promised benefits.

2010 should be the year city leaders and employees join together and craft a solution to the pension and retiree health care insurance problem. Creating a tiered plan for retiree health care insurance for pre 1986 employees, honoring the decade's old agreement, is imperative to doing what is right. This should, at a minimum, include fully paid medical care insurance for those employees hired before 1986 who lack sufficient quarters to participate in Medicare. Workers who are eligible for Medicare should be provided retiree health care insurance until such time as eligible for this benefit. Working together to create solutions for long term retiree health care insurance, include implementing a shared retiree medical trust for funding adequate benefits is a must. Developing a sustainable Defined Benefit Retirement for Safety members and General members will require sacrifice. Recognizing the gains earned over the past decades, at this time, are not sustainable, we must roll back the retirement of workers. To do this fairly and with minimal impact on the quality of life for the city's employees; a tiered system need be explored for retirement. Participants with less than ten years of service (Safety and General hired after 2000) should be considered for a reduction to the benefit received at retirement which might include; an increase to the age of retirement (53 years for Safety; 62 years for General); a maximum benefit of 2.5% per year of service for the first 20 years and 2.75% for the remaining years of service, with a maximum benefit of 85 percent of the highest one year for Safety employees; and 2% per year of service for the first 25 years and 2.25% per year for the remaining years of service, with a maximum benefit of 85 percent of the highest three years for General employees. Employees and the City will contribute an additional one percent to retirement until the funding level rises above 90%; elected office holders will not be eligible to participate in the City's Retirement program but can participate in a City Matching 401K program up to a six percent match of contribution. DROP should be made available to ALL Safety Members who provide a minimum of 25 years of actual service upon retirement.

The suggestions above will no doubt be met with resistance from both sides. The City will say the changes do not go far enough and employees will say they go too far. I am not advocating these suggestions are the fix all, end all to the City's fiscal problems. I am simply offering suggestions to begin the dialog for obtaining sustainable and realistic retirement benefits for all employees that are acceptable to the taxpayer without throwing the baby out with the bath water.

The forth of the little rube's resolutions; reform water rates, is one that lacks detail or vision. Simply showing resolve to create a new water rate structure to provide "financial incentives" to those who conserve is a shallow approach to a critical problem. Pursuing a secure long term water supply has been a dismal failure, due to a lack of vision and action by our elected officials. Suggesting the city expands hookups to recycled water for irrigation without the implementation of the "toilet to tap" program will not provide sufficient increases to meet the needs of our children. Working aggressively to move desalination forward and seeking federal support for this endeavor is paramount.

The little rube actually closes his piece with some truth; "As with any effort to keep faithful to a new year's resolution, city leaders will need someone to act as a constant coach and conscience – and that's where the public comes in." The taxpayer needs to become involved and hold city leaders accountable for their actions or lack thereof. To sit idly by while the city and its employees are decimated is not an option. With the New Year upon us, we need to make a resolution of our own to get involved and make a difference. We must educate the taxpayer to the realities of what we can safely provide and inform them of our true benefits. We can no longer allow the little rube and others to spin reality without providing context and honest, true facts disputing their lies.

I wish to thank all those who offered support to me and my family during 2009. Your prayers and words carried us through the days when we felt so helpless. To those who retired in 2009, after sacrificing countless years of your lives, to protect the citizens of San Diego, I want to thank you for all you gave. My hope is for a better year, filled with good health, joy and love. As we enter 2010, I will leave you with a quote I read this evening on Charles Kindred's Facebook;"We find no real satisfaction or happiness in life without obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve" Maxwell Maltz.

We have many obstacles to conquer and goals to achieve in 2010. The real satisfaction and happiness in our lives are our responsibility and cannot be left to others to provide.

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Myth; The Legend, Reality

I laugh every time "Anonymous" posts a belief or information they want people to believe to be factual and accurate. I cringe at times when these posts are directed at people who have little if any opportunity to defend themselves. I have not edited, deleted or in any other way censored comments to my BLOG (two exceptions related to a known person making a comment meant to hurt someone). Rumors in law enforcement circles can take on a life of their own. The myths that grow from these rumors grow to folk lore status. Legends are made as well as demons.

In my 30+ years with the San Diego Police Department I have heard my share of rumors. I have heard the stories that produced these many legends and created as many demons. Many of the actions that elevated these people to "Legend" status generally had some kernel of truth, but over the years the story had morphed into something that vaguely resembles the actual event. Rumors generally start these stories, as the story is passed from one set of lips to an open ear; jumbled in a brain half soaked in alcohol; then repeated with a harmless detail being either added or deleted to make the story more entertaining or important.

There were the people who wanted to create their own "Legend Status" and would embellish upon an incident to make it bigger than reality. There was a Lieutenant who retired and moved to Washington who comes to mind. His was a storied career if you listened to him tell the story. He became a legend, even if only in his own mind. This person was slipping in status and stature and sought to increase his "Legendary Status." He became the center of attention in the mid-eighties when he alleged officers from the SDPD kidnapped him from his home in Washington, shot him in the ear, leaving him for dead, in an attempt to assassinate him for reasons that today are still not clear. Reality is, it never happened as described, but he achieved his "Legend" status and was the focus of attention for quite some time.

In 2006, I retired from the Poway Unified School District's Board of Education (PUSD). I served for twelve years (3 terms) and always held the belief members of the Board of Education should have a vested interest by having children in the schools, to serve on the board. My children had both graduated and I had served my time. I announced my retirement from PUSD and made plans to focus on my responsibility at the time of representing officers as a Director for the SDPOA. When I announced my retirement from the PUSD, I was interviewed by a news reporter who asked if I had any other plans for politics. I said I had considered running for the City Council and would explore that possibility in the future. These comments were seized upon by a couple of POA members who found this to be some sort of conflict (serving as a board member for the POA and exploring a run for City Council). I found myself defending a statement of future aspirations and what effect if any this would have on my ability to represent the members.

Let's fast forward to comments made in my last BLOG post. Someone (Anonymous) asked if I would consider running for Mayor in 2012. Flattered someone would think I could be a candidate in 2012. Reality is that person was most likely just home from the bars and was sporting a nice buzz at 0207 hours and not thinking clearly. But I appreciate the support all the same. Then "Fed Up City Employee" posted they heard somewhere I had considered a run for city council and would I still consider doing so. I can't use the same argument; Fed Up posted at 0921 hours. Maybe this poster is an old timer still working patrol and just got home from working graveyard and stopping off to have a couple of stress reducing beverages and just got home feeling the same buzz. Then an Anonymous poster writes, "Can anyone say skeletons?" I am not sure, but I believe this person was making a comment about my skeletons, in some way insinuating this would be a deterrent for such an action.

I am fortunate to live in a house large enough to have multiple walk in closets to house all of those skeletons. But as I move from closet to closet and change the Fabreeze odor reducers, I take stock of these "Skeletons" and their importance in who I was, who I have become and who cares. I laugh at many of these "skeletons" and how some became legend and reality from myth. I am not going to deny I have done and said some stupid things over my 30 years around this organization. I am not going to hide from the mistakes I have made in my life and place blame with others or shirk my culpability for these transgressions. The difficult task is addressing those skeletons created through myth and becoming legend. I laugh often at comments and actions attributed to me. If R.D. Brown did half of what has been attributed to him, he would first be over 100 years old and second he would either be in jail or dead. I feel like R.D. at times.

Make no mistake about my skeletons; I have them like all of us do. I do not have any that would cause me to shy from making a run for City Council. I am pretty much an open book and have accepted responsibility for my shortcomings and while I may not be perfect (OK, not even close) I would challenge anyone who is, to step forward and make a difference. Speaking to the issue of seeking a seat on the City Council, I am flattered when people ask me if I would consider doing so. I have spoken at length about the possibility of making a run at District One's seat on the City Council. I have explored options and discussed with various individuals that possibility.

Today, December 20, 2009, I have no plans and very little desire to take on that challenge. The "Anonymous" posters who cast stones and aspersions while slinking behind a computer screen, have such little credibility, their words and veiled threats are meaningless. My reasons for declining to thrust myself into that arena are many. The least of which are my skeletons or the anonymous posters. The ability for one person to affect the change necessary to rite this sinking ship is far more than my abilities and temperament would allow. I also refuse to adhere to the play book of either the Republicans or Democrats. I am a registered Republican and would not prostitute myself or my beliefs to garner their endorsement. I refuse to change my affiliation to Democrat and am left with moving to Independent or "refuse to state" to garner support. The seat is currently held by a Democrat and the Republicans are working to find a stalwart supporter of Sanders and the agenda of the downtown power brokers. That person is NOT me.

I am growing more concerned each day with the tone of those elected to represent our interests. The continued bashing of city employees and our wages and benefits by the press and politicians has grown tiresome. The lack of honest dialogue and refusal to make structural changes, have created a hostile work environment. The press and politicians have all found fault with promises made over years of negotiations and rather than offer solutions and reasonable modifications, have simply taken the politically expedient road by eliminating years of earned benefits and wages. The continued call for reductions and elimination of wages and benefits resonates with those taxpayers who have found themselves struggling to survive. Lacking solutions, we are left to defend the status quo which is a no win situation. We must move past that and offer reasoned changes to our benefits. To do otherwise is giving in and giving up.

The Board of Directors with the SDPOA is working hard to address issues of importance to its members. What is important? To me, the issue of "Retiree Medical Insurance" is the most pressing issue needing a solid answer. Being one of those hired before 1986, the retiree medical issue needs to be addressed before any other. To an officer who has twelve to fifteen years of service, this may not be the issue of most importance to them. Preservation of benefits should be the number one priority of all of us. To do this, we must be willing to find ways to sacrifice in areas less important so the future can be preserved. If the City moves to eliminate retiree medical in this year's contract, you can be assured there will be another exodus of officers from an already decimated department. The mayor knows this and does not care. If anything, in his eyes, it is a plus to eliminate those in the DROP or at retirement age from the city's payroll. The need to seek a solution to this pressing issue could not be greater.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Politically Expedient

What will be the real outcomes of the City Council's actions when they eliminated twelve canine officers; all Investigative Aides; all but eight of the Police Service Officers; twelve Police Code Compliance Officers and the Harbor Patrol Officers from the police department's budget? The mayor and others have told you these cuts will only cause "minimal" delays in response times to calls for service. Let's check back in with Earth and have a reality check here.

I have been a police officer for the City of San Diego for 30+ years and am a resident and native of this city. It is irresponsible and disingenuous to say simply response times to calls for service will be the only effect of these cuts. Reality is people are going to be injured and even killed as a result of these cuts. Some will say I am simply an alarmist and pandering to a fearful group of citizens. Let me take some time and lead you through my thought process for coming to these realizations.

The loss of twelve canine officers will have a profound effect on the ability of patrol officers to apprehend and arrest suspects; defuse hostile and aggressive individuals and prevent the use of lethal force. Suspects often challenge an officer who is pointing a firearm at him, but when the suspect sees the canine he or she will immediately comply with commands and submit to arrest. Eliminating twelve of the thirty six canines will immediately place citizens and officers in harm's way as officers revert to physical measures to apprehend and arrest suspects. Not to mention the numbers of suspects who will elude capture by hiding and fleeing from officers where once a canine would find the hiding or fleeing suspect in short order. There will seldom if ever be more than two canine officers per watch for the entire City of San Diego; from San Ysidro to the Wild Animal Park. Feel free to do the math on how many miles each must cover.

The elimination of the Investigative Aides will require the transfer of thousands of the criminal cases investigated and processed by these Investigators to sworn detectives who struggle daily to keep up with the serious felony cases arriving on their desks. Included in these positions are two Investigative Aides who handle investigations related to seized, recovered and impounded firearms. These two Gun Desk Investigators are responsible for ensuring firearms are not returned to persons legally not allowed to posses them. They also process firearms for possible links to other crimes and work with Investigators in Homicide, Gangs and other investigative units linking crimes and suspects through the guns flowing across their desk. These duties will now fall upon sworn detectives; again removing him or her from their primary duties to complete these administrate and time consuming tasks. The elimination of these Investigative Aides will require additional detectives which will result in patrol officers being removed from their patrol duties to fill these positions.

The elimination of the Police Code Compliance Officers in Vice will have a tremendous negative effect upon the ability of the police department to monitor, regulate and control the many police regulated business in the City of San Diego. The Massage Parlors, Strip Clubs, Bars, Peep Shows and Adult Book Stores, Pawn Shops, Junk Yards, Second Hand Shops, Recycle Centers, Tow Companies, and Alarm Companies to name just a few; are inspected, regulated and licensed by these PCCO'S. Each of these industries has the potential for criminal activity and organized crime and requires close scrutiny of not just their practices but the employees working in them. The revenue generated from the licenses, permits and fines total roughly $7.2 million on an annual basis. The civilian officers who currently do these tasks have developed experience and expertise that have contributed to their outstanding record of performance. The duties and responsibilities for processing the thousands of permits, licenses and applications will now fall on the desk of sworn detectives who will be required to meet legal time requirements for issuing or denying licenses and permits as well as ensure critical criteria for licensing are met. These detectives will be required to become familiar with the nuances of each industry and the many regulatory rules, laws and costs of each. The owners of these industries demand proper, fair and comprehensive oversight. Sworn police detectives will now assume these duties and responsibilities and must learn each industry and the requirements for permitting, licensing and inspecting. Detectives will tire quickly of the administrative monotony and seek to transfer or promote to new challenges and a new detective will be transferred in to begin the learning processes anew. These constant changes will soon result in loss of oversight and allow for more criminal activity to take hold. The quality of life issues surrounding these many industries are to vast to discuss here but you can imagine the degradation to our communities that will soon follow. Lest we forget the loss of revenue from the unintentional lag in processing and lack of adequate oversight and inspection resulting in fines being levied.

The city of San Diego is a world class destination for vacationers and the waterways are a popular play spot for locals. The elimination of the Harbor Patrol Unit of the San Diego Police Department is short sighted, penny wise and pound foolish. The cost of this unit is miniscule (less than $70,000) and their immeasurable experiences and qualifications are hard to quantify and cannot be replaced easily. The lives saved and the accidents prevented by these experienced sworn officers demand a solution be found to fund these positions. To believe the coast guard or life guards will step in and provide the preventive presence and enforcement currently provided is laughable.

The loss of the Police Service Officers (PSO) will have a profound effect on patrol officers. These dedicated civilian police service officers investigate burglaries, traffic accidents, thefts, recover property, assist with traffic direction at scenes and handle the many responsibilities surrounding community watch groups and crime prevention. These duties will now fall to the patrol officer.

Many will say we all have to suck it up. Some will say we are not doing enough. The mayor has boasted the streets are safe and there will be little to no effect on the public's safety. I would suggest the public and police officers are not safe and the pages of San Diego public safety have been turned back twenty plus years and our ability to do our job reduced to 1970 levels. In 1988, Gerald Sanders, Captain, ID# 1840, was the Commanding Officer at Southeast Division. On a normal day in Southeastern Division, Captain Sanders put nineteen (19) police officers, two sergeants, two police service officers and three reserve officers into the field to protect the citizens of Southeast Division. We had begun a program called "Contact and Cover" as a result of ten (10) on-duty officer deaths in the prior 12 years.

Then Captain Sanders was vocal about his desire to increase the staffing in his command and believed at the time he did not have enough officers too safely and properly police this area of the city. Yet today he has eviscerated the civilian support personnel whose primary duties allowed officers to concentrate on maintaining order and providing safe communities. The sworn officer's ability to do their job is made possible by these dedicated persons. The loss of those whose duties will now fall to sworn officers will require detectives to be re-assigned to these vacant positions and patrol officers to take on additional duties. The reality is there are going to be many functions we once provided as a routine that will fall by the way side. The ability of officers on patrol to answer radio calls, conduct investigations, provide traffic enforcement, arrest criminal violators, and provide crime prevention assistance will result in officers cutting corners and taking unnecessary risk.

Unlike Captain Sanders staffing numbers in 1988, divisions throughout the San Diego Police Department fail to meet even watered down minimum staffing on a daily, shift by shift basis. Minimum staffing in 1988 in Southeastern Division was almost two times what it is today. Calls for service were a fraction of what they are today. PSO'S, Investigative Aides, and Reserves were available and staffing was greater in 1988 than it is today and sufficient officers to provide at minimum "contact and cover" for each other. Yet in Captain Sanders own words this staffing was not enough in 1988.

The 10,000 pound elephant in the room is the political grandstanding elected officials and others are doing in the name of no layoffs of sworn police officers. The mayor and others are pounding their chest and proclaiming "No Sworn Police Officers" were laid off and we are all suppose to be grateful. The reality is the layoffs proposed by the mayor and approved by the City Council will have a much more profound effect on the public's safety and our ability to do anything about it. The politicians continue to force the blame for the budget deficit on the city's employees. The politically expedient and politically popular move is to layoff civilian, non-sworn members of the police department and boast of preserving the public's safety.

The proper course of action, as distasteful and painful as it may have been, would have been to layoff the 38 or so academy recruits and 30 police trainees. The budget correction sought would have been accomplished with less effect on the public and officer's safety. This course of action would have required truthful dialogue with the taxpayer and an additional step of offering up real solutions. The current politicians in the City of San Diego do not have the will or ability to do this. Until that time comes, we will continue to face cuts to services, personnel, wages and benefits.

Who will accept responsibility for those injured and killed as a result of the degradation to the public's safety in San Diego?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A “Little Rube” Pull Toy

Today I was chatting with several others when someone described the little rube as nothing more than one of those dolls kids play with that have a pull string that when pulled plays one of several recorded messages; "We need to reduce inefficiencies" "We need to cut out the waste in government" "We need to start with labor costs" "We need to focus on pension reform and retiree medical reforms" "We need to reform fringe benefits and hold the line on wages" "Efficiency for the lowest cost should be governments obligation." I started to laugh and then it hit me; he's right!

I have always felt the little rube is nothing more than a "one trick pony" that uses simple, short catch phrases that draw people's attention. The phrases he uses in every conversation he engages in are the same and always follow the same theme; "Pension Reform" "Retiree Medical Reform" "Government Efficiency" "Reduce Labor Costs" are the lead phrase of every conversation. Sneak up behind him; find the string; give it a yank; and hear it for yourself.

I was doing my usual search for stories about the goings on at city hall when I came across a Twitter post from the little rube, "carldemaio Drink champagne (or just want reform at City Hall)? Join me for a fundraiser this Saturday at my house." (You will need a facebook account to access the link to his party) The little rube is inviting people to his home, "Help Carl DeMaio reform city government by attending this important fundraiser at his personal home in Rancho Bernardo. Proceeds benefit Carl's 2010 campaign to pass two key ballot initiatives." The little rube is plotting, planning and pushing his own agenda and will stop at nothing to ensure success. Watch for a pension reform initiative in the very near future.

Yesterday was an example of why politics are wrecking San Diego. The outcome of yesterday's action by the city council in eliminating the 80+ civilian positions from the police department will have a profound effect on our ability to provide public safety services to the taxpayer. The cuts were made by the mayor to the civilian support members of the department so he could stand up and proclaim no "Sworn Officers" were laid off. The general public was then lead to believe the positions being eliminated would allow the budget deficit to be eliminated and they would not notice an impact. What the mayor and others failed to tell the public was the duties carried out by these civilian support personnel will now be carried out by sworn police officers at a much greater cost. The cost to accomplish these duties just drastically increased and the efficiency the little rube so passionately advocates for has been destroyed.

While no one wants to be responsible for laying off sworn police officers, I would submit to you the pain of laying off 50 police officers would have had less of an impact on services and our ability to do the job than the elimination of the 80+ civilian support personnel. No, I do not want to lay off 50 police officers, but if the goal is to cut costs with the least impact on services and safety; laying off those in the academy would have accomplished this goal more efficiently. The cuts to civilians were simply the politically expedient way to temporarily solve a long term problem. The sad part of this is it was an opportunity for the department to gain the attention of the ignorant taxpayer who is clueless of the state of public safety in San Diego.

The January 2010 academy is not going to have any San Diego Police Recruits and the April 2010 academy is still up in the air as to whether we will have any at that time. The exodus of officers has for the time being slowed. This will not last for much longer as other agencies begin to hire and chose lateral hires over recruits. Officers with three to ten years on the department are poised to flee this city and the incompetence of its leadership. Early next year officers will begin to leave for other agencies as it becomes clear additional cuts will be taken from their paychecks. Those officers who have been here five years have had three reductions to their paychecks. How long would you stick around?

The elimination of twelve canine officers is a clear indication of what management and this city's leaders think of the safety of officers and citizens. The priorities of the mayor and council were clear yesterday when they voted to keep an urban forester over an investigative aide working the gun desk. The council's priorities further shone when they sought to find a legal way to use water funds to restore $369,000 for the San Dieguito River Park agency rather than explore the recommendation by the IBA to eliminate further vacant positions held in the police department budget to preserve the six PCCO'S. This action would have provided an additional $2.9 million which would have covered the cost of the six Police Code Compliance Officers that were eliminated. Talking about "Government Efficiency" the department and mayor get an "F" for this action. To ensure the duties and responsibilities are handled, four detectives and a detective sergeant will be added to the Vice Unit in hopes these sworn officers can fill the void. I say "Good Luck" it ain't going to happen.

Nothing good is going to come from yesterday's actions by the mayor and council. The so called 18 month budget passed yesterday will be out of kilter and facing another deficit by August. The structural changes that need be done have not even been discussed by ANY of our elected politicians. The cuts to services and elimination of employees will require higher paid employees to pick up the duties and responsibilities of those being laid off. The amount of overtime necessary to get the job done will drastically increase and the learning curve will continue to be an elusive arc. Where we had stable, experienced and hard working civilian support; we are now going to have sworn officers attempting to learn new tasks and looking to transfer about the time they begin to fully function in the job. Duties and responsibilities that require stability and consistency have been replaced with officers who will soon tire of the administrative function and seek new challenges and responsibilities in hopes of promoting or getting back into the game.

Say what you will; we would have been better served for our management and political leaders to do the right thing and lay off sworn officers rather than the 80+ civilian support staff they chose for political expediency and the ability to say, "We did not lay off any sworn officers." We are currently down 300 police officers and this number is going to continue to increase. The fifty to ninety recruits in the academy are years away from helping in any real way. We are in trouble folks and it will get worse when our civilian support staff handle their last cases.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Need a “Happy Ending?”

At the end of a massage in one of your less than professional establishments a technician will often provide a "Happy Ending" to her client. If I have to explain this to you maybe you are reading a BLOG not really suited for you. If you want to get one of these "Happy Endings" you can pocket your money and just attend a San Diego City Council Meeting prepared to offer testimony and think your words will be considered before a decision is made.

Today's exercise before City Council was yet another example of how truly screwed up and out of touch the politicians are in this city. The impact to public safety that will result from today's action will be lasting and traumatic. The blood that will be shed by citizens and officers alike will be on the hands of those who orchestrated the political cuts in the name of balancing a budget. The mayor is beaming with delight in his latest victory at the expense of the ignorant taxpayer. He boasts for all to hear he was able to close a $200 million budget deficit and not lay off any police officers or firefighters. Then there is the proclamation of more officers on the street to fight crime and everything will continue functioning as before even though the mayor and council just eliminated the Police Code Compliance Officers; Investigative Aides, twelve canine officers, the horses and harbor unit.

Before the council began taking public testimony, I posted a Twitter message at 0926 hours that said; "Sitting in Council waiting to give testimony wondering why. Faulconer just indicated decisions have been made." As the mayor gave his presentation and the questions that followed from council, it became evident they had all been snowed and bought into the rhetoric and lies they were being sold.

I have followed city councils in this city for more years than I care to count. I have sat through my share of meetings and spent countless hours watching the meetings on TV when I could not make the meeting in person. I have seen some characters sitting on that dais. I cannot remember a collective group whose ability to reason and ask appropriate and reasoned questions to get to the heart of an issue, so lacking. They have allowed the mayor to pierce their noses and attach a ring through the greater alar cartilage so he can lead them around at will. Today's display was clearly an example of what is wrong with "Strong Mayor" and this city's government and the so called elected leaders.

The "Strong Mayor" as it is currently being practiced is contributing to the dysfunction in San Diego. Government is designed to have safe guards against one person making all of the decisions. A "Dictatorship" is a more appropriate descriptor of how things are in San Diego; one person making the decision for everyone and eviscerating anyone with the gall to offer a differing opinion or speak out against the "Dictator." The council minions, who were actually elected by the voters, have yet to understand their role and position in this government as it is constructed.

I was disappointed in the actions of the council today. They had an opportunity to challenge the mayor and offer more reasonable solutions and put the interests of the taxpayers first. Today's actions were wholly and completely political and clearly showed the extent of control the mayor holds over the council and departments in this city. The approval of the cuts to the support staff of the police department left me questioning; what are the real priorities of those running this city. To eliminate six Police Code Compliance Officers assigned to the Vice Unit, whose jobs involve a positive revenue increase to the general fund of over $7 million annually and replace them four Police Detectives and a Detective Sergeant all in the name of balancing a budget makes no sense.

The case was clearly made before council today there would have been a lesser impact on public safety had the city laid off 45 police officers. The lay-offs that were approved today will have a lasting and profound effect on the ability of the department to provide adequate police services. To say the cuts will have little effect on service or revenue is short sighted and patently false. But remember; the mayor did not have to lay-off any sworn officers. Political expediency over doing what is right won out today.

My only request is next time I appear before the council and they are going to provide me a "Happy Ending" and perpetrate the charade that took place today, they allow me to make the choice of participating. The council and mayor have nothing to worry about; they eliminated those responsible for regulating the massage busniesses and "Happy Endings" will become the norm again as well as the many other crimes that are bread when regulation takes a back seat to politics.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Chances Missed in Life

At a time we are all giving thanks on Thanksgiving, I was unknowingly saying goodbye to my younger brother, David Michael McMillan. Growing up, David preferred to be called Mike. Mike has lived in Texas for some time and was here visiting and helping our mother who had open heart surgery last month. Mike has had some physical ailments of his own and was struggling with health issues brought on by the life he lead. On Thursday, November 19, 2009, Mike was having trouble breathing and was taken to Sharps Hospital. Within a couple of days and after a series of tests, it was discovered Mike had cancer. The cancer had taken over his lungs, liver and lymph nodes. This was Tuesday the 24th and treatment options were being evaluated. Wednesday the doctors told Mike's wife the outlook was grim and treatment options were limited to making him comfortable. If Mike wished to prolong his life, the only option for adding a limited time was oxygen delivered by a machine.

Mike and his wife Debbie discussed the options and Mike made the decision to be kept comfortable and not allow any other measures to prolong his life. Hospice was notified and they were to take over his case on Friday morning. I visited Mike Thanksgiving morning and he was struggling to keep his focus. The pain medications were suppressing the pain and also suppressing his ability to communicate. I returned that evening after Thanksgiving dinner and spent time with Mike's wife Debbie, his three daughters; Kristine, Patti and Amanda. Our sister Julie and her daughter Taylor were also there spending time with Mike. Mike was, for the most part out of it from the pain medication. I left that evening telling Mike I would see him tomorrow.

Friday morning I got up early and headed off to Iron Mountain for a hike to work off some of the calories piled on the day before. The morning was crisp and cool but clear, sunny and perfect for an early morning hike to the top. I met several friends along the way and sat at the top for a bit chatting with others before heading back down. I had just started down the mountain when my cell phone rang and the number showed Mike's daughter Patti was calling. I got a cold chill in my spine when I saw her number. Something told me before I answered the news on the other end was not going to be good.

I answered the phone and Patti struggled to say my name. Fighting not to cry, Pattie said, "Uncle Steve?" She didn't need to say another word. I knew from her voice, what was to come next, "Dad just died." I felt numb and all of the sounds became muted as I stood on the trail processing what Patti had just said. What do you say to a niece who just called to tell you her father, your brother, has just passed away? The pain and anguish in her voice was unmistakable. I told her I would be there as soon as I could.

I ended the call and stood there for several minutes thinking about Mike. I was not prepared for his death. I'm not sure what I expected but for him to pass 48 hours after deciding to forgo life sustaining methods was not even considered in my mind. I started down the trail moving faster than before. I was three miles from my car and the hike was a blur. My mind drifted to our childhood. Mike and I shared a bedroom until I left home. Mike got married before I did and had his first daughter in 1978. I graduated the Police Academy and was married in 1979, having my first child in 1982. Mike worked at General Dynamics like our father. Dad was an engineer who worked first in the space systems, working on the Apollo, Gemini space modules. Mike worked on air frame fuselages and became a lead supervisor.

Mike's last years were spent in Texas with his second wife Debbie. A serious traffic accident almost took Mike's life two years ago. The injuries from this accident had taken their toll. A heavy smoker from his teen days, Mike struggled with diabetes and other issues that restricted his ability to work. Mike drove to San Diego several weeks ago to assist our mother who as I said earlier had open heart surgery to replace a heart valve. Mike was helping out around the house and driving his mother to and from various appointments. When Mike's breathing became difficult and he was admitted to the hospital it was thought at the time he may have had pneumonia.

Mike's two daughters, Patti and Amanda live her in San Diego and were at the hospital checking in on their father. Kristine was in Texas with her husband and was told of her father's illness and decided to drive out to be by his side. Kristine left Texas on Friday last week never thinking her father's life would end so suddenly. Kristine is a special education teacher in Texas and her husband Chris is a volunteer caregiver for hospice. When Kristine arrived in San Diego it appeared Mike was improving, even if slowly. Debbie arrived and after a series of tests she was told the seriousness of Mike's illness.

Friday morning, Debbie, Kristine, Patti and Amanda were by Mike's side when he took his last breaths. There is little to prepare a child for the death of a parent. The feeling of loneliness and fear hit hard as the reality of Mike's passing hit home. The realization of never being able to call their dad to ask for advice or tell him of a first for his grandson or the break the news of an engagement, strikes a pain so great it cannot be expressed in words. The realization of a daughter her daddy is gone is overwhelming.

I was not close to my brother. We travelled different paths in life and as we wandered down these widely different roads we moved further and further away. I loved my brother and will miss him. I have many regrets and wished we had an opportunity to talk more before his sudden passing. Mike is in a better place and his quick passing meant he did not suffer long. His three wonderful girls have grown to be great young women and with the support of the family and friends will get that playful life back in time. Mike's wife Debbie will head back to Texas and her son will take leave from his military post to help her through this difficult time.

Remember how precious and fragile life can be. In the blink of an eye any one of us can be taken from this planet. Cherish every moment with family and do not put off talking to one another and telling them what they mean to you. Do not put off calling a loved one just to say hello. If there is a bridge that needs to be re-built; be the first to make that happen. If you don't, you may not get the chance.

Happy Thanksgiving to all and be safe. Hug your loved ones and tell them what they mean to you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Re-arranging the deck chairs

The mayor presented his proposals for cuts and reductions today. The good news is there are no actual sworn police officers facing layoff (That's what they want us to think). That is about the end of the good news, if anyone could really call it good. I have been following the Twitter posts of those tweeting about the cuts and am flabbergasted at the range of comments.

  • Ron Nehring;
    San Diego's Mayor Sanders (R) proposes closing $179M deficit w/ spending cuts, not taxes. It CAN be done.
  • Andrew Donohue;
    His friends disagree. Emphasis from Sanders is that onetime cuts ok because deficit not structural but related to recession.
  • Andrew Donohue;
    if SDPD equestrian unit eliminated, city COO says horses will be sold. But doesn't know whether it'll 2 a rendering facility.
  • Kevin Faulconer; my initial thoughts on the Mayor's budget proposal are positive. (Press Release)
  • SDPOA; San Diego Police Officers Association Response to Mayor Sanders' Proposed Budget Adjustments. (Read More)
  • Scott Lewis/VOSD; But Kevin Faulconer says it's "a good start"? Lani Lutar: City Budget proposal: Mostly one-time tricks ... kicking the can down the road.
  • Andrew Donohue; He's continuing to push problems into the future, like predecessors. Key difference: He promised, not only not 2 do this, but to fix this.
  • SDNN; is writing about Sanders pushing mid-year cuts: Under Sanders' proposal, fire pits on city beaches would be eliminated.
  • The Little Rube; hear my interview on KOGO, Chris Reed Show; about charter amendment for Competition and Transparency in City Contracting. (This is a must listen)

The police department has taken the brunt of the cuts being proposed by the mayor. The mayor's proposal calls for reduction of the Mounted Enforcement Unit. Under the mayor's plan, the Mounted Enforcement Unit will be eliminated and the equipment will be stored or auctioned and the animals will be auctioned or donated; the Harbor Patrol Unit will be eliminated and the ability to conduct proactive boating under the influence investigations will be greatly reduced as well is the ability to conduct boating collision investigations would be limited to shoreline investigations. Calls for service on the waterways will be transferred to the lifeguard service or the US Coast Guard.

Forty-one full time civilian positions will be eliminated. This will impact wait times for investigation support, fingerprint analysis, and other lab support, and will prolong the backlog of requests for assistance. Vacant dispatch positions will result in increased over time. Administrative job duties may either be delayed, canceled, or require sworn personnel to complete, depending on priorities or demand.

Twenty-one Investigative Aide positions will be eliminated. Responsibilities associated with these positions will be deferred to sworn police officers who will be assigned to handle the significant number of misdemeanor arrest cases that are normally assigned to the investigative aides.

Forty-eight Police Service Officer II positions will be eliminated. This will result in increased response times to priority 3 and 4 radio calls for service, which will now have to be responded to and investigated by sworn police officers, increasing the patrol officers out of service time, thereby increasing police response times in all categories. The wait time for citizens in need of accident, petty theft, grand theft, residential and commercial burglary investigations will increase substantially.

Twelve Police Code Compliance Officer Positions will be eliminated. The responsibilities associated with these positions will be delegated to sworn personnel and will create increased delays and wait times for citizens needing assistance and licensing and the many other tasks currently performed by these officers. These code compliance officers are responsible for inspecting and regulating businesses such as pawnshops, peep shows, nude entertainment, massage parlors, street vendors, tow companies, residential and commercial alarm companies, and many other police regulated businesses. The duties performed by these 12 officers generate upwards of $8 million in license fees and fines. Their elimination will simply require sworn police officers to complete these tasks to maintain order in these highly volatile business ventures.

One Hundred Thirty Three and Three Quarter (We still have ¾ of a sworn officer?) sworn vacant personnel positions, will be eliminated from the budget. The savings from these positions being eliminated have already been included in the vacancy savings that was already part of the calculation of the fiscal year 2011 deficit. The elimination of these positions will effectively shut down any and all recruiting of officers for the San Diego Police Department. This will in turn effectively eliminate the need for Academy personnel. The Police Department is currently woefully understaffed and struggles daily to meet the staffing needs necessary to respond to citizens calls for service. The danger faced by officers responding to calls is increasing as every day passes that the department continues to be understaffed. The fatigue and stress coupled with long work hours and constant vigilance to ensure their safety and the safety of others is taking its toll on every member of the department.

The proposed cuts to the canine unit are the most alarming. Under the mayor's proposal, a reduction of K-9 operations by 40% will leave twenty-four (24) K-9 officers to cover three patrol watches. The elimination of these 12 K-9 officers will further jeopardize the safety of officers and citizens. Those suspects who in the past submitted to arrest without physical altercation, simply because a K-9 officer was available and present on scene, will no longer be commonplace. The need for officers to enter canyons, fields and buildings in pursuit of dangerous suspects will now place the officers at a much greater risk for having to use force and the potential for injury will be dramatically increased. The incidence of claims due to injuries resulting from these physical confrontations will greatly reduce any cost savings sought by this proposal. I liken the proposals the mayor has presented to nothing more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The elimination of the K-9 officers; the Police Code Compliance Officers; the Police Service Officer II positions; and the Investigative Aide positions, is simply penny wise and pound foolish. One of the greatest tasks and responsibilities of government is the protection of its people. The shortsighted reductions proposed by the mayor will have a profound effect on the ability of officers to provide for the public's safety. Of even greater concern is the peril officers are now being placed unnecessarily so elected officials can gain political capital.

In the coming weeks, changes will no doubt take place, as politics enter the fray and a gaggle of cooks entered the kitchen. The mayor is going to receive pressure from his "fiscal task force" for these one-time cuts and continued shuffling of the deck chairs. There is nothing in the mayor's proposal that addresses the unfunded liability for the retirement system or retiree medical. There is nothing in the mayor's proposal to increase revenue to a level necessary to sustain basic core services in the city of San Diego. The mayor's proposal is a superficial and haphazard proposal for what the mayor terms an 18 month budget. We will be back at this again in very short order (LESS than 18 months).

We are supposed to be thankful that there were no sworn officers laid off. As I sit here writing this I do not feel thankful in the slightest. The bottom line is there are going to be citizens and officers alike injured and in some cases killed because of these reductions. Who will be held to answer?

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Little Rube aka Carl DeMaio Strikes Again

I am no doubt going to have to edit my language in this rant tonight. Tweet after tweet from this bombastic activist, posing as a city council member, I found myself swearing at the computer as I read this moron's press release; statement titled, "Competition and Transparency in City Contracting"; and last but not least the "Full Text of the Initiative" this self appointed savior of the city has presented to the City Clerk, to begin the process of collecting signatures to qualify an initiative for the ballot in November 2010. This ballot initiative is signed by the little rube as well as Bob Glaser. Bob Glaser, for those who do not know, is the goof who sued the city, when at a Charger game a woman ponies up next to him at the urinal trough and dropped her pants and urinates, embarrassing and traumatizing him. He is also a political consultant in San Diego.

The actions of the elected officials in this city are about as pathetic as any city in this nation. The unethical, secret, backdoor political actions are completely and totally out of control. The mayor and his "Fiscal Task Force" secretly planning and plotting the actions of the mayor and now the little rube; writing, signing and presenting for signatures a proposal for a ballot initiative. This is just another in a string of actions by this person that shows his true character and agenda. If he can't get his way at council, he will use the initiative process to further his agenda.

I find his actions, as a sitting council member, to be wholly and totally inappropriate. The initiative process was not designed to be used in this manner. As an elected politician, his first course of action should have been to calendar this issue for discussion with his colleagues on the city council. He owes a responsibility to the other members of the council, an opportunity for input and discussion. I know this may come as a surprise to this "Napoleonic Rube" but he is not the savior of all mankind and the City of San Diego.

The reality is the little rube is a phony and when specifics are required his arguments evaporate. His sound bites, taken alone, sound great and it is hard to find fault with many of his recommendations because of the brevity and ability to comingle facts and information. Begin to ask questions and demand specifics and things begin to fall apart quickly for the little rube. Who would argue it is appalling for city workers to retire with a retirement salary of 178% of their salary at age 50? Just one of the many facts the little rube puts out at every opportunity to the ignorant and misinformed taxpayer. I could go on for hours with the misinformation I have heard from this activist poser.

If the little rube is as smart as he purports to be, his task is a simple one; use his intelligence, fact and logic to garner the necessary votes to place his initiative on the ballot by convincing his council colleagues to agree with the need and voting among themselves to do just that. He has done none of this and has again jumped upon a stool and lambasted an apathetic mayor, disparaged his council colleagues and pounded upon his chest he is the know all, save all, savior of the City. I also want to point out, the initiative, in its current form, is inaccurate and cannot be enforced. There are repeated references to a "City Manager" for which we no longer have in the strong mayor form of government to fulfill the responsibilities as spelled out in this initiative.

The little rube's Press Release, notated at the end; "Paid for by San Diegans for Fair and Open City Contracting, FPPC # Pending 7185 Navajo Road, Suite P, San Diego 92119." Care to venture who these "San Diegans" are and what their connection is to the little rube? I have already marked my calendar to check with the registrar when filings are completed to identify contributors and supporters of this initiative. How much money is the little rube advancing this committee to further his agenda? My guess is the same players as usual. Time will tell.

Wake up San Diego; it's all smoke and mirrors; you are about to be taken for another ride. If you need to see a picture of our future, take a look at Detroit.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

San Diego’s Secret Committee

I believe the "Task Force" put together by the mayor to be illegal. The more I read and understand of the actions taken by the "Mayor's Fiscal Task Force" I believe their actions and the actions of the mayor to be in violation of Government Code Section 54950, known as the "Brown Act." Reading from the draft report's first paragraph, given to the Voice of San Diego; "the group met weekly for four months to study the overall status of the City's fiscal position. The task force reviewed relevant City of San Diego data and records, (IBA Report #: 09-75, Personnel Expense Analysis, Per Capita Income Comparison, City Revenue Comparisons, Fiscal Year 2001-2015 Five-Year Financial Outlook), as well as similar data from other comparable municipalities. The task force interviewed members of the City's executive staff (including Jay Goldstone and his fiscal team). Also interviewed were the City's Independent Auditor and the Independent Budget Analyst - Andrea Tevlin - with her fiscal team. The task force met with representatives from the County of San Diego, various local constituents, including organized labor, non-profits, private business and citizens groups, and various subject matter experts" it is clear this is NOT an "Ad Hock Committee."

In enacting the "Brown Act," the legislature declared public commissions, boards and councils as well as other public agencies in the State exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It was the intent of the legislature, actions be taken openly and the deliberations be conducted openly (in public). The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to those who serve them. The people, in delegating authority do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

The law requires the meetings of this group of civic individuals, brought together by the mayor, to be noticed and open to the public. The secrecy of this group and the actions undertaken on behalf of the mayor, demand the public's knowledge and ability to participate. As stated above, the legislature's intent was to ensure all actions on behalf of the public be done openly. I said in my last post the mayor would attempt to identify this task force as an "Ad Hock Committee" which is not governed by the Brown Act. After reading the draft, linked in a Voice of San Diego article on Friday, November 20, 2009, titled; "Bankruptcy an Option, Says Mayor's Fiscal Task Force" written by Liam Dillon, I believe the mayor and members of this "Task Force" have violated the Brown Act.

The recommendations contained in the "draft" document demand public discussion and input from members of the public. To do so after the fact has proven in the past to be futile and meaningless. The secret activities of the members of this "Task Force" and mayor bring into question the integrity of those involved, as well as the process. Their lack of open discussion and debate leaves one to question the process and outcomes. Reading the draft document leaves a lot of questions unanswered and presents questions of legality. The document is rife with assumptions that in some cases are incorrect and could have been vetted, if discussed in a public forum.

I would urge everyone to read the draft of the mayor's "Fiscal Task Force" report. It is imperative we all understand the issues and recommendations from this group; there is a clear agenda present in their writings. This group and the work they have presented cannot be ignored nor allowed to proceed unchecked. We must become an active participant in our future and demand to be included in the discussions and actions of this group, constituted by the mayor.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Open Government & Transparency

The mayor is at it again! On Tuesday, twelve prominent (if you consider "former" whatever's prominent) well connected, downtown money elite individuals, delivered a "draft" report to the mayor with solutions for fixing the city's budget deficit. The Voice of San Diego attempted to get a copy of the report from the mayor only to be told he did not have a copy to give them. To make this clear, the Voice of San Diego made a public records request for the report and was told the mayor's office did not keep a copy (I find this unbelievable).

In an article titled, "Private Task Force Delivers Report on Finances to Mayor" Liam Dillon of the Voice of San Diego, identified the members of the task force and attempted to shed light on the information being presented. In a prior post here, "The mayor's Legacy" I discussed the mayor's "Civic Leadership 2009-2012" an action team of "civic" leaders picked by the mayor to provide him policy suggestions and help push his agenda. I spoke about the various topics being discussed by these handpicked individuals, all behind closed doors and out of the public's view.

The names of those on the mayor's "Fiscal Task Force" are interesting to say the least. Vince Mudd, owner of Office Interiors; Neil Derrough, former Executive for CBS; Pete Garcia, former Executive with University Mechanical and Engineering Contractors; Mark Koop, Executive for Quan Investment; Marshall Merrifield, Founder of Clark Security Products; Bill Roper, former Executive of Verisign Inc; Dan Shea, Owner of Donovan's Steak & Chop House; Susan Snow, Executive with Odyssey Capital Group; Mark Stephens, Managing Partner with Ernst and Young; Bob Tjosvold, former Executive with Bank of America; Dick Vortman, former Executive with National Steel and Shipbuilding Co; and Barbara Warden, former San Diego City Council member.

Reading between the lines, it appears the mayor and his committee is at odds with who "owns" the report. Vince Mudd is the chairman of this Fiscal Task Force and said the report will be "comprehensive and free from any mayoral vetoes over its content." Sounds as if the mayor was not happy with the report and wanted changes. Mudd continued, "The concept of the report is looking at the fiscal situation as a whole from a real honest perspective, one that's not filtered in any way through a political lens." So help me mayor, the report looks at the fiscal situation of the city from a "real honest perspective" and because it was not in a manner that would be politically correct or in keeping with your agenda, you told this secret committee to take the report back?

Rachel Laing said the mayor created the "Civic Leadership Team" to push his (the mayor) agenda, not to promote the agendas of others. Laing is quoted in the Voice of San Diego article, "When you know it's going to change and you get your marching orders for change, then there is no reason to keep one." Even more light is being shined on this secret committee and their report. Laing is telling us clearly the mayor was not happy with the report and wanted changes. Laing continues, "If there's something in the report that's not accurate or not in keeping with the mayor's agenda then we don't want that out there." Trouble is brewing in Emerald City. Vince Mudd did not share Laing's views. Mudd said, "When the report comes out, I have a tremendously high level of confidence that the mayor is going to want to see what's in it, and there's going to be things in it that the mayor's not going to like it."

The bigger issue with all of this is the secret meetings and the public's business being kept from the public. The "Civic Leadership Team" put together by the mayor will no doubt be called an "ad hock committee" to avoid the need to follow the Brown Act. It is these exact types of actions that caused the California State Legislature to enact Government Code Section 54950-54962, known as the "Brown Act." In enacting this law, the legislature declared public commissions, boards and councils as well as other public agencies in the State exist to aid in the conduct of the people's business. It was the intent of the legislature, actions be taken openly and the deliberations be conducted openly (in public). The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to those who serve them. The people, in delegating authority do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

The secrecy of these meetings, reports, discussions and actions, if not illegal are in the very least, appalling and destructive. "Open government and Transparency" is simply political double speak, lacking any semblance of reality relative to the mayor and his administration. The repeated lies, denials, and secrecy of the mayor have caused the council to keeps its distance and caused employee groups to distrust anything presented by him or his administration. Trust is easy to destroy and virtually impossible to restore. The mayor does not have time to restore the trust he never had. The only thing transparent in the mayor's administration is the mayor himself.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fundamental Priority

Keegan Kyle of the Voice of San Diego wrote an article today (11-18-2009) titled, "Next on the Chopping Block: Public Safety." The issue addressed in the article was the discussion by city government of cutbacks to public safety. Keegan correctly identified why this is an important issue that people need pay closer attention to. Keegan goes on to explain why this is now being considered.

"There is no room to cut in either department," said Jeff Bowman, a former San Diego Fire chief. "I realize the city has budget problems, but the city has immense public safety problems." Bowman said public safety should be the fundamental priority of city government over other obligations like infrastructure, recreation or social services.(Taken from VOSD article)

Erik Bruvold, president of the Institute for Policy Research at National University, compared a trimmed-down public safety force to a less costly insurance policy. As the city invests less money in public safety services -- mostly police, rescue and fire -- its residents are going to receive less coverage when an unexpected event happens. (Taken from VOSD article)

We are being told things are not as bad as first thought; things are getting better; the stock market has rebounded; there will be no layoffs; and there will be no cuts to wages or benefits (guaranteed). The city is spending money like a drunken sailor and the police department moves forward with the promotional process for sergeant and lieutenant. Consultants were hired TODAY to begin evaluation of the downtown site for a new stadium for the Chargers; the land necessary to begin the expansion of the Convention Center was purchased this week; and work continues on the planning and development for a new city hall and downtown library.

Yesterday's revelation from the mayor's Financial Director the city's revenue projections are off by $10 million, pushing the projected deficit to $190 million does not sound BETTER to me. Things are getting better folks. Things are not as bad as first thought. I still have that land for sale and I know it's expected to be cloudy the next couple of nights, so if anyone wants to check the land out I am available.

Jeff Bowman, former chief of the San Diego Fire Department seems to be the only person willing to point out the obvious. His honest, reasoned comments are and always have been refreshing. Chief Bowman points out what the mayor and council seem to forget; government's fundamental priority is public safety. Infrastructure, social services, recreation, and other obligations, while important fall in line behind public safety. As Eric Bruvold points out, trimmed down public safety is akin to a less costly insurance policy and the less money invested in public safety will result in less coverage when an unexpected event happens. Keegan understands fully why cutting public safety should be avoided at all cost. Keegan writes, "Reductions in public safety funding could lead to slower response times for some neighborhoods and increase the risk of property damage and loss of life."

Is there anyone in this city willing to stand up and demand the city's politicians focus their priorities on those fundamental priorities that make sense? Public Safety; safe and passable streets; refuse collection; clean water; and adequate education for our children need be the priorities before a stadium; convention center expansion; new city hall or library; parks; pools; seals; fire pits; museums; operas; needle exchange; DARE; STAR; staffing in the mayor and council offices; or any of the other political social service programs provided by the city.

Glen Sparrow, professor emeritus at San Diego State University's School of Public Affairs was quoted in Kyle's Voice of San Diego article as saying, "I don't think that there is any good way that [the City Council] can come out of this. This is going to be a bloodbath." I could not agree more with Mr. Sparrow's assessment of the situation. The sad part is Sparrow is referring to the cuts to employees and services; I believe the bloodbath is going to be the human loss by way of serious injuries and the loss of life. Who is going to accept responsibility for this blood?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Land of Oz and the Emerald City

When I was growing up, one of my favorite movies was the Wizard of Oz. The first time I watched it was on a black and white television and I was scared out of my wits. The scarecrow; tin man; cowardly lion; Dorothy and Toto; Aunt Em and Uncle Henry; Wicked Witch of the West; the Wicked Witch of the North, Glenda; Munchkins; and The Wizard of Oz; are but a few of the characters in this fairy tale. Their journey to the Land of Oz and Emerald City turns into a quest to find a brain for the scarecrow, a heart for the tin man and courage for the lion and for Dorothy to get back to Kansas. Toto inadvertently outs the Wizard as a fraud and simply an ordinary man hiding behind a curtain, operating a giant console that makes him appear bigger than life.

I have watched this movie more times than I care to count or will ever admit to. I still enjoy the music and story and have found as I grow older, I often correlate the story line with life in what was once "America's Finest City." Can you place the scarecrow; maybe the tin man or the cowardly lion? When you think of the Wicked Witch of the West; what comes to mind? The Wizard of Oz; he is bigger than life and revered by the people until exposed as a phony; who could this be?

Many people believed the movie, written during the height of the U.S. Gold Standard monetary system, which in the end failed miserably and harmed everyone, depicted various players of that time in history. I liken the movie to the goings on in San Diego and the players who control the strings. Written in 1939, The Wizard of Oz is as relevant today as it was 70 years ago. The cast of Oz is interchangeable with the cast of so called leaders in San Diego. Pick the leader/politician and assign him/her a character from the movie and cringe at the reality of today.

Today seemed to bring more light related to the budget deficit we are facing next year. The mayor initially listed the deficit at $179 million and of late was attempting to persuade people that things were not as bad as first thought and with the growth of the Stock Market a smaller payment necessary to the Retirement System. I still have that land for sale. At the City Council today, it became apparent the mayor and staff are stone walling. Council member Frye got into an exchange with Nader Tirandazi, Financial Director for the mayor. During the exchange, Tirandazi let it slip revenue projections were off by $10 million which puts the deficit at closer to $190 million. The IBA put the deficit at $200 million some time ago and if history repeats, she will be closer to reality than the mayor.

So what does this all mean to us? In my estimation, anyone still saying things are not as bad as first thought are living in fantasy land (Emerald City) and doing a disservice to the people they impart this baloney. Things will not turn around until everyone acknowledges the depth of the problem we are staring down and begins to openly and honestly discuss them. Cheerleading from the sidelines and trying to get the crowd into the game will not put points on the board. A game plan, with a leader willing to risk, and players who know the play are what is required to move the ball and put points on the board. Cheering from the sidelines and telling the players on the bench things are getting better and not to worry is in no way productive nor helpful.

Someone needs to pull the curtain back and expose the wizard. Unlike Dorothy clicking her heals three times while saying "There's no place like home" to get back to Kansas, no amount of clicking heals while saying "Things are not as bad as thought" will not get us through this economic crisis. The words to "Over the Rainbow" are perfect for the dreamers in San Diego; "Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high. There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby. Somewhere, over the rainbow, skies are blue and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true. Someday I'll wish upon a star and wake up where the clouds are far behind me. Where troubles melt like lemon drops, away above the chimney tops. That's where you'll find me. Somewhere, over the rainbow, bluebirds fly. Birds fly over the rainbow, why then - oh, why can't I? If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why, oh, why can't I?

The Wizard of Oz is alive and well in Emerald City, or is it San Diego?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Message from Anonymous

The tenor of the comments to my latest BLOG posts seems to have taken on a much different tone of late. Frustration, anger, disgust and a bit of fear have begun to dominate. The focus of these words seems to be the chief officers occupying the 7th floor. I have deliberately stayed away from bashing or joining in the discussions when it moves in that direction. I walk a fine line as I write at times between the protections afforded under the First Amendment to the Constitution and violating department policy. Taking on the department brass in a public forum has proven to be an unprotected right and has in the past subjected individuals to discipline.

I have had several discussions with various members of the 7th Floor (for non members of the San Diego Police Department the 7th floor is where the offices of the Chief's are situated) and have observed visible anger as they would discuss a particular BLOG post and the "Anonymous" poster. The common theme among them is their view of those persons who post comments as "Anonymous" they are "cowards; trouble makers; idiots; not to be taken serious; and meaningless" and they (chief officers) reject out of hand what is posted by those using this label.

To some degree I agree with this view; and again I said to some degree. I would prefer people select a user name when posting comments and stick with it. This accomplishes several things in my mind; allows for dialogue back and forth with me and others; provides a name, albeit a pseudo name for others to identify with; and brings the writer of the comments more respect. BUT, I completely understand why people chose to remain "Anonymous" and not provide any hint or glimmer of their identity. I will hold myself up as the poster child for why it is better at times to remain anonymous when writing things that are not politically correct or may offend the target of the rant.

This BLOG started out "Anonymous" and my intention was to keep it that way. I had not thought through the name I assigned to the BLOG and a couple of people called me out. They did this innocently and not with any malice to injure or create problems. After about 2 weeks I came out from behind the monitor and identified myself and took ownership of the contents of this BLOG. It was not long after I became known as the author I started hearing certain people (management) were upset with me. I was careful not to rant about the department or its members and stayed clear of the dialogue about the perceptions many people voiced about the members of the 7th floor.

I have on several occasions been challenged for the content of my posts to this BLOG by members of management. These same individuals have expressed the perception my comments about the mayor, council and others in some way creates a climate that somehow makes their job more difficult. I was asked by three of those on the 7th floor how the chief could promote me to lieutenant with my BLOG being so negative toward the mayor and council. I believed then and still believe my BLOG and the content of my posts should have had no part of the discussion relative to my abilities and qualification for promotion. I am also not so naive as to believe my BLOG would not become a topic during these discussions.

Back to my initial topic; "Message from Anonymous" and the implications of being identified or worse, ignored. Sometimes we reject out of hand a message from someone we do not like; have a low opinion of; or have a poor relationship with. We take the position, "consider the source" and close our minds to what it is this person may say or write. We all do this, some of us more often than others and some of us are not even discreet about the manner we take when rejecting the information. The problem is we miss important information by doing this.

I am aware the people on the 7th floor are regular readers of this BLOG. I am also aware these same people take issue with the comments posted by "Anonymous." I believe the messages being put out by "Anonymous" are being missed and not being taken serious. The frustration with a perceived lack of support from the chief officers is a common theme among posters. The frustration is growing by the day and incidents mounting giving cause to the frustration turning to anger and disgust. Officers, detectives, sergeants and others grumble openly about their perception no one is willing to stand up and support them. They watch with anger and frustration press conferences where the public is told crime is down and all is well in San Diego with the police officers and the department. They see interviews where the lack of staffing is downplayed and the mayor discusses further reductions to wages, benefits and personnel. They speak out at the perception no one is standing up for them. They point north to Los Angeles PD and the chief standing on the steps of city hall challenging the council to provide additional personnel. They grumble about the perceived lack of communication from management and have grown weary of hearing bad news in the press when the belief is the information should be provided from within. Many feel they are being lied to and would prefer open, honest discussion from management about the budget and other issues facing them.

The frustration, anger, disgust and fear coming through the comments on my BLOG cannot be ignored or discounted because the person posting them wishes to remain anonymous. The messages need, at the least, to be viewed and discussed by the management of the police department. Individuals who may be the focus of the comments must take the comments in and determine if there is a cornel of truth and act accordingly. "Anonymous" has a message that must be taken seriously. Discount if you must the messenger, but take heed of the message and make this a better place tomorrow than it is today.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

OneSD or Not; Just Volunteer?

So I have to wonder what the future holds for OneSD and the City of San Diego. Currently the program is being rolled out city wide; bills take forever to get paid (if at all) and the next roll out is to take on payroll. If you have not heard, Tom Flemming, the head of SDDPC has resigned and the owners of the program being used by OneSD have sued the City and SDDPC for breach of contract. The company Axon, has demanded the software and supporting documentation be returned and has asked for an injunction preventing the City from continuing to use the program. In a suit filed in US District Court, Axon is seeking $5.6 million for breach of contract.

I wrote about this debacle a while back in a post titled, "OneSD Joke is on YOU" where I talked about the cost over runs and the management of this program. The initial project coordinator, Rick Reynolds was fired and filed a law suit claiming wrongful termination. This entire program has been a joke from the beginning and with every turn more problems than a college calculus math book. There is no end in sight for the incompetence in leadership when it comes to the City of San Diego.

Is it any wonder the city is facing a deficit of between $179 and $200 million? There was another article in the Voice of San Diego talking about the proposed cut of 800 "vacant" positions within the city. The article, titled "Emptying the Notebook: City Vacancies" talks about the many "provisional employees" and the fact they are not on the books and do not show up anywhere. Just another example of the City cooking the books and playing games all the while cutting positions. Why do people come back to do this for less money than they were making when working? They do it because in most cases they were not prepared to leave when they did; need additional money because their retirement is NOT what all the pundits and naysayers put out; or they just are not ready to let go. The problem is a full time employee faces layoff because the city can show the layoff, save the benefit costs (including retirement costs), pay less salary and get the job done, thus giving the appearance to the taxpayer all is well and they see and feel no adverse affect.

There is virtually no way of tracking these positions and how many there are city wide. There are even those who are "volunteering" their services out of miss placed loyalty and a feeling of dedication to the public to make sure the job they once did is still being done. Police officers are violating their training every day answering calls alone when they should not; cutting corners when completing investigations; talking victims out of reporting crimes and not taking the time to arrest misdemeanor criminals or issuing traffic citations to remain clear for priority calls. There is virtually no pro-active police work being done today due to a lack of experience and adequate staffing. Responding to radio calls for service is the norm today and not much else. The telephone report unit takes at times two to three days or more to call victims back to take a report. In many instances the victims decline to follow through due to the delay in call back and or do not call back when asked to do so. Is it any wonder crime shows down?

There is word out that the city's financial condition is improving due to an uptick in the Stock Market. Officers are being promised there will be no cuts to wages or personnel. To all those who believe this poppycock I have some land I need to sell. I can show you the land any evening where the moon is hidden and the tide is low. It's a great piece of waterfront property where you could easily build a retirement home for not a lot of money.

Anyone saying there will be no further cuts to wages and benefits is either smoking wacky tabacky or has lost touch with the reality of life in San Diego. The stock market surge will have little if any affect on the budget for next year. The failure of housing prices to rebound; sales tax revenue is still at an all time low; the state is raising income tax by 10% further reducing spendable income; and revenue is still lagging behind projections; all of this means things are about as bad as they can be. The deficit is on the low side $179 million and on the high side over $200 million. The projections are for the deficits to be at or over $100 million for the next 5-7 years. The only way to cut these deficits is to reduce expenses and increase revenue. The mayor has steadfastly refused to discuss increases to revenue by way of increased fees or taxes. That leaves his idiocy of simply cutting. My projection is he will be gone before people realize what a joke he and his policies were and how much damage he truly has done.

The city continues to spend as if there is no problem. The city council told the mayor they were not going to reduce their office staff or spending. In an article in Sunday's Union Tribune, "Council ignoring mayor on cutbacks" Ben Hueso is quoted as saying, "The current structure reflects essential staff. Any reduction of personnel would make it nearly impossible to conduct effective committee ad council meetings." So if I understand Mr. Hueso correctly the city council believes they are operating with minimum staffing right now. Can someone get a call to these people on the city council and share with them the REAL numbers of police officers and clue them in the police department is and have been operating with WELL BELOW MINIMUM STAFFING for some time now? Let them know we need help; no matter what they have been told; we are in dire need of help and someone is going to get seriously hurt or killed if they do not do something NOW!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Welfare Queen; GED Uneducated Dolts; Cadillac Benefits

These are descriptors of you if you are a city employee; past or present. Do those words cause any reaction? Whose words are these? He goes on, "Well it seems the chickens have come home to roost. All your bitching and whining will do nothing but prove to the taxpayers you're are overpaid crybabies. With a $200M shortfall, you trough feeders will soon be earning what GED uneducated dolts ought to be paid." These words have been written many times by this same individual. He has a bent toward police officers and public employees.

"You only have yourselves to blame...that gold plated cadillac pension program has bankrupted the city. Retiring at age 50 is not sustainable and being gifts of more than you supposed earned for retirement is just another example of government workers sucking the life out of the those of us who have real jobs." The words are crude; written at a mostly 5th grade level and sadly believed by a large, miss-informed public.

Many of our friends, neighbors and even family members have read the lies, twisting and gross exaggerations related to our retirement. The twisting of the General Retirement and Safety Retirement leads most people to believe we are all retiring millionaires at age 50 and never paid a dime as we earned our retirement. "Government workers feeding at the trough at the higher levels is a given but in San Diego its an art. Combine those reductins with a 12 percent pay cut then contribute 50% of the costs of your own retiree medical is whats fair to the taxpayrs who pay your bloated salary and cadillac benefits. Change the retirement age to 60 like the rest of us and get rid of the DB. You loose creditibilty when you want to raise taxes. Welfare queens always want more taxing more is not the answer. Taxpayer have been raped over the years by govment workers now all of you must come back to reality like the rest of us. These changes would reduce the unfunded retirement deficit substantially. But BK is the solution where we can take it all back and bring wages and benefits to a more reasonable rate."

The above written in red (copied exactly as he wrote it) was written by arguably the number one hater of public employees in San Diego; BILLY BOB HENRY. Who is Billy Bob Henry (BBH) and why does he hate city employees? BBH is the pseudo name he uses as he hides behind his computer and bashes employees; chides and harangues those who attempt to correct his inaccurate writings and refuses to identify himself. He purports to be an attorney. One of the many lies he has told. "You loose creditibilty" is not the writing of an individual who obtained a Juris Doctorate.

Over the years BBH has been a prolific poster to various BLOGS on the internet. He was a regular on the Voice of San Diego, always supporting Michael Aguirre and writing caustic, misleading and outright false diatribes about city workers and retirement benefits. BBH often used the pseudo name "Johnny Vegas" when positing on SignonSanDiego. Many theories as to who this coward is have floated here and there. He has said in the past he is a police academy graduate. He has said he does not have a POST certificate (Not even a Basic certificate) but insists he graduated from "a police academy in San Diego." OK, so he graduated but either failed or quit before he completed probation.

He claims to have earned a Juris Doctorate and is a practicing attorney. I will let you be the judge of this claim. The writings above are EXACTLY as he wrote them. I understand sometimes we write faster than we can type and mistakes happen. But the dribble above is so bad in structure, spelling and word use it cannot be explained away as typos or being in a hurry. Maybe a little too much alcohol on board; but the first one was posted on the 11th at 0823 hours and the second on the 12th at 0659 hours. Knowing his past posts, it is possible alcohol was in play, but I actually think he is just a "GED Uneducated Dolt" whose writing in phase training was so poor he failed out and had to go to work for Wackenhut.

I could go on about this poor excuse for a human, but you all get the picture. I want to ask you all to ignore his posts and not pay him any mind. The more attention he gets the worse he gets. I have made it a policy not to delete any posts from others and do not want to start now. He relishes in the attention and this will be the last time I will spend any space here talking about him. Please do the same.

This morning I was talking to another sergeant who told me of an incident yesterday at the Veteran's Day Parade the mayor attended. As the mayor rode along the parade route, a citizen yelled out to him, "Save the Chargers" to which the mayor yelled back, "I'm trying." A lady then yelled out, "Give the police officers a raise" to which the mayor gave a look of disgust, shook his head no and looked away. Priorities, priorities, priorities mayor; you need to get a clue. Convention Center Expansion; Downtown Library; City Hall Taj Mahal are all three high priority items for the mayor. The police department and its employees are not part of the mayor's priorities.

Yesterday the mayor held an impromptu press conference regarding the budget deficit and allowed the few reporters who attended to ask questions. During this exchange the mayor tipped his hand as to the numbers of layoffs to be expected. In a Voice of San Diego article, "Deficit Busting by Attrition" by Liam Dillon, he addressed the mayors comments, although cryptic (as usual) very telling. If eliminating 800 vacant positions is saving only $20 million dollars, what will it take to close the estimated $179 to $200 dollar deficit?