Saturday, June 13, 2009

Suggestions for Change

Ranting for the sake of ranting gets old and annoying to most people after a certain period. I could rail on about the city council, mayor, city attorney and life in general, all without ever offering a suggestion for change or something positive. There is so much wrong with San Diego's political arena and those who occupy the seats of power; it provides a landfill full fodder. But, today I want to offer some suggestions from the cheap seat I occupy in this game of life.

The mayor continues to posture and play to the press and taxpayer; painting himself as the reform mayor who is reeling in the unions, employees; their wages and benefits and all that is bad with America's Finest City. His biggest supporters; the Union Tribune, San Diego Republican Party, Lincoln Club, Downtown Power Brokers and the San Diego News Network supporting his every appearance. These groups fawn all over his every word (note for future reference I did not say action). The mayor and city council slash pay and benefits of City Employees; the Union Tribune, San Diego News Network and local TV stations jump on the story as if Osama Bin Laden had been apprehended by an enthusiastic rookie cop recently hired to fill one of the hundreds of positions vacated by the mayor's latest cuts to pay and benefits. The mayor stands at the podium espousing to the gullible public all is well.

Things are not well in San Diego, no matter what the mayor and press report. The public's safety is not at the forefront of the mayor or council's agenda and if you think otherwise you better wake up and soon. The exodus of three hundred (300) public safety personnel from the ranks of the police and fire departments, in short order is going to have a negative impact on our collective abilities to provide BASIC safety services. You need to forget the other services once taken for granted that were supplied by storefront officers and fire safety personnel. The mayor's quip; "Replacing Experience with Enthusiasm" is the biggest joke of the century in San Diego, next to the mayor "feeling our pain" by taking a six percent reduction to his $192,464 combined salary. This coming summer is going to be long, hot and dangerous for citizens and public safety officers alike.

The recruiting units for both the Police and Fire Departments are working feverishly to locate those individuals who meet the basic qualifications for hire. The mayor and others babble on about the number of candidates available and see no problems in quickly finding those willing to fill the many vacancies. I have a news flash for you all; the San Diego Police Department hoped against all hope to find fifty (50) qualified candidates for its next academy. They have struggled to clear 36 and have run out of time to locate 14 more to meet their goal. This is just the beginning of what is in store for public safety in San Diego. The mayor has helped immensely with drawing qualified candidates to San Diego by proclaiming his need to lay off 124 police officers and an equal number of fire fighters to close the budget gap created if the Governor takes money from San Diego to balance the State's budget. Those smart enough to connect the dots (the same candidate sought by other agencies) sidestep San Diego and go to other jurisdictions offering a more stable working environment and better pay and benefits. Thanks again mayor for the positive words and support.

So now that I have gotten my days rant off my chest and I can take a deep breath, I want to offer some suggestions for change. Before anyone gets their underwear in a bunch reading my suggestions, I am thinking out loud and throwing suggestions into the air for dialogue. When I was on the SDPOA Board I was able to cajole the City into using the "Interest Based" model of negotiations. In this type of bargaining, ideas are offered from each side and no value judgment is made on the proposal or idea. The ideas or suggestions are placed on a board and later discussed in depth for their value in meeting the needs of both sides. So as you read some of my suggestions or ideas for change; do not dwell on the suggestion; think of what, how or if, this idea or suggestion could provide BOTH sides a benefit. To digress; we found in 2005, the City and their negotiators worked this system very well and we (collectively) came up with viable ideas for a contract that in the end never materialized because those in elected positions could not get their heads out of the box and understand the concepts of change.

  • Making amends with Police Officers; change line-up times to 15 minutes after the hour and end of shift times to 15 minutes before the hour. This would allow officers to prepare for their shift while on the clock and finish their shift as well by being on the clock. This was the basis of the FLSA law suits that faltered in San Diego but have been successful in every other court in America. This small recognition by the City would go a long way toward making amends and recognizing the work of its Police Officers day in and day out. (Cost; Nothing)

  • Return the "On Call" status for EVERY investigative Unit; the reduction of this way of doing business has greatly reduced the effectiveness of units to investigate crime. The savings was minimal, but the impact great. Return the "On Call" positions and allow the investigator to drive their city vehicle to the station closest to their home while on call. (Cost; Nothing)

  • Reduce the budgets of the mayor and city council offices by 33%; these bloated offices and staffs have grown to "Kingdom" status and cannot be justified no matter how hard they try. Their importance over public safety and the need to provide basic services to the taxpayer, far outweigh the need of the mayor and council to have multiple staffers doing similar jobs. (Savings; $2.7 million dollars)

  • Install parking meters and pay stations at ALL city parks and beaches; installing parking meters in beach communities (parking passes can be purchased for residents) will provide needed revenue to ensure clean beaches and necessary public safety; charging for the use of parking lots in parks and beaches will ensure those using these venues pay their fair share. (Revenue generating; Est. $12 million gain)
  • Place on the ballot an initiative to charge for trash collection; provide leadership; argue for and support this fee ($12-$15 per month) for refuse collection in the City of San Diego. (Revenue generating; Est. $42 million gain annually)
  • Eliminate subsidies for "Special Events" in San Diego; charge "full cost recovery" of costs for all events in San Diego. Require the hiring of "Private" security, using "off duty" police personnel who are paid by a private vendor who supplies workers comp insurance and salary. (Savings; $15+ million annually)

  • Provide a free city-wide WI-FI system open to the Public; this would generate revenue from advertising and enable more citizens to access the internet. (Cost; $4 million instillation - Revenue Generating; $2-$4 million annually)

These are just a few of the suggestions I have to offer. What are yours? There are many other ideas floating in the minds of people who are reticent to join the discussion. I urge you to post your ideas and to expound on those already voiced. The more discussion generated; the more ideas put out; the better chance we have at doing what the elected officials have failed to do; fixing the ills of San Diego. One voice is easy to silence; a hundred voices will be heard and hard to silence; one thousand voices will be cause for change. It starts with one; who will be the second voice to speak up?


Anonymous said...

Here' one. Abandon the idea of building a public safety academy at NTC and sell the property to the Airport authority. Take the proceeds and continue working with the Community College Dist. Bring in the Military, i.e. Marine Corp Air Station, Miramar, where a civilian contractor now is building a Police Academy for the Marines. Eliminate the regional duplication while building a true, Regional multi-layer govermental Pubic Safety Training facility that serves both of our needs and fosters good will between military & civilians services.

Anonymous said...

How about another. The mayor is hot on privatizing services. Hire private security for City Hall security and the Mayor's chauffeurs/body guards. Our Mayor, who is a former Chief of Police has the right to carry a concealed weapon, and I betcha he still has a license to drive. He can release those folks back to full duty at the PD. They're needed after losing 125 senior officers to retirement by July 1st.

Anonymous said...

What about combining Public safety dispatch centers? The City has two, one for Fire and one for Police. Why not have on 911 center for both. Then consider adding in the Sheriff's center in Kearny Mesa... Orange County does it this way... it can be more efficient and eliminate multiple layers of management between the three.

Anonymous said...

With the cost of fuel climbing out of sight again...there seems to be a lot of unnecessary take home cars. Just home many times are Lieutenants really called out? Are you telling us then can't drive to a station nearby and get a car?

Anonymous said...

There is always someone within the ranks that wants to attack the Lieutenants, especially when it comes to their take-home cars. This obviously comes from an uninformed and envious view of the world. While there are a lot of Lieutenants that have not earned their way through the ranks, there are just as many that have worked many years to develop expertise in many positions thorughout the department. Likewise, they studied hard and did well in the promotional process and should not be denined what they have rightfully earned. Lieutenants had to give up an hourly salary, which included overtime and holidays, for a basic salary including the privelege to be on-call 24/7. The take-home car was part of the pay package, so giving it up would be an additional pay-cut that others in the department are not having to take. Lieutenants get paid the same whether they work 40 hours or more in a week and they do not get overtime, holiday pay or comp time. There are many Lietenants that might strongly consider giving up the car, phone and constant interruptions to get paid holidays, overtime and comp time back. There are many Sergeants on the Department that make a lot more money than Lieutenants do and since we will be about 50 Sergeants down come July 1st it is something to ponder. I think we are all on the same ship and need one another to survive. It does not do us well to start attacking one another based on rank!

sparky.sandiego said...

The suggestion regarding NTC is another great idea and something that needs to be pondered.

Privatizing the security at City Hall and those who guard the mayor is another great idea that needs further exploration.

Combining communications centers would GREATLY reduce costs and strengthen service to the community.

The suggestion of eliminating Lieutenant take home vehicles is a suggestion that seems to have struck a cord with a Lieutenant. In keeping with my open mind idea I would suggest a different slant. Eliminating take home vehicles from Lieutenants would greatly diminish their ability to do their jobs. I would suggest the types of cars provided be discussed. Moving to a more economical vehicle and reducing the use to "work related" would provide a savings.

These are all ideas that deserve further discussion and evaluation. Is anyone listening?

Anonymous said...

Yes the Lieutenant who responded does seem to have missed the point of "interest based" proposals. Especially when we should be thinking about the whole organization rather than a perk that benefits a single person.

Anonymous said...

And while I'm thinkiing about it, no one forces anyone one to promote. The argument that Sergeants make more money is a false one. Sergeants may have opportunity to make OT but they have to put in the hours to earn it. And none of it adds to their pensions. Whereas Lieutenants ARE compensated with $3K in additional flex dollars for OT which, by the way, most if not all adjust their hours by taking the next day or three off to balance the books in their favor all the time.
The truth of the matter is the Dept could lose more than half of so-call middle managers and fullfill its public safety mission more effectively everyday.
Finally, as the Lieutenant alluded, they'll be plenty of Sergeant opening on July 1st... but you won't see ONE voluntary demotion...their egos, and wallets would never stand for it.

NOT a Lieutenant said...

We should all be cautious attacking the benefits of each other. Take home cars for Lieutenants are part of their benefits package. Remember they do not get overtime. We can debate the benefit and if it is warranted but the issue is not to single out any specific member or class but to look at ways to trim costs. If the suggestion is to eliminate take home cars for Lieutenants we would want to then provide back the ability to make overtime and or eliminate their status for call backs which would be moving backwards in their role and responsibility in the organization. Moving from Crown Vics to a smaller vehicle and eliminating the personal use of the vehicle to "work related" as Steve said may be a better cost savings.

Anonymous said...

While some of you are spending a lot of time focusing some ill will toward Lts. it seems we have missed the message. Sparky's idea was to look at ways of saving money. It didn't mean we should start attacking one another's jobs, positions, work ethic or egos. This is exactly why we are so often dismissed by the politicians and the public because we can't unite in our own best interests without becoming petty and stupid. Sparky is trying to generate legitimate debate and create a forum to pass along accurate information and along come the usual malcontents that think they are the only ones who are actually worth being paid for what they do everyday.

Anonymous said...

Hey here's a newsflash...times have changed, nothing should be considered untouchable. Using arguments where some want to tell only partial truths is, well, dishonest to say the least.

The idea here was to put forth a whole lot of ideas, I thought without judgemental rethoic. Guess we're just kidding ourselves. It's the old guard looking out for themselves and the rest of you fend for yourselves mentality...

sparky.sandiego said...

The putting forth of ideas and suggestions without judgement is the key to getting as many ideas as possible on the board. Then discussion or clarification of the idea is next. Then discussion for or against an idea and the reasons why a suggestion or idea would take place; placing the positive and negative reasons for and against on the board. Then a discussion of "re-framing" the idea to address one side or the others suggestion; in an attempt to seek a common ground for making positive change that is acceptable to both sides would occur.

IF EITHER SIDE becomes possessive or defensive of their position; the chances of change are hopeless.

I attempted to "re-shape" the idea in hopes of bringing the conversation back to a space where discussion could take place. I failed as it appears.

Anonymous said...

Run the Police Department like the Fire Department. One call at a time, and from the station house.

The officers will be dispatched directly from their Division station. The call will be handled, officer returns to the station to do the paperwork, then clear for their next dispatch.

Staff one officer cars for routine reports and two officer cars for priority calls.

Saves driving around aimlessly, since SDPD does not promote any type of proactive policing. The organization is strictly a reactive orgainzation, currently unable to provide proper public safety.

Anonymous said...

I would characterize this comment thread as a failure. Every new concept begins with fits, spurts, retracing and finally movement in one direction or another. But what I found immediately troubling is the circle the wagons mentality around an issue where few truly benefit. It seems "me" generation has firm grasp. This type of thinking serves little purpose.

Anonymous said...

oops my bad that first sentence should have WOULDN'T .... mea culpa..

sparky.sandiego said...

The suggestions thus far have been thoughtful and well intended. It is hard to let go of personal benefits and the feelings when someone suggests taking something from you. It is even harder to look at the bigger picture when personally affected. That aside I think what we have here is a good start. Thank you all for participating.

Talk about this at line ups and with co-workers and continue to add to the suggestions. I will formulate them and send them to our SDPOA Board for inclusion in discussions with the City.