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?