Monday, June 29, 2009

Union Tribune Article Blasted

This may be a POST better left for another day. In keeping with my promise NOT to use profane or caustic language I have had to walk 6 miles today instead of the usual 3. I commented on yesterday's Union Tribune article in my BLOG by beginning my critique; "There is no stopping the ignorant, twisting, inflammatory, spin the Union Tribune will employ in their quest to carry out their hell bent agenda; hand in hand with the Republican Money in San Diego; to destroy Unions and their employees." When I woke this morning I noted a comment from one Ricky Young. I have to tell you when I finished reading what Ricky had to say my visceral response was a two word, seven letter retort.

Ricky Young posted the following comment:

Steve, you've posted on our blog, so I'll post on yours. Many of the omissions you accuse the U-T of are simply not true. We did, in fact, mention every factor you discuss. We mentioned that some of the raises were due to promotions. In fact, the word "promotion" appears six times in the story, and one "promotee" is quoted (Pam Hightower). We also talk about people taking on more responsibility, including quoting one employee talking about the gray hair it has given him (David Monroe). We also mention the OT as a factor. "Overtime" is mentioned six times in the story, including the fact that it contributed to $6.5 million of the increase in 2008. In terms of Officer Chione, you act as if we concealed his disability leave and asserted that he simply got a 115 percent raise. Untrue. We mentioned his disability as an example of limitations in the data, which we felt we needed to note. You also mention the council members who have not put in for their "share the pain" reductions, without crediting our other story. You go on to list the council member e-mail addresses, which our story did as well. And you invite people to copy the U-T on the e-mails -- an invitation we extended, as well. We look forward to, and appreciate, feedback on both stories.

June 28, 2009 10:31 PM

To familiarize readers with Ricky L. Young; he is the "Government Editor" of the Union Tribune; born in Rhode Island; raised in Colorado; went to college in Illinois; worked as a reporter in Orange County, California (Orange County Register); Denver (Denver Post, Transportation Writer); Nashville (The Tennessean, City Editor); and now the San Diego Union Tribune; married with four (4) children as well as two cats; professes to ride a beach cruiser spray painted orange; lives in the beach area (; writes his one BLOG titled, "ricky-why" which is also on; has two (2) Twitter accounts at "RickyWhy" and "sdnewsfeed" where Rickey posts notices for CERTAIN breaking news (I will come back to this point later in the BLOG).

It appears I was not the only person who took exception to the article in the Union Tribune attributed to what is being called the "Watchdog Team." The mayor's office took exception and fired off a nine (9) page response to the misrepresentations, gross distortions, and flat out lies printed in the article. It appears from the nine pages of detailed summary (I only have a hard copy) that the mayor took exception to almost every line in the article. The letter stated in part; "An honest and accurate summary of the information analyzed by the Watchdog Team would be: Due to an unusual confluence of events that is unlikely ever to be repeated, City payroll costs rose in calendar year 2008 after three years of negative growth. Payroll costs are projected to return to their former levels this year and next year as the result of cost-cutting measures initiated by Mayor Jerry Sander and approves by the City Council. The increase in 2008 was an aberration die to multiple factors: pay raises to public-safety officers, which Sanders endorsed to end attrition in the Police and Fire-Rescue department; pay raises to other unionized employees that were negotiated under a previous administration; a spike in overtime, primarily among Fire-Rescue personnel summoned to an unusually high number of out-of-city disasters and whose pay for those events will be reimbursed to the City under mutual aid pacts; and settlements of labor disputes that resulted in the City's returning money to employees that they contributed to the City in previous years. It's not exciting, but it's the truth. And the Watchdog Team knows it. The information was provided to the Watchdog Team during the reporting process and then codified in a memo from our Comptroller's Office to the reporter. The premise of this story would crumble quickly if readers were given the full context, including the fact City workers had gone without pay raises for two full calendar years and that City payroll had decreased markedly in 2007 and 2006 after rising less than 1 percent in 2005."

The letter goes on to state; "The Union Tribune makes a false and misleading comparison when it compares permanent reductions in payroll with one-time increases, as well as when it erroneously refers to those one-time increases as "growth in payroll," a term that is commonly understood to refer to permanent salary increases that will be sustained year over year."

The spin used in the article as I stated yesterday was ignorant, twisting and inflammatory. The mayor's office pointed out the inaccuracies with; "The City only considered 286 (out of 1,000 stated in the article) of them to be pay raises because the accepted definition for a pay raise is an increase in pay for doing the same job. When someone receives a promotion, they are not doing the same job. When someone receives a settlement resulting from a union grievance, they are not receiving a raise. When someone receives pay-in-lieu for vacation time they did not take, they are not receiving a raise. When someone is injured in one year, and so receives less money than he or she did the year he or she was returned, the employee did not receive a raise."

The letter from the mayor is summed up in the final six sentences of the nine page letter; "In conclusion, the Watchdog Team was given unprecedented access to City records and personnel as they reported on this issue. Yet, the result of their work is a terribly flawed story. It is easy to conclude that the Watchdog Team, having devoted as much as four months time to this analysis felt obligated to engineer a story that justified the resources put into it. Unfortunately, through a series of errors, omissions and an overall lack of perspective, the article did a grave disservice to the readers of the Union Tribune and City employees alike."

I do not have time to dissect line by line the article at this point. But those who have read the pathetic piece of so called "journalism" can make their own judgments. Today's article; "City workers' pay goes beyond base salary" is but ANOTHER ignorant, twisting, inflammatory article that spins the facts to such an extent you would think EVERY City employee is making a mountain of money from specialty pay. AGAIN the lack of articulate, detailed and specific information leaves the reader thinking this is some sinister, back room, sneaky agreement to allow employees to fleece the taxpayer. I go back to my two word seven letter retort and this time add several exclamation marks at the end. I will do a more detailed rant tomorrow on the article today and the FINAL diatribe tomorrow night when I have more time.

I find it interesting Ricky L Young would post to Twitter he commented on my BLOG. What is even more interesting is Ricky's announcing my new BLOG POSTS on Twitter using his "sdnewsfeed" BUT ONLY when I am ranting about the mayor or one of the City Council members. When I rant about the Union Tribune there is no mention of my new post or announcement via his Twitter account. Wonder why that is? I am flattered that Ricky L Young is reading my BLOG and is not afraid to post comments. I have thick skin and can handle any criticism he has to offer. Ricky is after all a "professional journalist" (he gets paid for writing; wonder how much?) and college educated and by all rights has a lot to offer. But, I would suggest just one thing when doing so; know what you are talking about; use facts not opinion and be able to provide the documents used when making your comments to support your views. That means provide ALL of the FACTS when making a point regarding pay, benefits, DROP and any other wage or benefit you opine on. You're twisting, spinning and proving less than ALL the facts will not wash on this BLOG and you will be called on them each and every time.

I have been at this for over 25 years as an employee representative for both labor and management and can provide extensive help to you in the area of wages; benefits; Memorandum of Understandings (contracts) of the SDPOA; DROP; SDCERS; add on pays; and most anything to do with the manner Police Officers are compensated by the City of San Diego. If you need assistance in learning what you are trying to write about, feel free to drop me a note and we can meet for several days and I can explain it so you can accurately report it. You would do your employer a great service by doing so and an even greater service to the readers of your paper by taking me up on this offer, so you can provide accurate, informative and FACTUAL information. I can school you on DROP so you could attempt for the first time in recent memory to print a FACT BASED article on this benefit so your readers could actually be provided a semblance of truth regarding this benefit.

Thank you for reading.


Anonymous said...

Over the last three days we, the people of San Diego, have been bombarded with a so called "watchdog report" on city finances. This report is filled with so many omissions, fabrications, conjecture, assumptions and a host of other adjectives it hard to fathom how this got passed editors as "news". The standards at the SDUT have truly fallen.

What worse, to give the readers a sense of integrity the authors claim to have spent four months and at least three reporter time working on it. To support their slipshod reporting they lay blame on others; about fees, a measly $1900, the SDUT refused to pay for work they wanted others to do at taxpayers expense.

If this is the quality of reporting we are excepted to accept from the NEW SDUT then it's more than obvious Platinum Equity's purchase was for the real estate and nothing else.

This series of watch dog reporting falls to the level of sensational tabloid reporting, you know, the stuff you glance at while in line at your local grocery store. Next we'll read "ALIENS CONTROL CITY HALL" or "SANDERS' SECRET WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAM FOR CITY HALL".

Anonymous said...

It is apparent to me that the mayor didn't like the "UT" when they reported half-truths, innuendo and facts out of context. It must sound familiar to him, as it is exactly what he, and his council-morons, has done in reporting to the public on the city's DROP retirement plan. They lied about costs to the City, savings to the City and its benefits to the City. Shame on the UT, the mayor and the city council-morons for their villainous acts. It doesn't feel good when someone lies and/or makes public representations, but its what the hard working employees of this City have had to endure for the past 6 years.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy I don't live in the City of San Diego! What an absolute disaster this place has become!

Billy Bob (Not him) said...

Nice touch Steve. Heard from Ricky Young since this post? I bet he went underground. First you blast him and blast him again and then the mayor. Must be a bad day at the old haggard UT!!

Keep up the good work "Sparky"

sparky.sandiego said...

Has anyone seen or heard from Ricky Young? Is he OK? Hope there are no missing persons reports out there with his name on them. Poor guy took a beating the last week or so. A well deserved beating non the less; but heck he who is without a boo boo in his past stand up and heckle.

Sure is quiet... Hey Ricky where are you???