The mayor came out swinging today (NOT my words) with a "Letter to the Editor" in the Union Tribune. The mayor has, like many of us, taken exception with the "Watchdog Team's" three part series; "Digging into San Diego's finances" and fired off a tersely worded letter than like so many of our letters was edited to soften the blow toward the Union Tribune. At Headquarters today the mayor's letter was a hot topic. So many people were singing high praises for the mayor and his letter I was beginning to think they had all gone down to 202 C Street and drank the cool-aide for breakfast.
Lest we all forget how and why we are in the position we find ourselves; let me remind you. The mayor fired off his letter to dispute the spin of the article because it made HIM look bad. Yes, the article painted an unfair and incorrect picture of the wages and earnings of City employees; but remember what the mayor's agenda is related to employee wages and benefits. The article disputed the cuts and savings the mayor has long spouted. Those of us who have experienced the cuts can back him up when he writes "wages of City employees is DOWN." The mayor has in fact cut wages, reduced benefits and charged us more for those benefits that remain. The mayor has single handedly taken more money from the pockets of City employees than any other mayor in City history. He has cut and reduced medical benefits so drastically it caused the exodus of almost 200 police employees. He has eliminated promised and vested retiree medical benefits for anyone retiring after tomorrow (July 1, 2009). He has demanded furlough days for non-safety personnel and has reduced the workforce to such an extent it will soon be difficult to provide BASIC services. He did this all to City employees and did virtually NOTHING to share the pain as he said by way of increased fees or taxes.
So remind me again why people are singing the praise of the mayor for his letter that simply defended HIM? This is a case similar to the classic batterer in a Domestic Violence incident. The batterer beats you up; splits your lip, blackens an eye, bruises the cheek and arms and kicks you several times as you lay curled in a fetal position. An hour later he returns with flowers and an ice pack; tells you he is sorry and you allow him to kiss your cheek; you cheerfully bound into the kitchen to fix dinner. The mayor has beat us half to death and kicked us while we are down and he fires off a letter to defend himself and people fawn all over him. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!! He was protecting HIM not YOU!!!
In yesterdays Union Tribune article; "City workers' pay goes beyond base salary" the writers attempt to paint a picture of employees who are getting rich off the "specialty pays" or "add-ons" contained "hidden" in union contracts. The spin, twist and poorly played examples in this article do nothing but inflame the reader and again portray employees and their unions as sinister, greedy people. The facts are; the Police Department has nineteen (19) "Add-on" pays contained in Article 63 of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City and SDPOA. There is "Shift Differential" for those working second and third watch hours, which is contained in Article 62 of the SDPOA MOU. "Educational Incentives" are contained in Article 15 of the SDPOA MOU for those officers who obtain an "Intermediate" and "Advanced" POST certificate. The "Watchdog Team" would have the reader believe officers are getting rich and in some way stealing money from taxpayers with these add-on incentives.
The fact is; of the 19 "Add-on" classifications there are limited numbers of officers who are eligible for these pays. The shift differential pay for 2nd and 3rd watch covers again a select number of officers at any given time. Educational Incentive is earned by an officer who participates in educational studies to better him or herself to better serve the citizens. These are the "hidden"; "secret"; "buried deep in union contracts"; "payouts" talked about in the article. The "Watchdog Team" again spins and provides mistruths and only shares a portion of the story. The example used in the first paragraph; Jaime Fitzpatrick, a police officer whom the "Watchdog Team" stated increased her salary 47% from the prior year. To put this in perspective which the Union Tribune fails to do; Fitzpatrick went from $57,591 as a POI to $84,528 as a POII with four years service, educational incentive pay for an Advanced POST due to her college degree and four years as a police officer and shift differentials, overtime and the pay raise. The pay schedule is set up and governed by the Civil Service Commission and while the actual salary is negotiated, the schedule of advancements and tiers are set by Civil Service and very difficult to change.
The "Add-on" pay classifications require ample documentation to justify and maintain. The number of employees receiving these specialty pays is a consideration when negotiating pay increases. These pays were changed from a dollar value to percentage of salary to eliminate the need to constantly re-visit these classifications during negotiations. This enables negotiations to focus on the WHOLE unit rather small groups of individuals or specialties. It also allowed the City to determine costs based on the number of employees receiving specific "Add-on" pay. Each classification has a specific number of employees who can receive the pay. Once this number is reached no other employee will be considered for the pay until there is a vacancy.
The 3rd and final article in this series; "City payroll sees big gains in high-income earners" is the FINAL piece (Thankfully!!) to this pathetic piece of "journalism" done by the "Watchdog Team" for the Union Tribune. This final diatribe could be summed up in two paragraphs;
"Compensation experts say the trend reflects intense competition for young recruits to replace the public sector's aging work force. The new employees, experts say, are asking for pay and perks that match what they could earn in the private-sector jobs." (DID YOU GET THAT?)
"In order to get the best talent – the thought leaders and producers – the public sector is getting more competitive," said Jason Kovac of World at Work, a nonprofit educational association that trains people about compensation practices. "The compensation is starting to increase, and there's not necessarily been a drop in benefits."
The rest of the article did nothing but fill column inches for the paper. The spin employed by the writers of these articles, either through ignorance of the subject matter or design was pathetic even by Union Tribune standards. If this is what we can expect from this so called "Watchdog Team" of reporters and analyst; we should all move to the cheap seats (it's all we can afford these days anyway) and watch the party. The summer is going to be long and filled with teeth gnashing and volley after volley of point-counter-point correcting the inaccuracies and lies plied in the pages of the Union Tribune. Constant vigilance and holding those responsible for accurate information responsible for the lies will no doubt be a constant battle. To think those like myself who are San Diego natives thought the sale of the Union Tribune would bring positive changes. We can all hope the stories are true the new owner only bought the paper for the land under the building.