A recently retired City Employee sent the below letter to the Union Tribune and Ms. Winner, Editor. It is one of the best commentaries on reality and the state of our battle with the lies, misstatements and half truths pummeled upon the unknowing reader/taxpayer of San Diego by the Union Tribune. I waited until I had her permission before putting it on here. I secured that today.
CITY LIBRARY EMPLOYEE CANCELS U-T SUBSCRIPTION!!!!!
June 30, 2009
I just canceled my 15+ year subscription to the Union-Tribune. I asked to speak to a supervisor who would convey my reason for doing so to the appropriate individuals within the company. The reason I gave to Hector was the U-T's recent decision to publish all City employee names and salary information on signonsandiego.com.
I would like to amplify the reason for that decision with you, the editor who ultimately exercised that choice. And let there be no question about my motivations-my decision is based upon 26 years of service as a City employee at the Central Library.
The U-T has presented a special three part Watchdog Report about the City's payroll obligation. I have spent close to three decades in my public service position answering questions and informing the public. If someone were to ask me how to find information on this topic I would refer that individual to annual budgets, IBA reports, and labor agreements on line or in our document section. I would also provide context for that search- that the City operates on a fiscal year beginning July 1; there is a general fund budget which includes departments that undergo annual public review and city council approval; there are quasi-independent authorities and recovery departments that are not subject to the same policies, restrictions and review as the general fund departments; there are unclassified and represented employees; and there are four unions with different negotiated contracts. In short, I would inform the individual that a thorough understanding of the topic would take into account these general distinctions. Unlike the U-T, we respect and do not underestimate the intelligence of our customers.
What I wouldn't do, and again, I am speaking strictly as a professional, is refer that individual to your "Watchdog" series on the very ground that it did not provide necessary context, despite your claims otherwise, nor data consistent with the City's fiscal year reporting process. Therefore your information was inaccurate and as a source you are unreliable. Ms. Winner, the U-T does not achieve the most basic library information standard of accuracy and reliability. If you also consider yourself a professional you should be very concerned about that. I would appreciate a response to this, as one professional to another.
Despite its abysmal failings, the Watchdog Report was not the reason I canceled my subscription. The bias against unions and the City workforce is pretty much quotidian. Your decision to publish City employee names and salary information however is beyond the journalistic pale.
Ms. Winner, how much time did you REALLY spend weighing the public's right to information against individual privacy concerns? And how much thought did you REALLY give to the fact that "Individual pay for each year can be affected by promotions, partial years of employment, leave taken, vacation payouts and other issues that can cause wide fluctuations."? Or to the fact that the 2008 surge was a one time occurrence due to multiple factors? It is evident that the answer is "Not much."
I talked with co-workers at the library this morning about your choice. They were appalled. Concerned. Fearful. Angry. Every one of us felt that salary information by job classification, with low, high, median and average salaries would serve the public's right to information. We felt that making that information available by department served the public's right to information. But by name? The women among us felt violated. Think about that Karin. We are not elected officials. Even our name badges don't provide our last names if we don't feel comfortable revealing that information. Whom and what purpose are you serving, Ms. Winner? And please, we are not stupid. We know you can legally provide this information. The question is why should you provide this information?
Your note about the wide fluctuations of salaries was reason enough to choose not to reveal specific names. You did not make that choice. Here's my very personal response to your phenomenally bad judgment, to your utterly unprofessional judgment. I owe you absolutely nothing, but the truth should always be served.
This is five years worth of my salary history, although why it is shown by calendar year is absolutely mystifying. The City operates on a July-June fiscal year.
* Please note the pay levels in 2006 and 2007. Was there a whopping "pay increase" from $23 to $28k? How about if I told you that I took leave without pay in 2006 to be with my baby sister in Tampa while she died a slow terrible death? I didn't qualify for Family Medical Leave as a part time employee. Nor did I get the bereavement pay that was passed more recently. What do you have to say about that "fluctuation" Ms. Winner and what has the public truly gained from seeing the disparity between those two years?
* As a general note, I have worked additional hours to bolster my leave fund. I received straight compensatory time on Saturdays and Sundays. The Library continues to struggle to staff public service desks during open hours.
* I have received tuition reimbursement for Spanish classes at UCSD. I have been taking Spanish classes for ten years. My private classes are not reimbursable and constitute a couple thousand dollars of out of pocket expenses. I have absorbed that cost because I want to be as professional in Spanish as I am in English with the population that I serve.
* Tuition reimbursements and comp time are included in a number of these years. These are not particularly foreign concepts in the public or private sector.
* The jump between 2007 and 2008 reflects the settlement to labor disputes that resulted in the City returning money to employees that they contributed to the City in previous years. I don't intend to do your homework on this one Ms. Winner.
2003 ANNA G DANIELS LIBRARY ASSISTANT
2004 ANNA G DANIELS LIBRARY ASSISTANT
2005 ANNA G DANIELS LIBRARY ASSISTANT
2006 ANNA G DANIELS LIBRARY ASSISTANT
2007 ANNA G DANIELS LIBRARY ASSISTANT
2008 ANNA G DANIELS LIBRARY ASSISTANT
I have worked in the Information sector for many years and understand the wrenching changes occurring within the print media. How the print media will serve the public, remain relevant and sell the news is very much the story of the hour.
Shame on you Karin. Shame on you Ms. Winner. Shame on you "Editor." In your decision to sell the news you sold out.
And you certainly did not sell the news to me.
Cc: San Diego City Council
Mayor of San Diego
This is a letter you are sure NEVER to see in print as the Union Tribune would never allow this type of dressing down to appear in their paper. It is a shame this letter could not be front and center for EVERY citizen / taxpayer to read. I am proud to post it here for people to see.