Saturday, June 6, 2009

The “Little Rube” is at it again

I was sitting in the back of the room during a forum in Rancho Bernardo last year when candidates for the District 5 seat on the City Council were telling everyone in attendance why they should get elected. One of the candidates was pontificating about his vast experience in Government Contracts and Financing and exclaiming he was exactly what the City of San Diego needed to "reel in the run-away spending; pensions and benefits of City Employees." I was gnashing my teeth trying to breath slowly and not burst out laughing or screaming or yelling; I was not sure what reaction most appropriate to the idiocy this one candidate was spewing.

Sitting next to me was an elderly gentleman who was well into his late 70's or early 80's, who was taking notes on a yellow legal pad. This old guy was listening intently to every word and would sometimes mutter under his breath. I could not make out most of what he was saying but at one point as he muttered he wrote on the top of the pad; "Little Rube" and then a slash mark as if he were keeping a tally of something. As this candidate spoke, I noticed every time he mentioned Unions or pay and benefits of City employees or cutting services, the old fellow placed a slash mark next to the words; "Little Rube."

I listened to the "Little Rube" for about an hour and got a clear picture of who this person was and what he was all about. First and foremost he is truly in love with himself and his ideas. He believes what he spews and is a master of twisting, spinning, and obfuscating everything he espouses. His bottom line platform was one of cutting the pay and benefits of city employees, as deep and as quickly as possible and finding people willing to work for pennies on the dollar, regardless of experience or ability. His theory being people want to work; are willing to work for minimum wage, and benefits are not necessary because people will be happy just to have a job. He blamed the Unions for having created a bankrupt city and it is time to abolish Unions and eliminate the worker. The fasted way to do this according to the "Little Rube" is "Outsourcing" EVERY job or task provided by the City.

As the forum came to a close the older gentleman looked up at me and said; "This little rube is something else. I'm too old to move but I think it's time to get out of this crazy city." I chuckled under my breath and agreed completely with him. I headed to the exit when the "Little Rube" walks past. He is walking briskly with two young women at either side. They are involved in deep conversation; re-talking the talking points and discussing their next stop. The older gentleman is standing by the exit and says, "Can I ask you a question?" The "Little Rube" does not break stride and brushes past the man and barks; "I'm late for meeting and don't have time." The old guy stands there for a second and then turns to watch the "Little Rube" get into a dark colored SUV and drive off into the darkness. I smiled, shook my head and looked at the old guy to which he said; "That 'Little Rube' needs to learn some manners." That nickname has stuck in my mind since.

The "Little Rube" is at it again. If you missed the article in the Voice of San Diego; "Spending More, Getting Less" you need to read it to get a picture of what the thought process is of Carl DeMaio, AKA "Little Rube." The words are his own, written as an opinion piece in opposition to a piece written by UCSD doctorial student, Vladimir Kogan. His piece, titled; "The Myth of Runaway City Spending" is an articulate analysis of the City of San Diego's expenditures and lack of revenue. The "Little Rube's" opinion is a clear insight into his and the mayor's master plan and ideas for the future of San Diego.

The council person writes; "Those of us who dig deep into government budgets, or have run any organization in the private or non-profit sectors, know that a third option exists: process transformation. In our view, government should always look for best management practices to provide services "better, faster, and cheaper." "Process Transformation" is just another word for "Outsourcing" and cutting the work force and eliminating wages and benefits. The "Little Rube" is hell bent on destroying "Civil Service" and eliminating all semblances of the City Employee.

The "Little Rube" continues; "I've reviewed thousands of government budgets -- ranging from single programs to complex government agencies. When evaluating a budget for potential efficiencies, the most important measure I use is "cost-per-unit of service." So please Mr. Council Person, tell me what the "cost-per-unit-of service" is for ANY police function; fire fighting function; life saving event for life guards; helping a child in the library by the librarian; ensuring the safety of children at City Parks; waterways; or streets? The measure of a "cost-per-unit of service" does not work when one is not being paid for the service or intent on turning a profit. Government is not a "for profit" venture and the measures used by this "Rube" are a joke. To properly conduct his analysis you would need a charge or fee for that unit of service. Maybe a $125 fee for being stopped for a traffic violation; $75 fee for conducting a preliminary investigation of a residential burglary; $250 for a similar commercial burglary; $900 fee for conducting a rape investigation; or a $5,500 fee for the investigation of a murder (the survivors of the victim can pay this). OK; I am being facetious, but you get my point.

What is fascinating about the "Little Rube" is he sounds so intelligent and all knowing. His theories sound so logical and beneficial at first glance. Bore down to the core of the theory; ask questions and demand specifics and you will get none. One of the "Little Rube's" big "cost-per-unit of service" savings ideas is to eliminate the garages from ALL city departments (Including the Police Department Garages) and require ALL city owned vehicles needing service or repair to go to a neighborhood garage, under contract, to provide these services. His belief is we could save tons of money and eliminate a large drain on the City by reducing the workforce; reducing the Retirement payment and receive the same or better service. When questioned about this idea and the negative effects on public safety and our ability to keep vehicles in service and available he shrugged and said; "Any change will have a downside. It's about saving taxpayer money and cutting government waste."

To highlight my point, Carl provides an example; "What drives the per-unit costs? Answering this question usually leads to three primary cost drivers: inefficient processes,
old ways of doing business and old technologies. In some cases, costs result from bloated bureaucracies, i.e. too many people doing the same thing. And then in other cases, costs can be attributed to high labor costs on a per-employee basis."
If you eliminate the employee from the payroll, you eliminate the high labor costs. The "Little Rube's" number one goal in life; reducing the city workforce and cutting wages and benefits. Does anyone see where this is leading? The actions of the mayor becoming clearer?

Business-Process-Reengineering or BPR was put in place to ensure all City departments were utilizing the most "efficient processes" and to ensure all departments were keeping current in best practices within the industry, as well as making sure technology is kept current. Through the BPR processes, a number of recommendations were made by department's city wide to eliminate a number of managers, directors and middle managers. The City has leaned its "bloated bureaucracy" and proved to be efficient and keeping up with the private sector. The "Little Rube" will not be satisfied until he has eliminated a large number of city jobs and employees.

The Council Person then points out his examples of "millions of wasted tax dollars." He rants on about the Pension Benefits; complaining about the payment due next year; blaming this as the primary driver of the budget deficit. He then rants about the Inefficient Bureaucracy; leaping on trash collection trying to say the industry standard for private sector haulers is an 11 hour work day verses an 8 hour day and if the City shifted to this practice a significant savings would be produced. He then moves into Health Care; using stats from years ago and inflated numbers. I knew it could not last; he can't help himself. He had to exaggerate to make his case. He does the same when he moves to his discussion of "Vacation and Personal Leave" of employees. It is an illness that he cannot control.

The "Little Rube" closes out his opinion with these final two paragraphs;

What can be done about waste in city government? First our city leaders must embrace and accept the need to find "better, faster, and cheaper" ways of providing city services. Atop the list must be the continued trimming of labor costs to sustainable levels. We have made some progress -- and have done so through a unanimous vote of the City Council and with the support of three of our five labor unions. But more can and must be done.

In addition to cutting labor costs, the city must transform its day-to-day processes through business process re-engineering and managed competition. Although voters overwhelmingly supported managed competition in 2006, not one service provided by the city has yet been forced to compete against the private sector. We must jump start this voter-mandated reform initiative which has the potential to save tens of millions annually.

The mayor and this "Little Rube" are two pees in a pod. Carl has read too much of his own propaganda and believes the lunacy coming out of his head. He is a lot like Norm Stamper. His ideas are best written in a book and have little applicability to real world application. Carl made his money by exploiting the Government Contract Bid Process and learned how to garner contracts through the bid process that required little to no work. His boastful, inflated opinion of himself is written at length in his bio and to hear him tell it he was a right hand man to President Bush and other Republican heavy weights. Look closer and none of them knew him personally, but knew "of" him. The mayor is working on his bio and trying to build his credentials for higher office. He is following the "Little Rube" but at the same time hanging on to the playbook given to him by the Republican Guard; Downtown Business Establishment and the Money Power in San Diego.

The worker employed by the City of San Diego is expendable and only counted as a debt on the books by the likes of DeMaio and the mayor. Every one of us can be replaced with a lower salary, less benefits and a more enthusiastic and inexperienced worker. Loyalty, experience, dedication and ability are not assets but liabilities, as those who posses all of these qualities cost too much money. It is after all a dollar and cents venture; the City of San Diego. The mayor and the "Little Rube" have made it such.

SDPOA set to Prevail against City in DROP Litigation

It was announced this afternoon the judge will issue an order against the City on Monday preventing them from making changes to DROP. Indications are the judge will bar the City from changing the entry age for DROP and from lowering the interest rate earned on DROP accounts. The last item related to this injunction is the elimination of DROP for managers. The judge denied the City from following through on this also. Word from the court is the judge was stern in his comments toward the City and will rule on Monday.

This means the City will be required to ensure DROP accounts earn 7.75% on the money in the accounts not the 3.54% set by SDCERS. The City will have to make up the difference from the 3.54%. This applies to Police and Fire as we have this in our MOU and have had it there since the inception of DROP. This also means those who turn 50 in the coming months can enter DROP and take advantage of the benefit as it was designed and agreed upon. It also means Chiefs and Captains who had DROP removed from their benefit package can take advantage of this benefit.

Long term what does this mean? The case will ultimately be litigated in court, so the City can be told once and for all DROP is a vested and earned benefit that cannot be taken away without a vote of the membership. It means the City will be required to find the money to make up the difference SDCERS is paying DROP accounts and the 7.75%.

We should have more information soon on this issue. This is great news for those not yet in DROP and those who are not leaving in the next few weeks and will continue to participate in DROP. If you want to read more on this issue you can go to Mike Conger's web site where you will find information related to the SDPOA litigation related to DROP.

Retiree Medical is not addressed in today's proceedings. That litigation is still being researched and discussed.

The above was reported by SDPOA President Brian Marvel at Bill Nemec's Retirement Party last night. Read the following story in Voice of San Diego.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Bill “Schepp” Nemec Retires

The "Immediate Past President" of the San Diego Police Officer's Association; Detective Sergeant Bill "Schepp" Nemec has called it a career. Bill started his career with the San Diego Police Department as an intern. Some of you may remember your first encounter with the little guy as a court car driver; taking officers and detectives to and from 801 W Market Street and the Court House. Bill entered the academy and began a long and distinguished career fighting crime and serving the citizens of San Diego. Bill worked at Central; Southeast; Mid-City; Street Narcotics; Robbery; Sex Crimes; Domestic Violence; SWAT. He worked patrol and investigations and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Bill was known as a hard charging, detail orientated officer who was always the first to cover others and offer to help out. Bill joined the SWAT team and was well respected for his abilities and a calm, easy going demeanor. Bill's hard work paid off and he was promoted to Detective and quickly landed in Street Narcotics. Bill soon became an expert in Under the Influence arrests; sales cases and with his long locks of curly hair could buy any kind of narcotics from the most seasoned dealer. Bill was a great actor and could convince Eskimos to buy ice in the dead of winter.

His SWAT experience paid off in Point Loma one Friday afternoon while serving a Search Warrant. Street Narcotics was serving a warrant on Sunset Cliffs Boulevard at a small apartment across the street from the Jack in the Box at Voltaire and Sunset Cliffs. Detective John Fung was the first one through the door; followed closely by Detective Nemec. Just as Fung entered the door, the suspect began to fire a 45 cal semi automatic handgun. The first round struck Detective Fung dead center in the chest. The shock of the round hitting Fung in the chest knocked him backwards into Nemec, who was charging into the apartment. Bill grabbed hold of Fung, pushed him to the right and began to return fire as the suspect continued to fire in the direction of the front door. The suspect ran down a short hall toward a room as he fired. Bill continued to fire at the suspect; providing cover for Fung and the other officers who were stacked at the door. The suspect made it to the room and shut the door. More shots rang out from the room. Cover fire was provided as Fung was removed from the apartment and the scene secured for SWAT. John Fung was saved by the raid jacket; receiving a large bruise to the center of his chest. The suspect had been struck by Bill's rounds and died on the floor in the room he had run into.

I joined Bill in Street Narcotics a couple years later, during the wildest of times for Narcotics in department history. The unit went from two teams to five in February of 1986. Rock cocaine and PCP sales and use was increasing and San Diego was classified as the "Meth Capital" of America. We would serve 25 search warrants a week and before we were done with the paperwork on the sellers we had taken off the street, a new dealer would set up shop to take over for the crook we put behind bars. We would do weekly sweeps making arrests for crooks that were under the influence. Bill's expertise helped guide the unit and provided the training and mentoring for those of us who were new to the unit. He was a true leader who always provided the calm and reason to the wildest of scenes. His humor kept things light and allowed us to channel our energy.

Bill moved to Robbery Investigations where he again excelled. Long tedious surveillances; detailed reports; interview after interview; a tenacious, dedicated investigator who never gave in or gave up, in the pursuit of justice. Sex Crimes was short a couple of the detectives and were seeking volunteers to assist with mounting cases. Bill volunteered and soon made a name for himself with his ability to put cases together and get suspects to confess. His stint in Sex Crimes was short lived (He could not wait to get back to Robbery, truth be told) and was quickly back in the saddle chasing the worst of the worst.

Bill was promoted to Sergeant and headed back to patrol. Mid-City was in the cards. We again worked together on the same shift along with Terry Degelder, Bill Frew, and Andrew Hoffman. Wild times again and some great police work. Bill was the calming force at critical incidents and the silent leader. Bill would always downplay his involvement and force praise on others. He was always uncomfortable with praise and being in the spot light.

Bill moved back to Investigations; Domestic Violence was his calling. He led a team of detectives handling a mountain of un-ending cases. He was soon the person to be called for help by patrol sergeants needing guidance and advice. Bill sought election to the SDPOA Board of Directors. He was elected in a land slide; conformation of his popularity and the respect he had from officers of all ranks. In 2005 Bill was elected President of the SDPOA Board. Tough times and negotiations that ended with an imposed contract of take aways, made for a rough first year. In August of that year the SDPOA began a series of law suits aimed at stopping the actions of the City related to FLSA violations and the imposed take aways from officers. Bill was the leader who stood in front of an angry, frustrated and defeated membership; trying to make sense of the City's actions and what actions the SDPOA would take in response. Bill remained positive and was always the "Peace Maker" in meetings and negotiations settings. While directors vented to department brass or politicians, pissing people off and knocking tables over, Bill would be the calming voice of reason helping to maintain these relationships.

Bill's tenure as President was challenging and humbling. He survived one of the hardest times in history due to the economic downturn and a political mess within the City of San Diego that saw the Mayor resign; a lunatic elected to City Attorney and a new mayor (ex-chief of police) elected who quickly showed he was no friend of police officers. To add to the struggles; the City was wrestling with a 1 ½ Billion dollar unfunded liability for its Employee Retirement System. During all this; Bill maintained his professionalism, integrity; compassion and sense of humor.

Bill was recognized tonight by hundreds of well wishers, colleagues, friends and family. He was joined by Sergeant Alan Hayward who also called it quits after 29 ½ years. Bill will be missed but not forgotten. His sense of humor, integrity, professionalism and experience will be missed. While the mayor is happy to exchange this experience for enthusiasm; he should take a closer look at those like Bill Nemec who have the vast experience necessary to lead a competent police department who have more enthusiasm after 30+ years of service than many of the new officers being hired.

Enjoy the good life Bill; you have earned it. Stay healthy and enjoy the next chapter in your life. It was an honor and pleasure to have served with you. You are one of the good guys who made a difference in the lives of many. Thank you and good luck my friend!!!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The mayor and his VVM’S

Who among you remembers when the mayor was chief and put together a committee to develop the department's VVM'S? Who remembers what "VVM" stands for? Gold frames; pretty card stock with bright blue lettering and a gold badge as the background. I'm sure there are many with a smile on their face right now; some sitting here with a smirk; others nodding their heads thinking to themselves, "Yes, I remember that." Some of you pictured the gold, 8 ½ X 11 frame in your mind and the words contained under the glass. I am sure many of you have deliberately erased this image and thought from your minds.

The San Diego Police Department's "Vision, Values and Mission" were one of the many pet projects of then chief, now mayor of San Diego. One of his numerous committees (he had a committee for EVERYTHING) to come up with another set of one liners, to give the perception to the community, he was a caring, thoughtful, connected chief of police who valued them and was committed to their safety.

The VVM'S start with his "VISION" for the department; "We are committed to working together, within the Department, in a problem solving partnership with communities, government agencies, private groups and individuals to fight crime and improve the quality of life for the people of San Diego."

Next came his "VALUES" or principles as he liked to say, upon which "we" base our policing; HUMAN LIFE; The protection of human life is our highest priority. ETHICS; We will demonstrate integrity and honor in all our actions. CRIME FIGHTING; Our efforts to address neighborhood problems will be based on a Partnership with the community. VALUING PEOPLE; We will treat each other with dignity and respect, protecting the rights and well-being of all individuals. LOYALTY; We will be loyal to the community, to the Department and its members, and to the standards of our profession. OPEN COMMUNICATION; We will listen to one another's opinions and concerns. FAIRNESS; Our decisions will be based on common sense, and will be balanced, moral, legal and without personal favoritism. DIVERSITY; We appreciate one another's differences and recognize that our unique skills, knowledge, abilities and backgrounds bring strength and caring to our organization.

Finishing up his VVM'S was the MISSION; Our mission is to maintain peace and order though the provision of Police services that are of the highest quality and responsive to the needs of the community. We will contribute to the safety and security of the community by apprehending those who commit criminal acts, by developing partnerships to prevent, reduce or eliminate neighborhood problems, and by providing police services that are fair, unbiased, judicious, and respectful of the dignity of all individuals.

Bring back memories for you? How many of you were called upon to work on this committee and formulate these words? I have not a clue how much money was spent producing the VVM'S, but it had to be six figures. You could not go into any room within the department and not see the 8 ½ X 11 gold frame on a wall. There were small pocket versions that every member of the department was given and you were held accountable to them. Many a speech contained references to the VVM'S to suit the audience and or event. The politically driven; upwardly mobile; Jerry's Kids crowd; ALL had them on their desks, in their pockets and visible on or in their notebooks for the chief to see. It became a badge to show allegiance to the chief and show him you were "on board" as the train began to move.

How times have changed. The chief left the department after twenty six years; six long years as chief. The stresses of the job had taken their toll and he left two years shy of retirement age. The VVM'S were another in a long string of political projects done to promote him. Committee after committee worked on project after project; all focused on making the chief appear to care about the community. Where did employees fit into his agenda? Only those who fit the above categories were provided for and taken care of. Did you graduate from San Diego State? You had a leg up on everyone else if you did.

The mayor has moved on from the police department. He has long forgotten the VVM'S. His actions and words are clear; the VVM'S were never a part of who he was or who he has become. His self serving; loathsome manner, have clearly set him aside from Police Officers and all those who work for the citizens of San Diego.

ETHICS; have clearly been absent in the person who has become mayor of San Diego (I'm not convinced he ever had an ethical quality to his life). "Demonstrate integrity and honor in all our actions" applies to everyone but the mayor or his staff (unless he needs to protect himself or blame someone). The mayor and members of his staff have repeatedly provided false statements and information regarding the benefits of the City's employees. The mayor has been less than truthful with the public when confronted with the facts of negotiations and his actions related to the pending law suit aimed at eliminating DROP. He has lost the trust of ALL City Employees who know the truth.

VALUING PEOPLE; This is a biggie and a total failure on the mayor's part; "will treat each other with dignity and respect, protecting the rights and well-being of all individuals." The mayor has gone out of his way to strip the dignity from City Employees by his words and actions. The mayor has flippantly scoffed at the exodus of the most senior and experienced employees. The mayor smiles and gleefully boasts; "We will be exchanging experience for enthusiasm" when talking about the 125 sworn, senior, experienced officers of the San Diego Police Department who are retiring from the City to preserve benefits the mayor has eliminated effective July 1. The mayor's actions and words clearly confirm the belief held by employees; the mayor has NO RESPECT for their experience, dedication or vigilance. The mayor has lost the respect of ALL City Employees.

LOYALTY; The mayor has shown he is loyal to himself; the Republican, Downtown Power Brokers; his daughter and little else. His mantra; "It's political" seems to be his excuse for ethical lapses; stripping the dignity and respect of employees and creating a city ripe for out of control crime. The mayor who once wore the badge of a police officer and swore to protect the safety of citizens has turned his back on those who protect and serve. The mayor's actions have shown he is no longer worthy to carry the badge of a police officer. His words and actions have shown he is not one of us and not welcome among us.

FAIRNESS; "decisions will be based on common sense, and will be balanced, moral, legal and without personal favoritism." NOTHING the mayor has done could be considered "FAIR." The decisions he has coordinated and carried out against police officers of the City of San Diego bears no resemblance to "common sense." The vindictive manner the mayor has gone about singling out police officers for the reductions to wages and benefits; followed by the filing of a law suit in an attempt to eliminate an earned and vested benefit (DROP) and not the other workers in the City, shows his true lack of morals. His actions have been shown to be ILLEGAL and will soon be shown to be nothing short of a political maneuver to garner favoritism with the Republican, Downtown, Power, Broker Establishment. The employees of the city do not believe the mayor possesses the moral character to provide common sense, balanced leadership that is legal and without favoritism.

OPEN COMMUNICATION; The mayor is not open to listening to anyone's opinion, suggestions, concerns or ideas. The mayor is loathsome to those who speak out against his policies or ideas. "If you are not on the train when it leaves the station; you will be left behind" is a favorite saying of the mayor. His way of saying; you either get on board and agree with him or go to hell. The mayor is not one to be challenged and will go out of his way to shut down anyone who has the mitigated gall to oppose his ideas or actions. The mayor has failed in his willingness to listen to alternatives, suggestions and ideas for change and solutions to the many ills facing the City of San Diego. The mayor has an agenda and the train has left the station. The mayor has lost the ear of the City's employees, as we have all tired of the disrespectful manner and tone he has used since elected.

HUMAN LIFE; The mayor has single handedly destroyed a great police department. His demands and actions toward members of the police department, in all ranks, have shown his lack of concern for the safety of citizens. His caustic comment; "We are replacing experience with enthusiasm" has clearly shown the protection of human life is NOT his highest priority. The mayor has intentionally created the exodus of the most experienced officers to further his agenda and paint himself as a "reform" mayor who has taken on and defeated the "all mighty" unions. The mayor has placed the citizens and every police officer in jeopardy with his destructive and illegal actions, all in the name of balancing the city's budget. The cuts to police officers far outpace those of other employees of the City. The mayor is seeking to exact punishment for the refusal to get on the train. The mayor has made his actions against police officers personal and has shown he lacks concern for human life. Who will be the first to die as a result of the mayor's inexcusable actions?

These VVM'S are no longer in place. The mayor has created a new set of VVM'S that are to be used by ALL departments within the City. The mayor has also demanded the letter head be made the same throughout the city. The ego required he place his name on every correspondence sent from within the City. When the Chief of Police replies to a citizen, he uses the letter head of the mayor. When the Director of Parks replies to a vendor or sister agency, the mayor's letter head is used. His top down dictatorial leadership style has destroyed fairness, loyalty, open communication, and the valuing of people. His lack of ethics and complete disregard for human life, have caused employees to dismiss his value as mayor. The ability of ALL employees to function and provide excellent customer service has been hampered if not completely eliminated by the actions of the mayor.

Where there is no VISION; the ability to complete the MISSION is diminished or attenuated regardless the strength of VALUES. Lacking VALUES to overcome a lack of VISION, the MISSION does not matter; it is impossible to accomplish. The mayor has seen to this by his total disregard for the men and women who provide for the safety and service to the citizens of San Diego.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

San Diego Needs a Change in Leadership

Yesterdays release by City Attorney Jan Goldsmith of his "Memorandum of Law" (MOL) opining on Charter Section 143.1 and the validity of DROP, has proved to be a black eye for everyone involved in touting this "work." It did not take a legal scholar to see through the writings of Goldsmith et al. (Consider the authors of the MOL; Jan Goldsmith and two attorneys who worked on Mike Aguirre's Pensions Task Force, one who has 4.5 years of municipal law experience and the other who passed the bar in December.) A ray of sunlight, often hidden by clouds in June, shone through today when David Wesco of SDCERS sent a letter to the City Attorney that addressed (or dressed down) Goldsmith and the flawed MOL penned and published for all to see.

Mr. Wesco addressed the many contradictions in law, policy, and practice set by opinions of past City Attorneys. In 1996, then City Attorney John Witt wrote an opinion, directly contradicting that of Goldsmith and distinctly absent in Goldsmith's research and MOL. I wondered out loud last night why the votes of the three elections held by SDCERS and used in support of Goldsmith's MOL were missing from the documentation. I think we all know why now. The standard used for elections in the City of San Diego and SDCERS, related to Charter Section 143.1, is, was and should be; "A 'majority vote' means a majority of the actual votes cast."

Mr. Wesco urged Goldsmith to withdraw his MOL because of the many flaws contained within the document. Mr. John Kaheny (Highly respected City Attorney - retired) also urged Goldsmith to withdraw the MOL for similar reasons. Mr. Kaheny attempted to persuade Goldsmith to; "pull the document and re issue it after curing the defects noted and improving its analysis as well as providing your client (City of San Diego) with a legal document that you (Goldsmith) and your staff (City Attorney Staff) can be proud of producing." Goldsmith pooh-poohed this advice and said the issue would be litigated in court soon, when the case goes to trial with the SDPOA.

The turmoil created by such reckless actions can no longer be allowed to continue. The elected officials of this City are as incompetent as any in America. They have continually and consistently placed blame on others for their failings and incompetence. The time has come for the entire lot to resign, leave their offices and allow honest, intelligent, persons of integrity to assume leadership and control of the City. As the mayor so eloquently spoke recently; "replacing experience with enthusiasm" will serve this City and its taxpayers, employees and visitors much more effectively and efficiently than those currently occupying elected positions. Even the mayor agrees enthusiasm is far more important than experience and anyone can learn to do the job. A person with no experience in politics would not be corrupted by the system and more willing to do what is right and honorable.

The reckless actions of the mayor, city attorney, and city council have exacted its toll on the employees who serve the citizens who live, work and visit San Diego. The constant turmoil created by those elected and the complete disrespect shown toward a dedicated work force, is unconscionable and uncalled for.

The mayor's complete disregard for the law during negotiations and his demands for elimination of earned, vested benefits and complete and total lack of ethics demand he resign his position. He has lost the faith, trust and respect of those he is responsible for leading. He has shown through actions and words, those who have given their hearts and soul for this city, do not matter to him. The men and women employed by the City of San Diego deserve better. On a side note; the mayor recently demanded additional street lights be installed near his residence. The lights were quickly installed and the mayor did not like the color of the lights and demanded they be re-done to "fit in with the surrounding" lights in the area. Who among you thinks you would get a light repaired, let alone installed in your neighborhood today? The abuse of his authority and power is appalling and another clear example of his arrogance.

The City Attorney has followed the mayor's lead and has shown a complete disregard for the men and women for whom he serves. Jan Goldsmith is the "City's Attorney" as such represents the men and women who work for this city. His reckless MOL has again created unnecessary angst and fear among the rank and file who have been attacked without reason by their own attorney. When MOU'S are prepared and codified, we rely upon the integrity, experience and thoroughness of the City Attorney. The men and women, who should have faith and trust in the City Attorney, have lost ALL faith in his ability to provide the necessary legal advice to ensure a stable life. The trust he will fulfill his obligations in a completely competent manner has been destroyed. We endured four long years of similar incompetence and can ill afford another four.

The City Council has shown they are not leaders and have lost the trust of their employees. Collectively, they have sat silent, as the mayor, City Attorney and press tormented, disrespected and assailed their dedication to the citizens of San Diego. The City Council has allowed the mayor to destroy decades old promises and decimate the public's safety. Their effectiveness as a governing body has proven to be extinct. It is time they collectively resign their positions and allow a new and enthusiastic Council to be seated who bears the integrity, honesty and compassion to guide this City and its employees through this difficult time.

The economic struggles of America are real and clearly understood by every employee working for the City of San Diego. We all understand the need to sacrifice and share in the pain of cuts. We understand and acknowledge the need to make adjustments to wages and benefits. We do not understand nor accept the dictatorial manner in which the City has exacted its cuts to wages and benefits. The throwing of the baby out with the bath water attitude of the mayor toward employee benefits will not be tolerated nor accepted. A shared solution involving stakeholders at every level is necessary to accomplish a fair and equitable solution to the City's problems. Until persons are elected, who are of the mind to be inclusive of stakeholders in seeking solutions; instead of playing politics and making unreasonable demands of only employees; continued strife and unrest will prevail.

San Diego needs a change in leadership.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

DROP Opinion June 1, 2009

I'm not sure if I like Twitter or hate it at this point. This morning, around 11:14, I am sitting at my desk trying to wade through telephone messages, e-mails and the "stuff" in my mail slot, when my telephone announces a new Twitter message. I pick up my telephone and ring up the message; "AndrewDonohue: City attorney: Remember that bombshell I dropped on the mayor last week? Well, forget about it:" Being the inquisitive dolt that I am I clicked on the link and up popped the Voice of San Diego and an article titled: "Goldsmith: Bombshell Averted". I began to read the article and if anyone was looking at me I am sure they would have thought I was completely confused and deep in thought or maybe even having a seizure.

I clicked open the link for the "Opinion" the City Attorney was providing and began to read. I first noted the document was 116 pages in length and titled, "Memorandum of Law" dated June 1, 2009. The memorandum was addressed to the mayor and City Council and the subject stated, "DROP and Charter Section 143.1." I started skimming the words and as they filled the screen of my Blackberry. The City Attorney was now providing an opinion that in short said; the vote of members that occurred in 1997 to accept DROP did not meet the requirements of Charter Section 143.1; and DROP was an illegal benefit; the Municipal Code providing for this benefit was in error; and thus DROP could be eliminated without a vote of the membership.

I read this rather quickly as I had a meeting to get to and work to do. I slipped the phone in its holder and headed out to get some work done. As I drove the freeway heading north I thought to myself; last week the mayor and City Attorney are pointing fingers at each other, blaming one another for political posturing or incompetence; the mayor saying the City Attorney dropped a bombshell when one of his employees agreed with SDCERS that a vote was needed to make any changes; the City Attorney indicating to the contrary; then the mayor's minion changes his story and says the outside attorneys hired for labor negotiations talked to SDCERS who told them no vote was required; when David Wesco contradicts this statement saying SDCERS never talked to the outside firm nor discussed this issue. ALL of this is going through my head as I process the quick read of the City Attorney's "Memorandum of Law." Quick thought; when was this researched and written?

I start getting text messages, e-mails and my phone rings five times in the next 40 minutes as I get to my meeting. Five messages left in voice mail; all of them almost yelling into the phone; "Have you seen the opinion of the City Attorney? You need to read it."

Remember, I am not an attorney and like most of you rely on the words written by the attorney's to try and make head or tails out of their convoluted thoughts and ramblings. This particular document is no different. I make it home, flip on the stereo and sit down to re-read the City Attorney's opinion. The actual writings of; Jan Goldsmith, Walter Chung and M. Travis Phelps, is fourteen (14) pages. The remaining 112 pagers are attachments used to support their "legal theory" or "opinion" as you will. Now, keep in mind we all have an "opinion" and we all know what opinions are and what they smell like. Now "legal theory" is a little different but as Wikipedia defines the word THEORY; "The term is often used colloquially to refer to any explanatory thought, even fanciful or speculative ones, but in scholarly use it is reserved for ideas which meet baseline requirements about the kinds of observations made, the methods of classification used, and the consistency of the theory in its application among members of that class. I especially like "fanciful or speculative" after reading the City Attorney's work.

I read the document once; twice; then a third time. I move back and forth from the various attachments to the memorandum and I am struck first by the timing of the memorandum and then the content. The basis of the opinion is there were only 3,269 votes tallied from an eligible membership of 9,206. Of the 3,269 votes tallied; 88 voted "no" with the remaining voting "yes." The opinion put forth is the 3,171 "yes" votes comprised 35.51% of "eligible members" and did not meet the requirements of Charter Section 143.1.

Let's read further and review the attachments used to support this opinion. In Exhibit F; an October 2, 2002 Memorandum addresses Charter Section 143.1. On page 3, the last sentence; "In any event, there is no legislative history on the meaning of the phrase "approval of a majority vote of the members of said system," so we are left with the language of the statute."

In Exhibit H; an August 27, 1993 Memorandum from the City Attorney to Larry Grissom, SDCERS Retirement Administrator, addresses "Benefits Elections." The City Attorney writes; "In my quest to discover the true purpose and meaning of Charter Section 143.1, I could find no case law or attorney opinions shedding light on the subject. However, in the dusty archives, I did find three Special Benefit Election Reports (Reports) issued by the Board of Administration (Board) between the years of 1965 and 1970. Each of these reports was issued at a time when major benefit changes were proposed."

Let's now look at the "Reports" to which the City Attorney refers. The first; dated April 15, 1965, titled, "CHANGES IN RETIREMENT BENEFITS A SPECIAL REPORT from The Retirement Board of Administration, the fifth paragraph addresses Charter Section 143.1; "In summary, a yes vote by the majority of all the members of the System will mean improved benefits and the employer and employees will contribute a greater amount. A lack of a majority of yes votes will result in no improvement in benefits and a small reduction in present employee contributions to the Retirement System. It is therefore important that every member votes."

The next report is dated March 17, 1967, and bears the same title and the third paragraph addresses Charter Section 143.1; "In summary, a majority of yes votes on these proposed changes will mean higher future pension benefits and a slight increase in contribution requirements. Less than a majority of yes votes will mean no change in pension benefits and a slight reduction in contribution requirements."

The final report presented is dated February 27, 1970, and again bears the same title and in the "Summary" addresses Charter Section 143.1; "A majority of yes votes by the employees will permit the council to adopt an ordinance to accomplish six changes described on the following pages, which will result in higher future pension benefits and an average increase of approximately 30% in the employee contributions. Less than a majority of yes votes will mean no change in pension benefits, an average reduction of about 16% in employee contributions and no obligation for the City to pay for improved benefits."

My un-educated reading of the three reports used to support the opinion of the City Attorney's legal theory; in 1965 SDCERS used the exact language of the charter section. The next two reports talk only of a "majority of yes votes" to pass the changes being proposed. What is curiously missing in all three is the actual votes cast versus members and the percentage of yes votes. Want to venture a guess why this part of the equation is missing?

Go back to Exhibit F and the comment, "In any event, there is no legislative history on the meaning of the phrase "approval of a majority vote of the members of said system," so we are left with the language of the statute." The courts will obviously decide this issue. I do though find it curious two of the three examples appear to suggest a majority "yes" vote met the requirements of Charter Section 143.1 in those years. It would also appear the vote in 1997 was also interpreted to have met the requirements as the City Attorney at the time and City Council, as well as SDCERS, all relied on this vote to make the changes to enact DROP.

I recently read an article where Jan Goldsmith said the problems in San Diego with Labor and the relationship with the City was one of repeated litigation and his desire to move away from litigation between the two parties. Taking from Jan's own words; "Estoppel is an equitable principle that may apply where a party relies upon a promise." So the promises made and the belief for the past 12 years that DROP was approved, mean nothing? He is pouring jet fuel on a smoldering fire and like the mayor more eager to cross swords and go to war than work on fixing the problems of past; discovered today. What does this say about the state of Government in San Diego? Maybe it's the sun? Too much in the way of ultra violet rays; hair pieces that do not fit properly, thinning hair on a large head and a propensity to place blame rather than correct a mistake? When will intelligent; honest; professional people step forward; leave their egos at home and do what is right? When will politics take a back seat to honesty, fairness and doing what is right? It appears that time is not in the very near future based on the actions of the City Attorney and mayor of San Diego.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Back from Yosemite in One Piece

Well, I am back. It appears things got a little testy while I was gone. I see there were a couple of informative articles about the Mayor and City Attorney pointing fingers at one another over who knew what when and who was telling the truth. I notice the mayor and his daughter got themselves on CNN and some other news show to talk about next steps for Prop 8 and what to do about the Appeals Court Decision. I also understand he travelled to San Francisco, also related to Prop 8. Who is footing the bill for all of this? Why are taxpayers paying the mayor of San Diego to gallivant around with his daughter, engaging in a political debate of this nature, when things are going to hell in a hand basket financially in San Diego? Besides his salary, who is footing the bill for expenses? Do not get me wrong; I am not diminishing the fight or argument related to Prop 8, and do not want to get into a debate about this issue. I am of the opinion the mayor has overstepped his position and it is time he allow his daughter to carry this fight and he need get back to the issues at hand. I am not willing to pay for his personal political agenda trips, to garner face time with the media and public, in an attempt to appear to have a heart or care about anyone but himself. He was ardently opposed to this issue until his chief of staff and daughter tugged at his ear. His change of heart and his full of tears flip flop, was as phony as the Bill Clinton three dollar bill.

I see Chief Jarman is retiring to preserve her DROP and Medical Benefits. I also read with piquancy the article in Sunday's UT by Michael Stetz; again a UT writer makes a Civil Servant out to be a thieving, greedy, jackal, only in it for the money. In Stetz's article he writes; "Here seemed yet another case of a public employee chancing a hernia from lugging all that cash out the door, while my meager retirement savings go, well, up in flames." The change of ownership did little if anything to improve the ethics or reliability of the reporting coming out of this rag. If Stetz or any of the other so called writers for this pathetic excuse for a "news paper" want a secured retirement and are willing to put their lives on the line every day; I would suggest a job in Law Enforcement or Fire Fighting. I would NOT suggest it be for the City of San Diego; there is NOTHING secure about our retirements or benefits. Go to any other City and sign up; if you can cut the mustard; make it through the back ground process; graduate the academy; complete phase training; and then finish probation; you are on your way to a hard earned retirement, that if all goes well you may get to enjoy for 12 years after you retire. You won't be around much longer than that unless you are one of the lucky ones to beat the odds and survive past that. If you are not willing to do that; get off your damned high horses and shut the hell up. You get what you earn in life. No one is handing police officers or fire fighters anything; we earn every penny of our salary and retirement benefits in more ways than time permits to explain and we are not apologizing for it. We are the ones running toward that crazed man shooting people as you all run in the other direction trying to hide; firefighters are the ones driving into the flames to stop the destruction of property as you all flee as fast as your feet or car will take you.

The numbers of police, fire and civilian personnel leaving in the next thirty days is astounding. The institutional knowledge and experience of those who are participating in this exodus will take years to recover from. Life will go on; the City will not shut down; fires will be put out, crooks will go to jail; BUT crime will rise; people WILL die; lives will be ruined and the taxpayer will pay dearly for the short sighted actions of a tyrannical mayor who cares nothing for what he has created. He will place blame at the feet of everyone else and not once will he stand and accept blame for anything. He will feed the Stetz's of the media world with fuel to deceive; continuing to contribute to the destruction of a workforce once proud to serve the taxpayer of San Diego. The mayor will sit back and downplay the seriousness of today and use fog, smoke and mirrors to assure the public all is well. He will smile and claim victory over the greedy public worker all the while taking his Retiree medical benefits, salary AND retirement checks to the bank. Replacing experience with enthusiasm is the biggest joke in America's Finest City; that is until your son, daughter, mother or father is killed because the police or fire departments could not respond in a timely manner and decisions to act took a minute too long.

To the curious; I made it to within a few hundred feet of the top of the mountain at Yosemite. I did not make it to the top of the rock. I am walking funny still and feel the pain of being overweight, out of shape and over fifty. This hike is not for the faint of heart or those like me who fit the before mentioned group. It was a way to ponder next steps and take in the beauty of the mountains. I will share the pictures in the coming days and write more about the experience. Doug Cohee made it to the top of Half Dome; Terry McClain made it to the base of the rock as did Bill and Andrea Halligan. The trip to the top and back took a little over ten hours to travel the 16.4 miles total, up and back. All in all it was a great trip filled with laughs and lots of fun. Be safe and enjoy the day.