Saturday, July 4, 2009

Safety Alert!!!

This is an open letter to the mayor of San Diego. We are now 4 days into the new fiscal year and with this come serious concerns that are being ignored by the mayor and council. The citizens are oblivious to the crisis facing law enforcement and the dangers they now face. Who is going to stand up and demand something be done? What will it take for people to get involved and refuse to accept this as OK? Let me first provide the background information from which I draw my beliefs to make the statements about Public Safety.

The City of San Diego is now the 9th largest city in America. We are 600 people shy of the 8th largest city; Dallas, Texas. The Dallas Police Department is staffed with 2,977 sworn officers and 556 civilian support staff (Does not include Communication Staff). The San Diego Police Department is staffed with 1,852 sworn officers (163 unavailable due to injury leave, military leave or other reasons) and 650 civilian support staff (Included Communication Staff). This leaves the San Diego Police Department with 1,689 sworn officers available for service. Of this number, 59 are managers (Lieutenants, Captains, and Chiefs) and not answering radio calls or investigating crime; 50 are recruits and still in training; with an additional 51 still in the academy; this leaves 1,529 sworn police officers, detectives, sergeants and detective sergeants to handle police related calls for service and investigations. If you delete the 80 detective sergeants and 280 detectives from this number, you have 1,169 uniformed officers to patrol the streets of San Diego, from San Ysidro to the Wild Animal Park. The Police Department has a budgeted strength of 2,127 sworn officers. At the current rate of attrition and the inability to certify candidates for the academy; the police department will never meet full staffing.

The San Diego Police Department has lost 252 sworn members of the department in the past 12 months. We have lost 2 Assistant Chiefs, 2 Captains, 7 Lieutenants, 27 Detective Sergeants, 24 Patrol Sergeants, 3 Agents, 49 Detectives, 79 Police Officer II's, 34 Police Officer I's, and 25 Recruits. This equates to approximately 21 officers per month leaving for various reasons. The combined police experience lost exceeds 4,000 years service to the Citizens of San Diego. There are currently 51 recruits in the Police Academy with an additional 41 (Budgeted for 50 recruits, but unable to find the additional 9 qualified candidates) starting on the 20th of July. (The original post indicated the October Academy was cancelled. Chief Kanaski corrected this item and said the department is working to fill the October class with 50 recruits)

The taxpaying citizens, visitors, and workers of this community have a right to know the reality of Public Safety in this City. They have a right to know the state of their police department and how we got to the point we are at. They have a right to know we will soon be incapable of meeting their requests for service. They have a right to know the level of REAL staffing on the streets of San Diego during the nighttime hours after midnight. They have a right to know we are doing everything humanly possible to meet the calls for service; but the days of "doing more with less" have reached the breaking point.

Mr. mayor; would you please share with the taxpaying citizen your reasons for decimating a once great police department and forcing its most experienced, senior police officers and leaders to leave; many before they were ready or wanting to? Would you share your reasons for imposing an unacceptable contract upon the police officers of this City that included reductions and cuts to wages and benefits NONE of the other workers of this City were subjected to? Would you explain to the taxpayers why you have eliminated the funding for the next academy class of recruits? Would you explain the difference between your receiving your Retirement payments from SDCERS and salary and benefits as mayor and those officers who are participants of the DROP program?

The San Diego Police Department will prioritize all calls for service from citizens as they are received. With the lack of staffing, the Police Department will be forced to STOP responding to the "Quality of Life" issues citizens call seeking help with; trespassing; panhandling; illegal lodging; drunks on the sidewalk, in parks and buildings; loud music; barking dog; illegal parking; juvenile neighborhood problems; loud party; vandalism; graffiti; urinating in public and similar types of requests. What do you say to these people mayor, who want to know why we are not meeting their requests to provide safe, secure and livable neighborhoods?

When you were Chief of this police department, you boasted of the "Community Orientated Policing" and "Problem Orientated Policing" programs you put in place, to better serve the community. You increased the supervisor ranks to almost double what it was before you took over; to have what you called, "Closer Supervision" of officers and reduce the "Span of Control" for supervisors. What is different today and why is "Community Orientated Policing" and "Problem Orientated Policing" not important? Please do not insult us and the community and tell us these programs are still important and will continue. Who is going to do these tasks and when? Answering priority calls for service will be our only option due to staffing levels created by you and your policies.

Mr. mayor; please tell us what you will say to the family of that energetic new rookie officer killed in the line of duty because he lacked experienced mentors and supervisors to guide him in his learning process? What will you say to the family of the Detective killed in the line of duty; working excessive hours; did not have a cover unit to assist him; when confronted by an armed, repeat offender? Please tell us what you will say to the family of the child killed in the park because officers could not respond to their calls for help in a timely manner?

You have created a crisis never before seen in ANY American City. It is time mayor, you stop playing a game you know nothing about; POLITICS. It is time you start acting in the best interest of this City; its citizens; visitors and workers; employees and retirees alike. It is time you set priorities that make sense. Public Safety is the number one priority of every citizen and it should be yours. STOP PLAYING POLITICS and sit down with the City Council and formulate a plan to add 500 police officers in the next 36 months. Do not tell us you can't. CAN'T means you are not willing. You, like any of us, can do anything we set our minds to. Set aside the money necessary to hire and retain these officers NOW. It can be done and must be done now. To wait one day will further place citizens and officers in jeopardy unnecessarily. Start double sessions or double or triple sections in the Academy with 75-100 recruits per class. It has been done before and it MUST be done NOW.

If you are a citizen in the community and were not aware of this crisis; it is real and it is now. This is not a scare tactic or ploy for additional money. FREEZE my salary for the next two years; BUT we must hire and train 500 additional officers if we are going to provide the public safety services you want and need. To do anything less will leave you and the police officers who provide for your safety in danger.

Friday, July 3, 2009

It’s Politics

It appears I may have inadvertently ruffled some feathers with a comment I made in my last BLOG post. I think the comment that struck some nerves was this; "Below is my reply and argument against the ideals of the Republican, Far Right, agenda driven political machine and their attempts at destroying the will of the Civil Servant." It appears "Republican" friends who consider themselves "Conservative" took exception to my rant. Let's talk about; Republican, Democrat; Far Right; Far Left; and the differences and what a "RHINO" and "DINO" is. I may belay some of the ruffled feathers and may not. I am not going to apologize for my thoughts, words or beliefs as I have lived them and participate in them.

Have you ever thought about your party affiliation and why you chose the party you did; Democrat or Republican, maybe Libertarian or Independent? I know there are other parties involved in politics; but for this discussion I will stick with two; Republican and Democrat. I will no doubt spark interesting conversation and disagreement with the following observations and comments. I have been involved to some degree or another in the political arena since 1985. I was an elected Director for the SDPOA in 1986 and left the Board 1991. I was the SDPOA Vice President and representative at PORAC (State Organization) and NAPO (National Organization). I then moved on and in 1994 entered the local political arena; running for and getting elected to the Poway Unified School District's Board of Education. I was re-elected two times, serving 12 years as a Trustee on the Poway School Board. I worked with the California School Boards Association and the National School Boards Association. I made another run at the SDPOA and was elected in 2004; served three years as Vice President and left the Board at the end of 2006.

My travels in politics were an eye opening and very educational experience. I learned quickly how to maneuver the halls of ANY political house. I spent time at City Hall; the State Capital; the House and Senate in Washington DC. I spent time with other elected representatives from every level of government. Many were honest, hard working and dedicated people. There were others I would not give you two cents for. I learned to speak without saying anything. I learned to parry questions and change the subject when debating new legislation or seeking increases in funding for various programs; the all too natural "Political Double Speak."

When I began my run for School Board I learned early the need for endorsements. Seeking the endorsement of local individuals; followed by various local business organizations (both very important endorsements to pocket) before you moved to the larger, named individuals and groups was mandatory. To garner an endorsement from another elected official was golden and also hard to accomplish without someone speaking for you. Next was seeking the biggest and sometimes most important endorsement; that of your political party; in my case; the Republican Party. You had better know and support your party's line and agenda (Party Platform) if you expect their support. I learned how to do this and garnered the Republican Endorsement. I was the only candidate in three straight elections for School Board to also obtain the Democratic endorsement. Being a "Union Representative" gave me the edge I needed with them.

Officers in Law Enforcement tend to be conservative in their views, thoughts and personal lives. A large population of those in Law Enforcement find themselves supporting a more right leaning agenda (Christian) and Republican politics. These demographics are changing rapidly in 2009. If you have ever had the pleasure of attending a Republican Party meeting, you would re-think your party affiliation if you are the Republican "Labor Leader" of an organization like the SDPOA. Bill Nemec and I attended a Republican Party meeting during the first election of the mayor to replace Mayor Murphy. We stood along the wall at the side of the room and listened to speaker after speaker bash unions, workers and anyone suggesting new revenue sources or taxes. We heard speaker after speaker talk of the need to "Reel in, out of control wages and benefits." Talk about uncomfortable? We left the meeting asking ourselves why we were both registered Republicans.

If you are still reading this diatribe, you are most likely asking yourself, "Where the hell is he going with this?" The rub we in law enforcement face as we involve ourselves in politics; we are mostly right leaning; but left needing. What do I mean by this? If we expect the right or Republican candidate to support our needs, wants, or desires; we are surly kidding ourselves. If we expect to garner support for our needs, wants and desires for wages, benefits and working conditions it will come from a Democrat. So, for those who represent police officers, they find it difficult at times to navigate the endorsement waters.

Each party puts together their goals for the upcoming elections by way of a "Platform." If you have never taken the time to review your party's platform, as well as their legislative goals you might be a bit surprised to see what it contains. Historically, the Democratic Party has favored farmers, laborers, labor unions, and religious and ethnic minorities; it has opposed unregulated business and finance, and favored progressive income taxes. Historically, the Republican Party is seen as a Christian valued, traditionally pro-business party and it garners major support from a wide variety of industries from the financial sector to small businesses. This may relate to the fact that Republicans are about 50 percent more likely to be self-employed; more likely to work in the area of management and have higher educational degrees. These platforms are reflective of each party's agenda and history.

In San Diego we are faced with a VERY conservative Republican Party that is further right than the party fathers envisioned. The San Diego Republican Party is lead, run and influenced by the "Downtown Power." The Lincoln Club is a group of wealthy Republican's (Downtown - Power - Money) who maneuver behind the scenes, pulling the strings of the many politicians holding elected office. Add to this equation the fact San Diego is home to ONE newspaper, whose views and opinions are slanted far right. Over the past eight years, legislation involving labor has been mostly negative or regressive. During the Bush era, labor lost in almost every area.

I said in a prior post there was a recent meeting of California City Managers. The topic of discussion was how to spin budgets to secure public support for cuts and elimination of employee wages and benefits. The majority of City Managers are Republican. The "Agenda driven political machine" I talked about is in full swing right here in San Diego. The agenda is to portray unions and public workers as greedy and receiving inflated wages and benefits at taxpayer expense. The playbook was provided by the National Republican Party to municipalities governed by Republicans. The ultimate goal is to reduce the workforce; reduce wages, eliminate unions; eliminate the "Defined Benefit Retirement" and replace it with a 401(k)-style plan; and to reduce taxes. To accomplish this agenda, the power of the press is necessary. Have any of you seen this of late?

I am what is called a "RHINO" or "Republican in Name Only." I am conservative in most of my views and ideals. But I find myself agreeing more with Democratic legislation when discussing labor or work related issues. I support the right to bear arms; oppose legislation to prevent a woman choice; I support raising taxes to pay for the services provided by city's and the government; I oppose "Faith Based" initiatives; I support Stem Cell research; I think you get my point.

It is the Republican, "Far Right" that is in play when talking about the politics of San Diego. It is the agenda of this rich political machine, that is feeding off the print and talk media; gutting the wages and benefits of public workers; all in the name of "Balancing the budget; reigning in out of control, excessive wages and benefits; holding the line on taxes and fees; and reducing government." I am a Republican and am conservative; I am also a government employee and feel I am under attack from that same Republican run government in San Diego. I believe the agenda; playbook; views of the Republican party are out of sync with reality and what is going on in 2009. They seem to refuse to toss it aside and change course. The analogy I used the other day to describe this bent, is a Navy Carrier moving in the bay needing to make a u-turn. Anyone who knows anything about an Aircraft Carrier knows the decision to make a u-turn and pulling it off, need to be planned for, NOW. The execution may take miles and hours to accomplish. To continue on this path is only taking us further into deeper water, farther from where we need to be to accomplish our goal.

So in closing, when I rant about the "Republican; Far Right; Downtown Power," I rant against a party that is out of touch with 2009 and doing more to protect their money and power, than the people they have been elected to serve. I do not rant against Republican's or those people who are conservative in their views and thoughts. But I would suggest you share your thoughts with those Republican Elected Members of Government that are carrying out this agenda against "Public Service Workers" and you who are retired.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Union Tribune Challenge from Chris Reed

Chris Reed of the Union Tribune sent an open challenge; to prove high pay and benefits are crucial to retain public employees. His belief is provided as; "The truth that's waiting to be discovered is that public employees pay in nearly every category could be frozen for years, with new hires given standard 401(k)-style private sector benefits, with no disruptions for local and state governments."

Chris Reed threw the gauntlet down; but as with anything the Union Tribune does he added qualifiers to his challenge so as to prevent any real, open and honest exchange. Chris wrote this; "But if anyone can present any actual empirical evidence for the retention argument, send it my way and I will post it immediately."

"Empirical Evidence" does not exist and hopefully never will for the sake of the taxpayer and the "Private" sector community. The belief of Republican's and far right aligned individuals would have taxpayers believe "anyone" can and will seek out these "Public" service jobs without the security of adequate benefits or compensation commensurate for the job, locale of work, cost of living and ability to provide for the future of their family. In an ideal world this would not work, let alone the one we currently inhabit. Below is my reply and argument against the ideals of the Republican, Far Right, agenda driven political machine and their attempts at destroying the will of the Civil Servant.


Notwithstanding the practical difficulties of making this argument, I believe this debate is more ideological rather than empirical, since it is not possible to determine one job over the other in the "Public" versus "Private" sector through case studies, which can only be selective in nature but I will take a stab at it.

"Public" employment jobs are in place to provide for the public good. "Private" employment jobs are in place to provide investors with a profit of their investment. In the "Public" sector, the jobs and services provided are done, so that the "Public" benefits. If you seek completely "empirical" evidence you need look no further than San Diego. The word empirical denotes information gained by means of observation, experience, or experiment. A central concept in science and the scientific method is that all evidence must be empirical, or empirically based, that is, dependent on evidence or consequences that are observable by the senses.

You seek to have someone refute your claim that local governments would not miss a beat if they froze wages and provided only a 401(k)-style retirement. I am a police officer and have been for the past 30 years, here in San Diego. I have also served as a Trustee for the Poway Unified School District's Board of Education. In my 30 years with the San Diego Police Department I also served two separate stints as a Board Member for the Police Officer's Association. While serving as Trustee for the PUSD I was a member of Management's negotiations team. I believe my "Real World" experience allows my observations and experience to opine to this challenge.

You appear to acquiesce to the idea that the ability of the City to hire and retain police officers would be greatly hampered if the described changes were to be implemented (401(k)-style retirement and pay freeze for years). I believe we are currently seeing the impact of the pay and benefit cuts (NOT simply a wage freeze) already implemented for police officers. While the list of candidates taking the test to become police officers has been similar to past experiences, the quality of those candidates has fallen. Candidates who compare wages; benefits; and stability of the community they are seeking to serve, have chosen to go elsewhere. Some have accepted job offers, but soon after completing training have left for agencies offering better wages and benefits.

Recent studies have shown, when asked what matters most when seeking career placement; respondents placed "benefits" above wages, 70% of the time. Medical, vision and dental insurance; followed by retirement benefits; then wages, were listed in order of importance. Wages was only considered first, when other benefits offered were not adequate to satisfy a family. It was also noted, when comparing similar jobs in the "Private" versus "Public" sector; candidates placed a higher value on the "Defined Benefit Retirement" offering than they did the wages offered. Conversely when both the private and public job offers had a 401(k) style retirement; the employer who offered a higher wage won out in almost all cases. A factor that played a large part of employees willing to seek employment in the "Public" sector was the reputation of the agency or city (I could end my argument at this point speaking of San Diego as the employer).

The longevity of employees in "Public" sector jobs is greatly a result of the "Defined Benefit Retirement" and the security it provides. When a 401(k)-style retirement is offered, the carrot is removed for the employee to remain with the "Public" employer, when a "Private" employer is now offering a better wage and chance for bonuses and promotion for the same job. The portability of the 401(k) retirement plan does not require an employee to remain faithful, nor connected to the employer, when wages are frozen. The employee is now free to seek employment in the "Private" sector where wages are increasing.

In the many case studies completed by various non-profits and institutions of higher learning (Michigan State, Harvard's John F Kennedy School of Government, University of Findlay, University of Alabama, WorldatWork) the more qualified candidate seeking employment would chose "Private" sector employment over the "Public" sector in "the majority" of cases. Those candidates choosing "Private" sector work did so because they had better financial incentives and opportunities for performance bonuses. These same candidates viewed promotional opportunities to be more readily available for exceptional performance which provided more job satisfaction.

Your idea or suggestion that by freezing public employee pay for years, and providing a standard 401(k)-style retirement benefit would result in no disruptions to local and state governments is most likely true. There would be no disruptions; for a very short period of time. Then employees would begin moving back and forth between "Public" and "Private" jobs, chasing the almighty dollar. We saw this trend in the late 70's in Law Enforcement here in San Diego, when retirement and medical benefits were similar among agencies, but wages fluctuated from year to year. Officers changed agencies as often as they changed shoes. This created a drain of experience, knowledge and stability.

The adage; "You get what you pay for" could not be more appropriate for this argument. If the goal is to "Dumb Down" the workforce of the City of San Diego by paying less and reducing benefits to merely appease the deeper underlying resentment of taxpayers toward the "Defined Benefit Retirement," you could easily do that in today's economy. As the economy improves those workers willing to take on those jobs available in the "Public" arena, will soon flee to the "Private" sector for better pay and similar benefits; again providing for a void of experience and a workforce not capable of providing the services expected and demanded by the taxpayer. The recent exodus of over 500 City employees will provide your "Empirical" data as the City tries to fill the vacant positions of upper level management; technical and skilled positions.

It is crucial to provide "Competitive" wages and benefits to provide a competent workforce. When the benefits (Retirement and Medical) are enhanced or better than those of the "Private" sector, the wages need not be "as" competitive as those of the "Private" sector. When all things are equal, as you are suggesting; the "Private" sector wins out over the "Public" sector in almost all areas.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Union Tribune Takes More Hits

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.

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.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Union Tribune Spin Job

Here we go again!!! Remember my rant; "Institutional Knowledge" and the dangers of not having any? This applies to people attempting to write "NEWS" articles on issues they have little or no knowledge about. The San Diego Union Tribune makes a glaring case in support of my ranting with an article by; Eleanor Yang Su and Craig Gustafson, Staff Writers, and Agustin Armendariz, Staff Data Specialist, Titled; "Watchdog Report / Digging into San Diego's Finances / City's payroll surged in '08."

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. At a recent City Manager's training seminar, the topic of discussion was how to "spin" employee costs to garner taxpayer support for reductions in wages and benefits. The discussion centered on "taking the union/employee arguments away" by "spinning the costs and ability to pay" for benefits granted over the years. Three days of plotting, planning and training on how to accomplish this goal. Is it any wonder we are in this fight? (A majority of City Managers in this country are Republican) The Union Tribune has had this agenda for the better part of 10 years now.

The latest article takes out of context the salary of employees and those who "gained" from the prior year. The article conveniently leaves out major parts of the equation when reporting on this purported "increase" of salary for selected employees. They fail to mention how those employees they lambast for increases, came to receive these increases. They do not mention the fact many of these employees were promoted into supervisor or management positions; were probationary employees who became permanent employees and received step increases; had increased hours of overtime due to the lack of employees necessary to provide the services taxpayers demand; or the fact employees have taken on additional responsibilities requiring overtime where once two employees performed these duties. The article singled out by name; Officer Jeff Chione as someone who had a significant increase of salary from the prior year. Jeff had surgery on his neck and was off work and received disability from the state at a much reduced rate of pay; he returned to work and began receiving his normal salary. The Union Tribune reports his "increase" as 115% over his salary from the prior year. They include in this equation Jeff selling leave time which increased his "salary" which clearly does not tell the truth of Jeff's specific case as sited as a glaring example to make their point. The Union Tribune's use of Jeff to bolster their inflammatory, ignorant attempt to paint a picture of city employees receiving exorbitant increases in salary is a clear example of sensational journalism; NOT news.

The Union Tribune did not stop there. If you read this article on SignonSanDiego via the internet (I refuse to pay for this rag; I don't have a bird) you will see they listed a link to allow anyone to type in a city employee name and view the salary of that employee for the past six (6) years. Karin Winner, Editor of the Union Tribune makes her case for their providing this link. Winner writes; "We at The San Diego Union-Tribune thought long and hard about whether to publish all employees' names and salaries in a searchable form. A major part of our responsibility is to weigh the public's right to information against individual privacy concerns. Employee compensation is a significant cost to the city of San Diego, and plays prominently in the city's strategy for cutting the budget. In our three-day series, the Union-Tribune offers its readers the context for the city's payroll information. Here we can provide you with the valuable details. In the end, the decision to post this data was driven by our belief that you deserve to know how your tax dollars are being spent." So tell us all again Karen how long and hard you thought about the decision to post this link? I know; I know; you have a responsibility to weigh the public's right to know against individual privacy. Don't you also have a responsibility to "ACCURATELY" report ALL RELEVANT information about whatever it is you are reporting on? Trying to keep to my pledge of keeping my rants free of offensive and profane language, I will stop right here; you get my point. Want more on why and how they came up with the information in the initial article just read; "Behind the Stories." It boggles the mind how pathetic the repeated attacks have become and to what lengths the Union Tribune will go to justify a story.

Did you all also see where five (5) of the City Council members have yet to furnish the necessary paperwork to reduce by 6% their salary and the salary of their employees? The excuses and pathetic games these people are employing in an attempt to stave off this reduction is another example of the lack of ethics and honor of elected officials in San Diego. The first excuse is they gave up the $9,600 car allowance (that will end July 1, 2009 anyway) as a reduction to their "compensation" already. Hey bone-heads; take home vehicles and car allowances have been eliminated or reduced for ALL city employees and departments; what makes you special? They say they hired new employees who were hired at lower salaries than those before them. So tell me; what about those new police officers who are new hires who have less pay and benefits than those before them; can they forgo the 6% reduction also? The "Do as I say; not as I do" mentality of elected officials is pathetic. If this angers you as much as it angers me; here are the e-mail addresses of the City Council members;









Send them your thoughts and demand they take the SAME cuts SDPOA members are taking. Accept NOTHING less from them and do not accept their excuses or justification for refusal to accept the same cuts to wages and benefits we have all been forced to accept. This is your opportunity to share your frustration and anger at the lack of honor shown by them. Send a CC to the Union Tribune and see if they print any of them.

I can't wait for the next two parts of the Union Tribune's article on city finances, wages and benefits of employees in the coming days. I am sure more spin, lies and inflammatory examples taken out of context will grace the column inches needed to further push an agenda of destruction, directed at the San Diego City Employee. Until then; enjoy your Sunday and be safe.