Monday, September 7, 2009

Time to Seek Greener Grass?

It is looking more and more like things are going to get much worse before they ever start to get better. Projections today indicate the City of San Diego is facing a $100 million deficit next year. The mayor has already made promises to again cut positions throughout the city next year and this time around he has said fire and police will see the elimination of jobs as well. There will no doubt be further wage and benefit cuts and next year the 9% contribution to a newly created "Retiree Medical Trust" will begin for those employees who are six (6) years or more from retirement. The judge is sitting on the written decision from the June 27, 2009, hearing regarding the DROP and the City's desire to increase the age of entry into DROP. All of this has contributed to uncertainty and fear of what the future holds for those who are nearing age 50.

The first checks have been received that contain the latest round of cuts from the IMPOSED contract July 1st. The cuts far exceed the 6% stated by the mayor and people are quickly starting to realize what they are up against. A Detective Sergeant who is single saw a loss of $236.16 from take home pay, PER PAY DAY. This employee who is single paid out of pocket an additional $22.00 for medical insurance. The flexible benefits dollars provided by the City DID NOT cover this employees BASIC medical insurances. This same employee has seen an increase of retirement contribution balloon to $528.11 PER PAY DAY. Take the example of a Detective who is married saw a reduction of $307.53 from the take home pay of a month ago. Remember folks this is PER PAY DAY! The medical insurance for this employee increased $351.29 from the prior year. Life Insurance and voluntary contributions to Deferred Comp were eliminated completely. The contribution to retirement has ballooned to $305.84 PER PAY DAY.

Taking these two examples (I have these two employees pay stubs – prior to cut and post cut) the total loss to the Sergeant is $6,140.16 per year and the loss to the Detective is $13,730.86 PER YEAR. These are just two examples of the effects of the imposed contract. The losses these two employees are taking will never be recouped and each will face more cuts next year. Stop and think for a second; would you be capable of taking this type of reduction to your salary and continue to live the life you do? Some will say they should be thankful they have a job. Some will say they are sharing the pain like everyone else. The mayor will tout a pay raise the prior two years that makes it somehow OK for these types of cuts to be forced upon our officers. The mayor seems to have a very short term memory when it comes to the wages and benefits of police officers. The two prior years saw reductions in wages and benefits. The "raises" the mayor attempts to use as justification for cuts did not bring to even the wages and benefits of police officers from the prior cuts. San Diego Police Officers have been steadily moving backwards when comparing our wages and benefits to our prior years.

Next year the City of San Diego is going to be facing a deficit of over $100 million. Top that off by a mayor seeking to expand the Convention Center to the tune of almost ONE BILLION DOLLARS. Let's not forget the mayor's desire to build a new, City Hall for another cool ONE BILLION DOLLARS. OH, don't forget the desire to build a new downtown library for another cool $200 million and rising every day. This is all "Voluntary" building and taking on debt that is being added to the unfunded liability the City has for Employee Retirement contributions that are almost TWO BILLION DOLLARS today. I could go on with the list of expenditures the current city administration has taken on and squandered but it's getting late and I am not sure I would be able to do it and maintain civility.

Many experts would tell a company struggling and looking for ways to cut costs, to invest in the capabilities of their current workforce. They would suggest listening to their employees and trusting their knowledge of where cuts could be made to have the least impact on the ability to provide necessary services and at the same time reducing cost. To this end, Robert Haas, a business advisor – philanthropist makes the following observation, "To me, the idea of a person as a marionette whose arms and legs start moving whenever you pull the pay strings is too simplistic a notion of what motivates people in organizations." When an organization such as the City of San Diego cries poor while making plans to spend over TWO BILLION DOLLARS it does not have; while simultaneously cutting the wages and benefits of its employees you can understand why employees feel like this marionette.

The mayor has not separated the difference between "lean and mean" from "cheap and petty." His every action has revolved around politics and his refusal to be honest with the taxpayer. The mayor has proven to be EXTREMELY PETTY and MEAN SPIRITED in his actions toward employees of this City. He has been CHEAP with his willingness to compensate the employees who dedicate themselves to providing safety to the persons who live, work and visit San Diego. The mayor needs to take a page from Armand Hammer, CEO of Occidental Petroleum (Deceased) when he said, "If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys" when he talked about his ability to hire and retain the best people for his company.

The City of San Diego is already known for its world class zoo. The little rube talks about turning the San Diego Police Department into a "World Class Police Agency." If the City continues to pay peanuts, we will only reach world class status as a "City Zoo" full of monkeys who refuse to provide adequate public safety and soon after being trained leave for city's willing to throw in the basics such as bananas, housing, health care and a retirement plan that will allow them to live a comfortable life and receive what was promised.

As we head into next year, remember NOT to overlook small and seemingly insignificant negative actions from the mayor. The smallest of sparks can burn thousands of acres of land and destroy millions of lives. You have a choice and need to look forward and not dwell on the past. Keep an eye on where you are going and you will be OK. If you give others the power to dictate your path, you are merely a passive participant in your own life. There are two choices; taking control of the direction of your life or allowing the mayor and the city to control your fall into financial ruin. Which one will it be? The grass is greener where it is cultivated and watered. Is that San Diego or another City willing to give you that choice?