Friday, October 9, 2009

The “little rube” for Mayor!!!

I was so enthralled with the little rube's "Issues in the Forecast" that I kept thinking to myself, "This guy would make a great mayor." I know what some of you are thinking, but I want you to hear me out. I think maybe I have been overly critical of the little rube and unnecessarily harsh of his methodology, views and tactics. I think I was somewhat jealous of the little rube's good looks, charisma and intelligence. I must admit I did not want to believe he could have all of the answers. I was so far off in my impression and portrayal of the little rube I think I owe you all an apology. Let me explain in more detail my thoughts.

The little rube has an appropriately titled web site, "Clean Up City Hall" with the mantra "Holding San Diego City Government Accountable." What more could any taxpayer really want in a leader? Unlike our current mayor, the little rube is paying attention to ALL aspects of San Diego. The little rube's issue forums address issues such as; budget and pension; citizen service quality; environmental protection; infrastructure; internal management; jobs and economy; libraries; open government and ethics; parks and recreation; planning and development; public safety; quality neighborhoods; stadium search; strong mayor – strong council; transportation; and water and sewer. I was embarrassed when I realized the little rube was so versed and on top of ALL of the aspects of what is wrong with San Diego.

I was aghast when the mayor announced the pending deficit of $179 million. I was not surprised in the least when the Independent Budget Analyst (IBA) announced the deficit may actually be closer to $201 million. But then I read the analysis of the little rube and felt a knot in my stomach. Then I started to read the little rube's report and his "Issues in the Forecast." A $262 million deficit for 2010; followed by a $315 million deficit for 2011; as things get worse in 2012 with a $331 million deficit; in 2014 a $354 million deficit; ending with a staggering $365 million deficit in 2015. Taken cumulatively the five year deficit for the City of San Diego will be $1,627,756,710. That is ONE BILLION, SIX HUNDRED TWENTY SEVEN MILLION, SEVEN HUNDRED FIFTY SIX THOUSAND, and SEVEN HUNDRED TEN DOLLARS.

I have been saying for months now the mayor could not balance his personal check book so why would anyone believe he could balance the city's budget? The mayor's five year forecast projects a $796,200,000 deficit or $831,556,710 short of what the little rube has forecast. Even the IBS forecast the five year total to be $1,163,000,000 or $464,756,710 short of the projections of the little rube. The differences are staggering and worrisome. I am now starting to think maybe Pat Shay is on to something when he says Chapter 9 is the best avenue for the city. The little rube has presented a clear and convincing case that indicates the city will soon have an annual deficit that is about twenty-five percent more than that of the annual revenues for the city.

The little rube along with Donna Frey sent the mayor a letter on October 8, 2009
asking the mayor to create a "Budget Scoring Spreadsheet." Why has it taken so long for someone to demand this type of tool to analyze the city's budget? The little rube and Donna write, "In light of the dire financial situation presented by the recently released Five Year Financial Outlook, it is our intention to solve the city's budget crisis this year through comprehensive long-term reform plan, implementing structural changes to eliminate unsustainable financial practices inherent in the city's budget." I am so excited to see someone is finally taking the lead and putting into action what others simply talk about. The little rube is going to actually "solve the city's budget crisis this year." The letter continues, "The City Council needs a tool to calculate and forecast the impacts of a variety of reforms and changes in revenues and expenditures in the city's budget. As such we request that your office work with the Independent Budget Analyst to create a budget scoring spreadsheet." Now that I get what the little rube is all about, I love this guy. He really wants to make things better and clearly he believes he can fix this mess without Chapter 9. I know many of you are worried about that and the possibility of losing everything.

Donna Frey and the little rube continue; In addition, we ask that your office score - either from the pension system or from an independent actuary – the financial savings that could be achieved if the city were to change pension benefits in the following manner:

  • Suspending the Cost of Living Adjustment on future pension benefits until such time that the system is fully funded
  • Achieving "budget neutrality" for the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP)
  • Eliminating the Preservation of Benefits provision
  • "Unwiding" of Retroactive Benefits Increases

Do you all see why I have changed my mind and come around to support the little rube? Do you all see what I am seeing in that the little rube cares about us and wants to make things better? I know sometimes it does not appear that way, but I have had to distance myself from it all to really appreciate and see how much he cares. He is actually demanding from the mayor, he and his office actually do something. The mayor will no doubt fight the request of Donna and the little rube. He would not want the little rube to show him up or point out more incompetence. Strong mayor will defeat the strong council every time.

Page two of the letter discussed the "Legal Analysis and Negotiations on Reforming Pension Benefits." The little rube and Donna write, "The cost of city pensions continues to be a specificant driver of the city's budget deficit. We are concerned that the existing level of pension benefits in not sustainable.

In evaluating how to reform existing pension benefits, we request that the City Attorney provide an assessement of what specific component of benefits are vested, which benefits might not be vested, and how benefits could be changed through amendments to the Municipal Code, benefit adjustments made independently by the board of the pension system, benefit concessions negotiated through Collective Bargaining, etc."

Additionally, we request that Labor Relations prepare and present to the City Council a process for initiating negotiations with the city's labor unions on possible pension benefit reforms for existing employees who are not in the new plan.

The city's financial problems have reached a point where one-time solutions are no longer an option. These issues much be solved in a structural fashion, and we look forward to exploring some of the structural spending reforms listed above.

Before you go on, I want you to go back and re-read the last four (4) paragraphs above. I want you to see why I have changed my view of the little rube. When you finish re-reading the last four paragraphs, take a few minutes to review, "Money Matters" written by the little rube. He really gets it and understands the crisis we are all facing. His numbers are startling and would persuade the most skeptical of taxpayer to join in the reforms and changes the little rube is proposing. His leadership and forward thinking is leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of his colleagues on the city council and that of the mayor. It is time to seek the mayor's removal and elect the little rube, it cannot get any worse.

The little rube is going to take his message to the streets with a first of several "Town Hall" meetings on Wednesday, October 14, 2009. The meeting will take place at the Scripps Ranch Library. The purpose of the "Town Hall" meetings is to persuade taxpayers to join his fight to clean up city hall. The little rube is using his extensive knowledge of government, contracts, financing and reform to persuade taxpayers to demand change.

I would encourage all of you to attend this first of several meetings and get on board with these changes. The only way to educate taxpayers is to help the little rube as he persuades them. You see, the game plan of the little rube is to "persuade" not "educate" taxpayers. The ability to persuade is made easier by inflating facts and spinning information. When participating in the art of persuasion it is acceptable to generalize and avoid specifics. The average taxpayer is just confused when presented with facts because true politicians never deal in facts. These facts confuse taxpayers/voters and it is preferred to persuade them by first identifying selected individuals in each community who will support and add validity to the politician who is persuading the taxpayer/voter to a position. Then the politician (little rube) points to them for validation and conformation of the miss-information being used to persuade.

So I beg you all to join me on Wednesday, October 14, 2009, at 1800 hours at the Scripps Ranch Library, to lend a hand to the little rube and educate these taxpayer/voters. You can also see what I have seen and understand why I am such a strong supporter of the little rube and his message. Left unchecked, the little rube will be able to persuade taxpayers/voters, so we need to assist him with the education. The little rube needs our help and as police officers we owe it to the city, taxpayers/voters to do all we can to assist with education. Who wants to join me?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How Big is the Table?

The mayor says, "Everything is on the table" when talking about the projected budget deficit for next year and how to address it. The problem is the mayor is only willing to put cuts and reductions on the table and that will do no good. The table is not big enough for all the programs, services, jobs and expenses that would need to be cut to balance the budget next year. Projections surfacing from city hall indicate across the board 24% cuts will be necessary to help close the deficit. The mayor still refuses to discuss increasing revenue by raising fees, taxes and charging for the services provided to taxpayers.

Andrea Tevlin is the only person talking about increasing revenues and at the same time acknowledging reductions and elimination of services and jobs will not be sufficient to close the deficit. The discussion regarding increasing revenues does not seem to fit on the table for the discussions taking place if the mayor is in the room. His adamant refusal to entertain discussion related to revenue increases is hypocritical. He has not had a second thought when he increased the retirement contribution of employees by refusing to honor prior commitments achieved through negotiations where the city begged employees to settle for the city picking up a percentage of the employees retirement contribution in lieu of a pay raise. He has not thought twice of making employees pay more of the premium for medical insurance, even after demanding the Unions give up control of their own medical insurances with a promise of lower premiums and additional dollars to go towards these premiums.

If the SDPD eliminates 24% of its staffing, we lose approximately 450 employees. Drastic and unrealistic; or is it? If 24% of the 2010 Fiscal budget for the police department is eliminated, we would lose approximately 105 million of a 424 million dollar budget. Drastic and unrealistic; or is it? The mayor says we are selfish, unbending, and unrealistic and think we deserve more than any of the other departments and employees in the city. Can someone answer this question; are we being unrealistic, selfish and unbending when we refuse to agree with the mayor's cuts and reductions to public safety?

The bottom line is the mayor cannot continue to cut, slash and reduce the police department any more than he already has. To do so would be patently criminal and unacceptable at any level. Selfish; maybe. Unbending; possibly. Unrealistic; absolutely! I would suggest every member of the department take stock of his or her position and responsibilities as a police officer. Do you feel adequate staffing is available during the shift you work? Do you feel you have the ability to take a day off when you feel the need due to stress or fatigue? Do you feel pressured to cut corners when doing your job so you can free yourself to be available to assist with additional calls for service; thus not doing the job you know is necessary? Do you pass up taking enforcement action due to a lack of adequate staffing and cover? Do you devote more than 75% of your duties to answering calls for service?

If you answer yes to any of the above questions, you need to have a very frank and honest discussion with your loves ones. You need to explain your fears, frustrations and the realities of your job and the lack of support you are receiving from the mayor and city. Let your family know you are working under these dangerous conditions. Share with them the numbers of officers working the shift you work and why this is dangerous and unacceptable. Who will be held accountable for your injury or death? As we move toward additional cuts to the police department, keep your family informed and document in a diary in some way the safety concerns you have and the lack of staffing you experience. We are currently working on borrowed time and face the real possibility we are going to experience the serious injury or death of an officer in the very near future. The lack of experience in patrol; coupled with the lack of adequate staffing; during this economic crisis, is a recipe for disaster. Don't allow yourself to be that officer. Protect yourself and your family and at all cost; do what you know is right and safe.

The table is not big enough for what needs to be done and the mayor has chosen to stick with a café table for laying out his options. Until he sits at conference table large enough to accommodate intelligent, resourceful, risk taking individuals; we will continue to spiral toward the abyss. The mayor is attempting to cure the deficit the same way a plastic surgeon goes about performing liposuction on an obese person. He can suck all the fat he likes from the person. Take too much and shock will kill them. Take a little here and a little there year after year and you simply make them appear slimmer in clothes but in reality they are still the same obese person. Until you alter the eating habits of the person and implement structural changes to their life by adding exercise and diet as well as psychological counseling, you have not properly addressed the problem.

If you have not seen today's Dilbert Cartoon by Scott Adams, you need to look it up. I have it linked in my Facebook. It is the mayor through and through.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Relationships and the mayor

OK let me first give this disclaimer; I don't subscribe to the Union Tribune. I do not have a bird or cat for which I would need this rag to line the respective bottoms of the cage or litter box. So I missed the conversation the mayor had with the editorial board as published in Sunday's edition. I was alerted to the comments of the mayor yesterday and read on-line with interest, his perception of the relationship he has with the SDPOA. I touched on my perception of his relationship with police officers in a prior post, but now I want to take a few minutes and touch on HIS perception. Remembering, a man's perception is his reality.

I found his comments to be completely self-serving and very delusional. What planet is this guy living on? The mayor was asked, "What is your relationship with the police union right now, after the 6 percent cuts that were imposed on them last year?" I laughed as I read his reply. "Well I don't think my picture is up in their office anymore." Someone needs to clue this pompous, arrogant, ego inflated person his picture NEVER WAS on the wall in any office at the SDPOA. He was a pathetic chief and has been an even worse mayor. The only purpose to have a photograph of him on the wall at the SDPOA would be for sport. But what is telling about his first comment is he attempts to make light of this relationship.

The mayor continues, "You know, I've always have a good relationship with the POA." I laughed again as I continued reading his attempt at answering this question. Please tell me WHEN this mayor had a "good relationship with the POA." I am all ears mayor. You are kidding right? I understand your attempt at being political but for Christ's sake, could you just this one time be honest? YOU HAVE A COMPLETELY PATHETIC, CAUSTIC, DEEPLY DIVIDED, ARROGANT relationship that LACKS TRUST, HONESTY, ETHICS AND COMMUNICATION. You have failed in every manner in every context from the day you announced your run for mayor.

He continues, "I still respect them tremendously." OK, somebody help me out here. He still respects us tremendously. In spite of; help me here; anybody? We refused to drink his cool-aid but he still respects us? We refused to bargain away vested benefits, for lesser, more expensive ones, but he still respects us? We refused to accept three out of four contracts when the bargaining did not even come close to being conducted in good faith and then forced upon us, but he still respects us? But, he still respects us tremendously? Clearly he does not think before he responds to questions.

Now it gets interesting and I will attempt to choose my words carefully but will call it as I see it. To my firemen friends; I respect the job you do and the challenges you have faced and the decisions you have made. Having said that; we can agree to disagree with each other as it relates to accepting or not, the screwing at the hands of the mayor over the past several years. While our needs are different and our views of what is important is somewhat different; I believe the differences in our contracts provided firefighters the ability to lessen the pain and allowed for them to agree to accept the cuts demanded by the mayor over the years. I do see this coming to an end in the coming months and they will understand our plight from a personal standpoint when that occurs.

The mayor finishes his answer with the following; "But I think the association has to be more realistic. If the entire city is suffering, you can't say, 'But we're the police, we deserve everything.' We didn't see the firefighters doing that. They joined us. We were happy they were a partner in this; they didn't want the pay cut anymore than the police officers did. But they saw the way the city was going and they understood." So we need to be more realistic? In what way mayor? We need to understand it is customary for a past chief of police to screw his old department and be realistic that is just the way it is suppose to be? We are supposed to be more realistic about our expectations of honest and ethical behavior from our mayor? What in the hell are you trying to say here mayor?

Where in the hell did you come up with this one; "But we're the police, we deserve everything?" If memory serves me, when I was on the SDPOA Board, we offered more than was asked for and were turned down because in the words of the city's labor negotiator/lawyer; "The city council does not have the ability to understand what you are trying to do. This has become political and they do not want to accept your offer." To follow up on this thought, if my information is correct, the current SDPOA Board offered MORE than the mayor was seeking and were turned down because it was not what the mayor wanted and in the manner he wanted it. Here again the mayor attempts to make the members of the SDPOA out to be greedy, demanding thugs who only care about themselves. He again fails to be truthful and again uses the press to keep the public's opinion negative toward police officers and the association.

Then the mayor goes into his false praise and platitudes toward firefighters. "They joined us." "We were happy they were a partner in this; they didn't want the pay cut anymore than the officers did." Let's be clear of the truth here. Firefighter's crafted a deal that best suited their members. They did so because their contract allows for virtually unlimited overtime and the ability to make the money back that was taken. Firefighters by and large all have second jobs that in many cases pay them more than their firefighting job. The joke in many circles is firefighting is their part time job that allows them to have higher paying real jobs. Police officers on the other hand have a very difficult time taking on a second job, especially if working patrol. The rotating shifts, extended shifts and court do not allow for part time jobs in most instances. The availability of overtime is limited to special events (Padre, Charger, SDSU Football and the assortment of other civic events held every so often in the city) and if an officer is lucky he or she may get 3 or 4 events a year. This does not even scratch the surface of the cuts forced upon police officers in the last contract.

The bottom line is the mayor is delusional if he thinks for a second he has ANY type of relationship with police officers or our association. He lacks credibility and he has proven to be unethical as well as vindictive; a terrible combination for a politician who holds the cards. As a strong mayor he is a complete and utter failure. He is a bully and a liar. He will spin, fabricate, diminish, and exaggerate information to suit his needs. His people will intentionally put out miss information and exaggerations to bolster a point by the mayor and when called on the inaccurate information will simply say the exaggeration was to help with "context."

The mayor jokes about his not being welcome among the ranks of police officers. He then, as above, lays blame for this poor relationship at our feet. The truth is the mayor knows we know. We know who he is; we know what he is; we know all his dirty little secrets; and the fact he is unethical and vindictive and has lied so much he is no longer capable of identifying the truth. Because of this, the mayor knows we know and he is uncomfortable placing himself in our presence. He is uncomfortable among us because he cannot stand before us knowing we know. He cannot justify his actions toward us. He cannot justify nor back up his lies to and about us. He cannot walk among us, as he is no longer one of us. He has betrayed the honor of the badge and is no longer worthy of having one. He knows this and he knows we know.

The mayor also addressed the low numbers of police officers who are employed by the city. The question, "The police union is talking publicly about the low ratio of officers to the city's population. How does San Diego have one of the lowest big-city crime rates with one of the lowest ratios?" I wanted to puke reading the garbage he spews on this one. "This goes back quite a ways, before I was chief." Yes it does and when you were chief you demand on may occasion moving to a 2 per 1,000 ratio as being optimum and necessary to combat crime in a safe manner. "We have always had the lowest ratio for a major city. But we have an understanding that it's not the number of cops you put on the street, it's what those cops do when they're on the street." We have an understanding that it's not the number of cops you put on the street, it's what those cops do when they're on the street. Who is this "We" you are talking about? In a short period of time, while trying to increase the numbers of officers after the exodus of officers in the late 70's, San Diego lost more officers killed in the line of duty than any other city in the nation. We are headed there again and this is acceptable? "When they are tied to community groups and the neighborhoods, and they work with them, you're always going to get a better result." This has nothing to do with having adequate numbers of officers to safely police a city the size of San Diego. Who will be the next officer killed in the line of duty because there was no one to cover or assist when the call is made? Who will be the officer killed in the line of duty because he or she was so tired from a lack of ability to take a day off due to staffing? Who will be the officer killed in the line of duty because the mayor repeatedly cut wages, benefits and the number of officers and the lack of experience resulted in a critical mistake at an incident? "You can look across the country and you will find the police departments that have huge ratios of police officers. You go to Detroit, they probably have five or six officers per thousand people, and we have 1.6." He we go again with the spinning of reality and the truth. We may have 1.6 per thousand if fully staffed as 2,178 officers. At the current number of sworn police officers working for the San Diego Police Department we do not make it to ONE (1) per thousand. "Right now, in times that are tough, we just put a hard freeze on all employees being hired, including police officers. We've seen the Police Officers Association put out a statement saying people's safety is going to be jeopardized, and all of that. I don't believe that." Easy for you to say mayor. You are not out working the street, trying to manage the calls for service and crime that is occurring in the streets of San Diego. You are not working grave-yards in Mid-City Division with eight (8) officers or Northeastern Division with four (4) officers. You are not the one responding to a Domestic Violence call where multiple callers are reporting a fight, ALONE at three in the morning and the nearest cover unit is twenty minutes away from another division. This police department is grossly understaffed and the lack of staffing is unsafe for officers as well as citizens.

The irony of all this is the mayor so proudly signed a letter of intent to train police officers from Mexico at our police academy. The comment was made there would be no officers pulled from the field to do this training, as we already have trainers at the academy who will conduct the training. This is true; plus, since we are in a hiring freeze and we are not training police officers for the citizens of San Diego, we might as well train officers from Mexico. What I find pathetic about this endeavor is there is nothing concrete as to what the program will cost, who is paying for it, how many dedicated officers there would be conducting this training or what the training would even entail. Simply amazing; only in San Diego can this happen.

The mayor is setting the stage for next year's negotiations with his revised 5 year forecast. His stated intention is further cuts and reductions. He has stated publicly there will be deep cuts to staffing and services. He has not mentioned cuts to wages because he is saving that for negotiations. His plan of attack will be to again make police officers out to be the bad guys, greedy and demanding and unwilling to sacrifice. He will recommend upwards of 150 layoffs of police officers. You know, all those "Enthusiastic" new officers. He will then offer that if officers accept a 4% pay cut, the jobs will be saved. It is going on all around the country right now. This mayor will simply copy and paste the page from that play book and again stick it in our bum. His only way of dealing with the deficit is to cut. He knows no other way.

The mayor will then take his shot at firefighters. The part of their contract that guarantees them overtime is the clause in the contract requiring four (4) people to actively man a truck. If that is removed and the department moves to three (3) per truck, the overtime is gone and firefighters are not only now losing a precious income but they gave up ALL of their holidays as a cost savings during their last contract and will be much further behind us at that point. This will devastate the fire department and will set them back 25 years. That group the mayor so proudly points to as "team players, who get it," will now be the ones standing ready to set a back fire in hope the wind will change and burn his house down.

The rest of the interview has the mayor pimping the expansion of the Convention Center and the Chargers. He just does not get it. Three more years of hell at the hands of this politician. The damage will continue and the hole deeper before he walks away. Who will be left and whose name will be etched on the Memorial in front of Headquarters?

Monday, October 5, 2009

$179 Million Dollar Tsunami

If you have yet to take a few minutes and read the newly released five year forecast from the mayor's office, you need to. After you have digested this you might want to do a comparison of the differences from the five year forecast just last year. The assumptions from year to year are frightening. If you read closely the changes in assumptions, it appears the forecasts are made in a high school economics class and the numbers and assumptions were pulled from thin air. To add insult to injury and to highlight my point, the numbers being thrown around by the mayor of the upcoming deficits for other California cities are not even close to being accurate. When the numbers were questioned, Rachel Liang, one of the mouth pieces for the mayor throws herself on the sword.

When questioned about the numbers by the Voice of San Diego, Laing said she was responsible for the numbers and would look into them being incorrect. Regardless, she said, the numbers still make her point: that the national economy is affecting budgets throughout California. Laing said, "The point is I was trying to give context to our budget problem. San Diego has obviously had huge financial problems in the past. I was trying to make clear that this problem is not exclusive to San Diego now. That's a fact the public needs to know." So if I understand her logic, it's OK to fabricate, exaggerate, and miss-state the accuracy of something to help give "context" to whatever? Just more obfuscation from the mayor's office and no one seems to care.

On October 2, 2009, IBA, Andrea Tevlin and her staff conducted a review of the mayor's latest (revised) five year forecast. While they agree in principle with the forecast, they take exception to some of the numbers (go figure) and paint a more realistic view of where the city is. Tevlin hits the nail on the head when she says the forecast from the mayor and his staff, continue to fall short on solutions. The solutions she is referring to are increases in revenue. Tevlin also points out the short sighted and ill-conceived assumption indicating no wage increases for the next five years.

"No New Revenue Increases" is the mantra from the mayor. The mayor's failed policies of slashing, cutting and deferring, has lead the City to more of the same in perpetuity. No matter what the economy does, the City will have a huge deficit each and every year BECAUSE of the mayor's short sighted, ignorant and very political policies. As articulated by COO Jay Goldstone, when asked about future cuts and the structural problems with the mayor's budget; "What areas to cut and how much will be debated in the upcoming budget discussions." Cuts, cuts, cuts; it's all they know how to do. It is the easy way out for someone who himself is struggling with putting a daughter through college without his police pension and FULL salary and still can't figure it out.

We have endured five straight years of cuts to every area of service this city has to offer. Year after year since the mayor took over he has cut, reduced and eliminated programs, employees, wages, benefits; yet what has he accomplished? The real answer is nothing. We face the largest deficit in history and we are in worse shape today than we were when he took office. He will blame the economy for his failures. He will blame the state government for his incompetence. He will blame the employees for the benefits offered and provided by prior administrations. He will blame the unions for refusing to drink his Kool-Aid; and accepting the unreasonable reductions and elimination of wages and benefits without proper meet and confer; and honest and fair negotiations. He will fail to accept responsibility for his failures and acknowledge his culpability for the current deficit amount.

The mayor will continue to dig a deeper hole for the next three years until he falls off his high horse and either knocks some sense into his thick head or he is rendered unfit or unable to perform and someone with the testicular fortitude to do what is necessary and seek sustained and significant revenue increases takes over. His mantra of blame has grown old and accomplishes nothing. It is time to move over mayor and let someone who is willing to embrace reality and stop playing a game of politics and do the job necessary to right this sinking ship.