Friday, November 13, 2009

Welfare Queen; GED Uneducated Dolts; Cadillac Benefits

These are descriptors of you if you are a city employee; past or present. Do those words cause any reaction? Whose words are these? He goes on, "Well it seems the chickens have come home to roost. All your bitching and whining will do nothing but prove to the taxpayers you're are overpaid crybabies. With a $200M shortfall, you trough feeders will soon be earning what GED uneducated dolts ought to be paid." These words have been written many times by this same individual. He has a bent toward police officers and public employees.

"You only have yourselves to blame...that gold plated cadillac pension program has bankrupted the city. Retiring at age 50 is not sustainable and being gifts of more than you supposed earned for retirement is just another example of government workers sucking the life out of the those of us who have real jobs." The words are crude; written at a mostly 5th grade level and sadly believed by a large, miss-informed public.

Many of our friends, neighbors and even family members have read the lies, twisting and gross exaggerations related to our retirement. The twisting of the General Retirement and Safety Retirement leads most people to believe we are all retiring millionaires at age 50 and never paid a dime as we earned our retirement. "Government workers feeding at the trough at the higher levels is a given but in San Diego its an art. Combine those reductins with a 12 percent pay cut then contribute 50% of the costs of your own retiree medical is whats fair to the taxpayrs who pay your bloated salary and cadillac benefits. Change the retirement age to 60 like the rest of us and get rid of the DB. You loose creditibilty when you want to raise taxes. Welfare queens always want more taxing more is not the answer. Taxpayer have been raped over the years by govment workers now all of you must come back to reality like the rest of us. These changes would reduce the unfunded retirement deficit substantially. But BK is the solution where we can take it all back and bring wages and benefits to a more reasonable rate."

The above written in red (copied exactly as he wrote it) was written by arguably the number one hater of public employees in San Diego; BILLY BOB HENRY. Who is Billy Bob Henry (BBH) and why does he hate city employees? BBH is the pseudo name he uses as he hides behind his computer and bashes employees; chides and harangues those who attempt to correct his inaccurate writings and refuses to identify himself. He purports to be an attorney. One of the many lies he has told. "You loose creditibilty" is not the writing of an individual who obtained a Juris Doctorate.

Over the years BBH has been a prolific poster to various BLOGS on the internet. He was a regular on the Voice of San Diego, always supporting Michael Aguirre and writing caustic, misleading and outright false diatribes about city workers and retirement benefits. BBH often used the pseudo name "Johnny Vegas" when positing on SignonSanDiego. Many theories as to who this coward is have floated here and there. He has said in the past he is a police academy graduate. He has said he does not have a POST certificate (Not even a Basic certificate) but insists he graduated from "a police academy in San Diego." OK, so he graduated but either failed or quit before he completed probation.

He claims to have earned a Juris Doctorate and is a practicing attorney. I will let you be the judge of this claim. The writings above are EXACTLY as he wrote them. I understand sometimes we write faster than we can type and mistakes happen. But the dribble above is so bad in structure, spelling and word use it cannot be explained away as typos or being in a hurry. Maybe a little too much alcohol on board; but the first one was posted on the 11th at 0823 hours and the second on the 12th at 0659 hours. Knowing his past posts, it is possible alcohol was in play, but I actually think he is just a "GED Uneducated Dolt" whose writing in phase training was so poor he failed out and had to go to work for Wackenhut.

I could go on about this poor excuse for a human, but you all get the picture. I want to ask you all to ignore his posts and not pay him any mind. The more attention he gets the worse he gets. I have made it a policy not to delete any posts from others and do not want to start now. He relishes in the attention and this will be the last time I will spend any space here talking about him. Please do the same.

This morning I was talking to another sergeant who told me of an incident yesterday at the Veteran's Day Parade the mayor attended. As the mayor rode along the parade route, a citizen yelled out to him, "Save the Chargers" to which the mayor yelled back, "I'm trying." A lady then yelled out, "Give the police officers a raise" to which the mayor gave a look of disgust, shook his head no and looked away. Priorities, priorities, priorities mayor; you need to get a clue. Convention Center Expansion; Downtown Library; City Hall Taj Mahal are all three high priority items for the mayor. The police department and its employees are not part of the mayor's priorities.

Yesterday the mayor held an impromptu press conference regarding the budget deficit and allowed the few reporters who attended to ask questions. During this exchange the mayor tipped his hand as to the numbers of layoffs to be expected. In a Voice of San Diego article, "Deficit Busting by Attrition" by Liam Dillon, he addressed the mayors comments, although cryptic (as usual) very telling. If eliminating 800 vacant positions is saving only $20 million dollars, what will it take to close the estimated $179 to $200 dollar deficit?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

There is ALWAYS Hope; or is there?

There are those who view life as a glass half full and there are those who view the same glass as half empty. Whose right and which view is most realistic? We have been through some very trying times over the last few years. Hundreds of senior and experienced officers were forced to retire; some before they had planned, to preserved benefits earned over many years. Repeated attacks to benefits and reductions to wages and benefits, have taken their toll. Today we face down the possibility of further reductions to wages and benefits and an even more real possibility of losing officers and support staff to layoffs.

The question of if we will lose officers is really more of how many we will lose. The question of how much more the city will take is also looming in the minds of officers. The mayor has repeatedly said police and fire will not escape the cuts facing workers in the city. The deficit is closing in on $200 million and projected to be as much the following year. Simple math dictates serious and deep cuts will be necessary to close such a huge deficit. The portion being attributed to the police department is $74 million. The mayor is graciously giving the department a $24 million dollar credit for the 300 plus vacant positions currently on the books. The down side is these positions will be eliminated permanently from the budget, thus again decreasing our ability to effectively provide for the public's safety.

The proposals floating around the department of eliminating various units (Horse Patrol, Harbor Unit, Division Narcotics Teams & others) does nothing to eliminate spending and close the deficit. The only way to make up $50 million will be to eliminate positions (people) from the payroll and cut spending. The elimination of overtime, holidays, take home cars, training, equipment and maintenance will help some. But when 70+% of your budget are personnel costs, the only effective way to close such a large deficit is huge cuts in this area.

When will someone stand up and demand the mayor and council take a step back and first decide where their priorities are? The taxpayers have consistently listed public safety as the number one priority of their government. While I am a fan of the Arts, Libraries, Park and Recreation, after school programs, senior and homeless outreach and many of the other social programs provided by government, I am a firm believer these programs are not priorities. I am not advocating the elimination of any of these programs either. But I do believe the programs need to be self sufficient and sustained by those who use them.

The mayor and councils refusal to seek increases to income is not a sustainable or realistic position today. They need to suggest and then support increases to the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), a sales tax increase to support public safety and develop a ballot initiative to begin charging for refuse collection in the city. The fees for use of park and recreation facilities need to be more in line with the cost of the use as well as after school programs and the Arts. More assistance needs to be sought for adult/senior and homeless programs. Federal dollars need to be sought out and a more collaborative effort with the county and state. This is ONLY a beginning and will do little to close this year's deficit.

The department needs to re-structure from the top down. The department is top heavy with redundant responsibilities being shared and duplicated. The elimination of two chief's positions, the legal advisor, four captains, ten lieutenants and as many as thirty sergeants are possible. The department also needs to determine priorities. Taking a page from the taxpayers; what is important to them? What is it they expect of us? What are their true priorities? I am a firm believer if the right questions are asked of the right people we will understand the priorities of the people we serve. I do not mean listening to the loudest yellers or the agenda driven small groups of people who seem to push their way into the spotlight.

I am sure to have pissed off some chief's, captains, lieutenants and sergeants, not to mention the chief's legal advisor. In an effort to step out of the box and make changes that are meaningful and have the least impact on providing the services we do, I have thrown some things out to begin a process of changing the way we think. Do we really need six chiefs? Do we really need a captain for every division? Do we honestly need two and three lieutenants in divisions? If we re-structured our field units and teams could we not eliminate a number of sergeant positions? The trade off is the responsibility for leading this department is driven lower and closer to where the work is actually done. Lieutenants would take on many of the responsibilities of the Captain and the sergeants would take on many of the responsibilities of the lieutenants and some of the political activities we have become involve in will have to be eliminated. Getting back to the basics of police work and leaving the social work and politics of seals and other issues to others is a good first start.

To reach $50 million in savings/cuts there is going to be pain. I said in a prior post we are going to be made the bad guy when we refuse to accept additional wage cuts and fight further reductions to benefits. The threats of large layoffs will loom and the department will have to make some tough decisions. There will be coveted assignments eliminated and people moved to priority positions. Before any of this takes place we first need to know what the priorities are from the taxpaying public. I am a taxpayer and am tired of listening to a mayor and council tell me what my priorities are. We as a department are not in a position to tell those we serve what their priority should be. Politics needs to be removed from the equation and honest assessments of crime and trends need to be presented. That does not mean we use the flawed FBI statistics to paint a picture of everything is great and crime is down. We all know better and are tired of hearing this.

There is always hope things will get better and we will come out of this unscathed. I am the type of person who looks at the glass as still having something to offer and yet room for more. I am the type of person who would rather be told honestly of the perils of the future than listen to someone blow smoke. What is going on today demands honest, frank discussion and leaders willing to confront misinformation and publicly support their employees. To do otherwise is a failure and disservice to those who count on this leadership and support. The reality of today is the outlook for the future is bleak and hope for a turnaround anytime soon is not good.

Changing Values

Lou Holtz who once coached Notre Dame used the acronym, "W.I.N." or "What's Important Now" to motivate his players and keep their focus on winning. Holtz wanted his players to ask themselves "What's Important Now" at least 35 times a day. When we first joined the police department we each had a set of values and an idea of what was important to us at that time. Ask yourself; "What's Important Now."

While you think of the thoughts that popped into your mind to this short but very important phrase; has the answer changed since you first put on that badge? Family; compassion; friends; honesty; integrity; doing what is right; getting promoted; securing a special assignment; your partner. Many of us came into law enforcement with the idea and desire of helping people. We developed a level of integrity and honesty as we matured and became adults. Our values were shaped and what was important in life reflected our values. What's Important Now?

We became police officers and began to see a different world. We experienced the human race at its extreme and our values began to change. The changes for some were drastic and not always for the better. Some of us maintained our core values; and what was important when we became police officers, changed very little. Why did some of our values change more than others? Why is it that what was important when we joined the world of law enforcement, for some, was no longer on the radar of importance? Could it be the "What's Important Now" changed?

As we gained experience and begin to shape our careers, we either maintained our values or we began to compromise them to meet our desire for advancement or "What's Important Now." We began to do and say things that reflected "What's Important Now;" and this in some cases began to challenge the values once held. Some failed to conform and challenged the changing values of others. These individuals became known as "trouble makers" or "malcontents" or "disgruntled" for challenging the status quo of those whose values changed. So the question remains, "What's Important Now?"

The higher the level of decision maker, the less that decision over time, appeared to be value based. The further removed from the decision makers rank or position one stood, the more he or she seemed to question or challenge these decisions. Compromising ones values came easy for some and never occurred to others. "What's Important Now" seemed to change the values of some and not for the better. Getting promoted began to be the, "What's Important Now."

The process has begun anew for the next round of promotions. The values of those participating will be tested as the process plays itself out. I challenge each of the candidates to ask yourself "What's Important Now" as you move through the process. I challenge you to first evaluate your values and rank them in importance. Write them down and keep them fresh in mind as you start playing the game. Changing or compromising ones values so you can grab that carrot held just out of reach is not what success is about.

We need great leaders whose decisions are driven by solid values. In today's climate, honesty, integrity and compassion are the values most important for a leader to possess. If a leader can act and make decisions that are driven by honesty and integrity and be compassionate in doing so, he or she has succeeded. We have enough leaders whose decisions are not value based. Your challenge will be to challenge the status quo and maintain your values as you ask yourself, "What's Important Now."

Monday, November 9, 2009

YOU are going to be the BAD GUY

In the next few days the mayor will announce proposed cuts in city services to close a $179 to $200 million deficit. The mayor will also tout new indicators of lower crime and a safe city. Various chief officers are doing all they can by spreading the news there is hope in the air. The stock market has rebounded and the mayor is telling everyone the payment to SDCERS is going to be less than expected. The joy in their voices is unmistakable and the glee in their eyes is akin to a young child coming around the corner Christmas morning to see a new bike under the tree. In the next couple of weeks the city and SDPOA will begin the process of "negotiations" for a new contract. History does not offer even a glimmer of hope of being treated fairly by this mayor. Yet there are those who want all of us to believe otherwise. I have a few predictions.

CUTS are in your future for sure! There will be reductions in benefits and cuts to wages. The mayor will seek to reduce overtime by demanding the elimination of holidays from our contract. There will be other demands made by the mayor in an attempt to reduce the overtime paid to police officers. The mayor will continue his push to reduce or eliminate retirement benefits and further the divide between police officers of this city and citizens. The mayor has an agenda and he could give a damn about fairness, equity or the men and women who protect and serve.

The chief officers are doing all they can to rally the troops and provide a measure of hope. The chief, always the cheerleader, continues to lead the cheer section as the rest of us watch time tick down on the clock. The score is so lopsided it would take a miracle to even get a tie at this point. But let's take a look at reality for a few minutes and recognize what we are up against. Before I do this, I want to share a sentiment I hear every day from officers and supervisors alike throughout the department. I innocently asked a detective if they were studying for the sergeant's test. The initial reply from this detective, "Trying, but not nearly as much as I want; no freaking time. I probably won't even take it, what's the point?" The frustration is clear and the drive obviously gone from an employee who has always had a very positive and upbeat attitude.

I pried a bit more and offered encouragement and talked about the positives of good people moving to the supervisor ranks. His reply was one that struck me as a systemic disease killing this once great organization from within. "I know. But honestly I really don't care because the drive has been lost during the last 5 years. You have to believe in the system, believe in the company, believe in what you are selling, and I don't believe anymore. The 7th floor could absolutely care less about their officer's and their people. If they did they would come out publicly and challenge the wrongs that are being said, challenge the city council, challenge the 'mayor' and essentially publicly back their officers. I, we, haven't heard a peep out of these people. I see it everyday around here and it's sickening to watch a once great department whittled down to a shell. Bitter? Maybe, but mostly I'm just disgusted."

The comments by this detective are reflective of what I have heard for the past several years from officers and supervisors alike. These sentiments seem to be getting stronger and deeper in the organization and have created a cadre of employees whose mantra seems to be "fuck-it; who cares." The ability to keep a happy face; positive attitude; and not allow reality to get in the way of the cheering from above has all but come to an end. People are fed up with the politics of smoke and mirrors and listening to a mayor and chief tell the public crime is down and all is well. They are tired of being made to feel as if they are the reason for the ills of the city and the constant haranguing in the press with no support from the leaders of this department. Loyalty is not a one way street and it appears many have reached the end of the pavement and are no longer willing to travel the bumpy road ahead.

The title of this rant is "You are going to be the BAD GUY" for a reason. The views in this rant are mine alone and developed while standing on the sidewalk, watching the masses chase the carrot of hope. As negotiations begin with the city, the tables have been set and cards dealt from a stacked deck long ago. Facing a deficit of $179 to $200 million dollars will require reductions across the board. The mayor is telling the chief; who is telling employees; the deficit will be less than expected because the stock market has rebounded. I will concede the stock market has made some upward movement. The cuts are going to be deep and to say otherwise is not facing reality. As with everything the mayor has done during his years in office; it is all in how it is presented.

The reductions necessary to close the deficit will require, as I said above, wage and benefit cuts and the elimination of employees. The catch will be how many employees need to be eliminated to meet the demands of the mayor to close the deficit. Where we become the "BAD GUY" is the "either / or" public demands the mayor will employ as negotiations stall. The mayor will publicly demand these wage and benefit cuts, "OR" he will have to lay off a large number of officers. So, you and I become the "BAD GUY" if we say NO. But before that happens, you can count on a heavy campaign, at the mayor's direction, from the 7th floor for all of us to accept the wage and benefit cuts so the department does not lose another officer.

The carrot is being dangled in front of those who want to promote. The carrot is already being held in front of those who took Saturday's promotional exams. The sixty or so sergeants who took the lieutenants test will all be competing for maybe 2 or 3 spots? The carrot is the promotion; the fact it will always be held just out of reach will not matter to those who hold out hope for a small bite. The one hundred and fifty or so who took the sergeant's test will chase the same carrot. That carrot keeps over 200 employees volunteering for special assignments and doing more for less in hopes of getting hold of that cherished carrot. The sad part; all this is a complete and total waste of money, to keep people "hoping" they will be the one who gets the carrot.

The next five years will see exponential increases in crime; officer injuries; civil lawsuits against officers and the city; officers facing bankruptcy and foreclosures; and citizen complaints. The department will struggle to hire and retain officers and we will be made the "BAD GUY."