Monday, June 21, 2010


WRITTEN BY: Just Wondering

If you bought Pension Service Credits or PSCs like me and hundreds of other City employees, between August 15th and November 1, 2003, be prepared to open your wallet again and fork over more of your hard earned, and ever dwindling take home dollars.

On June 7, 2010, the COURT OF APPEAL, FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT ruled against SDCERS and in favor of the City of San Diego with regard to the SDCERS appeal of a local court ruling on the value of purchased service credits.

The court said the question that needed to be answered was, “Did SDCERS have the right to charge the City of San Diego (City) for SDCERS's underfunding of pension service credits DURING THE TIME PERIOD OF AUGUST 15, 2003 THROUGH NOVEMBER 1, 2003, when the authorizing statute states that the employees purchasing such service credits were and are to pay the full cost of service credits purchased? We conclude, as did the trial court, that this action by SDCERS was contrary to law and thus exceeded its authority to administer the pension system's assets and the trial court properly set aside its decision to charge the City for the underfunding.”

The Purchase of Service Credit program (PSC) allows eligible members, which are active employees, to purchase up to five additional years of service credits.

Originally implemented in 1993, the PSC program was designed to allow employees to purchase periods of time when the member did not contribute to SDCERS, such as

• Military Leave

• Long-Term Disability Leave

• Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) periods

• Special leaves of absence without pay, with your job to be saved

• Any period before reinstatement by the Civil Service Commission

• Certain probationary periods

In 1996, during the Jack McGrory era, about the same time DROP was being concocted by City leaders, they, the City, added the ability for employees to purchase up to five years of general service credits. The City emphasized that employees "would pay into the retirement fund an amount, including interest, equivalent to the employee and employer full cost of such service." In 1997 the PSC program was expanded to include periods of time not actually worked when the City Council passed Ordinance No. 0-18383, "General Provision for Five Year Purchase of Service Credit," allowing employees to purchase up to five years of general service credit, or what is referred to as “air time credits” along with the original reasons listed above.

Because your retirement benefit is based in part on your years of service credit, a PSC will increase your lifetime pension payment.

Many of you, like me, purchased these so-called “air time” pension credits to add time to your years of service to the City. Some purchased the maximum, five years, others, like me, bought varying amounts to reach certain milestones for retirement purposes. By purchasing service credits employees carefully planned to remain chronologically and financially on track for their goals on a retirement date and percent of pay.


Here’s where the problem lies. City Charter section 143, states that employees who contribute extra money for their pensions are only "entitled to receive the proportionate amount of increased allowances paid for by such additional contributions." With regard to the City's obligation toward its employees' pensions, Charter section 143 also states that the City "shall contribute annually an amount substantially equal to that required of the employees for normal retirement allowances, as certified by the actuary, but shall not be required to contribute in excess of that amount, except in the case of financial liabilities accruing under any new retirement plan or revised retirement plan because of past service of the employees."

In 1997, SDCERS's actuary advised the board that a two-tiered rate structure, 15 percent for general member employees and 26 percent for safety member employees, would be sufficient to meet the requirement that the purchase price for service credits. SDCERS's board approved the rate structure and employees were then permitted to purchase service credits at the rates the board established.

But then between 1997 and 2002 the City made changes, through negotiated meet and confer sessions and labor agreements. These enhancements to your retirement retroactively gave you credit for past years of service. In 2002, then SDCERS administrator, Larry Grissom, commented that under pricing of the PSC program costs to employees was creating an unfunded liability that the City was not supposed to bear.

Grissom told the board that it had a fiduciary duty to increase the purchase price of the service credits: "But now we are aware of this problem it seems like it is our fiduciary duty to fix it [be]cause every time somebody signs a purchase of service contract, or almost every time it seems like, we're increasing the liability to the plan sponsor, which isn't right. And the Board doesn't have the authority to allow subsidizing for the member's purchase. . . . [W]e need to fix the bleeding."

An actuarial study in August 2003 recommended the Board raise rates upwards to 27 percent for general members and 37 percent for safety members. The actuary noted the 1997 rates were outdated because "they were set by the Board prior to certain negotiated benefit increases by the City and the program was not cost neutral as required by law.

At the August 2003 the Board of Administration adopted the new rates but delayed implementation of the cost increase for 60 days, thus allowing employees to purchase credits at the old rates. When questioned, then Board Member and SD Fire Local 145 President Ron Saathoff, that the cost of the purchase during the 60-day period would be borne by the employees. SDCERS then notified 10,000 city employees of the impending change and the flood gates opened. During the window 5,726 years of service were purchased by 1609 general members and 828 years we bought by 412 safety members. It’s interesting to note that during the so called window of opportunity general members purchased more credits then they has purchased since the inception of the program in 1997.


In 2007 the unfunded liability from the PSC program had grown to 146 million dollars. Public meetings were held. Some of you may recall going to the Convention Center to listen or even testify. During the hearings SDCERS Counsel informed the board that they had:

1. A duty to preserve and protect the fund; to pay benefits that are promised and earned and collect sufficient contributions to support the benefits.

2. But they also had a duty to correct errors when appropriate and not perpetuate erroneous interpretations of the plan."

The fiduciary counsel opined that SDCERS could legally take several courses of action to remedy the underfunding, including:

• voiding contracts

• collecting arrears payments

• offering rewritten contracts

• spreading out additional payments

• reducing benefit levels

• and continuing to collect the shortfall through the amortization of the system's unfunded liability.

The Board voted unanimously to saddle the City with the bill, prioritizing its fiduciary duties to the members and their benefits to the first position. And this is where the Appellate Court says they erred.

In very simple terms, the issue was not the entire PSC program. The court narrowly focused on the period between August 15, 2003, when SDCERS'S board adopted the new pricing of PSC rates, and November 1, 2003, when those rates went into effect. Oh, if you haven’t made the connection yet, it’s the period of time when over 6,100 years of “air time” were purchased, and the gigantic majority of the underfunding happened. When SDCERS failed to maintain the cost neutrality of the program as required by Charter and Ordinance and knew it or should have known it. The court added, “Charter section 143 thus confirms that the City must only contribute payments substantially equal to those of the employee for normal retirement allowances. The employee must bear the cost of any additional contributions. SDCERS allowed employees to purchase service credits at a discounted rate between August 15, 2003 and November 1, 2003. It was that action that caused the deficiency SDCERS later tried to charge to the City." The court say, SDCERS argument citing the decision in Hittle v. Santa Barbara County Employees Retirement Assn. did not support this case. In our matter, City employees were NOT entitled to purchase service credits at a rate that did not reflect the full cost of those credits. SDCERS did not have a duty to inform employees of a benefit to which they were not entitled and certainly had no duty to allow them a 60-day window to purchase service credits at a price it knew was below the full cost of the benefit.

Further, SDCERS argued the statue of limitations had run out but the court overruled that argument using the logic the City was dealing with the Board’s action in 2007 to have the City foot the bill, not the actual selling of Credits in 2003. It was not until November 2007 that SDCERS voted to charge the City, as opposed to employees, for the underfunding. The City's petition was filed four days after the board's November 2007 vote. Thus, it was unquestionably timely. Moreover, the unfunded liability was not created as of 2003. It occurred over several years and may have been avoided entirely if, for example, the retirement fund experienced better than expected investment returns, or, as stated above, SDCERS had taken action to ensure employees were responsible for the full cost of service credits purchased during the 60-day period in 2003. It was not until August 2007 that SDCERS announced a shortfall existed and the amount of the shortfall.

In addition, the Court said, “…in 2003 when SDCERS voted to allow service credits to be purchased at the old rates for a period of 60 days and a concern was raised as to who would pay the cost of purchases made during that time period, board member Saathoff confirmed the cost of the benefit would be borne by the employees. (Thanks Ron) There was no indication at that 2003 meeting that the City would bear any of the cost of purchases made at the old rates. There was also no decision made to charge the City for any resultant underfunding.


A portion of one sentence in bold face above concerns me and may have an affect over the City’s newest litigation concerning Substantially Equal and investment losses. That litigation will determine if you may be responsible for a substantially equal portion of losses to the system. While the Court holds SDCERS accountable for not pricing PSCs correctly, it adds a caveat of investment return experience into the substantially equal argument. Everyone needs to keep an eye on this.


SDCERS must decide if it will appeal the Appellate ruling or accept it. If an appeal is made the status quo is maintained. But the City will most likely reduce its Actuarially Required Contribution or ARC by a few million dollars. However, an editorial in Sunday’s SDUT Pension Delimma goes further. Attacking the Board for its litigation and praising City Attorney Goldsmith for his accomplishments. Then it warns employees that Substantially Equal ruling regarding investment losses is also within Goldsmith’s grasps.

If SDCERS accepts the Appellate ruling affirming the Trial Courts ruling the Board acting unlawfully, then because of its fiduciary duty to the members, and advice of fiduciary counsel the Board will be forced to choose an option or combination of option outline earlier. And those options mean you either lose your PSCs purchases, adjust the time purchased or pay the amount that makes them cost neutral to City of San Diego.

To read the full Appellate decision.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Political Correctness

When did it become acceptable in society to lie to each other under the guise of being "Politically Correct?" It seems we have all become so oversensitive to the words of others that we all walk on eggshells and skirt the truth for fear of offending someone. When cops do it to other cops, it creates anger and distrust. When management does it to their subordinates it leads to low morale and dissension. The bottom line is cops can smell the BS before the delivery is complete.

So why does management continually feel the need to employ the "Politically Correct" answers when every cop with a year on the job can see right through them? Politically correct people are generally your self righteous suck-ups who have nothing better to do than make sure everyone knows how 'caring' and 'thoughtful' they are by being overly polite when it is not necessary.

Consequentialism refers to those moral theories which hold that the consequences of a particular action form the basis for any valid moral judgment about that action. In the case of the mayor, who would rather fuel the lies and misrepresentations of those political hot topics, he made a moral judgement that is was OK to lie if the end was getting himself elected to office. There were no consequences for the lies, but telling the truth could possibly result in his not being elected. So he lied and was proud of it.

When someone lives for others, he is often considered, "Altruistic." Altruism is an ethical doctrine that holds that individuals have a moral obligation to help, serve, or benefit others, if necessary at the sacrifice of self interest. Most of us in law enforcement could be considered altruistic by nature and maintain a high level of ethics and morals. But something happens as we climb the ladder and ascend into the management ranks. Political correctness begins to take hold and those ethics and morals we entered the job with seem to wane. Those holding management positions will often say, "You don't understand." We often say, "You have forgotten from where you came." It has become a sad commentary to where we are today.

I said to the mayor when he was seeking election to his first term of office, that his willingness to lie and continue the misinformation and half truths about employee benefits, was what was wrong with politics and politicians. It is what is wrong with society; the willingness to allow such behaviour. But why do we allow it in our profession? Why do we as a group succumb to the political correctness of dealing with issues and people? How did we move so far from honest, straightforward talk?

Holding people accountable requires honest, straight, frank talk. Yet we have watered down the processes and refused to allow for this type of discussion. We became a fragile group who could not handle the truth. When change is desired by management, they tend to struggle with the delivery of why. In reality "Why" does not matter, but if they are going to give a reason, it should be real, honest and straight forward. We can see through the BS and it simply angers and creates disgruntled employees when the politically correct reason is provided over the truth. This is compounded when three members of management deliver three reasons for change, none of which resemble the other.

I have often said, "It is not what is done, but how it was done." We may not like the change of whatever is taking place, but we can accept it and move on if we are part of the consideration for the change and the communication is honest. That honesty requires a different level of communication that needs to be free of the political correctness that has crept into virtually every conversation. The social norm for police management is to take the politically correct avenue, normally the easy way out, to avoid conflict. This is creating a divide and an "us" versus "them" attitude. When those vying for promotion are more concerned with "ME" and how "ME" looks or is perceived, we are all losers. We have lost the "Altruistic Value" that made us special.

We must demand honest conversation in everything we do. Political correctness has no place in government or law enforcement. Do not mistake political correctness with being a caring individual or showing compassion for the feelings of others. We need to learn how to look each other in the eyes when we talk and to be honest with our words. We also need our words to match our actions. We will all be better for it and only then can we begin to grow as an organization. 

Monday, May 31, 2010

Where to Start

Many of you have asked where I have been and why I have not posted of late. Truth be told I have not been in the proper frame of mind to write about the things going on in San Diego as well as the Police Department. I have written several pieces that have yet to see the light of day because after proofing them and reading them prior to posting, I myself felt they were either to caustic, negative or would bring a level of discredit to the department or individuals. I made a promise to myself when I began this blog that I would do my level best to keep the posts professional and factual.

I began an internal struggle that lead to me losing interest and not caring about many things going on in my life. This blog was always an outlet for me to blow off some steam, say what many were thinking and give a voice to those who cannot find the courage to speak up. I started to feel as though I was yelling like the crazy guy on the corner of 4th and Broadway. The anger, frustration, pain and sorrow I was fighting internally was making its way into my writing and I could not allow that.

My sanctuary was Internal Affairs. Just saying that kind of makes one wonder how in the hell Internal Affairs could be a sanctuary for anyone, even me. I had spent almost twenty-five years as an employee advocate, representing members of the SDPOA during departmental actions. I handled grievances, poor performance issues, conduct issues and many other personnel related disciplinary issues for the member. I was transferred to Internal Affairs in 2007, and I knew the system and procedures inside out. The job is about getting to the truth, whatever that is, and determining if the actions were within policy. The position of a Sergeant in Internal Affairs is as an Investigator and you simply handle your cases and manage your time. I did not supervise anyone and only had to worry about my cases and help others in the office. It was a perfect fit for me since I failed in my last attempt at promotion. I had lost my desire to mentor, coach or lead others in anything. I just wanted to ride my last months out and be left alone doing a job I enjoyed and excelled at.

I was not of the right frame of mind to supervise others. I took not getting promoted harder than I let on or that most would ever suspect. It hurt and it caused me to withdraw. Part of that withdrawal was a slow pulling away from my writing. I still wrote everyday but it was not for publication. My writings became venom and fire and not suited for publication. I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself and did my job in Internal Affairs. I helped out whenever asked and took on any case sent my way. I handled criminal cases against officers, internal investigations as well as the normal citizen complaint. I assisted the other sergeants in the office with their cases and answered questions about the Police Officer's Bill of Rights, procedure and the best way to deal with delicate and troubling issues. I was safe in Internal Affairs and could do my job without a lot of interaction with others. I was not supervising others and only had to manage myself. It was my sanctuary that allowed me to continue to do my job without the emotional ties or interactions I became to fear. I did not need a mask to hide my pain and anger. I could be quiet on those days that I struggled and no one was the wiser. Well, except one person.

I was lucky enough to have a great partner while working in Internal Affairs. We helped one another with interviews of witnesses, complainants and officers. We bounced ideas and issues off of each other and we came to trust one another. We don't normally have partners in Internal Affairs. We usually just seek out who is available to assist when necessary and will bounce issues off of one another and generally we as a group had a great time doing a job that at times could be stressful and frustrating. We took care of each other because we could not sit in the coffee shop and talk about our cases or what was going on. We could not get on an elevator and continue conversations from the office. We owed it to the officers to maintain that confidentiality. That left us a band of sergeants that entertained ourselves and ate lunch in our office together almost daily. You become isolated to an extent and while it sounds awful, it was what worked for me.

One day we were having coffee and my partner looked across the table at me and asked me a question that jolted me to my core. "Are you depressed?" I shot quickly a firm, "No" and felt myself looking down rather than across the table. I sat there for what seemed like an eternity, and in reality it was maybe a few seconds, as my body started to respond to the next question fired in my direction, "Are you sure you are not depressed?" What was it that was being seen that I was doing or not doing that would prompt such a question? I honestly had not given much thought to this, but now I was being forced to take a closer look into the mirror and what it was that I was projecting that would prompt this question. I also needed to address the question.

We talked for a while about the observations my partner noted and the reasons for the question. The conversation was open, honest and frank, but generally one sided. I did not acknowledge my feelings or fears and would not allow myself to say yes. We walked back to headquarters and for most of the eight blocks we said very little. We would usually laugh and talk about stuff. This time it was different.

Yes, I was struggling with being depressed and really did not know it. Maybe I knew it but was not willing to acknowledge it, especially to someone else. I had experienced a lot in the last several years and the cumulative toll had caught up. No one else either recognized the symptoms or refused to broach the issue, but the cat was now out of the bag and I needed to figure it out. I decided that night to do something about it. I thanked my partner the next day and set out to get a handle on my feelings and what was going on in my head. The process has been painful and enlightening at the same time. I don't like mirrors anymore because I am not comfortable looking at me right now.

Some of you reading this will no doubt have questions for which I have no answers right now. I write about my struggles not to seek pity or sympathy but to enlighten others. The times we are in today have taken their toll on good people and others out there are struggling like me. If you have a friend or partner who is not sleeping, drinking more than before, seems more introverted and withdrawn, struggles to laugh and is quick to anger, don't be afraid to talk to them. My partner saw these changes over time and was not willing to ignore them. You need to do the same. If you are the one who is struggling, it is OK to ask for help and to get yourself back on the correct path. We owe it to each other to look out for one another and to offer help and support.

My sanctuary is being taken away from me. I am being transferred to Northwestern Division effective June 12, 2010. I am fearful of what the future holds but am confident I have friends who will be there to prop me up and offer support when I need it. My partner is also being transfered and we will no longer be working together. I owe my life to my partner and am thankful for the intervention that was no doubt difficult. So, if you ever read this post, Thank You... I owe you more than you know....

I will try and post more regularly about some of the issues generating concern of late. Be patient and take care of each other.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Substantially Equal and Substantially Secret?

Written by; Just Wondering
A hearing was held this morning, May 11, 2010, in Department 65 regarding San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith’s new litigation against SDCERS. This new theory, “Substantially Equal”, is designed to attack your pension benefits and relieve the city of its financial responsibility. Goldsmith believes SD Charter Section 143 requires you to pay for a substantially equal portion of SDCERS investment losses even though the City, the plan’s sponsor, has paid for those losses, when they have occurred, since the inception of the system. In addition to the issue of losses, Goldsmith suggest that System profits, ones made six out the last ten years are not yours to share on an equal basis. No those should be negotiated via the meet and confer processes. More on this later.

Why was this hearing held in Chambers

A funny thing happened today, the hearing, which was more about scheduling than anything else was held in chambers, NOT in open court. No one but the City’s three attorneys, Elaine Reagan, SDCERS’ general counsel, Judge Lewis and a court reporter were present. We can only speculate as for the reasons for a private hearing in chambers. I can report Ms. Reagan, was surprised when Brian Marvel told her the hearing would be held in chambers out of the public’s view. Marvel, who was there to observe on behalf of the POA, was, himself surprised when the Judge’s bailiff, informed him the hearing would be in chambers. As to who wanted this hearing held in private we can surmise it was the Plaintiff, Jan Goldsmith, or the City, not SDCERS by Ms. Reagan’s reaction to the news it would not be held in open court.

At the end of the hearing Judge Lewis denied the City’s request for an expedited hearing. The City sought a June 28th hearing date, claiming the City will be irreparably harmed if it is forced to pay its full required contribution, the actuarially required contribution or ARC of $231 million dollars. Goldsmith’s deputies argued they could save $40 million dollars. What they really want permanently shift the responsibility for investment losses onto your back and for you to pay the $40 million under their substantially equal theory. Some say this amount is about $4,000 for each current City employee.

So what does this mean for now?

With Judge Lewis’s denial, the City will be responsible for the payment. But the City is NOT require to pay the full amount, 231 million on July 1st, they can, if they choose, delay it or make installment payments, according the Mark Sullivan, SDCERS Board President, who was also present in the courtroom, but not part of the hearing in chambers. The installment or delayed payment option has always been available to city, but just like your mortgage, or personal credit cards, if you choose to delay or spread the payments over time, interest accrues increasing the overall cost.

The next hearing on this matter is scheduled for July 16, 2010 at 0830. This could change as the parties strategize for tactical advantage or others, such as the POA or MEA decide whether they want to join in on the litigation.

Danger WILL ROBINSON… Danger

Remember I mentioned substantially equal sharing of investment gains. Goldsmith suggests gains are not part of his “substantially equal contribution” argument. He’s said they should be the discussed in the meet and confer. But how would that work, especially in years where labor groups and the City reach multi-year contracts and no meet and confers are scheduled?

Here’s another warning about “gains”. Remember Proposition B? Overwhelmingly passed by the voters it mandates a vote of the electorate to approve any enhancement to pension benefits. In fact the City Attorney’s own in partial analysis says, in part, “The ballot question states that voter approval is required for “any increases.” The text of the measure states that increases in benefits due to cost of living adjustments would not require a vote of the electorate.”

Any number of arguments can be made that sharing investment gains, and lowering your required contribution to the system could be viewed as a pension enhancement. Thus requiring a vote of the people. Do you really think San Diego will pass anything, yes ANYTHING, that even remotely sounds like it improve your pension? If you do, I have a bridge and waterfront property for sale at a good price and I’m looking to unload it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Proposition D

In June city voters will be asked to make permanent the change from a City Manager style of government to a "Strong Mayor" form. In 2004 voters approved a trial period of this new form of government. Some will say it has been a success while others (me included) believe it has been a dismal failure. The leading supporter of Proposition D is none other than the little rube. He has been pushing this proposition for almost a year now and his arguments to support are shallow at best. His web site titled: "accountabilityatcityhall" provides his spin for support of making this trial permanent.

Those of us who have watched the mayor perform his role in this new system take a different view of reality. The League of Women Voters of San Diego has put forth the best argument I have seen against Proposition D. I spent an excessive amount of time reading the proposition and all of the arguments in support and opposed. The arguments in support seem to paint a picture of a better way because the old way so to speak is what got us in the trouble we are in. This is simply not true.

The last five plus years of governance under the "Strong Mayor" has proved to be more dictatorial than anything else. The mayor chooses to ignore city council meeting unless he is demanding something. He does not participate in the meetings of the council and gives off the appearance of indifference to their role and if they dare speak out against him or his idea god forbid. The ability of the council to legislate has turned into a battle of will and wit. It is about power and ego. The mayor wielding all the power and projecting all the ego.

The mayor should be the leader of the council. He should be at every meeting of the council and participate in the discussions and held accountable to the public as such.  There is no avenue for open debate with the strong mayor form of government because the mayor in the present form does not have to listen to the public or take their input. The council is required to do so and the mayor can ignore it.

We cannot afford to continue this failed trial of governance. I would urge you all to tell friends and family to VOTE NO on Proposition D. It is time to restore the city to a form of governance that makes sense.

Time Away from Writing

I want to thank "Just Wondering" for taking up the slack and writing a couple of posts for me while I was away. I appreciate the comments from people asking about the blog and when I would post again. Trying to write on a regular basis had taken on a life of its own. In all honesty I felt myself becoming caustic and so negative, the writing was no longer an outlet for frustration or anger but a vise to in some way justify my rants. I have such little time left before I fully retire, I did not want to leave with the label "Disgruntled" and decided to take a break and re-think what I was trying to accomplish.

I have tried to write informative pieces, pointing out differing views of what the mainstream press was feeding the public. I tried in some way to shed light on the actions of elected politicians and their complete disregard for honest, ethical practices. I tried to ensure my pieces were factual and accurate and at the same time provide information allowing others to form their own opinions.

Management and those at city hall were not fans of my writing. But many who worked for the city began to send me ideas for stories and information on the actions of management and the politicians. I said what many would think but feared saying out loud. I said things that I knew to be true and many did not want said. But I began to struggle with saying what I wanted to say at the same time saying it in a manner that would not be offensive. My first couple of rants on this blog were edited after posting to remove inappropriate language and personal attacks on individuals. This was done in an attempt to lend credibility to the content and message as well as not to offend those who may read my blog. I was having trouble doing that more and more.

Sometimes what is important changes as we move through life. What is important in my life has changed and I struggle to make sense of it all. As I do this, I will try and write more often. My next post will deal with Prop D, followed by one about the City Attorney's interpretation of "Substantially Equal" and his ill-advised law suit aimed at SDCERS regarding this issue. I am also planning an election rant about the candidates and other initiatives. My time working for this City and the department is fast coming to an end and I want the end to be in some way a positive memory and not one that might be described as disgruntled. I still very much enjoy what I do and would prefer to finish my career right where I am. This may not happen but if given a choice that would be my wish.

Happy Mother's Day to all of the mothers out there.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Eight Fiefdoms and a Football Stadium – Let the Games Begin

Written by: Just Wondering

We live in a time where every taxpayer’s penny counts. We live in a town divided into eight council districts, or maybe more appropriately labeled, eight fiefdoms. A fiefdom is an area over which a person, or organization exerts authority or influence. I’m just wondering if that influence is for the greater good?

Our City Council has begun discussing a $500,000 study regarding the Downtown Redevelopment Agency, or CCDC, that could lead to it receiving more tax dollars and each council district less. The argument is this new plan will allow CCDC and the City to pay for more projects downtown, like a new football stadium for billionaire owner Alex Spanos, and of course other projects too. To get a better understanding of part of what CCDC and other redevelopment agencies do follow this.

Here’s my concern, there is only so much of any pie. If downtown redevelopment takes a bigger bite what’s left over? The key here is revenue and in redevelopment areas such as downtown tax revenue is stagnant because the increased tax increment from redevelopment remains with redevelopment agency and CANNOT be used to fund the City’s day in and day out operations. In other words redevelopment causes an increase for city services but cannot pay for it. At first I thought I was missing something, but then Carl Maas, CCDC Chairman confirmed it when he said, CCDC pays for “sticks and bricks, hard assets” it cannot pay for day-to-day operations.

As reported by the City’s Independent Budget Analyst, the City’s general fund, that is its day-to-day operating monies, would lose $300 million if CCDC’s revenue cap is raised. IBA’s report. Take the time and read it yourself. I’ve included the “Conclusion” statement of the report here:

This report, provided in response to a January 13, 2010 memorandum from Councilmember DeMaio, illustrates the potential impacts to General Fund property tax revenue that may result from an increase in the tax increment cap for the Centre City Redevelopment Project. Based on current projections, increasing the cap to a hypothetical level of $9 billion (from the current level of $2.98 billion) would result in a net reduction to the General Fund of over $300 million cumulatively from FY 2011 to FY 2043.

However, this analysis only provides one side of the equation. A number of other factors must be duly considered in evaluating the merits of an increase in the tax increment cap, including the remaining projects and activities that, if not completed, will become General Fund obligations; the potential ancillary economic benefits from continued redevelopment, such as increased sales tax, transient occupancy tax, employment and business activity; and the increased funding for affordable housing.

Let the Fiefdom Fights Begin

During a presentation before Council, Phil Rath, the Mayor’s policy wonk, and Frank Alessi, CCDC's Executive Vice President and CFO, argued the city's day-to-day operating budget actually would receive a $235 million boost if the cap were lifted.

I love guys with crystal balls who can see into the future. I just want them to play with their money, not mine or yours. Even better, why doesn’t CCDC guarantee the risk, instead of you, me and every other San Diego taxpayer. Oh, wait, they can’t, the law forbids that.

Rath and Alessi say the money would come from additional hotel rooms and sales taxes, as well as CCDC repaying debt. Oh by the way, that’s the debt, one Councilmember, Donna Frye, has been trying to get them pay for last several years with no progress whatsoever.

According to an article in the Voice of San Diego, Rath and Alessi brought up matters some council members were sure to like.

“For Councilman Carl DeMaio, they discussed the downtown redevelopment agency, not the city's day-to-day budget, paying $215 million in outstanding debt for Petco Park. For Councilwoman Donna Frye, they discussed accelerating a repayment to the city for outstanding federal housing loans. For Councilman Todd Gloria, they discussed further money for homeless services. Also, Rath and Alessi prominently mention an additional $1.2 billion for affordable housing.”

Council President Hueso fought for his fiefdom saying, "I think we largely heard from advocates who want to see downtown continue to grow. I want to see downtown continue to grow. But I also want us to make a proportionate reinvestment in other parts of the city." Guess he means his district.

But since the law forbids redevelopment agency dollars paying for public safety services, libraries and park and rec center operations, look for no help there. And when financial and economic times go really South, as they have today, the taxpayers, the media, and the politicians blame their mismanagement problems on the employees, their wages and so labeled “Cadillac” benefits.

The City’s General Fund, the one according to the Independent Budget Analyst which already runs a chronic structural deficit, cannot afford any additional loss of revenue on vision through a crystal ball.

Our so called leaders need to get this city’s finances back on solid ground and away from the risk filled morass and practices of the past. The taxpayer’s treasury has nearly run dry thanks to 25 years of mismanagement, fraud, and other schemes. It’s time for San Diego get cut up the credit cards, properly fund its obligations to its number one responsibility, public safety, and stop spending money it doesn’t have in the bank.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

City Bankruptcy: A Fair Review of the Situation

Written by: Just Wondering

Yesterday I came across this piece in the San Diego Business Journal. It points out the pros and cons on bankruptcy. According to SD City Attorney, Jan Goldsmith,

"Pension Contracts Can’t Be Broken... The law covering municipal bankruptcy differs from those covering individual and businesses bankruptcy, and does not permit breaking existing contracts that cover pension benefits to individuals granted in the past."

Case in point, times two... The Orange County bankruptcy, pension payments were not altered. In the closely watched case of the City of Vallejo, the city approved cuts to certain retiree health benefits but didn’t touch pension payments.

While San Diego does not appear to be interested in bankruptcy it is already attacking your benefits with an aggressive offensive attack on two fronts. 

First with its newest theory: "Substantially Equal" a term, according to Gene Kalwarski, SDCERS Actuary from Cheiron, it is completely unique in his 30+ years of performing actuarial services to public pension plans.

Under this theory, which has already garnered substantial support, employees may be required to shoulder a substantially equal portion of SDCERS investment losses as well as other costs. Actuarial projections show this could mean a contribution of one (1) to five (5) percent MORE of your paycheck. No one really knows how it works, even Cheiron is baffled.

On the other hand no one is talking about years when SDCERS makes or has made MORE in investment returns than the actuarial assumptions. Just Wondering why?

Is the Sky Falling

The investment returns according to the SDCERS Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports or CAFRs for each fiscal year ending June 30th
2000 = 9.53%

2001 = 14.93%

2002 = -0.45%

2003 = -2.48%

2004 = 20.21%

2005 = 10.80%

2006 = 12.70%

2007 = 16.50%

2008 = -4.66%

2009 =-19.20%

According to the CAFRs over the last ten years SDCERS investment returns are still growing. Even with financial meltdown, worldwide, SDCERS is in the top 2% of public pension funds with its investment returns. In six out of the last ten years, the system OUT PERFORMED, that's right OUT PERFORMED the actuarial assumption of either 8 or 7.75 percent.

So when do start discussing the sharing and the reduction in employee contributions in a "Substantially Equal" way?

Second: For the second year in-a- row, the City, under Mayor Sanders' has proposed freezing cost-of-living increases in retiree health care. He claims it's to help close another budget shortfall. This tactic has little if any affect on you NOW. It certainly under everyone's radar but it is very insidious, in fact so insidious Sanders has reached a new sleazy low.

By the time you realize it will have a huge effect on your future, you won't have a voice OR a seat at the table.

Paid retiree health care is and was a negotiated and promised benefit for all but the newest of City employees. It was promised by then Mayor Pete Wilson and City Manager Ray Blair. It was a quid pro quo for the employees to support the City's desire to exit the federal government's Social Security and Medicare programs. Oh and by the way, it saved the City of San Diego MILLIONS of DOLLARS in matching contributions over the years.

But today, nearly 30 years later, by freezing the "COLA" adjustment for Retiree Health Care, Mayor Sanders is SHIFTING the burden to pay for your retirement health care TO YOU.

If the trend in rising health care costs continues, and there is no indication it won't, the cost of your retiree health care will come close to wiping out your pension during your lifetime. If that isn't something to get your attention I don't know what will.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

City Attorney Brings in BIG Guns

Written by: Just Wondering

On April 16, 2010, SDCERS began discussion regarding the City’s NEW attack on Pension Benefits. The so-called “Substantially Equal” theory using Charter Section 143, as a new tact to undermine what you’ve legally negotiated for over the years. The City, at taxpayer expense, hired another outside attorney group, K&L Gates, LLP, comprises over 1,800 lawyers who practice in 36 offices located on three continents as pointed out by our City Attorney in his MEMORADUM of April 2, 2010. Mr. Goldsmith goes on to praise the attorney who rendered the opinion as a lawyer who “…is among the leading experts in the area of practice.” Read about Norman Milks here.

Two items in the opinion really grabbed my attention:

The City’s pension plan is so unique that it may be one of a kind. SDCERS’ actuary, Gene Kalwarski, has stated that in his 30 years of experience he has never come across a pension system with a limitation that the employer contributes “substantially equal” amounts as the employee.” (Memorandum page 4)

And on page 5

The K&L Gates opinion concludes: “The City does not have an obligation to fund all except some small piece of the ultimate benefit, nor to make up for poor investment performance entirely on its own. Instead, the City and its employees, by substantially equal contributions, fund their respective shares of the whole.”

K&L supports their opinion by citing 1954 and 1962 opinions. The 1954 opinion is that of the Charter Section’s author, Shelly J. Higgins, the attorney who drafted the opinion at the time when section 143 had just been approved by the voters.

So the discussion has begun. Putting the discussion into the context of 2010 with the economic collapse of our Nation’s economy, the financial ruin of the City, and the billions in State deficits, I don’t hold out a whole lot of hope for the status quo. Instead, it seems only prudent to budget for a “substantially equal” increase the amount of money you will be required to contribute toward your pension.

On the bright side, SDCERS newly released annual financial report for the fiscal year ending June 2009, shows SDCERS investment returns over the last ten volatile years still ranks “in the top 2% for public pension plans.”

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Fact Check This

At least once a week, Carl DeMaio AKA; the little rube, can be heard telling anyone that will listen, about the bloated pensions city employees are making. Each and every time the rube gives his spin on benefits, he tells those present we are retiring from the city with as much as 138% of our highest one year salary. Since I can remember, the rube has spun the numbers and reality of benefits from medical to retirement to salary of city employees. His goal is clear. If you have any doubt, follow his web site, Clean Up City Hall where he boasts of HIS initiative he is campaigning for and soliciting signature for. His goal is to outsource as many job functions as possible to eliminate as many city workers as possible.

In my last blog post, I ranted about Michael Stetz and his attack on fire fighters. The next day I received an e-mail from Keegan Kyle of the Voice of San Diego. Keegan wrote;


I’d like to run a portion of your recent blog post through our Fact Check blog. Do you know where I can find background or city documents to prove the bolded statements below?

“There is a full time team of fire fighters (or use to be) whose full time job is to schedule fire fighter overtime to ensure EVERY fire house is adequately staffed. Much of this overtime was mandatory. The city opted to pay this over time in-lieu of hiring an additional 125+ fire fighters to ensure minimum staffing standards. This was a financial decision made by the city's management and saved the city millions of dollars over the years.”

Please do not hesitate to email or call me if you have any questions.

Keegan Kyle

My first thought was, "you're kidding me?" Then I wondered why. What would prompt the Voice of San Diego to "Fact Check" items in my blog and more importantly, what is to be gained when they do? I welcome the evaluation and vetting of information. I have nothing to fear and this evaluation can do nothing but add credibility to my rant. So I say bring it on.

I told Keegan he could verify the information by contacting the City and the Fire Department. I left it at that initially. I then decided to provide him the information I used to make the statements contained in my rant that Keegan indicated he was going to "fact check." In a report written by Lisa Celaya, a Fiscal and Policy Analyst with the office of the Indepentent Budget Analyst, dated May 19, 2008, (IBA Report # 08-51)  Lisa wrote the City saved $3 million dollars in 2006 by paying overtime in lieu of hiring additional fire fighters. The report supported continuing the practice of hiring back for overtime to fill vacant positions in fire houses over hiring additional employees.

Keegan said in a follow up e-mail,;

"Steve, Still working on the post. I’ll probably have something together on Monday. I will try to explain our analysis and our rating before we publish. Please don’t hesitate to send me any questions. -- KK

So keep an eye out for the results. I can't wait to see the spin put on this from the city's perspective. The fire department started closing stations in lieu of paying the overtime and stated the savings will amount to $11 million. Now lets see what the "Rating" is given of the information posted in my blog.

But while I have the attention of Keegan, I have a question for him. When is a "Fact Check" going to be done regarding the fabricated and exaggerated information being sold to the public by the little rube? The rube tells of employees retiring with 138% of their highest one years salary. Reality is that is impossible and not permitted by SDCERS. The maximum is 90%. A large percentage of employees do not even retire at that level. The press continues to print his bloated and false numbers and no one feels the need to call him on this. Why? When is the Voice of San Diego going to "Fact Check" the information being told to taxpayers by this elected politician?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The "Next One"

If you have any doubts why the citizens of San Diego don't get it, you only need read another backwards diatribe by Union Tribune writer, Michael Stetz. In the Wednesday edition of this joke of a newspaper, Stetz penned an article titled, "Fire official overlooks alarming paychecks." Before you go on, take a minute or two to read what he wrote.

I will try my best to stay free of dragging everyone into my miserable world of self-loathing. But beware, I am going to share my thoughts on reality, viewed from where I stand. If in some way this bothers you, close this blog and move on. I talked about the event in a prior post that Stetz uses to again inflame readers, "Ignorance is Bliss - But Deadly". Stetz goes off on the usual tangent saying Frank De Clercq, President of the Firefighters Union, should "look at how the city fire department staff has contributed to San Diego's financial mess," which Stetz claims has helped lead to the kind of cuts that are putting citizens in grave danger.

Stetz regurgitates the inflammatory and exaggerated salaries printed in his tabloid, attempting to bolster his pathetic argument. Stetz ignores reality and conveniently omits the reasons for the high overtime rate of firefighters in San Diego. He continues the bashing of city employee retirement benefits and attempts to lay blame to the brown outs at the feet of firefighters, as well as the increased contribution owed by the city to the retirement system, and he tosses in the city deficit for good measure.

Frank is following in my footsteps, or me his, when he points out the cuts to firefighters and the closing of the stations is a matter of life and death. "This is the first of many incidents that are going to happen" says De Clercq. Stetz attempts to downplay and minimize the cuts, at the same time justifying them saying "But what hasn't been cut? Libraries, recreation centers, beach amenities...." Then Stetz demands "real evidence that the brownout did indeed contribute to the death of Taylor before all this alarmist talk."

Stetz came to San Diego in 1997 from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where he worked for The Patriot-News. Stetz graduated from Towson State University in Maryland, with a degree in English.  It is apparent from his writing, he is a company bloke, who would rather cull past diatribes for insertion into his pieces, than do any real investigation into what he writes about. San Diego lacks ANY real investigative reporter skilled in writing clear, articulate, honest and factual pieces. The Union Tribune should think about changing their name to the San Diego Star or San Diego Enquirer or something similar. The name would be closer aligned with the quality and content it publishes. There is little in Stetz's bio to indicate qualifications to take on the types of writing he is attempting.

I will allow fire personnel to provide the arguments related to the fire that claimed the life of a citizen in San Diego. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out the dangers of closing fire stations in a city that is already lacking adequate stations to meet the needs of its citizens. The game of Russian Roulette being played at the taxpayers expense is criminal. But for Stetz to blame fire staff for the need to close stations is pathetic.

"Constant Manning" is a term for ensuring minimum staffing. National Standards for the safe deployment of fire personnel suggests a level of staffing for safety to the firefighter and citizen. In San Diego, the city decided years ago, it would cost less money to intentionally under-staff the fire department and staff fire trucks and engines with fire fighters working over time. Stetz and others attempt to paint fire fighters as over time whores who are in some way stealing money from the taxpayers and the cause for financial problems at city hall. No one is willing to tell the truth about this issue.

There is a full time team of fire fighters (or use to be) whose full time job is to schedule fire fighter overtime to ensure EVERY fire house is adequately staffed. Much of this overtime was mandatory. The city opted to pay this over time in-lieu of hiring an additional 125+ fire fighters to ensure minimum staffing standards. This was a financial decision made by the city's management and saved the city millions of dollars over the years. Some how this is lost in the assault of the fire fighters by politicians and the press.

The final two paragraphs of Stetz's diatribe show his true colors and make personal a political agenda being waged by him and his colleagues at the Union Tribune. Stetz writes; "Well, when the "next one" does hit, De Clercq should spend a little time examining his paycheck as a city fire captain. He made $154,184 last year in base pay, overtime and something called retro-pay. He also got a $1,350 uniform allowance. How will his pension be paid for? Higher taxes, or more cuts to city services. Including the fire department."   

The "next one" will come and I guess if saying this, is somehow a weekly dose of doom and gloom, so be it. Governments priorities in San Diego are completely askew of reality. The press plays a large role in this disparity, with their continued assault of public safety employees and the unwillingness to accurately report the dangers facing citizens. Will the "next one" result in a serious injury or death? Will a fire fighter be injured or killed?

Sunday night at 2348 hours there was a collision resulting in injuries on the 56 at Camino del Sur. The ambulance arrived at 0008 hours, twenty minutes after the first sounds of the collision. The nearest station is located at Salmon River Road and Paseo Montalban, about a mile and a half to two miles away. Was this station closed Sunday also?      

Monday, March 22, 2010

Poor Self-Esteem or Self-Loathing

Self-loathing is an extreme form of poor self-esteem. It is the sense of loathing one’s self – a common theme of people with poor self esteem. I was shaving this morning and while looking in the mirror I kept thinking, “For 53 years old you still got it together McMillan.” Poor self-esteem?

I went back and re-read my last post and the first comment from someone who made the observation I am in some way making an effort to “drag everyone down into your miserable world of self-loathing.” WOW. I always subscribed to the tenant; things in life work out better when you pay attention to and accept the way things are. But what creates tension with this philosophy is so many of these “things” can be changed and do not need to be accepted, if you are willing to say or do something.

Many of these “things” can be changed for the better if one is willing to take a chance. As an example; Paul does not like the grey creeping into his hair, making him look older, so he can have his hair colored to keep his appearance looking younger. But for the woman who is head over heels in love with the man she has been dating for the past year and friends begin to point out his not keeping promises; disrespecting her in front of her friends and family; bringing up seeing him with others and their belief he may be fooling around behind her back; she makes excuses for his actions and pretends their relationship is strong, when in reality she knows the truth and is hurting inside. Making a change does not come easily and pretending things are OK is not wise.

Some would say a helpful way of dealing with troubles is to accept the realities that must be accepted and change what you believe would be most practical and advantageous to change. Like the poker player sitting on a short stack; accept that you have to play the cards dealt. You need to weigh the odds, your position at the table and how much is riding on the hand. You may be able to strategize how you play your cards by bluffing all in, but reality is, sometimes you are going to get dealt some tough hands and no matter how much you hate the cards in your hand, they are your cards and you have to play them.

As police officers we are trained to see what is wrong with a given incident. Human nature is to look at things and see what is wrong. We are not adept or experienced at seeing what is right. There is a Buddhist parable I read a while back that tells of the blind men who came across an elephant in the jungle. One of the men describes his discovery at a tube, flexible and cylindrical and suspended in air; another described his discovery as a boulder suspended over the path while another insisted it is a pillar and not suspended at all. The reality is, like these men, we do not see the fullness of reality, we only see parts of it and from different perspectives, reality is different.

Self-Loathing? Miserable world? Embarrassing? “The sky is falling” and “The world is coming to an end” pessimism? I am asked to give it a rest.

Let’s try something and see where it leads. This may be asking a lot of some. First let us recognize there are different ways of looking at things. Accept that you tend to bump into elephants from a different perspective than me. Think about changing your perspective and view the elephant from the perspective of the person opposed to your perspective and remember this new perspective is just as real. You can even change your perspective again and therefore your reality. Your ability to remain comfortable with these different perspectives will no doubt result in fear, confusion, and an unsafe feeling as well as a feeling of anger. You will no doubt be more comfortable with the perspective that is shared by those closest to you. But don’t condemn me and others for having a differing perspective because we view reality from the shoes we fill, not those worn by you.

I need to lose some weight, my teeth could use a whitening and my hair is need of a trim. I should laugh more and read more than I have been writing. I should volunteer more at Abraxis High School mentoring children struggling to fit in. I should get my taxes done and finish the job of overhauling the front yard at my daughters house. While I am at it a remodel of the master bath is long overdue. Self-Loathing? Miserable World? Not even close.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ignorance is Bliss - but Deadly

I have spent some time over the last few days reading the comments to the last post and watching the goings on in San Diego. The response to my last post was amazing in that people outside our realm are starting to ask the right questions. The mayor is having trouble controlling the spin and clearly is feeling the heat. His policy of controlling who can speak to the press and what is said is beginning to create questions as other public safety incidents occur.

Friday, a man died in a fire at an apartment building at the corner of 22nd and Broadway. The fire station a couple blocks away was closed as a result of the city mandated "Brown Out," as a budget savings mechanism. The first fire engine to arrive came from Barrio Logan, not the Golden Hill station a couple blocks away. The first "fire truck" to arrive, was on scene within a minute of dispatch. The trucks operator could not get the ladder to work (one of the young, enthusiastic new fire fighters?) and was not capable of getting water on the fire (fire trucks carry ladders and equipment for rescue ONLY). The second truck (Fire Engine) arrived about four and a half minutes later and began the assault of the fire (fire engines carry hoses and pumping abilities to put water on the fire). The inability of the first truck to get a ladder to the roof, slowed the ability to vent the roof and fight the fire. Response times across the city are on the rise and in time a fire fighter will end up getting seriously injured or killed as a result. The spokesperson for the department did his best to belay blame and down play the lack of an engine company in Golden Hill. The president of the Fire Fighters Union was not so protective of the city.

The events of the last few weeks are but the beginning of what is sure to be more deaths and serious injuries to members of the public. The ignorance created by false and misleading information from politicians; a lax press and a public in denial, will take years to undo. The mayor's failed policies and destruction of public safety has single handily turned San Diego from one of the safest cities in America, to one that is no longer a safe place for anyone. The systematic elimination and removal of officers from task forces; the elimination of support personnel; the reduction of investigative positions; the exodus of over 400 experienced members of the department; and the lack of any real hiring, has rendered the men and women of the San Diego Police Department incapable of doing the job expected of us. This is not due to a lack of ability, desire or willingness, but more a result of no longer being able to do more with less. Don't you hate hearing that phrase; "Do more with less?"

The public expects the same level of service they have become accustomed . The problem is simply a matter of having our hands tied and our limbs cut off. Take as an example; a service area that five years ago had a Detective Sergeant, five Detectives, and Investigative Aide to investigate reported crime and no less than five patrol officers and a patrol Sergeant in the field at any given time; now being policed by two detectives and often no more than three officers and a field Sergeant. The service area shares a Detective Sergeant; the Investigative Aide has been replaced with a volunteer (can't wait for the first court appearance) and three detectives who retired or transferred were never replaced. This service area is a growing area where there is still new housing being built and the population has grown by leaps and bounds over the past seven years.

We have eliminated our horse patrol and harbor unit; reduced the number of canine units and moved patrol officers from field duties into positions whose duties were performed by the now eliminated civilian support person. The smoke is thinning out and the mirrors quickly loosing their luster as critical incidents occur and the ability of public safety in San Diego to respond, exposed. Minimum staffing for patrol officers has been cut to unsafe and unacceptable levels throughout the city. The fire department has resorted to rolling brown outs, closing up to eight (8) fire stations daily to save money. Life Guards are now filling the hole left by the loss of the SDPD Harbor Unit, at the expense of life guards in towers and available for water and surf rescues, expanding their area of responsibility to as much as 50% on some beaches.

If history is any indication, as we move closer to the summer months, crime will increase and the level of violence will escalate. While many will have the public believe crime is at an all time low, reality is, crime is increasing. The apathy of victims, coupled with the inability of officers and citizens to connect in a timely manner, have resulted in fewer crimes being reported. Residential and commercial thefts of all type (Burglary, Grand Theft, Petty Theft, Embezzlement, Extortion, Auto Burglary) are epidemic in virtually every community of San Diego. Citizen apathy has resulted in many to just clean up the mess and move on. Many will tell you they believe nothing will come of reporting their crime, while others will tell you they do not want to report the crime to insurance for fear of higher premiums. Then there are those who will attempt to make a report only to fail in their attempts. The victim will be referred to the telephone Report Unit, where they will be placed in the Que, which at any given time could contain 300-500 victims waiting ahead of them. After waiting several days, the victim moves on and no report is completed.

The elephant in the room right now is the fear of many officers; who is going to be the officer killed because of these cuts? The lack of adequate and safe staffing and the lack of experience has in the past contributed to more officer deaths in San Diego than any city in America. In the 1970's and 80's we lost 12 officers in rapid succession. We spent years building a department that provided for a safe citizenry and at the same time expanding and improving training that allowed for fewer officer injuries and deaths. The use of canines, SWAT, air support, less than lethal weapons and adequate staffing of experienced officers, contributed to this safety and security. We have fewer experienced officers in the field; fewer canines; and now we hear one helicopter is grounded for required maintenance the city is balking at paying for. The fuse has been lit and we are all waiting for the result.

When is the public going to understand the dangers facing them as a result of the cuts to public safety in San Diego? Ignorance is bliss until someone dies. Who will it be?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Latitude 33.051047 Longitude -117.076578

So if a crime is committed in close proximity to the location identified in the title above, which law enforcement agency would bear the responsibility for the investigation?

In law enforcement circles, territorial turf wars are commonplace. Protecting one's turf is often about ego, pride, and maybe even a sense of responsibility. Folklore has officers from one jurisdiction squaring off to fight officers of another jurisdiction over whose responsibility a particular investigation may fall to. Many of these stories center around an officer or jurisdiction not wanting to take on an investigation, in an area they believe is the responsibility of the other. Seldom if ever do you hear of an officer or agency squaring off to fight to take on an investigation, when that investigation involves a crime committed in the other agencies community.

On Thursday, February 25, 2010, Chelsea King headed off in the early afternoon for a run. Chelsea, a student at Poway High school, lived with her parents in the city of Poway. When Chelsea failed to return from her run, her parents frantically began searching for her. Chelsea's car and cell phone were found near latitude 33.051047 and longitude -117.076578, also known as the Rancho Bernardo Community Park, which is located west of Interstate 15 and South of Lake Hodges. The Rancho Bernardo Community Park and the walking trails West of Interstate 15 along the southern edges of Lake Hodges, are all part of the City of San Diego and policed by officers from the Northeastern Division of the San Diego Police Department.

The tragedy and circumstances surrounding this despicable act, perpetrated by a registered sex offender, were quickly identified by members of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. It appears the initial missing persons report was received and documented by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. As law enforcement descended upon the Rancho Bernardo Community Park to begin their search for Chelsea and the investigation into the circumstances surrounding her disappearance, something out of the norm occurred. Rumors quickly began to spread as word leaked out that the San Diego County Sheriff's Department was in charge and leading the investigation. Whispers in cubicles and hallways within the San Diego Police Department questioned what was going on.

As the events unfolded Friday and into Saturday, information being provided to the press was coming from the Sheriff. The San Diego Police Department appeared to be taking a backseat, in the investigation of an extremely heinous crime, that appeared to have occurred in the city of San Diego; their jurisdiction. Those quiet whispers turned loud as frustrated, embarrassed, and bewildered veteran officers, detectives and supervisors began to question their role and responsibility for a crime that appeared to have been committed in their jurisdiction.

With the arrest on Sunday afternoon of a suspect, the desire to locate Chelsea became even stronger. Little if any information was being released that would give any indication as to the direction the investigation was headed. By Monday, the coffee chatter had nothing but praise for the quick apprehension of a suspect by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. This same chatter began to question the lack of participation and involvement of the San Diego Police Department.

On Tuesday, March 2, 2010, Chelsea's body was discovered in a shallow grave feet from the water's edge of Lake Hodges. The San Diego County Sheriff's Department had clearly risen to the occasion and shown their professionalism, experience, and expertise as they methodically and tirelessly investigated this heinous crime. The Sheriff spared no expense and used every available resource to give his deputies and detectives the ability to apprehend the suspect and bring Chelsea home.

A number of questions have arisen regarding the San Diego Police Department's lack of involvement in this case. These questions are not coming from members of the department alone. Was this lack of involvement the result of a dollars and cents decision? Did the Sheriff assert his authority as the lead law-enforcement officer in the county and accept responsibility for the investigation based on his knowledge of the resources available from within the San Diego Police Department? Why did the San Diego Police Department take a backseat in an investigation of a crime perpetrated within their jurisdiction? Was there, at the time, a belief that the San Diego Police Department is no longer capable of handling a case of such magnitude? These and many other questions beg for answers.

It is curious that through all of this, the mayor was not available to offer reassurances to the citizens, nor to offer explanation for the reason the sheriff of the county took control of an investigation within the city. The noticeable absence of the mayor and ranking members of the San Diego Police Department, as well as little or no mention of the involvement of the San Diego Police Department at the various press conferences and updates, have not gone unnoticed.

San Diego should be proud of the Sheriff's Department for their professionalism, dedication, determination, expertise and willingness to do whatever necessary to bring Chelsea home and apprehend the individual responsible for this despicable crime. Citizens in San Diego should at the same time demand answers to the questions being posed above. They should also question the ability of law enforcement to provide for their safety.

Keep Chelsea and her family in your thoughts and prayers as well as Amber Dubois and her family.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pigs Flying in San Diego

Just to clarify the title of today's post; the pig was wearing lipstick and I saw it fly by my window at Headquarters around 1415 hours headed south west. I know some of you are thinking that maybe it's the oxycodone talking and right now it could be, but around two o'clock today my phone went off and I started reading a string of tweets from Twitter. The first in the string came from Lani Lutar of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association who said she was "at City Hall listening to pension presentation by actuary together with April Boling and Bill Sheffler." The next message posted by Ms. Lutar said, "This is huge. RT @dillonliam: goldsmith: employees could be on the hook for investment losses ." I quickly followed the link that Ms. Lutar provided in her tweet and it led me to the Voice of San Diego and an article written by Dillon Liam, that had city attorney, Jan Goldsmith, wondering if city employees should share some of the investment risk with taxpayers in the employees pension system.

After quickly reading Liam's article, I responded to Ms. Lutar's tweet by saying, "I saw a pig fly by my window this afternoon and thought I was seeing things. It had lipstick on too. Get real." My tweet went to Ms. Lutar and Dillon Liam to which Liam responded, "talk to Mr. Goldsmith and watch the meeting going on now." The meeting Liam was referring to was a City Council meeting where the city attorney was again providing one of his famous or infamous legal opinions, regarding  the charter's requirement that the city and its employees contribute a "substantially equal" amount of certain pension costs. I quickly replied to Liam's tweet, "no need to Liam... the law does not support his Alice in Wonderland ideas. Do your own research for heaven's sake."

One of the major difficulties facing the City of San Diego besides incompetence, ignorance, lack of institutional knowledge, the inability or refusal to investigate and understand the history behind past actions, is the fact voters in this town seem to elect complete dolts. I wonder how many of the elected officials in this town have aluminum foil covering their windows. I find it absolutely pathetic that a person in the position Jan Goldsmith holds, would sit on the dais at a city Council meeting, in the eighth largest city in America, and make such statements. (The attorney representing SDCERS disagrees with this analisis and opinion)

If this was not such a serious issue, it would be comical from the perspective that you have two, purportedly intelligent, college-educated, legal professionals, reviewing the same language from a section in the charter and yet their "legal opinions" are so diametrically opposed it is hard to believe they are offering an opinion on the same topic. Why? Politics or ignorance? Incompetence? I did try to get a better look at that pig this afternoon, I wanted to know if it was male or female, but it turned and flew away so fast I missed it.

I'm sure there's going to be more on this issue in the very near future and I can't wait to see how many jump on the bandwagon before the wheels fall off. So far we've got Liam at the Voice of San Diego; Ms. Lutar and the San Diego County Taxpayers Association; the little rube no doubt has his dancing shoes on and party favors bouncing off the ceiling at home; and don't dismiss the mayor, who is no doubt sitting in his office with his feet on the desk, and that supercilious look he always wears, thrusting his fist in the air saying "You go Jan."

Time to apply ice to my hand and take another mind altering drug and drift off to sleep. Oh what will San Diego and our elected band of fools bring us tomorrow?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Another Budget Deficit

I've had a lot of time to sit and read since I had my finger operated on last Wednesday. Let me apologize early on for any typos or grammar errors that may be left behind when I hit the publish button. A combination of oxycodone and my use of Dragon Naturally Speaking, could be a recipe for disaster, but I am going to give it a try. I spent a lot of time reading the Voice of San Diego, San Diego News Network, SignOnSanDiego, the Reason Magazine, as well as cruising the little rube's website, "Cleanup San Diego."

I'm not sure what's going on at the Voice of San Diego. Over the past several months, their writing and investigative reporting has not been up to what it used to be. Their new fact check blog section at times glosses over the real issues. It's almost as if those that are caught fabricating, twisting, or exaggerating facts are being given a free pass. This is what's wrong with the relationship media has with politicians, in my humble opinion. It's almost as if the Voice of San Diego is starting to buy into the rhetoric.

I sat shaking my head the other day as I read where the city of San Diego is now facing an additional $30 million deficit and people were somehow surprised. I've said from the beginning, the massive cuts the mayor has undertaken will do little to cure the budget problems the city is facing. Until the politicians in this city accept the fact they must create new revenue streams; they can continue to cut until there are no services being provided by government and they will still face sizable deficits year in and year out. The shortsighted cuts the mayor has undertaken by eliminating jobs and services, have in reality, created part of the additional deficit recently realized. The only way for the mayor to reduce the retirement deficit, is to increase contributions and reduce benefits . The mayor has reduced the retirement benefits. The problem is, he has also eliminated the addition of new members into the system which has reduced the income, requiring a larger payment from the city. The mayor's solutions have been shortsighted and in the long run will prove to be costly.

I can guarantee when all is said and done, the new deficit will be much greater than $30 million. In the coming weeks this number will grow to $60 million or more and the mayor will blame the state, the economy and the president. It will not be anything he did, even though he's been the mayor now for the better part of six years. This Mayor will saunter along and at the end of his glorious tenure in 2012, he will blame past administrations and everyone else for the failures of his administration. The Mayor is going to take credit for the recent outsourcing of some of the computer services in the city of San Diego. Let us not forget the company offering the lowest bid was not selected and when calling for after hours assistance, you are speaking with someone in India. But the Mayor outsourced a city service and he is going to take the credit.

The little rube is at it again with his; City Employee Compensation Analysis, dated March 3, 2010. The little rube uses this report to show the true cost analysis for city positions. As only the little rube can do, he spins, exaggerates, and flat out lies about the true cost associated with various positions within the city of San Diego. On page 8 of the little rube's compensation analysis, the little rube lists the salary cost of a Police Officer II. The rube is a master at using numbers to argue or make a point. In this instance, the rube includes a variety of costs in an attempt to poison the taxpayer. His way of making the numbers appear legitimate, the little rube pulls the numbers from various reports generated by the City, SDCERS, and others. As an example of the spin tactics employed by the little rube he indicates the city will spend 38.11% or $26,533 toward a Police Officer II's compensation. The real number is less than half this amount and the little rube knows it. In his compensation analysis the little rube adds such items as Medicare payments, disability insurance, risk management administration, unemployment insurance, workman's compensation insurance premium payments, and "other post employment benefits" as part of the employees compensation. These costs are in no way part of employees compensation. While they may very well be costs associated with an employee, they are not part of his or her compensation package. This is just another way for the little Rube to poison the well so to speak and give taxpayers a false indication of the realities of what employees receive for the services they provide. We all deserve better.

It's time to take the headphones and microphone off and put some ice on my hand and call it a night. Have a great week ahead and be safe.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I'm Back from the Break

I took a little break in hopes of losing some of the caustic thoughts swimming in my head over the past several weeks. I have tried several times to put some thoughts to words and had trouble over and over writing these thoughts and keeping them clean enough for posting and at the same time trying to keep to my promise to maintain a BLOG that anyone could read. When I started writing almost a year ago now the best feedback I received was the steer clear of the caustic, vulgar, offensive language and keep the personal attacks on the shelf.

Watching the actions of various so called leaders in this city has made keeping these promises very difficult. Seeing good people suffer while being forced out of jobs they love and then being completely eviscerated when told of the job they can "bump" into (golf starter, storm drain cleaner, lawnmower driver, janitor, water police, to name just a few) at a fraction of the pay, is frustrating and painful. Some, who do not understand the personal impact and tragedy of these circumstances, think their words of "Hey, at least you have a job" is in some way consoling and supportive. They are not!!!

These are people who have given their heart and soul to the citizens of San Diego and performed professional jobs that did more than support their sworn co-workers. Some are months from reaching the age for retirement and do not have the ability to "bump" into other positions. The jobs they performed for us and the citizens still must be done. The jobs, tasks, and responsibilities were not eliminated but shifted to sworn members of the department. The non-sworn, support professional was sent packing to save money and help close a budget deficit. To ensure these jobs, tasks and responsibilities are done, sworn officers were pulled from the field to fill these many positions.

An already dismally understaffed patrol force again feels the effects of losing more officers. There are those who will say that isn't so. There are officers from canine, the harbor unit, and horse patrol who have gone back to patrol because their positions were also cut. Yes, this is true. But let us not forget these officer WERE ALL part of what patrol does on a daily basis. Their positions being eliminated saved less than many of us paid in taxes this year. Who is kidding who here?

April Boling talked about the civic problems that concerned her most in a recent interview with the Voice of San Diego. In the interview, Boling made the following statement and observation; "As municipalities cut back services, criminal investigation and and crime prevention are affected. We should not delude ourselves into thinking that a reduction in reported crime equates to a reduction in crime." This is something many of us have been saying for a while now. Is anyone listening and more importantly does anyone care?

The mayor is playing duck and cover as the details of the so called "savings" from outsourcing the computer help desk duties for the City is being made public. In a Union Tribune article, it was disclosed that the company who was awarded the contract was not the lowest bidder and did not disclose the night time help would be provided from India. As pressure builds to keep the jobs in the United States, the company says to do so will cost an ADDITIONAL $80,000. So much for saving the taxpayers money. I can guarantee this is not the last we will hear about this issue. This is the first example of what is to come as more jobs are outsourced.

Did you hear the little rube was cited for talking on his cell phone while driving? It was reported in the Union Tribune the rube rolled a stop sign while talking on his cellular telephone and was stopped. The officer issued a "warning" for the stop sign violation and cited the rube for talking on the phone. This is an example of why the legislature found it important to create this law. Inattentive drivers, self absorbed in their world, talking on the telephone, not paying attention to their driving. What would have happened had a young child, running after a ball had run into the path of the rube's car? Would he have been able to stop or take evasive action? The answer is NO; not at all. His attention was not on driving, the world around him or the safety of others.

Brian Marvel, SDPOA President spoke this morning at the monthly Sergeant's Association meeting. He discussed the promotions process; negotiations; and the status of the POA. There is a lot going on and we are greatly disadvantaged by not having our President working full time on our behalf. The elimination of the "Presidential Leave" is just another example of the mayor doing everything within his power to hamper, hinder and eliminate employee advocates ability to advocate for the member. Brian has not been deterred and is working hard on behalf of the member.

Charles Kindred posted a quote from General H. Norman Schwarzkopf on his Facebook the other day. The quote went something like this; "You can't help someone get up a hill without getting closer to the top yourself."  I enjoyed a spirited exchange with this one. What do you think of this quote?

Well, it is time to close this rant and say good night. Be safe and have a good weekend.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Promotion Commotion

If you have not heard the clamor or uproar about the promotions list released today, you are either deaf or out of touch. The fermentation of those competing for the prized golden ring of promotion conjures up a whole list of feelings; agitation, annoyance, ballyhoo, bedlam, big stink, brouhaha, bustle, clatter, convulsion, disquiet, dither, excitement, uprising, rumpus, lather, furor, perturbation, hurly-burly. Yes, I took these descriptors from the dictionary and chose ones that most fit the goings on today around the Department. The final scores are out and now the fun starts for those hoping against all hope of grabbing hold of that prized “gold plated ring.” The categories are all set and the games begin for those who find themselves in the top categories. Candidates are creating lists, trying to determine who they are competing against all as the stomachs begin to growl and the teeth grind.

I am sitting on the sidelines this time, having gotten the message from my last experience and have to laugh, but at the same time cry for those in the center of this rumpus (I love this word). It is painful to watch those who have worked so hard to do their job, prove themselves and put themselves into a position to be considered for promotion, only to realize being number one or two or three or even seven on the list really means nothing. They studied for weeks on end in hopes they would miss the fewest questions on the written test. They waited for the results and when they realized they were “in the running” they paid for seminars to prepare for the oral interview in hopes of improving their position. They then practiced their delivery and participated in mock interviews and sought guidance and advice from those in positions of authority and leadership on how best to interview and project their abilities to win over the interview panels.

The promotion list for Sergeant and Lieutenant candidates are set and those in contention know where they stand on the list. Candidates are crunching numbers, hoping they are high enough to be “Certified” when that time comes for promotion. The requirements developed by Civil Service and City Personnel for candidates have been completed and by all rights that should be the end. The decision should be made from the list of certified candidates using the background information provided during the process; each candidate providing equal data during a specific time period and verified by personnel. The Command Staff of Captains and Chiefs should then meet to discuss the candidates using ONLY this information and selections then made. But, that is not how it is done and the candidates are not finished with the process.

The next step in the “process” is what has contributed to the agitation, annoyance, ballyhoo, bedlam, big stink, brouhaha, bustle, clatter, convulsion, disquiet, dither, excitement, uprising, rumpus, lather, furor, perturbation, hurly-burly. Some refer to the process as “Kissing the ring of the Chiefs.” Some candidates get the opportunity to meet with all of the chiefs; others meet with several; and some with none at all. Candidates are asked various questions; seldom the same questions; some candidates spend ten minutes with a particular chief while another may spend an hour with the same chief; some candidates will provide a resume and others will not. There is no set guideline or definition for how or what will take place, nor is there a guarantee every candidate will be given the “opportunity” to participate. Up to this point, all candidates were on equal footing. That all goes out the window as this next step in the process begins. I am not going to debate the benefits or flaws in this venture but will say in my opinion this “informal” process is patently unfair and clearly not vetted by Civil Service or City Personnel to ensure all candidates are afforded the same opportunity and treatment. Maybe it’s just me but for an organization that demands its employees practice fairness and equal treatment in everything they do, it fails them by not providing fair and equal treatment in this promotional process.

The golden ring for promotion is a carrot dangled on a long pole attached to a short string. Dangled in front and slightly out of reach for most, the carrot is there to provide hope. That hope translates into desire and the desire translates into abuse. The number of hoops hung in the halls of substation after substation that candidates must jump through has become ridiculous. Those vying for the small number of promotions start out with the best of intentions as they work a few extra minutes on their own. They “volunteer” for this and that and take on tasks and responsibilities of others to show prowess and dedication. Candidates don’t see their actions as wrong or out of line and do not feel used. They have hope, desire and a willingness to do “whatever” they are told so they can stand out and rise above their competitor. They jump through hoop after hoop in hopes of standing out. They grab for that carrot and hope, all while doing whatever is asked and never complaining or refusing for fear of being passed over.

The climate created around promotions has grown to something hard to describe in a way that makes any sense. Watching good people struggle daily to focus on their responsibilities because of the internal strife the process has created is troubling. Who will put a stop to the madness? At a time when we all need to trust one another and pay attention to detail; we find our most talented, distracted by a process they have no control over. The rumors are beginning as to who is where on what list and who is best placed to get promoted first. Human nature allows those involved in the process to be nervously irresolute, taking away from their ability to excel and perform to their potential. Can anyone say counter-productive? It is the process, official or not, but at some point we all need to re-focus and ignore the brouhaha created by the puppet masters and do our job.

Good luck to all the candidates who put themselves out there; studied for the written test and put forth your best in the oral interview.