Wednesday, January 13, 2010

State of the City - Really?

Did you have an opportunity to catch the mayor’s “State of the City Address?” There were no real surprises and few; scratch that, no new revelations. Some of the comments I heard from various observers;
  • Did he (mayor) just punt health cost reduction onto city attorney?
  • Biggest disappointment with speech; no mention of further pursuit of real pension reform. 
  • Elected (mayor) to protect taxpayer and restore fiscal integrity; yet we’re DONE with pension reform? That’s inconsistent!
  • Projects (Convention Center expansion, Downtown Library, City Hall and Charger Stadium) must be built without sacrificing present quality of life.
  • I guess we are the dog in the pig and pony story?
  • Sidestepping the real issues; what did he (mayor) mean when he said before 18 months is over he will come back with a plan to resolve the City’s structural deficit?
  • No meat and potato’s tonight; just more rhetoric.
The text of the mayor’s speech takes up eleven pages. After listening to the address and then taking some time to read his words; I am left with guessing about his real plan for addressing the structural issues. The address lacked specifics and more importantly failed to mention any plan for raising revenue of any kind.

There were several sideways comments about further cuts to employee benefits. The mayor said, “Last year, when we adopted new contracts with our employees, we took strong steps to clamp down on costs in our retiree health care benefits, the final piece of the pension puzzle. We are now working with our employees to establish logical funding sources and levels. And with the help of our new city attorney, we will finish the job.”

"We will finish the job" is a telling statement. If there was ever any doubt where you stand as an employee of this city make no mistake; you are simply a debt that must be eliminated. The mayor's words leave little doubt of what can be expected during negotiations related to retiree health care benefits.

This is the mayor's fifth address and by many accounts his worst. He again made the comment, "We are beginning 2010 on a strong footing. Our employees are working harder and doing more with less than at any time in City history." I wanted to jump up out of my seat and yell out some very strong expletives. When people refer to us as "Civil Servants" they mean just that. They expect us to be "Servants" in the literal meaning of the word. The mayor made this even more clear during his address. Work harder and do more with less is the expectation. 

The press and pundits will weigh in on the words and text of the mayor's address. Those who understand will point out the short comings of his address. Michael Stetz in a January 13, 2010, Union Tribune article, "Mayor's speech pattern wears thin" was printed long before the first word was spoken by the mayor and yet his every point. The last two paragraphs of the piece hit a home-run. "But he wasn't drafted to do the job. He campaigned for it. He even probably voted for himself (well, at least the first time)." "It's time for Sanders to stop looking to the past for blame - he does it quite eloquently, so it might be tough to give up - and realize something. He's in his fifth year as mayor. He must be responsible for something by now, right?"   

No comments about public safety were made and no mention of managed competition directly. There is more to come on these and other issues and you can bet the cuts to benefits and jobs were simply the beginning of more to come. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Predictions for January 13, 2010

There is not an economic indicator today that paints a positive picture. The State continues to bleed; politicians at all levels refuse to develop structural fixes to the budget mess; pundits and politicians chose to blame employees and unions; and no one is willing to do what is needed to seek long term solutions. Reductions and cuts to services, wages, benefits, and jobs continue with no end in sight. There is seldom a day that passes in which some individual; be it a politician, columnist, reporter, advocate or “expert” will promulgate “facts” about municipal employee benefits that contain more lies and spin than reality and truth.

On January 13, 2010, the mayor will give his “State of the City” address. We will no doubt hear him advocate for expansion of the Convention Center; building a new Taj Mahal – City Hall; building a new downtown library; finding a solution for a new Charger Stadium; suggestions for jobs and services to be contracted out; new “sacrifices” or reductions and cuts to employee benefits “to be sought through negotiations” as the mayor again places the solutions upon the shoulders of the City’s employees. There will be a proclamation for new fees and increases to others but no new taxes. The mayor will attempt to sell the public a bill of goods of an improving financial picture for the city and nary a problem with the public’s safety.

The mayor will again fail to acknowledge the sacrifices employees have made and tell the taxpaying public he is looking after their welfare by reducing and eliminating retirement benefits and eliminating retiree medical insurance. During the last state of the city addresses the mayor did not acknowledge a single worker for the city. He simply laid blame at our feet for the deficit and the mounting costs to operate the nation’s 7th largest city. His address on the 13th will be no different.

There are several comments on my last post from “Just Wondering” that offer a hint of what is to come in 2010. Take some time and read this person’s comments and follow the various links offered. Pay special attention to the comment posted 1/12/2010 at 7:16 pm titled, “All of you Public Safety Employees are EVIL” and follow the link “read the story here” which links to “” The moments and posting on this site will make many of you angry and cause the blood pressure to increase. Keep in mind this is the mindset of the current mayor of this city and the “little rube” as well as Kevin Faulconer. The attacks on public employees (they want us to be servants) is a national campaign that appears to be centered in California and strongest in southern California.

Looking to the future; I think what we have endured over the last several years is nothing compared to what is in our future. The current mayor has three more years to push his agenda of eviscerating employee wages and benefits and taking employees back 30 years. Now is not the time to sit on the sidelines and grumble as you do nothing. We need to make our voices heard and we need to combat the miss-information (outright lies) being provided to the taxpayers.

Talk to your SDPOA Board members and ask them what you can do to help. Get involved and become educated about your benefits so you can correct the lies on the spot and not allow someone to walk away believing the lies they were told. When someone tells people city employees are leaving after 30 years and making “as much as 130%” in retirement; yell at the top of your lungs if needed the truth. The truth is 90% is the maximum an employee can receive upon retirement after 30 years and that only applies to safety personnel. Know your benefits and how to explain them factually to taxpayers and friends alike.

Tomorrow I will post my thoughts on the mayor’s speech and see how close I was to predicting his words. Be safe and enjoy the day.