Friday, January 21, 2011

The Beginning

I know I have been away for far too long from writing what is on my mind. Maybe not long enough for some. June 4, 2010, was the last post I actually wrote myself and I struggled for several months as I transitioned from one assignment to another within the department. As time wore on, I tried many times to begin writing again in this BLOG, but found my writings to be more caustic than ever and clearly filled with anger and much hate. I would write for hours, read, re-read, edit and then save a particular piece. I would walk away and come back to the computer and open the piece I had last finished and realize I could not post what I had written.

I received many e-mails, phone calls and had numerous conversations with friends, co-workers, members of the media and others, all wanting to know when I would begin writing again. I have been watching silently from the cheap seats as the mayor, city attorney, little rube and the rest of the city council continued their attack on city employees, our wages, benefits and integrity. I have watched the city I was born and raised in become the most anti employee location in America. I have watched the department I have given almost 31 years of my blood, sweat and tears, evaporate and turn into something I no longer recognize. I got three e-mails that sparked me to write today.

The Little Rube

This year has started off with a bang. The Little Rube has filed papers with the City Clerk announcing his intent to run for mayor. This is not a surprise to anyone paying attention to this individual’s actions. He has taken credit for the decimation of employee pay and benefits and continues to push his outright lies as gospel truth to the gullible press and public.

The Little Rube seems to have gained a supporter in his assault on employee pay and benefits and the number one hot button item, retirement. Jan Goldsmith, the city attorney, has released his latest legal opinion (Opinion 2011-1) where Goldsmith opines the city can legally freeze wages and at the same time eliminate any “performance-based” pay (shift pay, FTO, SWAT, K-9, Motor, Bi-Lingual and all the others) from your highest one your computation for retirement. The thought process is this will reduce the pension debt and lower the retirement benefit for employees “legally.” The law and a court settlement known as Corbett, do not support the LEGAL OPINION profered by the city attorney.

The Little Rube has taken this show on the road. Yesterday I posted the link to YouTube where the Rube was a guest on a Fox Business segment touting his plan and encouraging cities and states across the nation to come see how San Diego is screwing its employees (OK, so the Rube said "reform pensions"). If you missed it you really need to take a few minutes and watch it. If this does not spark you into wanting to get involved in making sure this clown is not the next mayor of San Diego, I’m not sure what will.

The Mayor

Did you catch the “State of the City” address by the mayor? “Lasting Prosperity must be our top priority” was the theme of his diatribe. I sat listening to this political double speak and could not help but think, “Who is this guy kidding?” More attacks on employee wages and benefits and yet a justification and push to spent $700+ million dollars on an expansion of the Convention Center and finding a way to fund a new stadium for the Charges.

“We must take a fresh look at past decisions and be willing to ask more of our employees and more of our citizens.” My ears started to burn as I listened to the political garbage in this speech.. “The city is already a recognized leader in pension reform. And now, I am proposing a bold step to complete our work. By creating a 401 (k) style plan for future employees, including elected officials, we’ll contain pension costs and restore sanity to a situation confronting every big city.” Is anyone going to point out to the republicans, 401 (k) plans were designed to be a supplement to a regular retirement plan and NOT a stand-alone plan to carry a person in their retirement years?

I want to scream at the top of my lungs and drown out the words that are burning my ears. I’m watching the audience as they nod their heads in agreement and want to run through the room slapping these people. They have all bought into this political rhetoric and spin. Hell, I think I would too if I didn’t know the truth. I can’t wait to retire and get out of this pathetic city.

City Attorney

Have you all been keeping up with the latest revelations from our opinionated city attorney? Goldsmith opines (Opinion 2011-1) the city can unilaterally freeze base salary and change the manner in which retirement compensation is calculated. I have read this latest jaundice opinion several times and it makes me want to cry. To think this person went to school, passed the bar, served as Mayor of Poway, in the State Assembly, as a judge and now city attorney. The lines of reality seem to have become blurred for this man.

In a January 13, 2011, letter to all city employee groups (Letter) Goldsmith writes, “This letter is sent with unanimous support of the San Diego City Council and Mayor. It is an offer to engage in mediated settlement negotiations regarding pending lawsuits and disputed legal issues. This should not be confused with annual labor negotiations under the Myers-Milias-Brown Act.” I could not believe what I was reading.

Goldsmith jumps right in explaining how his reasoning on the “substantially equal” provision under Charter section 143, is “legally correct.” I could not contain my laughter as I read this garbage. Hey Goldsmith, I know I am not a legal scholar but can you share with all of us stupid people, when this case was settled and share with us the judge’s ruling? I’ve been following this since you floated this illogical idea/opinion. I didn’t know the judge ruled in your favor.

The letter goes on detailing his view of litigation and necessary changes to employee wages and benefits. Goldsmith has clearly moved into a policy making role. He has inserted himself into a role outside of his duties. Goldsmith is playing politics when his role should be A-Political. His advice and council should be simply that and based on legal reasoning not political agenda or his normal whacky, left field pontificating.

Ann Smith, the labor attorney for MEA, responded to the Goldsmith letter. She outlines the flaws in the city attorney’s reasoning and his challenge to engage in a “mediated settlement.” Ms. Smith hit on a point I also noted and that was the refusal to engage in conversation regarding retiree medical. I wonder where the other labor groups are with their response to Goldsmith. I know the SDPOA has a contract that carries us through June 2012. Many of the items the city attorney laid out to discuss are covered in this contract. Clearly this is yet another attempt to politicize and criminalize city employees, their wages and benefits.

The city attorney views himself as a “player.” When I first read that I could not believe what I was reading. It makes sense now though after reading his letter to the labor groups and his analogy from his time in the assembly. Somebody needs to educate this guy about his role in government and what his responsibilities are in the role he was elected to fill. His continual intrusion into policy making and goal setting is a hindrance to his ability to advise on legal issues or mediate disputes. Can we encourage John Witt to mentor this guy?

The Department

I am winding down in my career and getting closer to pulling the pin on retirement. I have less than 300 work days remaining as a sworn policeman. I have had, for the most part, a very good time in my chosen career. But as I wind down I am finally realizing why so many of our retired brothers and sisters leave the job disgruntled. Learning you are owed nothing for your 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 or 35 years of service to the city and its citizens is a real eye opener. To be told this and have it followed up with, “the sooner you realize this the quicker you can get on with your life” left me reeling when I realized this was the sentiment from the top down in this city. This is an opinion fostered by the mayor and relayed down through management. My initial, guttural response cannot be written here. I don’t know what an employee is owed when he or she retires after giving so much, but I know it is something. "Respect" is the first thought that comes to mind, but again I don't know what it is but I know it is something. It was not until I heard this same statement directed at another senior member of the department that I realized it was a sentiment shared in management, forstered by the cities leadership. What a sad commentary on where we are today.

The department will see more sworn personnel leaving as their DROP runs out in the coming six to eighteen months. With hiring frozen, no SDPD Recruits in the latest academy, nor any slated in the near future, we will continue to fall deeper in the hole as far as staffing goes. This is the lunacy of this city and the management of resources. The DROP was designed to plan for the exit of our most senior people, eliminating the drain and hardship of retirements. Instead the cities politicians, managers and press use smoke and mirrors to mis-lead citizens about the level of public safety. They all boast of “No Lay-offs” yet in the last three budget cycles, almost 350 vacant sworn positions have been eliminated and hundreds of others left unfilled.

I’m counting the days and have no intention of leaving before the end of my DROP. I have earned that right and will continue to do my job until the last day. I am enjoying my latest assignment and the people I am working with. Life is good and I am content to finish out my time, right where I am.

Let’s watch each other’s backs and be safe.

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