Unions Question City Hall Contracts

Union Leader Randy Sekany pounds the table and rails about the way the city spends money.

“I mean, $150,000 on ergonomic chairs? When you’re firing people? When you’ve cut back how many employees? There’s not a few spare chairs around? Really?”

Sekany circulated a document around City Hall headlined “City Spending Gone Wild,” which details more than $7 million worth of expenditures on a range of items and services, from hybrid Priuses to real estate assessments. The union assembled the numbers in response to City Manager Debra Figone’s request that they take a 10 percent pay cut, reduce the number of engine companies from 34 to 29 and lay off 80-plus sworn firefighters.

The document highlights 36 city contracts that the union sees as questionable, or at least politically embarrassing.

“This money is being spent with no oversight by the city council,” Sekany says, making a pointed suggestion that the city should look into its own spending before asking the local firefighters he represents to dig into their own pockets to help close San Jose’s $116.2 million budget deficit.

In a move no doubt planned to influence public opinion amid budget negotiations, the firefighters are holding an event at the Communications Hill Fire Station in San Jose at 11:30am Wednesday, April 14. The union is spinning its campaign as a safety issue.

“That’s why were engaging this so hard, because in the end, the number one deal that I have to look out for is firefighter safety,” Sekany says. “The longer it takes you to get to a fire, the more dangerous it is for the citizens, for the property and for the firefighter.

“It’s like in that movie Shrek, when Lord Farquaad says, ‘Well, I’m willing to put all your lives at risk, and some of you may die, but that’s a tragedy that I’ll live with.’ You can’t take out 15, 20 percent of the firefighters and have us go, ‘That’s OK with us.’”

The “Spending Gone Wild” document was put together for Local 230 by the consulting firm run by Tom Saggau and Dustin DeRollo. They gathered their data from the city manager’s December 2009 Contract Approval Authority Report. Among the $7,216,822 in contracts detailed in the document are $150,000 for ergonomic chairs, $600,000 for “adult and children’s DVDs,” and a $180,500 grant to the annual Rock ’N’ Roll Half Marathon.

It also shows the city spent $1,134,966 on hybrid cars purchased in Sunnyvale and Albany, along with eight $250,000 consultant contracts, mostly having to do with real estate services.

All of the contracts being questioned by the union were authorized by Figone at her discretion. Since 2007, only contracts spending more than $250,000 have to be approved by the city council. Before that, the maximum amount that could be spent on non-council-approved contracts was $100,000. Until the late 1980s, the city manager’s discretionary spending limit was $20,000.

In light of the budget deficit, Councilmembers Nora Campos, Ash Kalra and Kansen Chu recently signed a proposal in the Rules Committee that tried to cut Figone’s contract authority in half. Mayor Chuck Reed, who chairs the committee, killed it.

Business As Usual

Figone declined a request to be interviewed. But her de-facto spokesman, communications director Tom Manheim, says the numbers shown in the union-circulated document do not accurately reflect what the city actually spent. According to Manheim, the figures are the “caps” allocated rather than real spending amounts.

The actual amount spent, according to Manheim’s documents, was $4,323,569. At the end of the year, the unused money goes back into whatever fund it originally came from, he says.

“There are a lot of very good substantive reasons as to why this money is being spent,” he says. He points to the $150,000 contract for ergonomic chairs, explaining that it was an effort to keep employees with carpal tunnel syndrome injuries off of the city’s even more costly workers’ compensation roles.

Manheim says the $600,000 slotted to be spent on DVDs was necessary to supply public libraries. The city actually spent $514,898. The hybrid vehicles were purchased from out-of-town dealers because they gave the city better prices, he says.

“When you’re in a bidding situation, we don’t have the luxury of going, ‘Oh, we don’t want to go with you,” he says.

The firefighters document also mentions several $250,000 real estate consultant contracts that they found suspicious.

“I see consultant after consultant after consultant on appraisal services,” Sekany says. “I mean, I know that if you hire six people to do apparently the same amount of work, it’s usually not as economically efficient as hiring one person,” he says. “I don’t hire six plumbers to do the same job.”

Manheim responds that the city allocates these contracts with appraisal companies and consultants only on a “just-in-case” basis. In fact, he says four of the $250,000 contracts highlighted are scheduled to run out in 2012, with no money spent.

“Those balances are what we have been using to reduce the deficit,” he says. “Over the last eight, nine years, there is always money left over from contacts that we didn’t end up using.”

Sekany says the firefighters have proposed other ways to save the city money other then pay cuts and layoffs. They include deferring their annual uniform allowance and reducing their amount of daily vacation slots. The city is currently looking into these proposals, but Sekany says that, so far, their ideas have largely been rebuffed.

All told, the union’s proposals would come to a little over a million dollars. The total of the contracts outlined in “City Spending Gone Wild” only adds up to a little over $7 million—loose change compared to the $116.2 million quagmire that the city is still trudging through.

Still, Sekany says the city should be doing anything and everything in its power to keep the firefighters employed.

“My firefighters say that there is a credibility gap here,” he concludes. “You’re either broke, or you ain’t.”

53 Comments

  1. Great. Only now does the local firefighter union have a problem with city spending once the topic of cuts to their department arises. We now get to see the true colors of organized labor once they feel threatened. In the past, their grievances have come at the expense of the taxpayer. Not the case this time!

  2. San Jose’s city employees for years received above average benefits, pensions and job security in exchange for accepting lower pay than private company workers

    Gov Davis and Legislature increased state employees pay to match or exceed private employees pay as political paybacks to labor unions

    Cities then matched state increases and now many state and city employees receive $100,000 or more pay and get excessive benefits and pensions 20-30% more than private jobs but not every employee is overpaid

    To balance state and city budgets the choices

    1) reduce pay to lower than private jobs
    2) reduce benefit and pensions to private jobs
    3)  mass layoffs ( 1/3 ) of city and state employees and unacceptable service reductions to pay for excessive state employee pay, benefits and pensions
    4) voters will in 2-3 year correct unfair and excessive pay, benefit and pensions with many unintended future problems from voter proposition like Prop 13 has

    State and city employee’s excessive combined pay, benefits and pensions are reason for 50-60% next years budget deficit, state taking city taxes and thousands of younger employee layoffs to pay excessive paid older and recently retired city employees

    Retirees from 10 or more years ago had lower pay and pensions are not problem and are being unfairly blamed

    After 10 years of budget deficit – time to fix budget problems cause by recent excessive employee pay, benefits and pensions

    1) Freeze all pay increases and bonuses for 5 -10 or more years for over $80,000 employees until combined pay, benefits and pensions are not more private jobs and city and state have money to pay for services WITHOUT raising taxes more than inflation rate

    2) California should have a annual tax increase cap for all governments not greater than yearly inflation rate increase or decrease

    3) Change pension 3% automatic inflation increase in each year to cost of living like social security and other retirement plans like everyone else

    4) Eliminate unrealistic 8% guaranteed pension earnings by city no one guarantees with current income / revenues Pension investment earnings San Jose taxes for general fund services are used to make up millions pension investment losses and shortfall ( 3-4% ) in 8% guaranteed pension fund earnings

    50-60% of budget deficit resulting in younger city workers will be laid off and service cuts are to pay for older retirees guaranteed pensions

    5) San Jose employees qualify for pensions earlier than other cities change to 15-20 years like other cities not 5 – 10 years same for retiree health care

    6) Increase early retirement age to 60 for police and fire and 65 for city workers and do away with earlt retire and taking new government job to get double dip multiple pensions Reduce any stae and city pensions by new government job or contract earnings until 65 years old

    7) use the average of last 5 years wages for retirement not last year income spiking to boost retirement for next 20-30 years

    8) Change retirement contributions for employees 3   and city 8 to 50% each to include 50% contribution for any retirement shortfall or investment losses

    9) do not allow city to take overfunded retirement funds back to general fund which creates future pension shortfall and need for more city but not employee contributions, budget deficits and younger employee layoffs losing best employees and future managers

    10) State and city should pay employees fairly not excessively which is cause of mass reductions in gov’t services and tax increases

    Taxpayers are unfairly working 10-15 more years for less than government workers

    If government and labor unions do not correct employee pay, benefits and pension unfairness then voters will in 2-3 years   Government and employee unions who caused unfairness and service cuts will not like results

  3. They could save every one of those jobs by eliminating 3% at 50.

    No one needs to retire at 50 years old with a six figure pension.  We certainly don’t need to ruin city services to pay for it.

  4. Looks like some good is coming out of this fracas.  On the one hand, fire fighters are grossly overpaid in many respects… overtime, pensions, payment for unused sickleave, etc.  On the other hand, SJ blows a wad every year on ridiculous things, even in the face of being in dire financial straits.  With this ongoing dispute, the citizenry is learning quite a lot about how our taxes are spent and mis-spent.

  5. From a previous SJI article:
    “…the city spent $138 million on its employees’ retirement benefits this year, and that this is expected to go up by another $53 million next year.”

    And the unions want to quibble about $7M?  They’re only trying to distract from their ridiculous pension plans.  As Greg said, we shouldn’t be paying for them retire like kings at 50.

    Pension reform is the only way to solve the city’s budget problems, and the unions will do everything they can to fight it.  Just look what they’re pulling in Menlo Park:

    http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_14839981

  6. Just today there were two city employees hanging Shark jersey banners above San Pedro street.  Is this an essential service for a city in a severe financial crisis?  Would any residents care if the banners were not put up this year?  Our city leaders fail to realize that even small examples such as this one show residents our leaders are unable to prioritize what is and isn’t an essential city service.

    • Sad to say, the workers probably would end up getting paid to do something, anyway. And the banners most likely cost relatively little compared to the magnitude of the problem.

  7. How many people want a 64 year old firefighter climbing up a ladder to save their family or a 64 year old police officer chasing a 20 year old bank robber? Seems the police officers and firefighters are unfairly being targeted as the cause of the buget crisis, and they make an easy target. The citizen’s need to protect them, so they can protect you.

    • You seem to think that every police officer spends most of their time in foot races with 20 year old kids.  This displays a considerable misunderstanding of police work.

      Are there no desk jobs on your planet?  Does your police system have no management, no investigators and no dispatchers?  Does your fire department do no building inspections?

      It’s a ridiculous argument that a 64 year old police officer is so useless that the only possible solution is give him a six figure pension and lifetime medical.

      • Greg,
        You have a considerable misunderstanding of how the police department works. Officers who are assigned as detectives work 3 year assignments and then need to rotate back to patrol for at least a year before testing for another position. That means that in your scenario a 64 year old would be out working the streets as a patrol officer. Have you ever fought with a 25 year old parolee fresh out of prison, high on meth or PCP? Not something you should expect a 64 year old officer to do. You want to hire officers as dispatchers? Another bad idea since you would be paying 25% more for an officer to dispatch than a lower paid dispatcher.

        Ironic that a professional athlete is considered washed up at 35, yet an officer 30 years older than this is expected to go out on the streets and do battle with criminals 40 years his junior. That is pretty ridiculous, Greg.

  8. Please join me in a phone calling and letter writing campaign asking that the Mayor and Council STOP laying off our Police and Fire Fighters! Public SAFETY should be their number 1 priority! Cut the fat at City Hall NOT public safety!

    Mayor Chuck Reed 408-535-4800
    [email protected]
    Pete Constant 408-535-4901
    [email protected]
    Piierluigi Oliverio 408-535-4906
    [email protected]
    Ash Kalra 408-535-4902
    [email protected]
    Madison Nguyen
    408-535-4907
    [email protected]
    Sam Liccardo
    408-535-4903
    [email protected]
    Rose Herrera
    408-535-4908
    [email protected]
    Kansen Chu
    408-535-4904
    [email protected]
    Judy Chirco
    408-535-4909
    [email protected]
    Nora Campos
    408-535-4905
    [email protected]
    Nancy PyleDistrict
    408-535-4910
    [email protected]

  9. Kathleen, police/fire make up 2/3 of the budget. With no reductions there, the rest of the budget would have to be cut nearly 50% to close the gap. Should the only services the city provide be police/fire? That’s where we’re heading…

    I understand the need for public safety, but something has to give.

    • Pat and Skinny Cow,
      We have had an understaffed, overworked Police Department for as long as I can remember. There really is no excuse for that given the large amounts of money this city has taken in over the past 3 decades. Almost every other large city has enough Police to serve the public. Those cities that don’t have enough officers to protect citizens have outrageously high crime rates.

      It is easy for you and others who don’t work with victim’s of crime to put money before the safety of the public because you don’t see the consequences of that position. Unless and until you and others sit in front of victims who have waited 3 to 4 years for court ordered restitution to be negotiated with an offender, an offender by the way who usually doesn’t end up paying it anyway, you will never truly get the gravity of the need to keep the PD properly staffed and funded. (Keep in mind too that crime affects our insurance rates, medical costs, businesses that will set up here, and a whole host of other things.)

      Furthermore, you are being very naïve if you think the decades of overspending by our City, the forgiven loans ranging in the hundreds of thousand to millions of dollars that were given to groups who didn’t conduct their non-profits or business wisely, the frivolous spending on over paid consultants, wasteful spending on events and development projects that cost us MILLIONS, look at what the City Manager earns alone, and a whole host of other wasteful spending decisions by electeds didn’t create this situation.

      And finally, I am sick and tired of the deception by the media and blog writers who misrepresent employee’s contributions to their own benefits. If you want to see change, start at the voting booth! Use that big donation you want to give your favorite candidate to fund our own public safety programs.

      Ask your favorite candidate to DONATE 50% their campaign contributions to hiring more police officers and see what they say! Stop letting money override your sense of intelligence and look beyond the almighty buck. Start looking at how we got here in the first place and strive to hold these electeds accountable for their frivolous spending habits. VOTE wisely this time!

      • Ask the police and firefighters unions to reduce their retirement benefits and see what they say. I do plan on voting wisely, no more union bullying!

        • Empty Pockets- If crime rises the way it already is, that is exactly what you’ll have! This isn’t JUST about money, this is about public safety. Yours and mine!

        • Pat,
          If you don’t get the point above, and you can reduce it to a simple “diatribe” then there is no hope of us having any meeting of the minds. Try reading Pete Campbell’ blog. He sums it all up nicely. We pay for police and fire and we haven’t gotten what we’ve paid for, and until such time that we do, the City should be ashamed of its self.
          In answer to your question re-read my post. Put simply enough for you, CUT THE FAT, NOT POLICE AND FIRE SERVICES! Or we can take people like you, train you in police and fire and put you to work as a volunteer. That would save MILLIONS! wink

        • How bout if you put your money where your mouth is. Go to the reserve police officer’s academy (it is about a year, 4 nights a week), go through the hiring process to be a reserve police officer, and then you can go out on patrol and serve the community for free.

        • As I asked before “…What fat do you think is left to be cut—besides the oft maligned arts office? Eventually, police and fire have to face reality along with the rest of us.”
          You can’t keep ducking the question. You raise serious issues, how about providing a serious, substantive answer?

        • What is the purpose of a reserve police officer?
          Is it a position somewhere between a security guard and a cop?
          Are they individuals who want to become cops so that they too can burden the taxpayer with inflated salaries and early medical retirement?
          No thanks; we the taxpayers already have our hands full refereeing the unions fighting one another at our expense.

        • Skinny Cow said,” You can’t keep ducking the question. You raise serious issues, how about providing a serious, substantive answer?”

          I don’t think I have been ducking the question at all. I think I’ve clearly shown you in repeated posts where the fat exists. One suggestion I have is that you go to Protect San Jose and read Ed Rast’s articles on the waste and budget. I think that will help.

          My position is this: I think it is outrageous to lump Police and Fire into the same group as “city employees,” and ask for an across the board pay decrease of 10%. Department heads and city employees don’t put their lives on the line in their jobs and department heads, over paid consultants, ect. earn two to three times what REGULAR Police and Fire fighters do.

          We need to pay a decent wage to those who have more difficult jobs that involve physical danger, death, or lifetime disability as a opposed to saying “everyone is equal let’s slash across the board.” (The private sector DOES pay a fair wage for jobs that require special skill sets and education.)

          The fact is that city has done a terrible job of managing its money and for some reason people are looking to scapegoat employees wages and benefits. If we don’t address this overspending NOW, all the cuts and lay offs made will be futile! People just don’t realize how much Police and Fire contribute out of pocket to their OWN retirement and benefits. I think in part because the media uses one or two over blown examples of someone who is raking in big bucks. You cannot lump the ordinary officer or Firefighter into that category, it’s unfair and just plain BS. We can do without admins, department heads, overpaid consultants, the arts, festivals, events, doling out millions to dying non-profits, and golf courses, but we CANNOT go without Police and Fire.

          Yes! The city has now put it’s self in a position to either start laying off people OTHER THAN Police and Fire. They should ask all the other unions to take a pay cut, OR they can request city employees to take a reduced workweek until our economy recovers. (They can collect unemployment for that one day off I believe. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) That would save millions.

          In Connecticut, my hometown, city and State employees voluntarily took a 4-day workweek to save jobs and money! My confusion with our city employees and unions is this, do they want a pay check coming in or do they want to sit on unemployment because you refused to work as a team to save their co-worker and themselves a job!

          Bottom line is this; there is no easy answer. In tough financial times, you and I cut out everything but necessities and now it’s the city’s turn to do that. Fire and Police are NECESSITIES, not luxuries.  Go from there.

        • Pat- I had a friend once who left the Republican Party because he said you guys always ask, “What can you do for me?” He said he joined the Democratic Party because they asked, ”What can we do for our community.”

          Instead of doing what you always do like cornering people to give you an answer to the problem and knocking their answer, why don’t you give us your solution to this, and please spare us your usual standard Republican Party jargon?

        • That’s funny.  I had a friend who left the democratic party because he said you guys always ask “What can we do for the unions?”

        • It is unfortunate that reserves had to take an oath to protect even ungrateful slugs like you, and they do it for free.

        • What a revealing comment about your mindset. To think that those that give thousands of free hours to their community are “suckers”. By the way, I am retired from a grocery store after 35 years, and worked about 20 years as a reserve police officer. Never got a dime for my work and responded many times in emergency situations to assist my community. I guess that makes me a sucker in your world. I think what made me a sucker is I responded for free to help folks, even with your attitude, if you were to call 911.

  10. Christian, it’s such a target rich environment. I’d start with one week shutdowns 7/5/10-7/9/10 and 12/27/10-12/31/10. Reduce holidays to 11 per year. Return to a 3 year average compensation rate for pension purposes to eliminate pension spiking. Provide use it or lose it sick time. Convert everybody to a cash balance pension plan. Require higher co-payments for medical. Eliminate medical for life after 15 years of service. Push full pension eligibility to age 60, except for police & fire. Certify contractors for self inspecting, with random checking. Eliminate the business license fee. Bring the A’s to downtown. Cut employee pay by 10% for everybody earning $100K/year, 7.5% for all others. Eliminate step raises. No park maintenance on Tuesday/Wednesday, but keep parks open 7 days a week. Eliminate one patrol car per district and put that officer in the passenger seat of another patrol car. Use hybrids and diesels for city vehicles. Stop requiring police at road construction sites. Allow more sidewalk cafe tables. Clean up the Guadalupe River Park. Finish connecting the trail system. Keep libraries open 6 days per week. Charge city employees for parking. Reduce the councilmember car allowance. Replace binding arbitration with voter arbitration if public safety unions and management cannot agree to a contract. Run ads touting how great it is to locate your business in Silicon Valley on stations in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Illinois. Keep the community centers open. Sell the old city hall. Sell the Hayes Mansion.

    Oh, yeah…and gut the OCA.

    I agree that there is significant waste in government at all levels. My point to Kathleen, though, is that police/fire make up such a significant portion of the city budget that it is nigh on to impossible to close the budget gap without affecting public safety organizations.

    • Pat, I have a few questions for you:

      You said, “police/fire make up such a significant portion of the city budget.”

      Are you actually saying that the wages and benefits paid to these groups cost MORE than the wasteful spending of our City leaders on the monster City Hall, golf courses costing millions, forgiven loans in the millions, millions dumped into failed non-profits like the Mexican Heritage Gardens, millions dumped into failed redevelopment projects, millions squandered on events like the Grand Pix, ect.?

      ” Eliminate medical for life after 15 years of service.”

      WOW! Are you serious? OMG that is outrageous! So how are they supposed to take care of their children and their own health care needs? Welfare, Medi-cal, go bankrupt when someone really gets ill, sell his or her house? What?

      Pat, I just don’t even know how to respond to your post past this other than to say that you don’t know a lot about the City. We only get 2 patrol cars per district as it is. If parks aren’t maintained and someone gets injured they City will be sued for millions. WOW! It blows my mind how little you really understand the WASTE that caused and is causing these layoffs!

      • Kathleen they are supposed to take care of their children and their own health care needs the same way that most other people do.

        • Our police officer in San Jose prefund their own retirement medical expenses by paying 5% of their gross salaries for all the years they are working. They also pay into Medicare and Medicaide.

        • Kathleen-  you misread his comment.

          He is not saying that police officers should lose their medical care after 15 years.

          He is saying that the city should not pay medical bills of former employees.  The argument is that retirees should pay their medical premiums out of their pensions. 

          This is the same as nearly all private sector employees, who typically have to pay their own medical premiums after they stop working.

        • Pat Waite said, “Kathleen they are supposed to take care of their children and their own health care needs the same way that most other people do.” Of Pat come on. Even Target/Walmart, and other low paying corporations provide health care. You hate Obama’s effort to give everyone health care, you are against Med-Cal, but you are in favor of cuting health care for dedicated workers? I guess things worked out for the best when you lost your bid for Council. wink

    • “Eliminate one patrol car per district and put that officer in the passenger seat of another patrol car.”
      Pat, are you kidding?  There are two patrol cars per council district now.  Are you saying you think one patrol car per council district is enough?  If your house is robbed or vandalized, how long are you willing to wait for that one patrol car to get to your house?  If your house is on fire, how long are you willing to wait for the Fire Department to get there, given the layoffs you proposed, and the fire station near your house that was closed due to budget cuts? 
      Do you really want your kids, or grandkids playing at a park given the park maintenance cuts you propose?  Less Park maintenance means dirtier parks, overflowing garbage, dirtier bathrooms, broken glass from barbeques, etc. 

      Look, I could discuss each of your proposals, but eventually, it would boil down to one thing:  GOVERNMENT IS NOT A BUSINESS.  You cannot treat government like a business.  Government is not supposed to ‘make a profit’.  They are supposed to charge only as much as needed to provide the service. Government exists to serve the needs of the people.  Public safety is our #1 need.

      • There are four patrol cars per police district (not to be confused with city council district). My proposal would reduce that to 3 to save gas and vehicle expense. It’s not like they’re being timely right now. I’ve done a ride along, and appreciate what the officers do and the obstacles they face.

        How many workers do you see at neighborhood parks? It’s not like they are lifeguards at a pool. Most parks are unstaffed.

        Government IS a business, just not a very efficient one. It’s in the service business. There are alternatives, whether local or otherwise. And most of the alternatives are better run and more cost effective.

        • Pat,
          You are an expert now on police staffing because you went on a ride along? That is one of the stupidest things I have heard lately.

          You see, Pat, many police calls do not require 2 units to respond. These are cold calls in which there may be follow-up or evidence to collect, but there is no imminent threat from a suspect. This would include prior assaults, burglary, thefts and other crimes. Then you have many car accidents which just requires one officer to facilitate the exchange of information. You also have officers who sit at VMC for an entire shift babysitting a prisoner before he is booked into jail. Again, only one officer is required. Also, most arrestees only require a single officer to process and book into jail.

          Your proposal, based on your ride along, is to double up 2 officers to save gas money. What your proposal would do in the above examples, is to take an extra patrol officer off the street for the duration of the above calls, to save gas. Lets see, if someone happens to call the police for a violent felony in progress, and numerous officers are tied up unnecessarily because they are doubled up, maybe you can be the one to explain to the person calling 911 we are saving gas. Your proposal make as much sense as replacing your car because you have a flat tire.

          Also Pat, there may be 4 cars per district, but what you don’t mention is each district is 5 or 6 beats. They are already vastly understaffed and all your proposal would do is cut the amount of cars going out to each district by HALF of what it should be.

          It must be nice living in your Ivory Tower. By the way, very nice shot you took at the police
          officers – “It’s not like they’re being timely right now.”

        • Pat,

          You and I can just agree to disagree.  Government is NOT a business.  A business, by definition, is geared toward profit.  Government’s purpose has nothing to do with profit.  In fact, profit should not enter into the discussion with governement. Government, as you put it, exists to serve the people. 

          Parks – Doesn’t it bother you that most parks are unstaffed?  We have maintenance districts where one person is in charge of maintaining many parks.  That means some parks rarely ever get the maintenance they need.  But I guess that is ok with you. 

          The city gives RFP’s for a wide variety of services, and routinely gives it to the 2nd, and 3rd low bidders.  IF all bidders satisfy the requirements, why not give the bid to the lowest bidder?  Would that not qualify under FAT? 

          And you may be ok with loosing service when it comes to public safety, but I’m not.  I want to make sure that when I need a police officer, he/she responds within minutes, not 10-15 minutes.  Cut any more police officers, and we are putting them in a no win situation where they may not be able to respond to YOUR emergency as quickly.  That is not ok with me.

    • Pat, I think you might be over simplifying some things.  For example: sick time is “use it or loose it.”  Okay, I’m using it.  So if I’m a fire fighter or police officer I’m sad that I won’t get paid out some grandiose amount at retirement but I just received (lets say) an extra week of vacation for the next 25-30 years.  So if all 1300+ officers have an extra week of “time off”, in theory they would have to be replaced.  What is the cost of hiring new officers to replace these lost hours?  Remember, there is a large upfront cost to hire and train a police officer/firefighter.  If you don’t replace these hours, then you save the city lots of money but diminish the health and safety of the citizens of San Jose.  Perhaps this is a simplistic rebuttal to your idea but there you have it nonetheless.

      Pat you suggested that we have some officers double up.  Let’s say by chance they have to take someone to jail or worse, VMC.  Now you’ve just pulled two officers off the street rather than one.  Now you have two patrol cars (two officers) handling calls that are in districts that are miles in length.  What if one gets into a fight with a suspect and the other one is on the other side of the district?  I’m not getting a good feeling about this idea. 

      I got it.  Lets replace the Crown Vic with a Prius.  Put two officers and a suspect into it and have the OCA put a bunch of hands all over the car. Hahaha.  Come on.  That is funny.

      Oh ya.  I like the idea of cleaning up Guadalupe River but where are you going to get that money and were are you going to put all the homeless people?

  11. Pat,
    What is the point of “Eliminate one patrol car per district and put that officer in the passenger seat of another patrol car”?

  12. Didn’t the airport art (the hands on the garage) cost $800,000 or something like that? Can’t you cut out airport art, statues in the park art (parma park) and many other expensive art works?

    What about all the city workers sitting on their behinds shuffling papers?

  13. Kathleen,

    You wrote about the “wasteful spending of our City leaders on the monster City Hall, golf courses costing millions, forgive loans in the millions, millions dumped into failed non-profits like the Mexican Heritage Gardens, millions dumped into failed redevelopment projects, millions squandered on events like the Grand Prix, etc.”

    Just how is it, do you suppose, that a City that spends so irresponsibly and recklessly in all these areas you mentioned, suddenly transforms itself into a sensible model of fiscal prudence when making spending decisions regarding police and fire?
    Allow me to answer that question for you; They don’t.
    Our City leaders have squandered and overspent on everything- ESPECIALLY union-powered “public safety”.
    The taxpayers have had it up to here with paying protection money to this racket.

    • The police department has always been the bastard child of the city council. While the city council occupies a brand new, state of the art, $650 million city hall, the police department is located in a dilapidated, 60 year old building, in which units are crammed together, and closets have been converted into work rooms. It is an embarrassment when you look at other departments such as Santa Clara, Milpitas, Sunnyvale, Mountain View and Palo Alto. The police cars at SJPD are falling apart because many of them are run well over 100,000 miles. The technology at the police department is at least 20 years behind the times because the city council has never wanted to invest the money to upgrade the technology. It just fall apart and is patched up for awhile. Our police department has perennially run hundreds of officers short each year which is one of the places the city council was able to get the millions of extra dollars needed to put into their feel good projects.

      • Go cry on someone else’s shoulder! Go arrest some of the city’s firefighters, their union is just as bad as yours. Where the hell is the taxpayer’s union?

    • Hi John. Hope you are well. It has been awhile!

      To your comment, the truth is so few citizens know the truth about what officers actually contribute to their own retirement and benefits it’s sad. The City and the media keep touting Police and Fire benefits/retirement benefits are the problem when in fact our City leaders are the reason we’re in this mess! Go ahead and cut Fire and Police and see if anything changes because it WON’T! (Except public safety will become a thing of the past and increase in crime will become a nightmare!)

      I’ll give you a perfect example John. If you look at the recent well-publicized Redevelopment Agency meeting, you will see for yourself just how ridiculous they are. We have a buyer for two City properties willing to pay 20 million dollars for a property worth much more. We had several Council Members wanting to postpone the vote for another week to scapegoat and torture staff into answering questions they’ve had MONTHS to ask. Now, in this economy that is just plain suicide. The property is worth 7 million more than they are selling it for and they’re lucky to get 20 million. If they got their way in delaying the vote another week, the value would decrease even more! 

      I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched this happen in the past decade! Delaying votes to help buddies. Our libraries, community centers, and lots of other projects would have been built sooner and for MILLIONS less if they only did their homework and were prepared to go forward. It is really sickening when you think of it.

      I’ve sat in Council meetings for HOURS waiting to speak while these unprepared electeds argue and waste time on issues they should have educated themselves on weeks or months ago. By the time we members of the public get to speak, so much time has been spent on the issue that we TAX PAYERS get cut to ONE minute! 

      So what is the answer? Be very careful whom you vote for because re-electing these folks is bad for the economy and our City and State!

      • Kathleen, the public supports, and respects our public employees including Fire and Police.  It is the Union leaders, and their infiltration of City politics that we are growing to despise.  The playbook is a simple formula; first payoff local politicians through campaign contributions and negotiate multi-year contracts with guaranteed raises and benefits that are UNHEARD of in private industry.  Second, if the Mayor or a City Council member dares to try to correct this, they deploy their media team to blow smoke at the numbers and attack the messenger.

        We can all agree that government spending needs a thorough review across the board and cuts made.  The Unions were given a choice to voluntarily agree to cuts in pay and benefits.  They decided they would rather see their own Union members – our Public Safety employees- layed off than give even an inch to their hard fought benefits and retirement packages. 

        Now you, and the Unions accurately point out that the public safety has been compromised.  I agree.  However, as the the way I see it, this is no less than legalized extortion where the Union leaders and their payed lobbyists and negotiators are forcing the public “either continue paying up or receive less services and less safety”. 

        With the unemployment rate we have in this state, I will guarantee you that there are thousands of qualified candidates who would be thrilled at the chance at a career with our Police or Fire for at 30% or even 50% of the current compensation – and cut the crap about diminished quality as the training and certifications do not have to change.

        I believe the public, taxpayers and voters will support Chuck Reed and any others advocating fiscal responsibility.  When it comes time to vote, I will be looking for those candidates supported by the Unions and will be sure NOT to vote for those candidates.