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Lee Duboc: Time for action at the ballot box

Original post made by Messenger, another community, on Feb 22, 2009

Former Menlo Park councilwoman Lee Duboc sent the email below to her email group on Feb. 22.

Fellow Residents,

In private sector America, the economy is tumbling, but in public-sector America things just get better and better.

"The common presumption is that public servants forgo high wages in exchange for safe jobs and benefits. The reality is they get all three. State and local government workers get paid an average of $25.30 an hour, which is 33% higher than the private sector's $19, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Throw in pensions and other benefits and the gap widens to 42%." Web Link

Witness Menlo Park. We have just given a raise to 8 police sergeants that will cost taxpayers a total of $1 million in 2 years, and last month we increased benefits for rank and file employees by 35%. And other cities in the county will adjust upward to compete with us.

We hear the argument that there is nothing we alone can do to stem the upward spiral of employee costs. Wrong. Once Menlo Park does something, other cities will follow suit. We can be a model.

However "doing something" will not be easy.

In our area, the Unions are hugely powerful and neither elected officials nor staff-- who are interested in politics or advancement, respectively--want to antagonize them. There is only one way to unwind the upward spiral in Menlo Park. Taxpayers must pass a local ballot initiative, as has been done in San Diego and Orange County. This "movement" is moving northward since Pacific Grove recently passed an advisory measure in hopes of getting its local electeds to stop the madness

To prime the pump, I will list 3 ballot initiative ideas that have been suggested to me:

1. Increase the retirement age for new Menlo Park employees from 55 to 60 or 65. (Other cities in San Mateo County have introduced 2-tier systems.)

2. Contract out services traditionally performed by City employees if doing so is determined to be more economical and efficient while maintaining the quality of services and protecting the public interest. (That was passed in San Diego)

3. Require voter approval before the City Council and staff are allowed to increase spending on aggregate employee salaries and benefits. (In other words, any individual increases must be offset by reductions in staff or other employee cost-saving measures.)

Let me know which, if any, of these ideas you think has merit and what other ideas you have. (Email menlofuture@gmail.com)

Thanks, Lee Duboc

Past emails are available at Web Link

Comments (64)

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Posted by observer
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 23, 2009 at 8:15 am

Let me suggest Lee that you personally lead the charge to get Tim Sheeper to re-negotiate the lease of the City's 8 million dollar pool, which you Winkler and Jellins signed on a no-bid basis and which should have resulted in at least $250,000 per year in revenue to the City.

You were booted out of office which is where you should stay. On fiscal matters you have shown yourself to have no credibility.


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Posted by Now THAT'S a good idea!
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 23, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Good one, Observer - I second your motion!


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Posted by Dead Wrong
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Feb 23, 2009 at 3:49 pm

"Observer" and "Now That's a good idea!" have no clue what they are talking about, and again post no real data, and in fact present the wrong data. "no-bid basis" actually means that the council at that time tried, and no one else stepped forward, that is public record. I'm not sure where the $250K came from, sounds like some figment of "Observer's elementary math education. No such figure exists, it's fake, and no one knows what it could have been if anyone else had stepped forward. Leave Sheeper and the pool alone, it's the one great thing about Menlo Park. It's much better than the abandon car dealerships, abandon theater, 30% pay hikes for the police, remaining status quo to underwrite the children center, being over $3M in the red, and the list goes on, and on, and on, and on. The way you two have made Lee to be this awful person is a joke. She is a fantastic "community organizer" that sees problems, and suggests solutions. She's also very bright, very articulate and a great person overall. Please go way you two, please!


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Posted by last laugh
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 23, 2009 at 6:29 pm

The car dealerships were abandoned during the time Lee was on the council, and Tim Sheeper was quoted as offering to pay rent. "No one stepped forward" because the operation was never put out to bid. Handing over the pool to Sheeper was a spur-of-the-moment decision that unsurprisingly upset many residents of Menlo Park.

I do agree that it's appropriate to use "Lee" and "joke" in the same sentence.


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Posted by Now THAT'S a good idea!
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 23, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Last Laugh:
"Handing over the pool to Sheeper was a spur-of-the-moment decision"

Yes, it was done at the last minute, but it was hardly "spur-of-the-moment" - that was a cool, calculated move by the "Terrible Three" to get the pool privitized.

And, yes, money was definitely left-on-the-table in the deal - but at least the guy who benefited is generally acknowledeged as a "good guy" who likely hates how the whole deal went down back then and recognizes he was just a pawn in their game.

And as for Lee, I'd called her a "community rabble-rouser" instead. Someone needs to remind her that her last-place finish in the last election means MP voters want her to sit down and shut up, thank you!



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Posted by Last Laugh Is Still Wrong
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 24, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Hey Geniuses "Last Laugh" and "Now That's A Good Idea", how 'bout you letting all of us know "who" would be a great public pool manager? We'll give you a week or so, to come up with some good possibilities. The two of you are so great at spinning the success the pool has been to this community, now it's YOUR turn to provide some alternative ideas. Lee Duboc came in last because the unions, that lost the pool, wouldn't have had it any other way. Too bad they lost the big prize, THE POOL! That is one thing that Lee can be very, very proud of, and just one of her successes!


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Posted by last laugh
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 24, 2009 at 7:04 pm

The warped analysis of the pool "savings" reminds me of the joke about Sam, who saves $50 every day. How does he do it? There's a sign on the subway that says "$50 fine for spitting" and Sam doesn't spit!

There are many reasons Lee and Mickie came in last. The pool was just one of them. The city staff's report on local pools showed that almost all were making a profit or at least breaking even. No reason Menlo Park couldn't do the same. Too, the pool was under construction for years. It was very convenient for Lee and Mickie to suddenly realize, at the last minute, that Menlo Park couldn't afford to operate its new pool and to find an operator who would take it off their hands. The whole affair stunk of backroom dealing, the kind that was rampant during that council's term. The residents couldn't put up with it any more, and they cast their votes for other candidates.

Two of the candidates who were not supported by the union also got more votes than Lee and Mickie did; so much for the "evil union" theory!


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Posted by "Last Laugh Loser"
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 24, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Keep on trying "Last Laugh" it's not working. The pool is the BEST run, city owned, property. Period. Thank you LEE DUBOC and MICKIE WINKLER. Thank YOU "Last Laugh" for continually perpetuating a negative environment in this city! I really enjoy your creative ideas, your forward thinking and active volunteerism. NOT.


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Posted by Give Me A HUGE Break
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 24, 2009 at 10:42 pm

The point's never been about how the pool is run (and face facts, a monkey could make $$$ running it given how nice and multi-purpose a facility it is - all thanks to taxpayer funding, mind you).

The point is about the no-bid awarding of the contract that ends up short-changing taxpayers - and who forced that no-bid to happen? Why, DUBOC and WINKLER, along with their loyal sidekick Mr. Jellins! Don't you think that might just have had a tiny bit to do with them both getting CRUSHED in their re-election bid, losing to two virtual unknowns?


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Posted by sorry Lee
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 25, 2009 at 6:16 pm

Lee, you make some good points. Now tell me why YOU didn't act that way when you were in office and had the chance with a 3-vote bloc all the way? How about getting up and doing something rather than harping on those who were elected to replace you? I am quite sure there are more productive ways than to issue venom.
I was one who watched the pool decision closely. Although I do agree that the pool is run very well, there was not a public bidding process and the city left money on the table. If you really think there was a public bidding process, please point to the public RFP that was issued. There wasn't one, was there?


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Posted by Huge Dorks
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Feb 25, 2009 at 11:07 pm

"no bid awarding" - outright lie, and you know it, plus you were one of the ones that tried to stop it from day one, and offered NOTHING, other than trying to keep the unions in.
"...doing something rather than harping on those.....than to issue venom." - perhaps Lee is doing something slightly better than you, and your idiotic blog notes, you do NOTHING for this town, but take up blog space.
Nice Job "Huge Dorks", thanks for your creative suggestions and solutions!


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Posted by People with at least half a brain
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 26, 2009 at 8:28 am

Thanks for your thoughtful and informative comments, Huge Dorks.
We will take them under due consideration.


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Posted by last laugh
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 26, 2009 at 9:36 am

Just when I was thinking that Lee & co had a lock on the Menlo Park brain trust!


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:25 am

I rarely agree with Lee on any of her "expert advice"...but I do think she deserves a bit more respect than she is getting. She has put in years of volunteer time and is doing what she thinks is the right thing to do.

I disagree strongly with her style more than anything. It seems counterproductive and often petty, and the info in those letters can get lost because of that alone.


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Posted by disgusted
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 26, 2009 at 10:59 am

The appropriately named "Huge Dorks" writes: "no bid awarding" - outright lie, and you know it, plus you were one of the ones that tried to stop it from day one, and offered NOTHING, other than trying to keep the unions in.

I am so tired of posters like Huge Dorks spouting utter nonsense and falsehoods. Look at the record HD -- there was NO BIDDING PROCESS. Here's a link that states some basic facts:

Web Link

Tim Sheeper approached the council Jan. 31. Four weeks later, the contract was ready for its inevitable approval by the Nickie Mickie & Lee Gang. Yet, you claim the "no-bid awarding" of the contract statement is an "outright lie." You should be ashamed of yourself for your dishonesty and/or recklessness in spouting off in ignorance.

And I'm also sick to death of the union-bashing that inevitably gets dumped on any thread mentioning city employees. This is the tactic of someone who has nothing honest or rational to offer.


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Posted by JJWillows
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 26, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Lee Duboc is right on, the public unions are out of control. They are extortionists wielding their cash to oust whoever opposes them. I would do anything I could to oppose any public union as they disgust me. They suck the cash out of all budgets. I have a friend who works for EMS in SF and the Fire/Police unions take the majority of the funds. I just hope there is something we can do to undermine the explosive growth of protectionist unions or this state is doomed.


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Posted by Leave Lee Alone
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Feb 26, 2009 at 12:57 pm

I agree with JJ Willows, and most certainly do not agree with several of the posts above JJ. Lee seems to be bringing all of us very good information, that is public, but has not been posted correctly or given any exposure. It is wrong, very, very wrong, for us to rubber stamp anything that our taxes are paying for, that make no sense. The recent pay increases, the unreal benefit opportunites that city employees receive, are so far out there, that I am literally falling on the floor. And, for the life of me, I don't know why more people like Lee are not speaking out??? City employee's benefits are not being cut, their pension is paid for, they are feeling no pain during this economic turmoil, and with OUR tax dollars I don't know who some of the people on this blog are protecting?? All of this information Lee gives us is Math 101, and it's posted in other areas, it's not like she is making any of this up! I heard there was a "town meeting" yesterday, that was well attended, that spoke about these issues. It sounds like something is going to happen with this active crew!
On a side note, No Dorks is pretty funny. I guess we need a little of that these days!


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Posted by NIcolai
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 26, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Lee is looking out for the Menlo Park taxpayer. I appreciate her work.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Feb 26, 2009 at 1:59 pm

I obviously disagree with the assertion that union and employee costs get solved locally. I also disagree with city wide emails claiming more than $1M in deficits more than the city actually reported. I also disagree that Lee is "serving taxpayers", Lee is serving you, her rabid supporters. She is not serving me or the majority of this city who voted her down.

She is trying to lead a revolt, desperately clinging for a reason to be relevant. But she is serving some people, you for example. And she still deserves to be respected.

I just happen to think she is approaching this all wrong.


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Feb 26, 2009 at 3:12 pm

First, "props" to Truth for your classy comments about respecting others with noble intentions regardless of whether or not you agree. Second, I don't know if Ms Duboc reads these blogs or not, but if she does, I do hope you find out who "messenger" aka "mole" is on your email list. Third, if you (Lee) do read this blog, then I do have some feedback for you on the three initiatives you asked about--I know you didn't ask me, but, what the heck, I'll share my opinion anyway.

1. Increase retirement age--makes some sense, but might be difficult
to implement for a myriad of legal reasons. We need actionable
solutions not wishful thinking.
2. Outsource city services - Also makes sense, and is quite doable
IF you have the resolve, and commitment to service levels from
the public-metrics. Private enterprise will deliver A for $X,
not A+n for $X, so public expectations need to be calibrated to
the contracted level of effort/scope of work.
3. Voter approval of salary increases - Not practical. That is why its
important to elect people to council who share your values and
who you can trust on this important issue.


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Posted by English Teacher
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 26, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Frankly, I don't think that it is Lee herself who authors these emails. It indicates an understanding that was lacking when she was speaking from the dais.

Anyway, she voted to refinance menlo park bonds from fixed rate to variable rate derivatives which are creating an economic problem for the city.



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Posted by last laugh
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Feb 26, 2009 at 8:07 pm

My money's on Mickie as the author of those emails. Lee's not an idiot but she's not that smart.

It's real easy to criticize the leaders of the city from afar. It's much harder to effect change when you yourself are in the hot seat. Lee should know that, shouldn't she? She had four unfettered years to move our city ahead, and she and her cronies just couldn't seem to make progress -- and those were healthier economic times.

I expect that Lee is considering a run for council next year. I hope that she follows Steve Schmidt's lead, realizes how little support she has, and doesn't embarrass herself (again) in front of the entire community.


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Posted by Lots of Laughs
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 27, 2009 at 7:22 am

Last Laugh:
"I expect that Lee is considering a run for council next year. I hope that she follows Steve Schmidt's lead, realizes how little support she has, and doesn't embarrass herself (again) in front of the entire community."

She doesn't remind me of the the type of person who realizes that people are laughing at her, not with her, so, yea, she'll probably run again.


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Posted by Mike Roetch
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 27, 2009 at 3:44 pm

I'm thinking of creating a separate thread, to be entitled "Union-bashing" and another one entitled "How Menlo Park did or didn't get screwed on the pool deal."

That way, comments on every other thread could actually stick to the topic at hand, and there would be a safe haven for the die-hards with the incessant comments on evil unions and Tim Sheeper's sweatheart deal.


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Posted by Beatrice
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 27, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Mike, in an ideal world, your very reasonable solution would work, and would lessen the frustration of those of us who want to have rational, focused discussions. But in the free-for-all world of online forums? Abandon all hope...


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Posted by Sac Bee
a resident of another community
on Feb 28, 2009 at 9:30 am

The Current Council's Neo-socialism platform is dawing down our reserves in an alarming rate. If this continues unabated we will have no reserves in 10 years. Please read the following Sacramento Bee Editorial

Editorial: City unions must recognize reality
ShareThisPublished: Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 14A
Hello! Sacramento city unions – is anybody listening?

The city's revenues are plummeting. Hundreds of jobs are on the line. Given the magnitude of the economic crisis the nation and our city face, some layoffs are inevitable. Still, city budget officials say the numbers of workers who will have to lose their jobs to bridge a $50 million budget gap can be reduced if union leaders agree to give up previously approved pay raises and step increases.

So look at your co-worker in the next cubicle, the one whose wife just had a baby. If you're a cop, consider the rookie officer you may have helped train, the kid who's working the swing shift. If you're a firefighter, consider the recently hired guy or gal who pulled the hose with you at a grass fire last summer. It's their jobs on the line.

The only way jobs can be saved in the police and fire departments is if everyone, including senior officers and firefighters, agrees to give up pay raises and step increases.

In other city departments, workers are being asked to sacrifice even more. Under the plan outlined by city officials, non-safety workers would give up pay raises and take a furlough day on top of that.

The salary freeze, along with furloughs for non-safety personnel, would cut the city's projected $50 million budget deficit for the next fiscal year by $24 million.

Among city unions so far, only the Sacramento Police Officers Association has shown a willingness to do what Sacramento City Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy has repeatedly asked all unions to do – "step up" to help the city's budget crisis. While police union leaders have not agreed to a salary freeze, they held what they described as productive talks with the city that ended Friday and will resume next week.

"We're very committed to working on behalf of our membership to avoid layoffs and any adverse conditions for our folks," said police union president Brent Meyer.

Without the salary freeze, city budget officials have proposed laying off 67 police officers, a contingency that Meyer told The Bee would be "devastating to the city, devastating to the Police Department and devastating to the citizens who rely upon us to provide a level of service."

In stark, disappointing contrast to the police, other city unions remain stubbornly resistant to any talk of concessions. Stationary Engineers Local 39, the union that represents the largest number of city employees, and the firefighters union have not considered reopening negotiations on contracts set to expire next year. Before asking people to give up raises or laying them off, said Chris Harvey, the spokesman for the city's fire union, "the city should stop spending on stupid things."

He has a point. The city's recent proposal to invest in three new downtown entertainment venues at the same time it struggles to keep police patrols on the streets should raise questions. So should the city's failure to get a timely reappraisal of the downtown train depot.

That said, the size of Sacramento's current budget gap and the continuing drop in revenues are going to require city employees to make sacrifices, not just to help the city but to save their own jobs and those of co-workers. It's time their unions recognized that reality.


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Posted by Donna
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 28, 2009 at 10:31 am

I'm a supporter of unions, always have been. But union leaders who are so entrenched in their thinking that they insist public employees should be immune to the pain caused by this economic collapsen -- pain that the vast majority of taxpayers are feeling -- will be unions' executioners.

I wish the Menlo council had had the wisdom and unfettered vision to have realized what Sacramento council members have obviously figured out. And I hope the union leaders in Sacramento show some good will and common sense and return to the negotiations table.

Unions are coming under intense fire these days, and if they dig in their heels now, they will only hurt their own cause and further erode the public's support. I hope local union leaders are thinking creatively about how to work with cities and public agencies so we can all try to keep the life raft afloat with the minimum of suffering.


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Posted by Lee Duboc
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Feb 28, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Hi, this really is me, Lee.

To answer one of my non-fans: I DO write my emails, no one else. And, I pay for the endeavor as well.

Hope this helps. And, if you are on my menlofuture email list and write to me, I always will reply.

Lee


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Posted by Ralph Kramden
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Feb 28, 2009 at 9:41 pm

Lee, You're the greatest.
Fondly Ralph


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Posted by sorry lee
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 1, 2009 at 9:29 am

One thing I don't understand is why Lee and others think that support of a public bidding process means that the supporter of such always favors unions. In the case of the pool, there was no public RFP so how does anyone know that there were not other potential bidders? At a minimum, the city's pencil would have been sharper with some alternatives to point out the incredible deal given away to the one (yes, very competent) bidder.

I happen to agree that pay and benefits have gotten out of line with private industry and with the market. One thing our city really needs is a tough negotiator. City staff, including the city's attorney, have proven they do not do a good job at this. I believe it's because they don't do it often enough to be good at it. Others are.
It's high time Menlo Park and other cities band together to resist the never-ending leap-frog contracts that mostly just increase the money that goes out. The time has come to resist.


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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Mar 1, 2009 at 2:48 pm

I agree, sorry. The obsession with union bashing puzzles me. I have lived in MP for a while, and I don't know anyone who belongs to a union other than public school teachers. I would not call this city a hotbed of union supporters!

Most residents want good value: the best services for the least amount of money. You can't unilaterally say "unions do that best" or "non-unions are always better" -- you have to ask for bids from all vendors and then compare. When there's no competition -- or ineffective negotiation -- money gets left on the table. That's just basic capitalist economics.

Count me among the many people who don't like Lee and don't particularly like unions. And Lee, fess up, you get a lot of help with those newsletters. It doesn't count as "writing" if you just retype the material that Mickie and Sue give you.


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 1, 2009 at 5:59 pm

"Sorry Lee" does not have his facts straight. Before the pool operation issue came up Lee Duboc had already demonstrated that she was acting in the best interests of the City when she became the swing vote to vote against the a 50-meter pool. Nicholas Jellins and Chuck Kinney were for it and Mickie Winkler and Paul Collacchi were against it. The extra construction costs plus the higher recurring costs caused Lee to vote against the 50-meter pool. For this fiscally prudent decision she was excoriated by many of her close friends who were members of Menlo Masters, a group run by Tim Sheeper.

When the operations contract for the now rebuilt Burgess Pool complex came up the City had no experienced personnel to operate the pool since they had either voluntarily left the City's employ or were laid off during the pool's 2-year reconstruction. Also, with the city facing projected budget deficits, the $500,000 per year recurring cost of the pool's operation and programs was something that over 70% of the city's residents who responded to the scientific poll, that was part of the "Your City/Your Decision" process, were willing to forego.

The City Council was actually discussing the possibility of NOT opening the new pool complex. Tim Sheeper, who was no friend of Lee's, approached the City Council (during a public meeting) to see if they would be interested in having him operate the pool. His fees would come from the pools' users and the City would have no financial exposure. Mr. Sheeper offered to cover ALL maintenance costs as well.

So, instead of operating the pool at a $500,000 loss, the city would have a well-run, fully operational aquatics program at ZERO cost to the City. The City Council instructed the city staff to run this proposal by the Parks and Recreation Commission, of which Heyward Robinson and Richard Cline were members. The Parks and Recreation Commission performed its due diligence and heard nothing but glowing accolades from people who were previously enrolled in other Tim Sheeper Programs. Then the Parks & Recreation Commission voted unanimously to recommend awarding the pool operation to Tim Sheeper on a four year trial basis.

Meanwhile the city staff attempted to find other pool operators to express interest in operating the pool. None came forward. That is why no RFP was issued. It is common practice in the Federal Government if there are no other interested qualified parties to have a directed procurement(For example, when the Hubble Space Telescope was built NASA directed Lockheed Martin to procure the lens blanks from Schott in Germany. No RFP was issued for that subcontract).

Also the pool only had a 1-year warranty. Any defects discovered outside the one year were not remediable. The City would have to absorb the cost of curing the defects discovered outside the 1-year warranty period. It was important to get this operation underway since there were no qualified city staff to operate the pool. The city was very fortunate to have Mr. Sheeper offer his services at this most urgent time.

Anyone who questions the quality of service at Burgess Pool only need to ask any of the swimmers. You will be hard pressed to find anyone, other than an SEIU member, who will say the pool was better operated by the City than by Tim Sheeper.

In 2011 the pool will come up for a renewal contract. If there are other interested bidders an RFP should be issued. One Section M Evaluation Criteria for Federal Procurements is Past Performance. Since Tim Sheeper's past performance has been a solid "Blue" other competitors would be at a disadvantage. When an incumbent has outstanding past performance the USG will often retain the incumbent even when other companies underbid him because Past Performance plays such an important role in the proposal evaluation process.


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Posted by Excellent Hank Lawrence!
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 2, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Kudos to Hank Lawrence who wrote a very factual, correct, truthful response against the garbage that has been bantered about in the community for the past 2 years, regarding the pool. Any other postings that refute Hank's information above should be represented by facts, not fiction, heresay or hateful comments about Lee, or the process in which the pool decisions were made.
Thank you Hank, you are a breath of fresh air in this community!


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Posted by fresh air fiend
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 2, 2009 at 4:54 pm

Thank you, Hank, for a superlative piece of obfuscation.

Fact: other municipalities break even with their aquatics operations; some run a profit. The council should have been aware of this.

Fact: the $500,000 operating loss figure was pulled out of the air. It is totally out of scale with the costs incurred by other cities.

Fact: Sheeper had offered to pay rent, and in fact was paying rent to the facility that he had been using.

Fact: the transfer of the pool to Sheeper occurred very quickly without much opportunity for public input.

You gotta love sentences like this: "If there are other interested bidders an RFP should be issued." Ummm, how do you know if there are other interested bidders if you don't issue an RFP!?!

By the way, it may be fun to rewrite history, but in reality, Lee did whatever Nicholas and Mickie told her to do. We were there. We remember.


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Posted by sorry Hank
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 2, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Hank almost got the history right about the pool but he is flat out wrong about the pool contract costs Menlo Park nothing. The residents are paying for the brand new pool facility for which Sheeper pays nothing. Several independent sources have confirmed that he was willing to do so. As mentioned previously, the pool IS run very well. That is not the issue. The issue is whether the city got the best deal it could and it did not by not charging any rent for a brand new facility. That is virtually unheard of in other sectors.
In fact, the city hasn't even enforced the contract well because the rates charged have been higher than other cities'. But that's a topic for another day. Why the city just ignores things like that is beyond me.


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 2, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Fresh Air Fiend is not familiar with the proposal process. Before you can issue an RFP you have to prepare a bidder's list. The most common way to prepare the list is to perform a survey of established service providers and inquire as to their general interest. They don't have to be committal, just interested. If no one is interested in being on the bidders list then you don't waste the time and money preparing a formal RFP with Section L (Instructions to the bidders) and Section M (Evaluation Criteria).

If you don't issue an RFP due to lack of bidders' interest you have three options. These are: 1) Perform the work in-house if you have qualified people who can perform at a reasonable cost, 2) Do a sole source procurement with the only competent interested outside party who can deliver quality service at a reasonable cost, or 3) cancel the work. Our council wisely chose Tim Sheeper.

Sorry Hank does not have his facts right either. The City owns the pool. Tim Sheeper did not get title to the pool. Menlo Park has done what the Federal Government has done for ages and that is establishing a GOCO (Government owned/contractor operated). GOCOs DON'T CHARGE RENT! DO YOU UNDERSTAND! Every GOCO that has ever existed pays the contractor to operate the facility. The City Council worked out a very clever arrangement where it did not guaranty Mr. Sheeper a dime. Mr. Sheeper had to put together a reasonable fee schedule and provide excellent service to receive his earnings. A fee schedule only works if he provides value for the money, which Mr. Sheeper obviously did.

You get what you pay for. Does Mr. Sheeper charge more? Perhaps. But people wouldn't pay his rates if they weren't getting value. This is called the free market system. Something that leftists are unfamiliar with. And as for other cities making money off their aquatics program. I would like to know who they are. Because if they are making money they are charging more than Tim Sheeper for a lower quality service. Because it is virtually unheard of having a Govenrment run service being more cost effective than a privately run one. History bears this out!

What you have here are some very sore losers who are upset that the SEIU was denied the opportunity to do empire building. The City Council placed the interests of the residents first and for that they are being excoriated by irrational leftists who are bristling at Mr. Sheeper's success. They need to get a grip on reality. [Portion removed]


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Posted by a taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 2, 2009 at 10:10 pm


We should try to keep the this on topic. As much as a few people cannot seem to let the pool controversy rest, it is tiny issue compared to the twenty eight million dollar plus annual city budget.

I think former council member Duboc is correct that the city staff seems intent on protecting their pay no matter what. I suppose I would do the same in their place. Duboc's e-mails have sensitized me to the problem and it has become a big issue all over the state. At the last council meeting, the budget presented by staff proposed eliminating several sidewalk projects, including the much needed and long awaited Santa Cruz sidewalk. Missing from the budget was ANY proposal by staff to reduce their cost. I would expect that since staff has come to expect increases in compensation and benefits that exceed inflation, yet the economy will crimp tax revenue for a number of years, employee pay will consume the remaining portion of the city's budget. It's about 25-30 percent today. That would leave nothing for street paving, libraries, parks.


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Posted by another taxpayer
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 2, 2009 at 11:57 pm


There was a story in the "Daily Post" that there were 69 employees that work for Menlo Park who make more than $100,000 per year. The city has about (i think) 250 employees. that's more than 1 in 4
making that much money. Does anyone know exactly how many employees and how big is the total pay package to all the employees?


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Posted by Squeezed and scared
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 9:08 am

Another taxpayer, when you say 69 employees make more than $100,000, does that include benefits? Even if it doesn't the figure seems high for a city this size. Maybe the city should do what Obama did -- freeze the salaries of anyone making $100K or more. But I'm afraid even that won't be enough.

Does anyone know when the contract for represented employees expires?


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 4, 2009 at 10:19 am

In 2006 the SEIU invited all the candidates running for City Council to participate in inteviews at a scheduled time in the building where the Budget Advisory Committee met. I showed up at the meeting and was barred entry by the SEIU. Heyward Robinson, Richard Cline and Vince Bressler went into the meeting. Days after the meeting the SEIU endorsed all 3 candidates. It is apparent that Heyward Robinson and Richard Cline entered, with great gusto, into a Faustian pact with the SEIU. They have given tthe SEIU everyhting it wants without even the appearance of a spirited negotiation. Their acts have been shameful. They have placed the interest of the SEIU of above those to the residents. They have violated their fiduciary responsibility to everyone who lives or owns a business in Menlo Park.

Hank


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Posted by Squeezed and scared
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 10:32 am

Yes, yes, Hank. We've heard you -- over and over and over and... zzzzzzzzzzz. Is there another song you can sing just to give us a break? And can we stick with the original topic of this thread and try to find solutions rather than behave like attack dogs?

Meanwhile, Does anyone know when the current contract with city employees expires? If it's anytime soon, now's the time to keep the pressure on the council so that we're not obliged to pay even higher salaries for the following two or three years.


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Posted by its not about the unions
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 4, 2009 at 10:43 am

Ummm, Lee interviewed with the unions too when she was running for council in 2002 and also received union donations that she apparently kept. And Vincent Bressler was not endorsed by the SEIU. So get over your union hysteria, Hank.


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Posted by Enough With The Garbage
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 11:25 am

There's way too much blame being placed on individuals that are from the past, and contracts that were written in the past on this blog. Bottomline: We are stuck with some of these pensions, there is nothing we can do, AND it's going to come close to bankrupting this town, and potentially the state. What we CAN do is to lobby, organize and get some exposure going to try to change what could potentially happen during the next union negotiation. Why don't we try to get a 2-tiered system passed whereby the next generation of city employees do NOT have this type of pension? Or, increase the age of retirement? These are not "far out there" ideas, they make common sense. I think this is what we, our city, should focus on.


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Posted by It is about the Unions!
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 4, 2009 at 11:28 am

Hank is right! Hank never said that the SEIU endorsed Mr. Bressler. And as far as Lee is concerned yes she did accept Union money in the first election. The Unions' mistake was in thinking it had bought Lee. Later they realized that Lee was placing the residents interests above the Unions'. So they declared all out war on Lee. They wanted a quid pro quo. That is tantamount to a bribe. Lee doesn't accept bribes.

Unfortunately the same can not be said of other City Council members who gladly take the Union contributions and deliver big time to the Unions at the residents' expense. We need a ballot initiative to keep the employee costs from spiraling out of control and we need council members who actually act in the best interests of the resdients. As it exists today we have 4 council members, who for all practical purposes, are Union representatives.


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Posted by MaryBeth
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on Mar 4, 2009 at 12:04 pm

The deal with the pool was not financially in the city's interest; coddling the unions financially is not in the city's interest; and does anyone know who ghostwrites Lee's emails? Diana Diamond of the Daily Post?


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Mar 4, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Hmmmm, do you folks really think those serving on Council are as corrupt as the accusations in these post would indicate? If so, then MP is like Chicago in the 30s-40s. I think not, but if there is proof of some of these charges, call the State Attorney General's office. The charges being put forth are not petty crimes. Otherwise, stick to just disagreeing with positions and foster a healthy debate.


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Posted by concerned resident
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Mar 4, 2009 at 2:10 pm

There seems to be a lot of commetns about the Burgess Pool inthis post, when the original topic was about better overall cost management. The suggetions that Ms. Duboc writes make a lot of sense to me - particularly the one requiring the retirement age to be increased from 55 to 65. I am in my 55th year, and it amazes me that you can retire from ANYWHERE nowadays and get full retirement benefits at age 55. I have worked in Silicon Valley in the private sector for 27 years, and there is no pension for me at 55 - nor at 65.

I also believe that raising any salaries 35% in these recessionary times is ridiculous, especially when so many others in the private sector are being laid off. The city of Menlo Park needs to reduce expenses across the board and plan for a very rough few years ahead. Anything else would be fiscal irresponsibility.


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Posted by Al Capone
a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Mar 4, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Menlo Park is not like Chicago in the thirties and forties. Back then Chicago politicians believed in the free market system to the extend it looked the other way on criminal free enterprise. The Menlo Park City Council wants Menlo Park to be a Nanny State with a Union plutocracy. The current council admires European neo-socialsim and uses that as its paradigm for governance.


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Posted by Masters Swimmer
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 4, 2009 at 5:31 pm

Hank Laurence, the concerned resident and It's about the Unions are right - the SEIU contracts (not the teachers)can not be sustained and are denying us services and improvements.

A final clarification on the pool operation. Tim Sheeper coaches about 400 masters swimmers and triathletes. Most of us have followed Tim from venue to venue. Four venues, fifteen years in my case. This is how he manages to pay for the cost to heat and maintain the pool which costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. There are no other masters teams in the area and therefore there are no other bidders to operate the pool. Anyone claiming there are is probably more of a union sympathizer than a swimmer.


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Posted by Excellent Master Swimmer!
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 4, 2009 at 5:36 pm

I swam in "the bubble" for the first time at Burgess this morning. What a great experience! I heard that Tim was the one that invested the cash to make this right, and endured the crazy permit process from the city. It felt like Nirvana in that bubble! Thank you Tim Sheeper!!!


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Posted by Gayle Storm
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2009 at 8:03 am

In Monday's Merc/News there was a great article in the local section titled:

"Even if it's cold, you can hit the pool" subtitle: It's Warm Under Burgess Poll's Dome in Menlo Park.

This article points out that Sheeper spent $60,000 on the "dome" that opened in Jan. after a 30-month process that involved extensive permitting and scrutiny from city planners, the fire marshal and San Mateo County health inspectors.

I encourage you all to read this article. And, ask yourselves, if the city had been operating this Pool, would it have done this? They would sooner erect a life size bronze statue of Rush Limbaugh in front of the City Council Chambers.

And, I think it would be nice if people would begin to put some pressure on the present council to begin to speak up about Tim Sheeper and what a great asset he is to the city. [Portion removed]


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Posted by no to sweetheart deals
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 5, 2009 at 8:19 am

I have no doubt that the master swimmers adore Sheeper. Our allegedly public pool is operated on their behalf. When we members of the hoi polloi take our kids to the pool, we are shunted into a small corner. Once a kid is too old for the wading pool, Burgess is not fun at all.

In Los Altos, the master swim group paid for the pool, not the taxpayers. For that, they were given the right to operate the pool. However, the city retains control over the hours of operation and the prices, so that regular swimmers who don't belong to the master club can also fully enjoy the pool. Menlo Park chose not to follow that model.

I am not a union member or a master swimmer, but I would be happy to take the pool off the city's hands and run it. No rent, no facility costs, what a deal! Even a dog paddling fool could make a profit.


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Posted by Ken Kesey
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Weekend Acres
on Mar 5, 2009 at 12:04 pm

"Sweatheart Deals" should submit an unsolicited proposal to the City. I can't wait to see what "Sweeatheart Deals" Past Performance section looks like. The SSEB and the SSA would probably die laughing.

Perhaps "Sweetheart deals could bid on a Kool-Aid stand to be operated during city council meetings.


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Posted by Amazing!
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 5, 2009 at 12:34 pm

Can't people look at the pool, for the pool's sake, and see a well managed, clean, well run facility, that is an asset to our community?! Sorry "sweetheart deals" you are way out of line. For a city with 30K residents there HAS to be a schedule for kid swim, or laps or whatever. Tim does a great job with the scheduling, and is more than willing to make changes, if that's what the majority of folks want. This issue is so ridiculous, I think more of the negative posters on this blog are people that would find something wrong with ANYTHING at the pool, it just doesn't matter. If you negative posters want to complain about something there's a list an arm long, and a 10' pool deep of issues with our city, many of them MUCH more expensive and worthy of discussion!


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Posted by Gayle Storm
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Mar 5, 2009 at 2:20 pm

I already purchased the rights to the Kool Aid Stand outside Council chambers when it is in session.


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Posted by Gee, Thanks Lee - NOT!
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 5, 2009 at 2:28 pm

To all you who say, let's move on when it comes to the pool, I say just one minute there. From a post on this forum back in 2006:

"The granting to Tim Sheeper the complete control of the taxpayer funded Burgess pool smells of the worst case of political payback in Menlo Park history. Here is an almost 7 million dollar facility being given away to a private organization for a rental rate of $0 (zero dollars) per year for the next five years."

Now here's my point: Take that $7 million figure and assume a standard 20 year facility lifespan. Forgetting all about interest charges and what not, giving it to someone rent free (and it matters not one bit WHO that someone is) is costing the city $350,000 per year ($7 million divided by 20 years) or roughly $20,000 per month.

THAT'S what a private entity would be charging (at a bare break-even minimum) an operator to run it, but instead, the city (or, more accurately, Lee and her cronies) GAVE it to this fellow.

Given that kind of HUMONGEOUS break, $60,000 spent on a dome (which effectively let's him run certainly programs year-round instead of just for the summer - cha-ching!) is mere "chump change" - with the real chumps in this whole thing being us taxpayers.


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 5, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Gee Thanks Lee Not! must have had a double shot of the High Priestess' Kool Aid. Now listen Gee. This is simple [portion removed]:
1. The City owns the pool.
2. The City pays Tim Sheeper to operate the pool because he can provide better quality service than the SEIU for a lower cost.
3. The City is happy because is saves money.
4. The people who use the pool are happy because they get better service.
5. The SEIU is unhappy because it can not empire build at the residents expense.
6. The socialists are unhappy because they believe that Government should take over private industry even when it has been proven that privately operated enterprises provide better service at lower costs.

Now was that hard?


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Posted by Case Closed!
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Mar 5, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Case Closed! Nice job Hank! Now let's get on with other areas of the town, and the town's business that are of real importance. Long live Tim and the great job he is doing!!


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Posted by label hater
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2009 at 11:04 am

It's time to stop putting labels, such as union-lovers and socialists, on those who try to point out some areas of disagreement. This behavior is not conducive to productive conversations or a sense of community. I am one who thinks we could have gotten a better financial deal on the pool than was struck, but I also think outsourcing was appropriate and that Sheeper is doing a great job. Can't we disagree without being so disagreeable?


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Posted by The Negotiator
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 6, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Negotiation is somewhat easier when there is a large pool of qualified applcants. However when there is only one applicant, the applicant knows that the City is the only competition.

A sole bidder winning a contract is easy when 1) He submits a quality proposal and 2) The council memebers are looking out for the best interests of the residents. But when you have a council that is owned by the SEIU winning a contract is nearly impossible.

The residents of Menlo Park were fortunate that they had a reasonable city council when the issue of the pool operation came before it. Tim Sheeper's offering was substantially better than anything that the city could possibly do and according to the City Staff Tim Sheeper's proposal was saving the city at least $500,000 per year while offering superior service.

The City Council performed superlatively! Nicholas Jellins, Lee Duboc, and Mickie Winkler are to be commended for their assiduous service to the City. Job well done!


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2009 at 1:36 pm

Negotiator:

A. No rent charged for the brand new taxpayer-funded $7Million pool center, though Sheeper was willing to pay rent.

B. Higher fees charged to users than charged in surrounding towns.

C. Fewer hours for public use of pool unless you're a Masters swimmer.

D. Job well done???

F. Your Analytical Thinking Skills Test grade.


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Posted by Negotiator
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Mar 6, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Obtuse Observor

A.The City is saving $500,000/year. Any rent paid by Tim SHeeper would have been a pass through to the swimmers. A is also the grade given to Jellins, Duboc, Winkler, and the Pool Operator Tim Sheeper.

B. Why are the swimmers gladly paying higher fees? Because they are getting superior service. Are there any complaints from the users regarding the fees?

C. There is plenty time for public use.

D. The swimming pool users are the best judge of the Pool and their judgment has been that Tim Sheeper is a resounding success.

E. The tide is turning on Union cronyism. You should wean yourself from the Electric Kool Aid.

F. Is for the grade for Socialism and the Majority 4 on the current City Council.

G. is for Get out of here!

H. is for Hurrah for Jellins, Winkler, Duboc, Sheeper, and the Menlo Masters


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 6, 2009 at 3:20 pm

Let's see: "union cronyism" -- "Electric Kool Aid" -- "Socialism and the Majority 4".

That you, Hank?


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 7, 2009 at 6:08 am

Observer,

Is that you Gail?


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