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Big turnout for meeting on public employee pay

Original post made on Sep 23, 2009

Menlo Park saw a big turnout Tuesday night for a meeting on city employee pay and benefits, but the great majority of the people who showed up were the employees themselves -- not the residents whose agitation encouraged the city to hold the meeting in the first place.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 23, 2009, 11:39 AM

Comments (31)

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 23, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Rojas, who pockets at least a quarter of a million dollars a year in bonuses and salary, is a fine person to ask about sustainability. To skew the direction, he mentions police. I think the spirit of the question was about wasteful positions and inflated salaries like Rojas'. Don't make this about the Police, Rojas.


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Sep 23, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Fire Rojas, and cut the salary of the police and firemen by 50%.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 23, 2009 at 12:29 pm

The Menlo Park City Council would be well advised to consider adopting the same policy as the Fire Distrct:

RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE MENLO PARK FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT ADOPTING A POLICY REGARDING DISTRIBUTION

OF PROPOSED COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENTS




WHEREAS, in accordance with the policy of promoting prompt public access to government records, the California Public Records Act broadly defines public records (Gov. Code Section 6252, subdivision (3)) and the exceptions to disclosing public records under the California Public Records Act are narrow; and



WHEREAS, the Ralph M. Brown Act, Government Code Sections 54950 through 54963, enacted into law in 1953, requires open meetings of local agencies “to curb misuse of the democratic process by secret legislation of public bodies”; and



WHEREAS, the Ralph M. Brown Act “…reflects a legislative determination that ‘public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business,’ and an intent ‘that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly’ (Gov. Code Section 54950); and



WHEREAS, the Ralph M. Brown Act and the California Public Records Act require the District to conduct its business in a transparent manner; and



WHEREAS, the Board, as duly elected representatives of the citizens within the District, in conformance with the Ralph M. Brown Act and the California Public Records Act, is committed to providing the District’s citizens with information considered by the Board in making its decisions; and


WHEREAS, the Board believes due to the importance of proposed collective bargaining agreements with the District employee labor representatives, that these proposed agreements should be made available to the citizens of the District in sufficient time prior to the Board’s adoption of the proposed agreements so as to allow for adequate review and comment by the public prior to final Board action.



NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District does hereby move that any proposed collectively bargained labor agreement between the District and designated District employee representatives shall be made publicly available at least fifteen (15) calendar days before the meeting at which the agreement will be acted on by the Board.




PASSED AND ADOPTED as a resolution of the Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District at the Regular Meeting held on the 16th day of December 2008 by the following vote:



AYES: Spencer, Brown, Ohtaki and Carpenter



NOES: Ianson


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Posted by Jennifer Wilkins
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 23, 2009 at 2:08 pm

I was one of the people who spoke at the meeting, and I was impressed by the thoughtful and respectful tone that people brought to the forum as they expressed their points of view.

Here is the full text of the remarks that I made:
------------------------------------------------------
My name is Jennifer Wilkins and I'm both an employee and a resident of Menlo Park. I've lived here since 1989, and in the early to late-1990's, I served on the library commission. After my terms as commissioner were over, I became a part-time temporary library employee, working on the adult reference desk, for about 8 years. Two years ago I signed on as a salaried employee in the children's department of the library.

First, I think it's very important to recognize the critical role that a knowledgeable and dedicated employee base play in our quality of life. Our community is a safe, clean, and attractive place to live, and it's a gathering place for people to spend time shopping and dining out. It has a rich set of services and institutions and programs. Our high quality work force is a major contributing factor to this excellent quality of life that we enjoy. As an employee, I look around and see a committed, dedicated group of employees who care about this city and who care about doing a good job. As a resident, I see the results.

Second, I'd like to mention that three years ago I voluntarily left a senior management job in the high tech information industry. I did this because I wanted to work in a more service-oriented and community-based environment. I love my job at the library because it allows me to make a meaningful contribution to my community. It gives me the opportunity to interact with children -- and their parents and caregivers and teachers -- in a way that builds and strengthens community. Of course this is immensely satisfying, and I'm committed to my job. But I would like to note, that here in the Bay Area, it's not always easy to make ends meet on a public sector salary. In the private sector, I and my colleagues were earning 1 and ½ times what I see is available in the public sector -- for comparable work, educational background, and experience.

In conclusion, I urge you to send a strong message to the community and to your employees that you value what we bring to our city. I urge you to preserve the excellent service and programming levels that give both residents and employees a strong sense of pride and community.


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Posted by I Agree Jennifer, but....
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 23, 2009 at 4:04 pm

I was at the meeting too Jennifer, and I agree with your opinion of the tone of the meeting. However, I do disagree with your assessment of the private sector. One example: Canine Handler making $151K per year in Menlo Park. That one example sent chills down my spine.
I agree with your assessment of the level of service, and most certainly the quality of employees. They do a great job. Most of the people that are concerned right now don't even care about salaries, such as the one I mention above, it is all about the unsustainable level of post work benefits. One could argue that you may have left the private sector in order to be able to participate in these benefits. In the private sector, when there is a downward trend in revenue, jobs are lost, salaries are cut, benefits are lost, etc. To date NONE of this has occurred at the government level. In fact, I believe Menlo Park would have a tough time releasing any data for city employees that have been terminated because of poor performance. In my company, and in most private sector companies, the "healthy termination percentage" is approximately 20%, in order to keep the company operating with new ideas, better employees etc. I would like to see private sector business acumen placed within our city organization structure. I have no problem with good salaries and decent benefits, but they have to be comparable to the private sector. With tax revenue going down, your revenue is going down, something has to give, please apply those business acumen principles. Thanks.


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Posted by Nickles & Dimes
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Sep 24, 2009 at 11:51 am

The city council had a closed session review of City Manager Rojas Tuesday night. Didn't ask for public comment before hand. His contract should be up soon, so you need to voice your comments.

Frankly, I think he should have set an example and voluntarily offered to reduce his salary. Until he does so, he's part of the problem.



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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 24, 2009 at 12:06 pm

The council will probably increase his salary or at the very least leave it alone. $250k plus bonuses! I really don't want to hear about how you have to pay for performance. You can find well qualified people who will work for and do a great job on a fraction of that salary.


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Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Sep 24, 2009 at 12:49 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Agree with Joanna completely.

I believe an independent and outside of the state commission should be set up to investigate the way our tax money is being handled and people be made to pay up fines and return the inflated salaries where they can find no justification for the fat cats in politics at the level of City Management.
Most all of this became widespread and affected on city after another since the halcion days of Silicon Valley and the groups of venture capitalists and "philanthropists" began springing up.
Some got punished royally---those who worship the buck-----and lost a ton of money.
Meanwhile, like the Phoenix, they are rising and reinventing themselves to make the most of the scraps along with the cooperation of our "local governments". Things are just to easy for some and impossible for others.


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Posted by top dog
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 24, 2009 at 7:04 pm

it really is a shame that the people under these so-call chiefs got
to wait 3 to 5 years just to 2% raise. Does that make any cent? and
the cold part about that is these so-call chiefs turn right around
and asked the city counsel for a 5% raise for themself. Now that is
really cold.


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Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Sep 25, 2009 at 11:54 am

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Anyone making over $110,000 a year does not deserve a raise during these lean years. This is NOT Washington.

I suggest people see the new Michael Moore film to learn how anyone making less than the above sum is paying for all the taxes, raises, and running of the local governments of San Mateo County.
How many people can do as Jennifer Wilkins did and voluntarily leave a high paying senior management job in in the high tech information industry in order to make "a meaningful contribution to my community"
which just about makes Pollyana a virago who would murder Heidi.
Get real.
All city employees holding jobs equivalent(?)to Canine Handler or $151K per year should be listed so that those who do not have the idealism or financial independence of a J. Wilkins, learn just how they are being--for a lack of more colorful word---shafted.


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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 25, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Well put, R. Gordon.

I too would like to look at a list.


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Posted by but jennifer
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 27, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Jennifer,

I attended the council meeting. Your comments that night fed into the widespread but incorrect perception that public employees are make less money that private. The fact is, private sector employees from time to time have high incomes, but often only for a few years. Public employees on the other hand, never need worry about dismissal, even for cause, and have incomes that increase year after year. Public employees must look with envy at the high salaries and option packages they read about in the newspaper forgetting that the vast majority of private sector live hand to mouth at the precarious edge, with tiny or no retirement package to look forward to.

By the way, let's not let this effort to praise city employees to get out of hand. The fact is, there IS a LOT of dead weight and indifference in the organization. I run a small business. I have encountered very few city employees I would even consider hiring.


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Posted by underpaid and overworked
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 28, 2009 at 7:55 am

I doubt many city employees would trade their generous salaries and benefits for those offered in the non-profit sector. There are many people who are working for non-profit organizations (including Stanford, which is notorious for low salaries) who earn very low salaries but have the satisfaction of knowing they are selflessly making a positive difference in the world.

City employees may indeed have "public sector" jobs, but their incomes are more in line with the private sector, and their benefits exceed those of most private sector employees. Most of us are not hedge fund managers or venture capitalists, and we can only look with envy at the city employees' work schedule, salaries, and benefits.

I have lived in Menlo Park for a while and have yet to see a city job advertised. Do you have to be a member of a union to hear about these jobs? Or is there another closed network? You always hear unfounded complaints that city employees can't afford to live in Menlo Park when perhaps the reverse is true -- Menlo Park residents aren't asked to apply for city jobs.


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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2009 at 10:40 am

To R. Gordon--I honestly hope you don't seriously want people to form their opinions on important issues by going to the movies. By the way, the list you want to see is public information and was also published by the Daily Post a few months ago-perhaps you should read more and go to the movies less.


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Posted by Mark Mix
a resident of another community
on Sep 28, 2009 at 11:03 am

[Off-topic post removed]


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Posted by Freida
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 28, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Employers are using the recession as an excuse to strip away salaries, benefits and pensions from employees. When the economy rebounds, they want to make sure that unions will be in no position to restore decent wages and benefits.
It's true, rank and file public servants and members of unions get better benefits than the rest of us working stiffs. That's the reason unions exist -- to improve conditions for workers.
I have crummy medical and dental benefits that cost me more every year, while I get less benefit. I have no pension plan, and my company stopped its meager 401(K) matches.
So yes, I'm jealous of public servants who have good benefits. However, I'd rather agitate to get what they're getting, rather than reduce everyone down to the same miserable level as myself.


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Posted by just_the_facts
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 28, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Here is the URL for the public salary widget.
Web Link
Search for "menlo park"

Here are the top 10 highest paid Menlo Park city officials. Forgive the formatting:

Last First Title Total Comp (incl bonus/OT)

Rojas Glen G City Manager $227,547
Steffens Kent D Director Of Public Works $184,189
Goitia Bruce A Chief Of Police $174,711
Cowans Eric S Sergeant $170,864
Romero Jaime G Detective Sergeant $169,727
Dixon William Sergeant $166,333
Heineck Arlinda Dir. Of Community Dev. $165,450
Burt Lacey A Commander $161,396
Prickett Ronald Sergeant $159,190
Nino Ruben R Asst. Dir of Public Works $155,613
Kramer Glen H Personnel & Info Svcs Dir $154,013
Dea-HuanGSuzanna Communications Officer $153,488
Knopp Steven Canine Handler $151,706
AugustineCarol T Finance Director $150,348
Schuler Bradley Field Training Officer $150,245
Kaufman Sharon A Sergeant $150,180
George Barbara Dir Of Community Services $148,044
Douglas Nicholas Police Officer $146,498
Manning Charleen Communications Training O $146,489
Holmer Susan E Dir Of Library Services $145,428
Vasquez Jeffrey Detective $144,856
Kelly Sharon Temp - City Clerks Office $140,140
Ortega Matthew Sergeant $137,977


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Posted by Bella Azzurro
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 28, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Police salaries are usually inflated by overtime pay, so in many of these cases, I doubt we're looking at regular full-time wages, especially for the lower-ranking officers.


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Posted by just_the_facts
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Sep 28, 2009 at 6:32 pm

response to Bella Azzurro: you are 100% correct. If you go to the salary link, you will see that OT makes a big part of the police salaries. However, not for Chief of Police. Some detail, again forgive the formatting:

Last First Title Base Salary Overtime

Goitia Bruce A Chief Of Police $160,554 $0
Cowans Eric S Sergeant $114,797 $48,485
Romero Jaime G Detective Sgt $114,320 $48,565
Dixon William Sergeant $117,579 $41,044
Prickett Ronald K Sergeant $117,485 $32,574
Knopp Steven W Canine Handler $104,808 $43,498
Kaufman Sharon A Sergeant $118,103 $25,424
Douglas Nicholas Police Officer $103,031 $43,131

For the record, I am not opposed to paying market value for our peace officers. And if they work the overtime, and the overtime materially enhances the safety and security of our citizenry, then they should be compensated accordingly.

I do not feel the same way about a city manager who makes $200k + UNLESS he is going to figure out how to save our city $2 million, or make an additional $2 million in city revenue to offset the employee costs. Shouldn't we expect at leaste 10x ROI on our city manager's compensation? Isn't that what we pay a city manager to do? Or do we just pay him to help the city council rubber stamp unsustainable compensation packages?


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 29, 2009 at 8:38 am

Such bold talk by anonymous critters. At least Glen Beck puts his name on his loony comments. You ideologues just scurry away from the light.

Posting a list of salaries with no competitive lists of other cities is meaningless. Saying you need a 10X return from a city manager with no factual back up of such a claim is more of the same. This is a constant cycle of same baseless accusations by the same nameless cowards.

[Portion removed; see terms of use]


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 29, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Truth,

You have the audacity to criticize others for doing the same thing you do. Unless you reveal your true identity then you will be viewed as nothing more than a hypocrite. Show some courage and reveal your true identity.


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Posted by Now, tell the truth, Hank
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2009 at 2:14 pm

And can you honestly say that you have always used your real name on this forum, Hank? No, I didn't think so. And does that make YOU nothing more than a hypocrite, lacking courage?


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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 29, 2009 at 2:17 pm

THANK YOU FOR THE SALARY LIST!!!

After reading the list, I feel embarrassed for Menlo Park. Shame on those who approved such ridiculous salaries for PUBLIC employees.

Also Hank, don't expect anything of substance from falsie.


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 29, 2009 at 2:44 pm

I get a kick out of people such as 'Now tell the Truth, Hank' who refuse to use their names. But engage in speculation about my blogs without a scintilla of proof.

Now, "tell the truth Hank" how can you call me cowardly when you refuse to use your real name. Don't you realize how ridiculous this makes you look.


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Posted by Now, tell the truth, Hank
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 29, 2009 at 3:05 pm

You didn't answer my questions, Hank. I'm SO surprised. OK, so I'll repeat:

Can you honestly say that you have always used your real name on this forum, Hank? No, I didn't think so. And does that make YOU nothing more than a hypocrite, lacking courage?

You're in a glass house, Hank. You shouldn't be throwing stones.





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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 29, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Now, Tell the truth reveal you real name and I will give you my answer. Otherwise, don't bother me you hyporcite and coward.

And people in stoned houses should not throw glasses.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 29, 2009 at 4:18 pm

I do have the audacity, Hank. I will not rest until you and Joannie rely on facts, not misleading and insulting commentary. This forum deserves to work for this city, but it is broken as long as folks like you keep abusing it.


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 30, 2009 at 7:38 am

Truth,

Audacity is one thing. In your case it is Chutzpah. But courage is another. Why are you afraid to reveal your identity?


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 30, 2009 at 2:54 pm

I will repeat it once more for you, Hank. Winkler and Duboc have valid positions and deserve our respect. They did not make good legislators in my opinion, but they do serve a great purpose on issues that matter to them. I do not denegrate them, insult them or demean them.

You do. Your comments are cruel, mean and rude. Councilmembers are volunteers who work hard for our cities. I would never do it in a million years. They put in what I imagine must be a huge amount of time thinking about how to solve our problems.

Your insinuation of illegal activity at times, tossing them down as nothing but ideological zealots is out of line. You have lost my respect more than anyone in this city. You have hardened my positions because of how you operate.

I think you long for a time when this city was deeply divided and you think political games are part of the culture.

I took the bait a few times, and I will no longer. I respect these five councilmembers. All of them, for the work they do. I don't agree with them half the time, but that is okay.

I think you are wrong. I know you, I have talked with you, and I will not any longer. You have no right to be so insulting to our volunteers.

Disagreement is one thing. You cross the line my friend. I will now re-post this as my comment to you from now on. I cannot waste more time with you.


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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 1, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Truth,

I will try not to lose any sleep over what you think about me. Please read my Guest Opinion Piece in yesterday's Palo Alto Daily News (PADN) regarding your fearless leader Kelly Jean Fergusson. Its on page A-11. And the PADN, unlike the Almanac, does not expurgate content that it does not agree with. It really allows all viewpoints.

Enjoy


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Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Dear TRUTH.......

The name is on my letterhead, I live in an anonymous location in a multimillion dollar home, and it makes me wince how you have the temerity to capitalize the name "Councilmembers" when I have known quite a few intimately, and I would say that out of a few dozen, perhaps three were qualified to make decisions which would affect the different locales. I even spell god with a small "g" not being a religious zealot...
I probably am one of the few real 5th generation Califonians and have seen the evolution of Menlo Park better than most. It is not something to brag about just as the rest of you who take so much pride in your slipping communities. "TRUTH" believes my information comes from a film...wrong.But...I DO trust the film more than I do the from the whimsical answer given by "just_the facts" who has to take a better look at what those people are earning..NOT appropriate when one reads the equivalent salaries of every other place who gets the ALMANAC.
For the work done by ALL OF THEM, and the money which is making money here, it is pathetic to see the lack of schools with any real merit or the success failure rate in most of the economic issues we have going compared to the rest of America...it sucks.
So few people who opine here read world papers, and I have no idea how they were raised to think they are more special than other Californians. I am, because I do spend time abroad and talk to people who have strong opinions about us, yet do not use the kind of language we do to describle those who do not meet our "standards". Just WHO set these standards? Answer..a very small community on the West Coast.........and a very self involved one.


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