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Police union tactics, new town manager on Atherton City Council agenda

Original post made on Oct 16, 2012

Hiring a new town manager and addressing the police union's mail and phone campaign that critics decry as misleading and intimidating are on the agenda for the Wednesday, Oct. 17, meeting of the Atherton City Council.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 16, 2012, 3:40 PM

Comments (22)

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Posted by Atherton Election
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 16, 2012 at 4:22 pm

For years the Atherton Council had been telling residents the finances were fine and the reserves were growing. But in 2008 more than $2,000,000 in accounting errors were caught. Funds in the reserves from Building Dept revenues had not been transferred to the Building Dept.

It was also noticed that a Business License Tax increase was illegal and had to be refunded. A illegal Road Impact Fee increase had to be refunded.

Suddenly in 2009 Atherton faced a budget crisis as there was no plan for unfunded pension plans for staff. by 2011 the council outsourced the Building Department and Public Works.

If the council does not provide the leadership next year, the Parcel Tax could fail and the town will lose $1.6M in annual revenue.

The Mayor has released a tape that he wants the Parcel Tax to Sunset next in 2014 and reduce pay for police officers. What is his long term financial plan for Atherton and what are the long term financial plans of all the candidates?

While the council opted to put the library expansion, little league, and private donations to the town center on the ballot; the APOA has raised a more serious issue: How will the council of 2012-2014 avert a second financial crisis for Atherton?

Atherton residents should inform themselves, by viewing the Mayor's video, reading his letter in Agenda Item #22 and reading the APOA responses on their web site:

Web Link

Once informed residents can decide if the APOA is "Scare Mongering" or using Freedom of Speech to inform residents of the 800 pound Gorilla in the room.





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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 16, 2012 at 5:47 pm

If there is truly an "800 pound gorilla" in the room, it's even more reason to outsource police services. 2 million dollar savings will cover that missing 1.6 million easily.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 16, 2012 at 6:09 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Unless the Town Council demonstrates its ability to work together the voters are unlikely to approve an extension of a parcel tax that just gives the Council more money to argue about.


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Posted by Atherton Election
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 16, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Widmer and Dobbie both stated they wanted the residents to vote on Outsourcing before the council took action.
When will this happen? The contract expires early next year.

As far as ability to work together: For the last two years Lewis and Carlson have been working on a new town center, which includes a police deptartment that might be outsourced.




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Posted by hope and change
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 17, 2012 at 5:11 am

Peter Carpenter states: "Unless the Town Council demonstrates its ability to work together the voters are unlikely to approve an extension of a parcel tax that just gives the Council more money to argue about"

Peter, as most everyone knows who lives in Atherton the present Council does not work well together and has not for many years witness the lawsuits, key employee departures, and very low morale at City Hall. The council was a subject of a Grand Jury investigation and report about five years ago and yet the dysfunction remains in spite of recommendations in how they might work together. The WMD majority is about to change as well as possibly the minority of Lewis and Carlson. Atherton voters can change this toxic mix by electing new council members who will truly represent the best interests of the Town.
[Portion removed]


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Posted by Total crap
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 17, 2012 at 7:41 am

[Portion removed; don't speculate on the identity of other posters.]

None of these posters, including Atherton Election, has explained why it is not completely proper for a council member to consider outsourcing if the police officers won't agree to salary/benefit packages that Atherton can afford. The negotiation is about to begin.

The APOA endorsed the two candidates it feels will treat them best during these negotiations. That's Cary Wiest and Elizabeth Lewis. It's nothing more complicated than that.

Any resident who thinks would realize their interests are not aligned with the APOA's here. They are contrary.


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Posted by Atherton election
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 17, 2012 at 10:01 am

Total Crap writes:
"None of these posters, including Atherton Election, has explained why it is not completely proper for a council member to consider outsourcing if the police officers won't agree to salary/benefit packages that Atherton can afford. The negotiation is about to begin."

I agree with Total Crap that it is completely proper "for a council member to consider outsourcing if the police officers won't agree to salary/benefit packages that Atherton can afford."

I do agree with Total Crap that "The negotiation is about to begin." The negotiations has been going on for months. Widmer and Dobbie may not have exact numbers in mind but they have salary/benefit packages ranges that will hold to or go to outsourcing.They have informed the police they want a two-tier pension plan and salary reductions.

Does this represent what a majority of Atherton residents want?

The debate in this election should be "What can Atherton afford?" A long time ago Widmer should have put on the Council Agenda a discussion of "what can Atherton residents afford". Or do a survey of the residents and ask.

Widmer wants to sunset the parcel tax, how will he make up the $1.6M in revenue? Has Widmer decided that Atherton can not afford the Parcel Tax? Some residents would support a higher Parcel Tax. I think all residents want an open and transparent government.

The Parcel Tax is up for renewal next year, where do the four candidates stand on the level of a Parcel Tax they would support?

Years ago the council decided to pay the police at the 70th percentile compared to other Bay Area cities. The council informed the public and all were happy.

Three residents can run for council determined to either reduce that number to the 50th percentile or outsource. They may not inform the public of their position get elected and suddenly a police dept that is over 80 years old is gone.

Candidates campaign on "Transparency" but yet neither a council agendas nor some campaign web sites state positions on such an important issue.

The headline is "Police Union Tactics", since Widmer, Dobbie, and McKeithen went to the Alamanac with the story. Widmer, Dobbie, and McKeithen are supporting Kupperman and Conlon. The claim is that the APOA used False and Misleading Statements.

Yet the APOA has posted tapes from Council meetings to support their statements.

Both Kupperman and Conlon are good people who have given time to the town. Widmer's recent You Tube video states that the Police endorsement comes with expectations. Does his support come with expectations? If elected to the council will they be expected to support his desire to sunset the parcel tax and reduce the police pay?

Earlier this year an Almanac editorial was critial of the efforts of Widmer, Dobbie, and McKeithen to "Shut Down" the Arthertonian Yahoo Users group since it was pushing for a town vote on the Library in the Park issue.

The Mayor of Atherton can call special council meetings with any agenda item he or she wants. For the last three years McKeithen, Dobbie, and Widmer have been doing that.

A few months ago Lewis wanted to motion having a town vote on the library issue. Widmer informed her the Agenda item would not allow her to do so. As it stands now it takes three members of the council to approve an item to be on the regular agenda.

Widmer, McKeithen, and Dobbie can refuse to hear topics Lewis and Carlson bring forward. McKeithen and Dobbie pushed for this Council Agenda Rule. At the time the Almanac wrote an editorial opposing the rule.

After that meeting the Athertonians emailed out a petition needing 100 signatures to force Widmer to create an agenda item regarding a town vote, within a few days 250 people had signed.

Within months after the 2010 election, Public Works and the Building Dept were outsourced by the council, yet no one campaigned on the topic.

The APOA is attempting to bring awareness of the Financial Problems facing Atherton to the public.

When Lewis ran in 2008, she informed the public that Atherton finances were in trouble. McKeithen and Dobbie campaigned in 2008 that the reserves had grown and the finances were fine. As it turned out Lewis was right.

The headline or Editorial should be: The Atherton Council needs to inform residents of its difficult financial situation and allow residents to comment on all issues.

Total Crap and Mayor Widmer want residents to believe the APOA endorsement is about getting a better deal.

It is time to give Lewis and Carlson, the third vote needed on the council to allow them to put items on the agenda that Widmer, McKeithen, and Dobbie have refused to allow.

Is Freedom of Speech part of the reason for the APOA endorsement?




















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Posted by Total crap
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 17, 2012 at 10:32 am

Atherton Election states: "The debate in this election should be "What can Atherton afford?" A long time ago Widmer should have put on the Council Agenda a discussion of "what can Atherton residents afford". Or do a survey of the residents and ask."

That is truly "total crap." I'm sure Atherton residents could "afford" to pay police officers $250,000/year each through an extra parcel tax that would amount to a few thousand extra dollars per household. I'm sure Atherton residents could "afford" to pay $5 for a bottle of water that normally costs $1 also.

For that matter, Apple can "afford" to pay its employees a lot more than $1M/year each (at the expense of its shareholders).

But that would be totally wrong. Police officers should be paid a market rate of pay for the job they are doing, even if their employers can afford to pay them more. If Widmer and Dobbie want two-tier pension systems and salary reductions, it's about time. All the other cities on the peninsula have implemented this AND THESE CITIES ARE WEALTHIER THAN ATHERTON (albeit the residents of those cities are not wealthier than Atherton residents) since they have business sales tax revenues.

Here's the ballot question I want:

Question: Should Atherton residents pay more for police salaries and benefits than we need to (compared with other neighboring cities) if we can afford to?


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Posted by Atherton Election
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 17, 2012 at 10:52 am

To: Total Crap,

I would be fine with your suggestion on a ballot measure or even an agenda item. Doesn't Atherton currently look at neighboring police deptartments and pay at the 70th percentile of the group?

Isn't that what the council decided to do about 10 years ago, to keep officers from leaving to go to Menlo Park, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, etc?

Isn't that what the council has been doing?

The issue is, do we want council members and candidates who are going to sunset the parcel tax and force Atherton to outsource to the Sheriff, without informing the residents they intend to do so?

and I was just agreeing with your earlier post regarding what Atherton can afford:

Posted by Total crap, a resident of the Atherton: other neighborhood, 2 hours ago

"None of these posters, including Atherton Election, has explained why it is not completely proper for a council member to consider outsourcing if the police officers won't agree to salary/benefit packages that Atherton can afford."





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Posted by Total Crap
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 17, 2012 at 11:00 am

You just don't get it. If Atherton takes it salaries and benefits DOWN to match Menlo Park, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto, why would an officer go to work at one of these cities? Atherton is a much cushier job. That's just a hissy fit diversion tactic by the APOA.

"The issue is, do we want council members and candidates who are going to sunset the parcel tax and force Atherton to outsource to the Sheriff, without informing the residents they intend to do so?"

No, we don't. We want council members who are going to hold the APOA's feet to the fire in negotiating to make sure Atherton isn't overpaying for police services. I want my negotiators to hold all of the cards they can in that negotiation, including the right to outsource if the APOA won't be reasonable. You are objecting to something that is totally appropriate. You are advocating something (APOA endorsing candidates who will favor them in a negotiation, when the council member's fiduciary duty is to the resident, not to the police) that is totally inappropriate.


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Posted by Atherton Election
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 17, 2012 at 11:52 am

To Total Crap,

I do not know all the details you know. Is the Menlo Park Police job that much harder than Atherton's? Are Atherton police not willing to work harder in Menlo Park or Palo Alto for more money?

I think Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale are all competitors to Atherton. We disagree.

If for 12 years the APOA has been accepting the 70th percentile and not needing their feet being held to the "fire" by Outsourcing, what is the problem? Other cities pay their police more and some pay less.


How much less than Menlo Park, Palo Alto, and Sunnyvale do you want to pay the Atherton police? Just tell that to the council or get a petition signed by 100 people to put it on an agenda.

I remember the son of an Atherton family wanted to work police duties in East Palo Alto. He was killed in action. He felt he could help more in East Palo Alto.

Not every officer is looking for a cushier job. Do you want to pay 10, 20, 30% less than Menlo Park? Do you think officers will stay with that pay?

My belief it that those that want to outsource want to remove accountibility from the city council members who implement it. They want to blame it on the police by saying the council offered them a "reasonable" package and they refused. But they (and Total Crap) will not say what is reasonable.

Why can't tonight the Mayor, other council members, residents, and candidates say what they think is reasonable or outsource?

Likewise tonight the Police should state what concessions that have already accepted from the council.

This could have been done months ago. It appears Widmer did not want it to be part of the election debate. It appears Widmer wanted to get his majority in place before telling residents.

On the police web site it appears they have already agreed to concessions and the Mayor wants more. If residents and candidates support the Mayor's plan they can speak up tonight.

Total Crap- would you go to the APOA web site- see what concessions the police are willing to make- and advise what more you want?

If Lewis and Wiest have stated they think the mayor wants more than they think is reasonable in concessions and Kupperman and Conlon support the mayor's requests, then the candidates should put their plans out there for the residents to decide who they want on the council.

I did notice that Conlon did vote against the mayor on one issue. I am not sure where he stands compared the mayor on the other issues.

Lewis has already fought hard to pass two parcel taxes. Wiest's web site states he will find the funds to fund police services. Both of those were done before the APOA made the endorsement.

Where do Kupperman and Conlon stand on the issue? Do they support Widmer's plan to sunset the Parcel Tax in return for his support to get them elected?














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Posted by No Easy Day
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2012 at 5:15 pm

The Sheriff is recruiting pre-trained lateral Officers.

The Town needs to compensate competitively, or risk becoming a training agency for other employers.

Web Link


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Posted by Let's face it
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 17, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Unless Atherton officers are paid at the top percentile of the entire Bay Area, Atherton homeowners will lose their jobs, homes, and likely their lives by falling victim to violent crime. This is probably the most important decision they can make in their entire adult life. Forget about Romney vs. Obama, this is WAY more important. If these officers are not paid at the very top, they will immediately quit and go to other communities like Hillsborough, which pays officers much less than Atherton. Oooops…scratch that. Atherton residents will lose all their money unless they give a fair share of it to the Atherton cops. You've been warned!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 17, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

This recruitment is for entry level pollice candidates who have completed POST training.

DEPUTY SHERIFF LATERAL (OPEN)
$6,623 - $8,278 /Month


I don't think many Atherton officers will apply.


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Posted by Michael G. Stogner
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Let's face it has said it as clear as it can be said.

This is the most important decision they can make in their entire adult life.


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Posted by No Easy Day
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Peter

How does that compare to an Atherton salary??


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 17, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Atherton police officers receive about $8,470/month base salary.


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Posted by No Easy Day
a resident of another community
on Oct 17, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Until the Council gives them a 10% pay cut ...


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 17, 2012 at 6:47 pm

You folks crack me up. If you think if you cut pay in Atherton your officers are going to leave your nuts. A certain number are leaving regardless. The rest won't.

In my years in law enforcement, Atherton PD was always viewed as a joke. It still is. There are two kinds of officers there. Those that are there for the training and are going to lateral as soon as they possibly can. You could offer them $250k a year and they'd still leave. They are interested in doing real police work. Real police work doesn't get done in Atherton.

The other type of officers you have are those that are unhirable at other agencies or are too lazy to go to another agency. You could cut their pay no problem. They're not going anywhere. No one wants them or they don't want to do real police work.

What you have now are officers biding their time until they can lateral out and the rest that are just fine doing glorified security guard duties for good pay.

What Atherton citizens need to ask themselves is if they want to continue to overpay for services that could be easily provided by a private security contractor, supplemented by real police work done by the sheriff's department or do they want to pay a realistic amount of money for the services they want. That one is a no brainer for me. I don't understand why the citizens of Atherton have such difficulty with this. Especially given the fact that a very large portion of them are "captains of industry." Amazing.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Cutting police salaries will not solve the problem. Atherton police services are so expensive primarily because of the diseconomies of running a small police department.

Atherton can get the exact same level of service for about 60% of its current cost by contracting with the Sheriff.

All of the competent Atherton police officers would be hired by the Sheriff and they would probably be assigned to patrol the neighborhoods that they know best - Atherton. Those officers would have access to better training and dramatically more promotional opportunities.


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Posted by Atherton election
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 17, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Cut the salary of 20 officers by $10,000 a year and the town saves $200,000.00.

Some officers leave and the town spends more than $200,000 recruiting and training new officers.

Or does the council have a different plan.
1. Cut salaries
2. Officers leave
3. Don't renew the Parcel Tax
4. Switch to Sheriff
5. Tell the residents service is better


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 18, 2012 at 11:36 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Cut the salary of 20 officers by $10,000 a year and the town saves $200,000.00."

Cutting police salaries will not solve the problem. Atherton police services are so expensive primarily because of the diseconomies of running a small police department.

We need a council that is prepared to look at options.


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