Next Wednesday night, a new Atherton council will be seated. Elizabeth Lewis is expected to become mayor. Cary Wiest will bring a new respect for residents and employees to the council. The twelve long years of Kathy McKeithen's attacks against police officers, employees, and residents will have come to an end.
It is important to honor the will of the voters in this last election. Through the election of Cary Wiest and Elizabeth Lewis, the last place finish of McKeithen henchwoman Denise Kuupperman, and the resounding defeat of the library in the park, the voters have spoken clearly. They want the Atherton Police Department to continue on and to do so in an environment in which it is not being continuously attacked by McKeithen and her cronies.
The amount damage done to the Police Department by McKeithen and WMD has been tremendous. The officers have been subject to continuous attacks on their professionalism as well as their compensation. Atherton residents decided long ago that the department should be at least at the 70th percentile of compensation compared to surrounding neighborhoods to attract and retain quality officers. Right now the effect of McKeithen's war against the Police Department, it is more like the 30th percentile. Most residents would clearly support increasing the retention program to the 90th percentile so we can continue to enjoy what Malcolm Dudley said makes Atherton special, its employees, and especially the Police Department.
The following actions need to be taken quickly by the new council to restore morale of the officers and make sure we don't lose officers (which costs the town much more money than the nickel and diming that has gone on under WMD).
1. This is easy. Restore the water and coffee. It was a mean-spirited move by WMD to remove this, but it costs next to nothing.
2. Make sure officer compensation remains competitive. This will involve INCREASING compensation to avoid losing officers to other agencies. Atherton residents spoke loudly in this last election. They want the parcel tax to continue, and small increases in the parcel tax (which has never been increased to keep up with inflation) will enable Atherton to keep its police compensation competitive and avoid losing officers. Atherton residents as well as San Mateo County residents have consistently recognized and approved that taxes must go up with inflation to continue to get quality public safety. The notion of WMD that police compensation can decrease and the parcel tax can go away, and Atherton keeps a quality Police Department, is a fantasy designed to outsource. This is what residents don't want.
3. WMD made sure Atherton no longer has a dispatch supervisor. Atherton residents want a dispatch center that is well-managed so when they call into the Police Department, they get a quality response. The former supervisor John Mattes should be restored to his position with back pay. This was a McKeithen-sponsored vendetta that should be rescinded.
4. Internal promotion to chief. How can Atherton possibly attract quality officers when the message is you will not get promotion opportunities? Atherton has traditionally recruited chiefs from within the department and it should stay that way to motivate the officers to perform their best. How ironic that the "business people" like Dobbie who believe in a capitalist work for reward system would be in favor of recruiting from outside to demoralize and demotivate.
5. Restore the number of officers needed for the Atherton Police Department to function properly. There needs to be a minimum number of officers just for officer safety to be assured on shifts. This has been another short-sighted decision by WMD. Atherton residents want their Police Department and that means a functional Police Department, not one financed by a shoe string.
With these measures taken, the damage done by McKeithen and WMD over the course of years can start to be addressed. Hopefully the new council will be treating the Police Department and officers respectfully instead of as adversaries like McKeithen did.