City opens dialogue with police unions


Following calls from residents and City Council members alike for city employees to share the burden of the economic downturn, Menlo Park officials are meeting with representatives from the city's police unions.

The city doesn't necessarily plan to ask the unions to renegotiate their contracts, said City Manager Glen Rojas. Rather, it is trying to open a general dialogue with the unions about possible cost-cutting measures, as the city looks to narrow a projected deficit of over $2 million.

City staff members are scheduled to discuss the outcome of the meeting with the City Council in closed session, prior to the regular council meeting Tuesday, May 5.

The city is also beginning negotiations with the unions that represent the city's staff; that contract expires in October.

The city plans to meet with its unions on an ongoing basis, Mr. Rojas said.

"We're looking at the budget, looking at it together to talk about finding ways to reduce costs over the long-term -- not just in (fiscal year) 2009-10, but in (fiscal year) 2010-11," Mr. Rojas said. "We want to make sure we're all working on this together."

Officers in the police department negotiated a new contract that went into effect in July 2008, calling for hefty raises; the average officer's salary will increase 25 percent by July 2011 from its level in the spring of 2008. At the time, council members said the raises for officers were necessary to halt an exodus of officers from the police force.

In January, police sergeants agreed to a new contract, with pay raises similar to those in the officers' contract, over an outcry from residents who thought the pay hike too steep -- especially during a period of severe economic stress.


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Posted by Saving Fuel
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 1, 2009 at 10:30 am

Here are a few suggestions to the MP police department and officers, particularly with respect to saving fuel:

1. Use smaller cars. For example, why do we need the new SUV's we are seeing around town?
2. When you are stopped for more than a few minutes, shut down the engine. I recently saw one officer stopped talking to someone in front of the Burgess gym, and he had his engine idling for about 30 minutes.
3. Don't gun away from stop lights. Slow down generally.

These are things we should all be doing to save money *and* to reduce our carbon load.

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Posted by Too Often A Critic
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on May 1, 2009 at 10:33 pm

The Menlo Park City Council deserves praise and support for opening these difficult negotiations. The unions have worked hard with great focus to win from Menlo Park the region's most impressive worker retirement benefits; any refund will be a hard pill to swallow - but if it's a real effort to share the burden of this millennial recession (not a token year's salary cut, but the elephant in the room, retirement benefits rate) we will owe our police officers even more appreciation. This nut alone could save the city's long term finances as nothing else can.

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Posted by 1 + 1 + 1 + 1 + ...
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 1, 2009 at 10:54 pm

Sorry to say, the benefits offered to municipal employees in the peninsula area are unsustainable. It reminds me of what's going on with the automakers now. Free health care for life (or close...I think 85% of costs covered) after working for six years?

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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 2, 2009 at 8:03 am

The City Council does not get credit for re-opening negotiations. They were forced into it by the groundswell of opposition to their irresponsible decision making.

In a filmed City Council meeting Heyward Robinson reflected upon a conversation with Menlo Park Police Chief Goitia. Mayor Robinson said on camera "Chief Goitia are they worth it and Chief Goitia said Absolutely! And that was good enough for me". What a great Negotiator Heyward Robinson is.

Robinson should have been recalled for that fiscally irresponsible and reckless remark. If you recall only John Boyle was opposed to the Majority Four's impetuous and feckless behavior.

Now that the peasants are now storming the Bastille, the Council Majority, with their backs up against the wall, finally decided to capitulate to the will of the people. But it wasn't because they wanted to. It was because the tide of public opinion was so much against them that they had no choice. Robinson probably met with Chief Goitia, behind closed doors apologizing profusely to him.

The Majority Four is working for the City employees and not for the residents. We must snd a clear message in November 2010 and retire Heyward Robinson and Richard Cline.

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Posted by concerned citizen
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 2, 2009 at 10:57 am

After the huge police pay increases became public, one of the council members defended the action, referring to high police turnover. At least within private industry, HR experts commonly say that the #1 true cause of turnover is MANAGEMENT. Pay is a convenient excuse. Whatever the true situation, I am glad to see some discussion on this point. Other cities are now scaling back their police increases. While I appreciate our fine police force, we need to temper this with ability to pay.

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Posted by Question
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2009 at 11:20 am

Concerned citizen: Thanks for your post. What other cities are scaling back their police pay increases? Please give us any information you have on that.

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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on May 2, 2009 at 11:57 pm

Hank, you are such an ugly commenter. I really dislike you a lot as a result of your posts. It makes me dislike the people you support like John, which is unfair.

You actually could single handedly destroy this forum because of your absurdity. it is neither funny nor witty. Just mean and cruel and baseless.

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 3, 2009 at 9:35 am


I was just about to write the same thing... except it would be about you. Please get a life and stop being such a viper.

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Posted by Yea Joanna!
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 3, 2009 at 10:25 am

I agree with Joanna. The problem with Hank is that HE speaks the Truth! Many people don't like it, and yes he gets "absurd" and throws in the national political slant into things, however if you truly look at the content, and research the validity of his statements, he 99% of the time is accurate. He also has the conviction to sign his own name! "Truth" on the other hand IS a sniper, and doesn't like anything that requires fiscal responsibility or some type of suggestion that would mean improving our commercial business district or schools. He is the one that continually destroys this forum, pretty much on every topic!

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Posted by Joan
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 3, 2009 at 12:12 pm

I share Truth's frustration with Hank's paranoid rants. Although it seems that Hank is being truthful in representing his perspective on things, that perspective is often so falsely colored by ideology and certainty it ruins his credibility.

But back to the topic: I hope that the city is able to renegotiate contracts that were made when the council couldn't seem to figure out that the economy was collapsing and new thinking was needed.

And "concerned citizen" is right, it was primarily the management problem that led to rock bottom morale and the departure of so many members of the police department. I think the council was so reluctant to face that fact that they welcomed the city manager's lame explanation that pay was the key issue. Council members were aware of serious complaints by officers about management as those officers were fleeing the department, but chose to ignore the situation. It's so much easier to throw more money at a problem (the public's money, of course) and hope it goes away than to address the root of the problem.

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Posted by Thank You Hank & Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 3, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Our council majority was elected with enormous union help- from canvassing the neighborhoods to hit pieces on opponents. Although meeting with the police department is a start, the real problem is the Service Employees International Union representing the majority of the employees. Robinson, Cline, Fergussen and Cohen are in debt to these groups.

We will never deal with our unsustainable budgets unless our leaders represent the citizens of Menlo Park and not the special interest groups that get them elected.

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Posted by concerned citizen
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 4, 2009 at 2:38 pm

To "Question" (resident of another community):
A couple of months ago there was a news story about San Jose considering minimal increases to police salaries (~5%?--as opposed to Menlo Park's 25%) due to budget constraints. Didn't hear the final outcome, but San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed has really been working hard to try to bring the budget in line with their financial situation.

And I would be really curious to hear what Vallejo, which has declared bankruptcy, has done to salaries in general.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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