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MP council OKs 30% pay raise for sergeants

Original post made on Jan 15, 2009

Amid the specter of weakened morale among police sergeants – and despite scores of e-mails in opposition – the Menlo Park City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to raise the sergeants' total pay 30 percent by 2011.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, January 14, 2009, 12:58 PM

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Posted by lost in the discussion
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jan 15, 2009 at 8:47 am

It is quite obvious that the salaries of our police department are outrageous. Leadership from the City Manager has essentially been "give the police what they want and the problems will go away."

A sergeant with seniority at the end of this contract will have a base salary of over $150,000. With the 3% per year at 50 pension benefits, WOW...

Yet all of this was supposed to improve the safety level of our city. Chief Goitia stated that property crime was up 45% -- Isn't this was the fully manned police force was to keep from happening?

We are being fleeced and our council is a bunch of sheep.

Shunted aside was the possibility of contracting out the department as a savings (not stated how much). I would have never supported an idea like this, but I now think it should be actively investigated.

This council seems to be bent on just hiring running deficits. Why do we need a community engagement person? Whey do we need 2 people in business development? What do we have to show for all of this.

The downtown visioning process is in deep trouble. They can't even get volunteers to sit on the over sight committee. Most likely doomed to be a another City Center design disaster. Oh well, just another million dollars or so down the toilet.

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Posted by Edward Moritz
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 15, 2009 at 3:36 pm

The attached comments on this topic from the "Daily Post" (jan 15th) are interesting.

Isn't it amazing how the City Staff keeps making incredulous statements to the City Council. "Tight Labor Market"!? What's Mr Krammer smoking?

Government salaries are out of hand
By Diana Diamond

Remember the 1976 movie “Network,” with that infamous line spoken by Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch), “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”?
That’s the way a lot of us are feeling about things of late. What has me angry right now are the continuing demands by unions for more and more money for public employees.
Consider the following:
• Menlo Park was worried about police attrition, so the council Tuesday night agreed to a whopping average 30 percent increase in the base salaries of eight sergeants by a 4-1 vote, thus increasing the base pay from $107,086 to $131,452 during the next 30 months. Plus they will have a longevity pay increase (pay based on how long somebody has held their job) from 2 to 8 percent, and an array of other hikes (uniform allowance, health benefits) in addition to the overtime they routinely get and the 14 paid holidays a year. Of course they can retire at age 50 (as can firefighters) with nearly 90 percent of their highest annual salary each year for the rest of their lives.

Pension costs skyrocket
• San Jose police are battling for more retirement benefits they claim are crucial for police recruitment and retention, even though the pension costs for officers and
firefighters have gone up 167 percent since 2000. The union is complaining the police need more money, and points out that a lot are retiring at 50 and then finding new jobs elsewhere. The city is shelling out some $62.7 million this year in pension benefits to 2,140 police and firefighters, compared to $39 million less seven years earlier. And the city’s 4,871 other employees will be getting $72.8 million in retirement this year; city retirement benefits are up “only” 84 percent since 2000-01.
In Palo Alto, Detective Sgt. Mike Yore retired with a pension of $11,000 a month for the rest of his life ($132,000 annually). On top of that, he got an additional $13,899 in overtime and $104,000 for unused sick time and vacation time. That was on top of his $166,800 annual salary.

State workers make out
• State employees can retire at 55 and get a pension for the rest of their lives equal to 2 percent of their salary times the number of years they worked. So a person making $70,000 a year who retires after 25 years would get $35,000 a year — plus health benefits.
State employees also get 14 paid holidays a year. Gov. Schwarzenegger is asking that number be reduced to 12 to
[See DIAMOND, next page]
Diana Diamond
save the state money. And starting Feb. 6, he plans to close state offices on the first and third Fridays each month. State employee unions are objecting; unions filed a legal challenge against Schwarzenegger this past Monday claiming he exceeded his gubernatorial authority by authorizing the twice-monthly furloughs. One union member wrote a letter to a local paper saying that one of the perks of working for the city or state are the number of days off the employees receive, a benefit she felt she was “entitled” to.
It’s that entitlement attitude that irks me.

Guvvies vs. private sector
Compared with private industry, government workers don’t know how lucky they are. The state has increased its number of employees by some 39,000 since July 2007; in the private sector
more than 11 million people are out of work; California ranks first in the nation and has a whopping 8.4 percent unemployment rate.
Private industry has reduced or eliminated contributions to 401(k) savings programs; many who put these savings in stocks have seen their portfolios (and retirement monies) go down by a third or more.
Tight labor market?
We also seem to have fallen into a semantic trap. Local officials are using the same phrases they used three years ago to justify these increases.

Glen Kramer, Menlo Park’s director of personnel and information services, said that mandatory overtime takes its toll on police officers, “resulting in a work force that is vulnerable to being attracted to other agencies that are also competing in this tight labor market.”

Tight labor market?
Silicon Valley this past December had 4,000 fewer jobs than it did a year ago, and its unemployment rate is 7 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Missing for me is any discussion of what the salary and benefit correlation between government employees and private industry should be — what is the relationship between government employees and the rest of society? What is the morality in insisting that government employees should continue to have benefits that are better than the retirements of those of us who have to pay for their retirements?

I am angry.

Diana Diamond is Associate Editor of the Daily Post. Her email is Diana@DianaDiamond. corn.

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Posted by More of the same
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Jan 15, 2009 at 4:25 pm

These raises are not based on performance. These raises are not based on merit.

If raises were determined by merit, then the police would not see an increase.

Menlo Park must be in pretty good shape to be handing out such lavish retirement benefits and huge pay raises. Don't forget that City Manager Rojas makes over $250,000.00!

This whole idea of paying higher salaries than your neighbors in the hopes that you get what you pay for is outdated and inefficient.

Pay a new city manager a fraction of what our current one makes and I'm willing to bet that we would get the same or better performance.

Instead of encouraging more of the same from our police, we should use the money to hire more police to reduce/prevent crime.

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Posted by Challenge
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Jan 15, 2009 at 10:42 pm

I challenge ANY city worker, police officer or fireman to leave and go find another job, if this expense were to be placed on hold to see where the new budgeting process falls out, or the increase is never approved. Are you kidding me? Do we think the entire city force will up and leave, because they won't get what they want? In this economy? Heck, give me a gun and a hose, I'm sure I'll do half what they do, then pay me half what they make!!!

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Posted by merged
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 15, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of the Menlo Park: Sharon Heights neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2009 at 12:53 pm

This proposed pay hike is excessive. The City Council should remember that they are the stewards of the residents' money. If the City Council approves a 30% increase then that would be an abrogation of its fiduicary duty to the residents of Menlo Park. A more reasonable increase would be 5% compounde annually. That would be $123,965 after 3 years. Menlo Park does not want to go the way of GM who offered overly generous contracts to the UAW employees and is now drowning in red ink.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Before acting on the tentative police sergeants MOU the Menlo Park City Council would be wise to ask and answer these four questions:

1 - Has the public, who will pay the bill for the proposed MOU, been given reasonable opportunity to review and comment on the staff report and the entire MOU including all of its attachments/appendices?

The Mayor's comment "If you just announced it two weeks earlier, that gives people two weeks to send nasty e-mails, get a hot and heavy debate going, et cetera, et cetera," "If we throw it out a couple weeks early, we'd create a huge amount of excitement over it."shows a deeply flawed and cynical position on the importance of transparency and public dialogue and suggests that he would prefer to sneak this past the public without any opportunity for informed discussion.

2 - What is the proper comparison group for any salary survey? Is it just a small number of other entities and only for positions exactly like the ones covered by the MOU or should it take a larger perspective both geographically and with regard to job classifications? Why not look at all of the prevailing wage levels and salary increase trends in the community which is both being served by these officers and paying the bills for this MOU?

3 - What are the long term policy implications of committing to pay well above the average of whatever comparison group is utilized to determine the appropriate salary levels? If all of the agencies in the comparison pool follow they same policy of paying well above the average (all of whom could use the same rationale that they have to do it to retain their officers) then the average for the pool will rise exponentially.

4 - Can the current 3% at 50 retirement program for these and other officers be sustained, particularly with the large annual increases in base salary contained in this MOU, within the projected revenue streams of the City?

Peter Carpenter

Posted by truth, a resident of the Menlo Park: Belle Haven neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Once again you can count of Hank and Duboc and the rest of the Boyle Brigade to insult and threaten and provide only the information that supports their anti-union demogoguery.

Some of the points made are appropriate. We do need to move ahead cautiously under the new economic governance. We need to be assertive to our workers and unions that we are not going to sit on our hands and let them drive up costs without merit.

But let's keep this in context.

The POA contract was approved several months ago and the object of that approval was to stop the bleeding. We lost tons of police officers, something like 30 in a year. That was a direct result of the past council taking a pass on moderate salary increases that would have avoided the issue today completely.

Menlo Park is now 10th in salaries and the PMA, the eight leaders of the department, are now asking for the same raise their subordinates receieved.

It is a lot of money and we may need to have more discussion, that point is also a good one.

But if you consider three factors that seem to be missing, one, salaries are almost last in the entire comparable area, two, the line officers got raises already and three, the police officers have seen no raises in four years, then you can see why we are facing this issue. Why put off raises when you know somewhere down the line, you will have to have competitive salaries? This is the same logic followed by people who bought houses with five year fixed and had nothing to pay when the gig was up.

Duboc took a pass on making the hard decisions and left it up to this council to clean up her mess. Now she sits on her couch and has her cronies like Hank go out and make a fight on the very premise that she failed to correct, even exacerbated by playing the victim.

We have to address four years of no salary raises now and that makes me very mad. That is why the numbers are so vast and that is why we all need to be vigilent with our city councils. The past council pushed this issue to the worst economic crisis in recent history.

What to do? Do as Hank says and just blow up the unions? I don't think that is realistic or helpful at all. Can we find a middle ground? I will agree that the unions have shown little respect for the realities of the current economies.

I plan to watch tonight and see what the real factors are here because I cannot trust Duboc to do anything but denegrate and stomp her feet. Her emails are negative and misleading.

The poorest most classless city council election loser in the history of this city.

Posted by C'mon Truth, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Jan 13, 2009 at 9:11 pm

C'mon Truth, does it ALWAYS have to be like this with you? Always trashing Lee Duboc, Mickie Winkler, and now Hank, and making it personal??! Your points are watered down, every time you go there. And, in this current economic climate, I have to tell you, your comments are falling on deaf ears. I don't care if any of the city workers haven't had a raise in 10 years, we can't afford it, and quite honestly I'd like one person in my company, in my neighborhood etc. that can come up to me and tell me they just recently got a raise in the private sector. Just because their underlings got a raise, is not the reason to give them a raise. If they leave, because they did not get a raise, good luck with finding a job somewhere else. Being a police officer in Menlo Park has got to be one of the best positions in the state of California, next to Beverly Hills and La Jolla. This state is choking itself to death with these types of increases and pensions, it is out of control, and it has to be met with skepticism and discussion, at the very least. Next is the fire district. 4, maybe 5 firehouses for a city of 30,000 residents??? C'mon! I also heard we have NEVER had a personnel accident in the history of the fire department? Is that true? I know there have been no deaths. I've lived here for 12 years, and I can only remember 2 serious fires. These expenses are uncalled for, but I realize they are the Holly Grail of state budgets. We HAVE to have this discussion, and tough decisions need to be made!

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Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2009 at 7:39 am

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District is a totally separate entity from the City of Menlo Park. The Fire District was established before the City of Menlo Park was incorporated and covers the communities of Atherton, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto plus some of the unincorporated areas of San Mateo County. The District's population is estimated around 93,000. The District has seven stations that are strategically placed to provide the most efficient response times. The District responds to approximately 8,500 emergencies a year with about 60% of them being emergency medical incidents. There have been more than 10 fire related fatalities in the District in the past 15 years. The District also is the sponsor the one of the 28 elite National Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces and, as a consequence, has more specialized search and rescue experience and equipment (paid for by the Federal government) than most very large cities.

Please do not confuse the Fire District with the City of Menlo Park.

Posted by hold the line, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2009 at 8:14 am

The economy is in the tank and is expected to be so for several more years, with increasing numbers of unemployed. Looking at comparable salaries should be only one of a number of factors examined when evaluating compensation. Others have been mentioned by other posters - type of work (eg compare urban areas and wealthy suburban communities), employment climate (eg competition both in pay but also in hiring), the ability of residents and businesses to pay when they themselves are not getting pay increases and many have lost or risk losing their own jobs.

Also - the unions need to understand that they may be choosing between pay and jobs being filled. Please Council, hold the line - with compassion and concerns for community safety and fairness all the way around, of course.

Posted by truth, a resident of the Menlo Park: Belle Haven neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2009 at 8:35 am

I think I have a right to prove out that my taxpayer dollars and my council is spending a frustrating amount of time cleaning up the mess of the past council. They passed on the big decisions (like competitive salaries) or eroded the goodwill of the community to the point where there is no trust at all.

And you parrots are running around town spinning out Duboc's garbage as if it is fact.

It isn't. And since the majority of this city are smart enough to move on, I am not. I will stay here and set the record straight. You revisionists can attack me all you want.

I can prove every position I take.

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Posted by shocked, a resident of the Menlo Park: Fair Oaks neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2009 at 9:02 am

This is ridiculous. In this economy, this raise proposal is reckless and irresponsible. The City Counsel are supposed to be fiscally responsible. This is outrageous!

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2009 at 10:07 am

You may be shocked but this is now a done deal having been approved by the Council last night by a 4-1 vote and with only one member of the public speaking. More public participation evidently would not have made a difference since the Mayor very revealingly stated that this was just 'fulfilling a commitment we made to the sergeants last April' - so much for transparency.

Posted by OUTRAGE, a resident of the Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2009 at 10:51 am

THIS IS OVER THE TOP, AND RIDICULOUS! How can we get residents to give a darn about these costs??!! All I hear all day long is how the state of California is going bust, etc., the decision last night adds to the problem, and every city like Menlo Park adds to the state's problems. I know they're not tied together at the hip, but to get this type of an increase, in today's economy, is RIDICULOUS. I don't care what the reasons are, bottom-line, there is NO leadership here, no one to take a hard line and make that tough decision. It's all about getting elected, and helping those that got you there. Congratulations to Ferguson, Robinson, Cohen and Kline, you were all in fact supported, funded and endorsed by the police and many other unions. This will continue, until someone is elected that is not in bed with these folks. I am thoroughly disgusted with this council!!!

Posted by think before speaking 101, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2009 at 11:48 am

Our new mayor's foot may be taking up permanent residence in his mouth.

Posted by new guy, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Got to get it while you can. BUT!!! The hard reality is coming, and it is going to come faster than our leaders in MP can imagine. All those comparables (read: those who pay higher than average, (((we all think we are better than average don't we all)))) will fall once those other towns and ours are forced into bankruptcy. This will happen. There is no other way around it. These towns think they can rely on property tax, but with valuations dropping, that well will run drier and drier. I for one, and the rest of my neighbors will be applying to tax reassessments and will get them.

Sure, they can raise the stealth tax (utility tax) but that will only get them a few more million to play with, which will not replace the hole they will be in.

Lets face it, this game will eventually end, and while it will be reported that "services" will be effected once in bankruptcy, it is the only way to move forward.

California will not find the money to play with anymore, and will not be able to "raise revenues" (read: tax us) to cover the promises made.

Posted by Lee, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, on Jan 14, 2009 at 8:24 pm

What a Joke, no wonder I heard some police officers in Menlo Park laughing about how stupid the residents are while wasting tax payers money while setting in Star Bucks for almost and hour.....One long coffee break....

Posted by Jen D'arme, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, 11 hours ago

Cops work 10-12 hour shifts. They get lunch breaks and coffee breaks just like everyone else, they just don't take them back at the police station.

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Posted by new guy, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, 10 hours ago

The governator just announced that CA would be "insolvent within weeks".

Glad you guys got your raise through in time. Would not want someone (((with a job))) to not be motivated properly.

For a check on the real world:

My company just layed off 15% and cut salaries by 10-20%. The equates to less earned by me, but the happy part is I will pay less taxes for you to play with.

Good luck with insolvency. It is coming faster than you can imagine.

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Posted by econ major, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, 9 hours ago

Agree with new. Except for the self-employed, everyone I know has stories of layoffs and pay cuts in their organizations. For the council to justify pay increases because they are standard operating practice is obscene in any case, but particularly abhorrent in the current environment.

For many years, our cities have been held hostage to the police cabal that steadily keeps salaries going up, up, up. Instead of caving every time we hear that "city x has raised salaries and we need to do it too" maybe we should set a precedent by standing firm. Let's work together with our neighbors instead of competing with them.

After all, what do you think your boss at Avis would say if you told her that Hertz paid 10% more? She'd tell you to quit and take a job at Hertz! We need police officers who are proud to work for Menlo Park at the wages we can afford, not mercenaries who are constantly looking for a better deal elsewhere.

Posted by Cara Binieri, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, 9 hours ago

You're an econ major? Really?

You do understand that police work is not charity work, right? Those of us who work for a living are mercenaries -- we sell our skills and our time in order to support our families, and very, very few of us would stay working at Company X if Company Y down the road is hiring and willing to pay more.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, 8 hours ago

Econ 101 says there is a supply-demand situation with regard to employment. Every time there is a vacancy in the Fire District there are over 100 applicants - that suggest that the firefighters are not underpaid. I am sure that there are lots of applicants every time Menlo

Park Police Dept posts a vacancy therefore Econ 101 clearly says that these positions are not 'below market' in terms of salary and benefits.

Who in the private sector gets to retire at age 50 with 90% of their last year's salary for the rest of their lives?

If you want to keep people do what the military does - offer them re-enlistment bonuses which are a flat payment in return for a commitment to serve for x additional years. Higher salaries won't retain people if all the other potential employers have agreed to not only match but to exceed your salary levels.

Posted by Cara Binieri, a resident of the Menlo Park: Downtown neighborhood, 7 hours ago

I think if you ask local police chiefs, they'll tell you that qualified police officer candidates are hard to find and expensive to train.

The situation may well be different for firefighters, but I wonder how many of those 100 applicants for every firefighter opening are viable candidates.

Posted by econ major, a resident of the Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park neighborhood, 7 hours ago

So, Cara, even though you like your job, you are constantly sending out your resume and interviewing with prospective employers in hopes that someone will give you $100/week more? If that's the environment that we've created in the PD by promoting the keep-up-with-the-joneses increases, then it's past time for us to put an end to it. It's not conducive to stability, and it's expensive.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of the Atherton: Lindenwood neighborhood, 7 hours ago

Given the manner in which the Fire District posts its openings the only people who apply are one who meet the minimum requirements - they are all viable candidates.

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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jan 16, 2009 at 10:32 am

If we hired carabinieri at their local rates adjusted for cost of living, got them E-1 work visas and paid their relocation expenses to California it would cost us less than our sergeants. And they would comparably perform.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jan 19, 2009 at 8:52 am

It is a shame that our city is spending money as if it grew on trees. Performance first, lavish spending later if you must.

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