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Questions on Mayor Widmer's letter to residents?

Original post made by Will Atherton Police be Outsourced by 2016?, Atherton: other, on Oct 26, 2012

Concerns on accuracy of Mayor Widmer’s Letter October 25th letter to residents:

On Thursday October 25th the following letter from Mayor Widmer was emailed out to residents and others from the Town of Atherton. Perhaps this was done to make the cutoff for next week’s print edition of the Almanac. Hopefully if the Almanac does a story, it will present both sides and ask the Mayor some of these questions. The Mayor can also use this forum to respond to the questions.

Questions are asked for the mayor to clarify his position on issues.

While the council voted for him to write the letter, the council did not review the content of the letter. Council members Lewis and Carlson wanted the Mayor to focus on the overview of the situation not specifics. The main concern of funding is not addressed in the Mayor’s letter.

The APOA website: also has comments on the situation.

The overview of the situation is that the Atherton Police are concerned that without the Parcel Tax the council will need to make up a $1.8M revenue loss at a time when there are already budget issues. Reports are that Outsourcing the Police will save Atherton $2M or more per year. The Parcel Tax expires every four or five years with 2014 being the next expiration date.

While campaigning in 2010 neither candidate Dobbie nor Widmer discussed the possibility of outsourcing. Within days of the election, outsourcing was placed on a finance committee meeting agenda which consisted of council members McKeithen and Dobbie. Days later a council meeting was called to discuss outsourcing, police services were included. The Almanac story follows this letter.

Outsourcing was never put on a public agenda after that, but six months later the council decided to outsource the Building Department and the Public Works Departments. Was it on a closed session agenda (s)?

In the Mayor’s opinion is outsourcing the Atherton police a possibility by 2016? What factors would lead to outsourcing?

Concerned that outsourcing the police may be a necessity without a Parcel Tax, the Police sent out a letter to residents recently. The letter also endorsed two candidates Lewis and Wiest.

In choosing Lewis and Wiest, the APOA did not choose the candidates that are supported by council members Widmer, McKeithen, and Dobbie. Given that those three council members have favored letting the Parcel Tax sunset, the police are concerned that once the Parcel Tax ends in 2014, the council will not focus on renewal. Then what happens to the Atherton Police? Thus the APOA believe that the council makeup will determine the future of the Atherton Police. Is this a false statement to make?

Mayor Widmer recently posted a video on You Tube stating that he wanted to Sunset the Parcel Tax. Council Member Dobbie has also stated he wants to Sunset the Parcel Tax. Without Parcel Tax renewal, what options does the council have?

Mayor Widmer has now issued a letter and video that the APOA have made “false and misleading statements.” The Mayor does not point out any specific statement.

Neither the Mayor nor council members Dobbie and McKeithen have explained how they are going to fund Atherton without a Parcel Tax. Is the plan to do this after the election?

The mayor’s letter states: “The City Council has not, held any discussions at any Council meeting regarding plans or potential plans to outsource our police department services.”

But that does not seem to be the case as the Almanac stories report.

Perhaps the mayor can explain how that statement is accurate and not false and misleading, given the Almanac stories?

After putting outsourcing on an agenda at 8am in the morning two years ago, why hasn’t the council or Mayor placed it on an agenda since?

Did the council discuss outsourcing the Police in closed sessions during the time it was discussing outsourcing the other departments?

Have council members discussed outsourcing the police among themselves?

Have council members discussed outsourcing the police among their friends?

Two years ago the Mayor stated he wanted residents to vote out outsourcing the police, did he consider putting it on this year’s ballot?

And the reason why it is not on this year’s ballot?

Point in the Mayor’s letter is:
“Police officers have not been laid off from the Atherton Police Department.” That statement is correct, but is it misleading?

The point should be does the Police budget allow the same number of officers as it did two years ago? Or as patrol officers have left, instead of hiring new officers were other positions were eliminated and those officers resigned.

One of those positions that appears to have been eliminated is the School Resource Officer. That position was proactive to stop possible school gang activities. It no longer exists.

Perhaps the Mayor will answer that question. Does Atherton have then same number of employees in the Police Department that it has two years ago? What are the exact numbers of employees and the breakdown since 2008?

The Mayor also writes: "Formal negotiations on that contract have not yet begun."

What does the word "Formal" mean? Have informal negotiations begun? What is the "informal" position of the council? What council members are aware of the "Informal" position of the Mayor? What candidates are aware? Why haven't formal negotiations started?

What is the difference between Formal and Informal?

This is the second time this year the Mayor has written a letter accusing a group of False and Misleading statements without calling out the statement that was false.

In the Spring, a Yahoo Users Group called the Athertonians started posting questions with the plans of Widmer, McKeithen, and Dobbie regarding building the library. The response was for the three of them to have the Mayor draft a letter claiming the Athertonians were making false and misleading statements. When asked to provide evidence of those statements- the mayor did not send out the letter, which was on the June agenda.

By August Widmer, McKeithen, and Dobbie changed course and put the library in the park on an agenda and to a town vote.

Rather than now accuse the APOA of false and misleading statements- council leadership should have an agenda item and inform the residents what it is thinking and listen to what the people have to say. This would also be a better way to work with the APOA rather than have the Mayor write this letter.

Below is the Mayor’s full letter as of October 25th and the stories in the Almanac on Council Outsourcing activities:

"Dear Neighbor:
Recently, the Atherton Police Officers Association (APOA) distributed a mailer calling attention to several issues related to the possibility of outsourcing public safety services in Atherton. The mailer made several assertions that misrepresent the facts. The City Council voted on October 17, 2012 to provide our residents with a response to the mailer in an effort to correct any misinformation or misconceptions.
Your City Council, in serving the community has safety as the No. 1 priority. The City Council recently hired a top safety professional as your new Police Chief and his sole focus is to provide superior quality and responsive support for all residents. The City Council has and continues to provide our police department with all the requested resources necessary to provide that service while remaining fiscally responsible. We are dismayed that the information to the contrary has been communicated.
The information below is provided in an effort to correct any misrepresentations or misconceptions:
• The Atherton Police Department has and will continue to provide for the safety of all residents without regard to political affiliations.
• The City Council has not, held any discussions at any Council meeting regarding plans or potential plans to outsource our police department services."

Atherton residents get nervous over outsourcing-- November 2010
by Renee Batti
Almanac Staff

In what could be a sign of things to come if Atherton's elected officials decide to outsource police services, a number of Atherton residents attended an early morning meeting of the City Council and town's Finance Committee on Nov. 18 to hear a presentation on another city's experiences in turning over police operations to the county Sheriff's Office.

In spite of the 8 a.m. start time, about 15 residents attended the session, Councilman Jerry Carlson estimated. A number of them spoke, he said, and to his recollection, they all were against farming out police services.

The council has not actively explored outsourcing police services, but it has been struggling to find ways to fix the town budget's $1 million structural deficit, and had directed the Finance Committee to look at options that include outsourcing a number of town services.

The committee had scheduled a presentation by Jeff Maltbie, interim city manager of San Carlos, who was to talk about his city's outsourcing of police services to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office. When Councilman Carlson learned of the presentation, scheduled for the committee's Nov. 18 meeting, he requested that the meeting be held jointly with the City Council, he said.

The meeting's turnout by residents may have been the result, in large part, of an e-mail sent out by former police chief Glenn Nielsen, alerting residents to the meeting and encouraging them to attend, according to people who saw the message.

Councilman Jim Dobbie said the e-mail from Mr. Nielsen "stirred things up. ... It just generated a lot of concern that was totally inappropriate." To the best of his knowledge, he added, "no council member wants to outsource the (police) department. ... We love our police department, but we'd be irresponsible not to look at all options for fixing the financial situation."

Councilman Dobbie said if the council ever decided it wanted to turn over police operations to another agency, he would push for putting the question on the ballot. Bill Widmer, who will take a seat on the council in December, also said voters should be the ultimate decision-makers on outsourcing.

Councilman Carlson said he would want the public to be heavily involved in making a decision of such consequence, but he wasn't certain the question would have to go to a vote. "People need to tell us what services are important to them, and what they're willing to pay for," he said.

Almanac News - Wednesday, August 24, 2011
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Atherton council proceeds with its outsourcing plan
After a few words of regret by Councilwoman Elizabeth Lewis, the Atherton City Council voted Wednesday night, Aug. 17, to proceed with outsourcing certain town services.
The council unanimously approved a resolution to eliminate staff positions for a finance department assistant, a public works supervisor, and the entire building department. These employees were laid off Friday, Aug. 19. Three more public works employees are to be laid off Sept. 16.
Council members said they are taking the action to address anticipated budget deficits, including an expected shortfall of $856,000 in the fiscal year starting July 1, if no action is taken to cut costs.
The Teamsters union representing town staff have sued the town over the layoffs and the outsourcing plan

Back to the Mayor's letter:

"Staffing levels for the Atherton Police Department are at the same levels as specified in the 2009/2010 Town Budget and the approved budget levels for our Police Department are at the exact levels requested by our Chief.
• Police response rates are at better levels than those recorded in 2005/2006.
• Police officers have not been laid off from the Atherton Police Department. The City does have a management and policy prerogative, based on operations and financial considerations, to re-deploy or re-assign officers. The School Resource Officer and Task Force Officer positions referred to in the mailer were positions that had to be re-deployed due to the School District’s withdrawal of funding support. These resources were reassigned to patrol activities within the Town vs serving in roles not focused solely on your safety.
• The APOA is organized through the Teamsters Union. The current 5-year contract expires on September 30, 2013. Formal negotiations on that contract have not yet begun. These negotiations will occur in compliance with all applicable Meyers-"

Comments (4)

Like this comment
Posted by Ridiculous
a resident of Atherton: other
on Oct 26, 2012 at 11:09 am

This ongoing saga of cops saying council members have no right to even discuss or consider police outsourcing without letting residents pre-approve that is ridiculous.

Also, the long diatribe above is just wrong. Widmer doesn't say in that letter the parcel tax is going away. If union concessions can result in the parcel tax going away, great. That doesn't necessarily mean outsourcing. If the union won't be reasonable, outsource.

I think Charles Marsala is behind all of this, and he doesn't even live in Atherton anymore!

Like this comment
Posted by The Fuzz
a resident of Atherton: Lloyden Park
on Oct 26, 2012 at 11:19 am

One of the great benefits of a strong police union in Atherton is the resources to do what is in the best interests of the residents of the Town of Atherton, the best interests of the Town of Atherton, and the best interests of the Atherton Police Department.

That's why the APOA, through its law enforcement connections with the FBI, is going to pay for all council members and council candidates to be strapped to a polygraph examination machine, with a licensed FBI polygrapher.

The question will be posed: "Have you ever thought about outsourcing the Atherton police department?". This is the key question, and cuts to the heart of it. Discussions with friends, colleagues, closed sessions, etc., aren't the sieve that needs to be used here.

If deception is found, the APOA will sponsor a recall of that candidate, or make sure he or she is disqualified in the upcoming election.

Just thinking about this issue is clearly not in the best interests of the residents of the Town of Atherton, the best interests of the Town of Atherton, and the best interests of the Atherton Police Department.

Who's game? Cary Wiest and Elizabeth Lewis have already been tested and passed with flying colors. The APOA believes its officers are entitled to polygraphically examine the candidates with or without their consent as part of legitimate law enforcement purposes.

Like this comment
Posted by Colleen Anderson
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 27, 2012 at 1:23 pm

The Almanac endorsees candidates, and yet it is my understanding we paid the Almanac when we ran adds during the last election. They endorsed a council member that would have say on what paper to run the add in. They even printed one of the candidates ages wrong making him younger than he really is. We didn't send out a correction letter on that. Why? Yet we still advertise with them. It is called freedom of speech, and should be protected. I feel it isn't write for our mayor to send out this letter. I would like to think he would value freedom of speech, and want what the people want. This makes it look like he has his own personal agenda.

Like this comment
Posted by Colleen Anderson
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Oct 27, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Denise has taken out ad space for $$$$$$ Does that mean the Almanac is going to endorse her? $$$$$$$ goes a long way. How far does it go in buying endorsements. If the Almanac endorses her should we send a letter stating she paid for ad space. If she is elected should we NEVER spend add dollars with the Almanac again?

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

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