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Palo Alto may put 'binding arbitration' to vote

Original post made on Jul 16, 2010

Palo Alto officials may soon ask city voters to repeal a local law that requires the city and its police officers and firefighters to seek third-party arbitration if their contract negotiations collapse, the Weekly has learned.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 16, 2010, 8:54 AM

Comments (32)

Posted by Time to share the pain, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 16, 2010 at 11:10 am

WOW! This is amazing. Look, I am a big supporter of our police and firefighters, and have an amazing amount of respect for what they do. But a 50%+ increase in total compensation over the last 9 years is unconscionable. These runaway pensions and benefit plans have to be controlled or we will implode as a city. This will lead to ever more layoffs of police and firefighters. If you think that will not happen, just look around the area. Time for the unions to step up and share the pain with the rest of us.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 16, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Let's see if the council has the guts to go against the special interests that put them into office. Yeh, Price, Shepard & Espinosa all got elected with union help, and their voting records on union issues before the city has always favored the union position, so you can count them as "no" votes.

It'll take the other five council members to form the majority to put this on the ballot.


Posted by Old Palo Alto, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 16, 2010 at 1:18 pm

There's a lot of laid off cops and firefighters that would love to come work in Palo Alto, and at lower pay.


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Community Center
on Jul 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm

This is encouraging. So instead of just having a ballot initiative created by folks who don't live in Palo Alto, and are paid three times the national average for their line of work, and who spend the majority of their "working" hours sleeping, shopping and BBQ'ing ... we may see an initiative that will allow PA to residents to begin the process of bringing ff costs in to line with reality.


Posted by Resident, a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 16, 2010 at 1:53 pm

I'll vote to repeal the binding arbitration clause from the City Charter. Anything Spitaleri is for, I'm against.


Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 16, 2010 at 2:47 pm

"In Palo Alto, the median total compensation for police officers and firefighters has jumped from $89,059 in 2000-01 to $146,061 in 2009-10, according to the report. At the same time, the city's revenues have plummeted, leading to a series of annual budget deficits."

Simply unsustainable. Palo Alto has no choice: it must reduce total firefighter and police compensation.

I'm encouraged by Mayor Burt's steps here; keep it up, Pat!


Posted by cieboy, a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 16, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Good move Mayor Burt.


Posted by Council Supporter, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 16, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Well done City Council. This is a good answer to the fire fighters initiative which would change the City Charter to lock in pay raises, benefits and staffing levels.

If the firefighters can put an initiative on the ballot so can City Council. I'll vote against the firefighters initiative.

So long as Spitaleri is against the City Council's amendment to the City Charter, I'll vote for it!! Well done, let's do it this November.


Posted by A Police Department Employee, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Well,

Thanks Fire Fighters for being selfish with your ballot measure. You certainly have the City's attention now and they are going after binding arbitration.

Unfortunately, your actions will potentially not only take your arbitration away but it will take the arbitration away for the Police Officers who over the years have worked extreamely well with the City. Police Employees have deferred raises, saved money on benefits, and worked well with the City.

That will all be thrown out the window because you won't share in the cuts like everyone else.

Way to go.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 16, 2010 at 6:32 pm

With a few exceptions, I have always been impressed by the quality of the PA PD. Very professional, responsive, and citizen service oriented. Always seem to have the citizens best interests in mind. Sorry to see that they are going to be impacted by the selfishness of the ff's.

I never had a lot of interaction with the PA FD. Mostly saw them when there was a parade or a BBQ or the like. But now that Spitaleri has been pushing his feather bedding initiative I have been observing the PAFD. I rarely see them working. When I do see them they are usually strolling around Safeway or Costco, or driving aimlessly around, or something similar. The few times I have seen them in action it always seems like there are two standing around for every one who is doing any work.

I am so disgusted with the selfishnes of the PAFD. I'd like to not to blame the rank and file for the actions of the union boss, but they elected him. They have been the ones running up to folks to get the petition signed. Unfortunately I don't even feel like moving to the right when the fire trucks come by with their sirens on. I have just lost respect fot the entire organization.

I would like to see the whole operation outsourced. I believe Palo Alto could enjoy the same level of service for 50% of the cost if staffing levels were set to meet the demand for service, and pay levels were set at market demand.


Posted by Cecelia M. Horn, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 16, 2010 at 10:09 pm

I am delighted to see the young trees on California
Avenue; They are growing so well that Canopy and other volunteers did the job that started out to be just another example of city employees on the looseunsupervised

Take a bow Canopy. Now how about putting names on those trees? I thought I was pretty smart but there are a couple I could not identify.

California Avenue is my favorite shopping area but would prefer keeping even more tax dollars at home.

I am located almost in Mt. View


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 16, 2010 at 11:43 pm

There are eighty (80) police officers in Oakland who might really want to work here or anywhere. Ditto Vallejo and other cash strapped cities. Way to go, Mayor Burt.
I think you've got this city behind you. Whatever it takes to get Spiliteri's noose off of our neck, go for it. We've had enough of his blackmail - and he is an official of another city. That's even sicker. If the rank and file had any sense, they would throw out Spiliteri right now.


Posted by A concerned constable, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jul 17, 2010 at 11:21 am

City Council and citizens of Palo Alto,

Let's not punish the police officers for the selfish, unreasonable and poor judgement currently being demonstrated by the fire union with their pending ballot initiative. The police officers union consistently maintains communicative, reasonable and professional labor relations with the City of Palo Alto.

If the fire union truly believed their "minimum staffing" initiative was appropriate and reasonable for the safety of the citizens of Palo Alto, they would surely have addressed the matter during negotiations and resolved it appropriately through binding arbitration. Why didn't that occur? Because the fire union obviously knows that any arbitrator would clearly see that their attempts to save fire positions while the rest of the City makes cuts is unrealistic and they would LOSE during arbitration.

Don't get me wrong I support both the hard working police officers and fire fighters but let the common sense and logic of the voters defeat the fire initiative and not hurt the great working relationship the police officers have with the City by removing binding arbitration which has never been a matter of concern until now.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jul 17, 2010 at 12:51 pm

A concerned constable states:"not hurt the great working relationship the police officers have with the City by removing binding arbitration."

As a former elected official, I can assure you that binding arbitration does nothing to improve the working relationship between elected officials and unions. On the contrary, binding arbitration often encourages impasse in negotiations as well as giving unelected arbitrators the power to make huge decisions that are binding on the taxpayers - who have no recourse in the matter.


Posted by carlito ways, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 17, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Did you know that the the President of the Palo Alto Professional Firefighters Tony Spitalieri is moonlightning as a Mayor of Sunnyvale?


Posted by A concerned citizen, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 17, 2010 at 3:43 pm

I think "A concerned constable" was addressing the PA City Council and PA citizens but anyways, thanks for your opinion Mr. Carpenter...."A RESIDENT OF ATHERTON." :)


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jul 17, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Concerned citizen states:"thanks for your opinion Mr. Carpenter...."

You are welcome; glad that you appreciate that knowledge and experience exist outside Palo Alto and that Palo Alto can benefit from the experience of others.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 17, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Peter Carpenter,

Your input is appreciated. I don't always agree with you but it is clear you have experience in the area of emergency services and your comments are informative.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2010 at 7:14 pm

In the passed Palo Alto has lost Officers who left and went to Oakland. These Officers were adrenaline junkies who wanted a lot more action than Palo Alto offers.

Oakland's Officers are valuable because they've gone through the Police Academy at Oakland's expense, and been paid for a year while in training. I read that Berkeley plans to hire three of them.


Posted by star, a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jul 17, 2010 at 10:32 pm

I think bringing in the recently disposed and disgruntled Oakland and Valleo police officers would be a great addition to Palo Alto. Thought the article was about Mayor Burt and Larry Klein retalitating against the fire departments ballot iniative with their own iniative at an additional cost to city taxpayers. Try to keep the hate down and post intelligently.


Posted by Steve, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2010 at 11:08 am

Amazing. One would think that the supposedly educated people in this town would do their own research instead of taking for gospel what newspapers and amatuer politicians have to say. These papers and especially politicians over exaggerate and sensationalize facts and figures of all public saftey employees to take the attention of how poorly and feebly they have run this city and that THEY are the main cause for any financial mess the city is claiming.


Posted by Police and fire supporter, a resident of Midtown
on Jul 18, 2010 at 11:25 am

All of the people and politicians who are against police and firefighters are so uninformed and ignorant about these professions, have complete misconceptions of what the jobs entail, and take for granted the incredible level of service and protection they have in Palo Alto. If you want to live in a city that is cutting public saftey, hiring employees laid off from other cities, making negotiations as difficult as possible then I suggest you move. Leave our people alone.


Posted by Perspective, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 18, 2010 at 11:43 am

In a world of limited resources,the bottom line is always..well..the bottom line. The choices we make, on both sides, affect the other side's decision making..and the consequences, intended and unintended, will always come around.



Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jul 18, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Police and firefighter supporter states:"All of the people and politicians who are against police and firefighters are so uninformed and ignorant about these professions."

Most of the people whom you claim to be uniformed and ignorant are NOT against firefighters and police - I for one fully understand and deeply respect the service which they perform for our community. However, that understanding and respect does not logically lead to supporting salary and benefits levels which are in excess of what is both justified by the marketplace and affordable by the communities which they serve.


Posted by JA3+, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 18, 2010 at 9:23 pm

"However, that understanding and respect does not logically lead to supporting salary and benefits levels which are in excess of what is both justified by the marketplace and affordable by the communities which they serve."

+1

Once again, Peter Carpenter is spot-on.


Posted by Police Officer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 19, 2010 at 9:33 am

Dear City Council,

We completely understand your anger and frustration at the self serving childish behavior of the fire personnel and fire union leaders in the City. Afterall, they are the only group in the City that hasn't provided any salary and benefit savings and they are the only department that got an almost complete pass in terms of budget cuts.

Having said that, a blanket change in the arbitration will effect more than just fire and will do significant harm to the future relationship between the police and the City. Our relationship has always been reasonable in the past and will likely continue that behavior in the future.

Please explore ways to keep us out of the Fire vs. City fight. This is their issue, not ours. We don't support thier ballot measure and we don't condone their lack of flexibility on cost savings.

Thank you.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jul 19, 2010 at 10:38 am

Police Officer states:"Our relationship has always been reasonable in the past and will likely continue that behavior in the future. "

Reasonable relationships do not require or even accept binding third party arbitration by someone who is not accountable to the taxpayers.

Has the police union contract ever gone to arbitration?


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 19, 2010 at 11:08 am

Wow, the Police union has given their support to Fire's ballot measure. In fact, two ex-city council members came to the Police union and ask them to go public with a no vote the Fire's ballot measure. The Poice union said NO.
I wonder where you got your information or maybe you are NOT a Palo Alto Officer?
Also, the pay raise that Police give up last year? They just got it July 1st. It was just defer for one year.


Posted by Herb Borock, a resident of Professorville
on Jul 19, 2010 at 1:05 pm

"Has the police union contract ever gone to arbitration?"

Yes. I recall that the arbitrator set the authorized number of Agents at 19.

Agent is the rank between Officer and Sergeant.

The number of Agents has remained at 19 as the number of Officers has decreased.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jul 19, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Herb Borock states that the arbitrator set the number of agents at 19 and that "The number of Agents has remained at 19 as the number of Officers has decreased. "

This is a good example of why an arbitrator should not be allowed to place a demand on the citizens for which the arbitrator is not accountable.


Posted by Former PAFD Fan, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm

People who pay taxes (ergo PAFD salaries and benefits) are being fired by their private employers and replaced by lower cost employees. Why should ONE group of city employees be immune to the economic downturn that the rest of us have to deal with?




EVERYONE is living with cuts right now. Tony Spitaleri is providing poor, stubbornly oppositional leadership to the union. His greed will be their downfall. The firefighters have lost SOOOO much good will in the community. It's really very disappointing to see one man creating so much bad blood. The firefighters have to take some responsibility for this. They are supporting him. PAFD, you need new, thoughtful, creative leadership.


Posted by Jim, a resident of another community
on Jul 20, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Sunnyvale Mayor and Union President Spitaleri has been an excellent leader for his city and the Firefighter's union. I have known the man for over 30 years and he is well respected throughout the country.
When he retire from the fire dept, the event was attended by over 1000 people... ex-city council people, business leaders, local and state politicians and firefighters from across the country.
I really think that this small percentage of people that don't like Mr. Spitaleri, is because they wish he was on their side.


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