Palo Alto firefighters call for mediation | June 24, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 24, 2011

Palo Alto firefighters call for mediation

Union says city rejected its offer of $3.1 million in concessions

With contract negotiations stalling, Palo Alto firefighters are calling on the city to enlist a mediator to nudge the two sides toward an agreement.

The union's contract expired in May 2010 and the two sides have remained at a standoff since then, with the city declaring an impasse in February. The negotiations are expected to go to binding arbitration in the fall.

Tony Spitaleri, president of Palo Alto Professional Firefighters, Local 1319, said the union decided to request mediation after the city rejected its latest offer — one that Spitaleri said included $3.1 million in concessions. Spitaleri said in a statement that the firefighters' offer includes a 4 percent wage decrease for firefighters and engineers and a 5 percent decrease for captains and fire inspectors.

He said the firefighters also offered to pay 10 percent of their health insurance premiums (the city currently pays the entire premium) and proposed revisions to the pension formula for new hires. He estimated that the structural changes would save the city about $1.7 million, while the wage decrease would save another $1.4 million.

"In the wake of the city rejecting our contract proposal worth $3.1 million in givebacks, we have asked the city to enter into mediation," Spitaleri said in the statement. "We think that the $3.1 million package in wages, health care, and pension cuts that our fire fighters have offered to the city to help balance the city's budget is a generous one."

The union's mediation proposal comes at a time when the City Council is considering major changes to the city's process for settling labor disputes with its public-safety unions. Under existing law, disputes are settled through binding arbitration. The council is now considering drafting a ballot measure that would change or eliminate this provision. The council's Policy and Services Committee is scheduled to discuss the possible ballot measure Tuesday night.

The firefighters union has consistently opposed efforts to repeal the binding-arbitration provision, though Spitaleri indicated Monday night that it would support making some changes to the existing law. He proposed at Monday's council meeting that the city form a stakeholders group to consider modifications.

"Given the current debate around modifying binding arbitration, the Fire Fighters are showing good faith by asking the city for mediation as an alternative means of dispute resolution rather than going directly to binding arbitration, which is our right under the city charter," Spitaleri said in the statement.

The city's 2012 budget, which the council adopted Monday night, assumes $4.3 million in concessions from police and firefighter unions.

— Gennady Sheyner


Posted by Robert, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2011 at 9:01 am

The FF pensions should be capped now so our kids aren't paying for our city leadership's lack of backbone today (and over the past decades).

I just hired a 20 year vet who's been in IED attacks, shot at, etc. and he pulls in 50% of his final salary, which isn't bloated, by the way. Firemen should be capped at half of that, or put on 401K's like the public who pays their pensions.

We're tired of this. See the Measure R results.

Posted by Frank, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 23, 2011 at 9:28 am

Tony Spitaleri has zero credibility with me. As long as he is president of Palo Alto Professional Firefighters Local 1319, not a word of any claim he makes deserves consideration.

It is high time for the City to say, "Enough, we can't afford the firefighter concept of fairness anymore. Here's our concept of fairness. When applicants for our jobs stop circling the block, maybe we'll reconsider."

Posted by End-Mediation-Now, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2011 at 9:29 am

> "We think that the $3.1 million package in wages, health care,
> and pension cuts that our fire fighters have offered to the city
> to help balance the city's budget is a generous one."

So .. where is the breakdown of where these "givebacks" play out?

One local paper carried an article claiming that the rank-n-file FFs would take a 4% pay cut (presumably for one year), and that some would accept a slightly higher cut (like "Inspectors").

As to "pension cuts", this is hyperbole on the part of the Union, since pensions are only computed on high years' salary, and so if there were a 4% cut this year, and this 4% is recovered before the FF retires, then there is no pension cut at all.

This is one of the reasons that dealing with labor unions requires a big bottle of truth serum, and five or six polygraphs, before you can believe anything they say.

So what if the FFs don't have a contract for a while longer? The FFs are still getting paid, aren't they?

Posted by Michael, a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 23, 2011 at 9:36 am

Frank is absolutely right. We should lower FF compensation to the point that supply matches demand, which is exactly what happens in the real world. Those jobs would be filled easily at 30% lower compensation and 401K style pensions, so why don't we go there?

The City needs to take a hard line against public waste.

Posted by Chris, a resident of University South
on Jun 23, 2011 at 11:56 am

Let's start laying off firemen until the union
cries uncle.

They need to cut salaries by 10% and benefits by

Let's show them who's the boss.

No artificial mediation.

Posted by Jeff, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2011 at 12:44 pm

The firefighters and their union stopped being public "servants" years ago and have focused most of their energy on buying/threatening politicians and running away with as much public wealth as they can. They are paid way more than the value they add and way more than the market dictates they are worth (the same services, mostly medical calls, can be had for much much cheaper).

Posted by Aghast, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2011 at 12:52 pm

1. Switch 'em to 401(K), just like most of us working stiffs. That way, future generations aren't stuck with the stupidity of people like LaDoris Cordell who awarded "lifetime 100 percent city-paid health benefits" to city employees.

2. Change their health benefits to defined contribution rather than defined benefit.

3. Go to mediation with the proposal of subcontracting Palo Alto's fire fighting services to neighboring city fire departments.

4. Fire Spitaleri.

Posted by Frank, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 23, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Palo Altans realize City employee benefits are acting like a vampire sucking City coffers dry.

The 3-1 landslide defeat of the firefighters proposed charter amendment (featherbedding proposal) in the last Palo Alto election says it all. The electorate is looking for champions who will chop City benefits and comp now.

Posted by Jaime, a resident of Ventura
on Jun 23, 2011 at 5:38 pm

These firefighters and their union, through their manipulation, are basically stealing from our children, whos schools get edged out by bloated firefighter pay, and who will ultimately be stuck with their outrageous pension bill.

If we can't stop this now, our city government has clearly been bought and paid for. The voter's will is completely clear.

Posted by End-Mediation-Now, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2011 at 6:30 pm

> whos schools get edged out by bloated firefighter pay,

Not true.

However, the premise that unionized, government, labor, are stealing from our children, and grandchildren, is on-point.

Posted by Read the Budget, a resident of Escondido School
on Jun 23, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Jamie - "These firefighters and their union, through their manipulation, are basically stealing from our children, whos schools get edged out by bloated firefighter pay, and who will ultimately be stuck with their outrageous pension bill."

Nice try the FF's will give up 3.1 million so the 9 million for PAUSD won't be touched in the Budget. Sounds to me like giving, not stealing.

Posted by Pat, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 23, 2011 at 9:05 pm

So the city says it needs to cut $4.3 million all of which they want from fire and pd. The fire department comes up with $3.1 million and the city says no go??? The fact is the city manager is blinding everyone. Read the budget. Palo alto has a surplus according to the released document. How about the nice house bought for the city manger with tax payer money? When will politicians step up and say we blew it and we are going to take responsibility for our mistakes? They screwed up and are using the FD and PD as scapegoats. For those of you who argue they pay is higher then the national flash so are the majority of jobs in the Bay Area. It is not a cheap place to live.

Posted by Jaime, a resident of Ventura
on Jun 23, 2011 at 9:51 pm

What is a better use of our tax dollars. Funding schools, or paying six figure pensions to firefighters who are overpaid for the job they are doing even when they are working? That is the point. THis union needs to be stopped in its tracks.

Posted by Bob, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 23, 2011 at 10:07 pm

I voted against R, like 75% of my co-citizens, and I'll vote against this greedy union any chance I get. Binding arbitration needs to be just the start. City leaders, take a hard line. The people are with you.

Posted by Thom, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 24, 2011 at 5:05 am

The city need to force a serious pay reduction and fix the pension problem by going to 401Ks.

If any firefighter wants to quit, there will be dozens of qualified applicants who will. Spitaleri and the fire union have become "special interest" #1.

Posted by Barb, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 24, 2011 at 8:58 am

To Thom. Yes there will be dozen of applicants. However, it will cost money to train and hire. If every firefighter and Police officer quit on the same day you would have a town without any emergency services for months. Officers and firefighters have extensive training, background checks, and many other hurdles to jump through. It can take 6months to a year for the hiring process to be complete. So yes go ahead and quit so that Palo Alto and its ungrateful citizens can be without emergency services.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 24, 2011 at 9:21 am

In today's labor market new emergency services hires have not already completed their required academic and service specific academy training but many of them have years of operational experience. It does not take six months to integrate such individuals into an emergency services organization and this 'new blood' can revitalize the organizations which they join.

"The Sheriff's Office swore in four deputies in late April from the San Jose Police Department, which is slated to lay off more than 100 officers. Santa Cruz County Sheriff Phil Wowak said he hoped to hire four more San Jose officers by mid-June -- just in time for their busy summer months.

The additions will bring the Sheriff's Office total sworn positions to 104 -- 20 fewer than what it had just a few years ago.

"I'm really encouraged," Wowak said. "For the group of people we brought on two weeks ago and the group that we're backgrounding now, they're some of the most trained and experienced recruits in a decade. I think the community is really going to benefit from their experience."

Posted by Karen, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2011 at 9:46 am

Spitaleri and the union are self-interested bureaucrats. Outsource or privatize.

Posted by Mal, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2011 at 10:17 am

I agree severe action needs to be taken. The facade of the union as a partners with this community is gone; I think trying to jam Measure R on us in the middle of the worst downturn of most of our lives was the watershed moment.

We've been taken for a ride by a public "service" entity that has evolved into special interest #1, and our kids will pay the bills if we don't act. This much is clear.

The fear of switching costs due to attrition is a valid excuse for inaction. Plenty will stay because the job is still a hell of a bargain at reduced comp. and normal retirement benefits, and neighboring cities, who are still overpaying their firefighters simply arent hiring (in fact, they're also out of money and going the other way.)

Posted by Mal, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 24, 2011 at 10:21 am

typo above: "not a valid excuse for inaction"

I don't tend to get riled up for inaction.

Posted by bob, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 24, 2011 at 11:28 am

To "Read The Budget"

The Çity of Palo Alto budget is totally separate from the Palo Alto Unified School DIstrict Budget. Didn't you know that? Different income structure, different tax structure, different $$$, different funding. City employees do not work for the PAUSD.

Posted by Not their fault, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 24, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Pay to public servants is not the reason our town has financial problems. Horrible city planning and years of bad decisions led to the current state of affairs. Losing car dealerships, hotels, and other bases of revenue, consultant fees for everything under the sun have hurt this city more than the people who try to help and protect it's citizens. Big companies come to town, we complain about the traffic they cause until they leave. Reform is needed for pensions, but they certainly don't deserve the hostile sentiments I have read

Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I have conflicting feelings when I think about the budget issues and the pafd. Like most people I have always thought ff's were pretty good folks and a necessary expense for a community to pay for. I have relatives who are ff's and remember the ff's who were one of my customers on my paper route (when I was a kid).

ff's made a reasonable salary, which was a fair tradeoff for all of the time off and good benefits. many of them had a second career, often in the construction trades. then a couple of things happened:
1.) the nature of the job slowly changed. there were a lot less fires and not as much work. instead of adjusting to the new demands and restructuring the job, ff's resisted the changes and tried to keep their hours worked low (while dramatically increasing pay) and staffing levels unjustifiably high.
2.) the union bosses and politicians saw an opportunity to use the ff's and other working folks to siphon money away from the tax paying public and in to the hands of the unions. the unions in turn paid off the politicians. the ff's went along with it. they were benefiting from the union's greed so it was hard to turn down. they started telling folks they were "heroes" and deserved to be paid 2-3 times the national average. they acted like sheep instead of courageous, self respecting workers.

now, unfortunately for the ff's it is all coming home to roost. they didn't stand up to the union bosses when they made their outrageous demands. they chased the senior citizens around parking lots trying to get their featherbedding (Measure R) passed. it will be a long time before folks will trust any political literature that has a picture of an ff on it. we'll assume it is just another attempt by the unions to manipulate the voters.

as much as I blame the ff's for participating in this, i further blame the politicians. and even more than the politicians, i blame myself and the other voters. we allowed this to happen. now we need to fix it. we need to vote out of office all the politicians who have allowed themselves to be the union's tool.

i'm hoping to see Spitaleri removed from office. he is the worst offender in my opinion (a greedy, manipulative union boss and a politician). next would be Gail Price. she is heavily indebted to the union bosses and continues to try to roadblock needed changes.

Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I do not understand the animosity toward the FF "union bosses". If you were a FF union boss what exactly would you do? Would you ask for better salaries and benefits or would you proclaim "we make too much money" and demand pay reductions. Sure FF's make a lot of money as do most of the other city employees and adjustments need to be made. However to blame the FF's is just wrong - they did not steal anything. The did good work and prior City councils granted them better salaries and benefits - so do you blame the FF's or the people who granted the increases. The real mistake was done at the State level when pensions were raised to 3% at 50 - most of the cities went along and granted the same benefits.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 24, 2011 at 2:09 pm

As I said in my message, I blame myself and other voters for not staying engaged. We allowed this to happen.

As far as union bosses go, I have worked in organizations with unions. My experience is that the folks who are the laziest and nastiest become the union leaders. They always want more and they pride themselves on creating his-harmony between workers and management. They threaten and ostracize folks who don't agree with them.

I think unions can serve a useful purpose. There was a time when they were a good counter balance to the greedy and overly powerful captains of industry. But I also believe unions create issues that result in problems for workers and companies. The demise of the US auto industry (and many others) is a direct result of the barriers to productivity that the unions imposed. Now those workers don't have jobs!

I don't believe unions are a positive influence in the government sector. In the private sector they might be an acceptable evil. They contribute to inefficiency and companies go bankrupt. In the public sector they continue to feed at the taxpayer trough until governemtn entities go bankrupt. And future generations are left holding the bag to pay their ridiculous pensions. It is disgusting and needs to change.

Posted by To "Read the Budget", a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm

You have this completely backwards.

You state that public safety is stealing money from the children.

Look at the budget. There's approximately 10 Million dollars in transfers or service from teh City budget to the School district. The City massively subsidizes the school district in so many ways.

One might argue this is good for the City and good for rela estate etc., but please don't say the City is taking from the schools, if anything it's the other way around.

Posted by Citizen, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 24, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Resident, excellent posts. My sentiments exactly. The FF issue really sort of snuck up on me and plenty of voters like me. The change was so gradual, and its unfortunately that it had to get so ridiculously out of hand before it really caught the public's attention.

At least the cat is out of the bag now.

Regard this schools/firefighters who's stealing from whom issue, it doesn't matter. The government shouldn't waste taxpayer money, PERIOD, regardless of whether the savings would flow to schools, back to the taxpayers, to roads, whatever. Savings are savings and waste is waste. And we're wasting a whole lot by allowing elected officials to be bought by public unions and overpay them in turn.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm

This is exactly how binding arbitration can doom a city:

"An arbitrator's decision is expected any day.

If the arbitrator voids the city's (Stockton) declaration or imposes a compromise the city cannot afford, and unions continue to resist, the city will face "two equally unacceptable options."

It must either slash 253 positions or declare bankruptcy."

Web Link

Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Jun 24, 2011 at 4:50 pm

The FFs retirement benefit has been in place for almost 50 years. In that time their benefit has only increased by 15%, and that only happens if they serve at least 30 years of 56+ hour weeks.
I find it hard to believe so many people think the extra 15% benefit is what has put the retirement system in such bad shape.
Listen to the Council and City Manager, they would be happy to serve you another cup of their special juice.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 24, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Jake states:"50 years. In that time their benefit has only increased by 15%"

Going from 2% at 55 to 3% at 50 for their retirement program is a HUGE increase that costs the city hundreds of millions of dollars.

"and that only happens if they serve at least 30 years of 56+ hour weeks." A 56 hour week during which at least a third or more is spent asleep. A 56 hour week compressed into 2 days and 8 hours leaving 4 days and 16 hours to work another job or do whatever.

Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 24, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Your comment about the pension cost is true but the comment "at least a third or more is spent asleep" is false, at least in Palo Alto. I am familiar with the Hanover station where they have one of the ambulances - those guys are are awake most of the night and all night on Friday and Saturday. I suppose they do get to get some sleep at other stations but remember most go to different stations each shift with different beds and different sleeping arrangements (nothing like going to bed at home)- sometimes they get some good sleep but many times they don't.

Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 24, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Jake says ff benefits only increased 15% in fifty years. But the pension payout increased by 50% (2% to 3%), and the age requirement went down (55 to 50), which equates to another 5-10% increase. In other words benefits have increased closer to 60% (and that ignores the huge increase in salary and reduction in amount of work. I tend to write him off as a union propagandist, always feeding out misinformation. This just confirms my opinion and places him on the same level as Spitaleri.

Posted by Barb, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 24, 2011 at 7:48 pm

To are obviously not aware of the hiring process. Just because they have experience does not mean the process is any quicker. The officers hired and sworn in April were in the process for months. Background checks, polygraphs, psychological and medical evaluation. They do not just hire anyone off the streets. It is not like most jobs. I have had friends, who had experience, and it still took 6 months. In addition ever department and city is different. Officers and firefighters have to been trained on the city rules and the blocks. It is rare that the process takes less than 6 months. I am not saying things do not need to be adjusted but there is a major problem with the city's proposal.

1. The politicians screwed up
2. What concessions have the politicians offered in regards to their benefits. Why are they getting a free pass?
3. Read the budget they are projecting a deficit but in reality have a surplus.
4. The city said it wanted $4.3 million in concessions from ff and pd. The ff have offered more than half. The police can probably do the same. In reality the politicians do not want compromise but rather stick it to these departments.
5. The EMS system takes up about 20 to 25 percent of budget...where did the rest go?

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 24, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Barb - having served for almost 9 years as a Director of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District I am intimately aware of the process and timeline for recruiting, vetting, selecting and training NEW firefighters.

I can assure you, should Palo Alto significantly reduce the salary and future retirement benefits for their firefighters, that few would leave and any that did could be quickly replaced by equally or more experienced firefighters who had already been vetted, trained and served with distinction. The recent conversion of police services in Half Moon Bay and San Carlos to the Sheriff was accomplished in weeks rather than months with no loss in service levels or expertise. Lateral transfers in public safety organizations have been resisted but such resistance does not make such transfers difficult to accomplish give the necessary political will and leadership.

Change is essential and change will happen.

Posted by Barb, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 25, 2011 at 7:05 am

Peter... I said it is rare not impossible. I was also discussing the recent hiring of police not fire. The comment was in response to people who said let them all quit now because they are easy to replace. Which telling everyone quit we do not need you is not a solution. If everyone quit then we cannot replace the whole departments overnight. The recent conversion did not take weeks. It was discussed and processed before anyone new what was happening. Also conversions can be easier then starting from scratch. I said things need to change but what people are clearly missing is that this change does not need to be solely in PD and FD. It is across the board. Lastly, as I said before concessions were offered based on what the city budget request was and yet they denied them. Seems a little odd.

Posted by John, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 25, 2011 at 7:25 am

Mr. Carpenter,

You said -"Change is essential and change will happen."

What sort of changes are being made in Menlo Park? You stated you have been on the Menlo Fire Board for 9 years, quite a long time. During that period Menlo Fire costs have gone up dramatically. You seem to have some ideas but have you put any to practice? No question the costs of Public Safety need adjustment but as a taxpayer I blame people like you who sat around and enabled it happen. Was the 3/50 pension formula approved by you? How can you sit there and try to take credit for taking back the ship when you were responsible for giving it away in the first place?

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 25, 2011 at 8:52 am

John raises an excellent question. What do the citizens have to show for my almost 9 years of service on the MPFPD Board? This is a question that every elected official should ask him/herself at least once a day.

In my case I spent the first few years getting educated and informed. During that period we also had a lot of turnover at the top requiring the Board to select 4 new Fire Chiefs in a short period of time. I was deeply involved in arranging corporate on-site support for our fabulous Urban Search and Rescue Task Force which deployed to NYC after 9/11. I did make a serious mistake when, very early in my tenure, I supported moving our retirement system to 3% at 50 and later spoke out against my own decision.

I have been a strong advocate of full transparency and for full compliance with the Brown Act and I think that you will find our meetings, our agendas and our web site to be models for both transparency and Brown Act compliance. I authored policy changes which allow any citizen to place an item on the Board's agenda (in contrast to all other local elected bodies which require 2 or more elected officials support to place an item on their agenda. I also authored an adopted requirement that we publicly post any proposed compensation changes for at least 15 days before we are permitter to vote on those proposed changes.

In the area of emergency medical response I have long advocated, so far without success, the use of motorcycles ala Daytona Beach's long proven model instead of responding to medical call with big fire engines. Three years ago I authored a resolution calling for serious consideration of area wide fire and emergency services consolidation which was passed unanimously by my Fire Board colleagues. In 2008 I sounded the alarm to all local elected officials on the coming economic crisis "Economic 'perfect storm' is brewing for local agencies"
Web Link

and have helped the MPFPD to implement the recommendations in that Guest Opinion.

Most important, I have worked in concert with my Board colleagues to resist the union's demand for excessive (11%) pay increases and as a result we went without a contract for over 3 years and then finally imposed a no wage increase contract this year - which the union has challenged in court. Part of my effort has been to urge candidates for election to the Board to refuse both financial support and the endorsement of the fire unions which I think creates a significant conflict of interest - legal to be sure, but not in the best interests of the citizens whom we are sworn to serve.

Again John, you asked a great question and I hope that I have at least provided a partial answer. And that other elected officials will do the same, even when they are not once again running for office. Note that I completed my second full 4 year term on the Fire Board in 2009 but was reappointed this year by the other Board members to complete the term (until this November's election)of a Fire Board member who was elected to the MP City Council.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Jun 25, 2011 at 8:59 am

John - one other item. I have been a tireless leading advocate for the requirement of residential sprinkler systems. We now have such ordinances in both East Palo Alto and Atherton - which will save lives and reduce property losses. This was particularly difficult, and still has not happened in Menlo Park, because some critics feel that a residential sprinkler requirement is an unwelcome and cost ineffective government intrusion.

Posted by ann, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 26, 2011 at 7:51 am

it is more informative to read the comments than the article...change is coming.....and long overdue and really really needed. Resident's words ring so true...the bloated salaries, pensions and benefits of government employees are so out of sync with the rest of is creating 2 classes of people....two major considerations in restructuring the system....why do gov employees get to retire at 50 or so....make them wait till 65+to collect on them like the rest of us...and pension benefits should not be a set guaranteed amount....the value of those pension funds fluctuate with the market trends....if the value of the fund goes down by 30-50% so does pension the rest of us ..

Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2011 at 4:01 pm

Peter Carpenter and Taxpayer, the facts are a police officer or firefighter/paramedic need to work 30 years at least to reach maximum retirement percentage. As I wrote earlier in the last 50 years the maximum percentage allowed has increased by 15%.
Again, I don't see how a 15% increase over that time period has become the blame for the entire financial situation we are in now?
Salaries have increased but that increase was also passed on to the safety workers who have been contributing almost 10% of their own money into retirement system.
Many Cities on the other hand did not contribute a dime into the retirement system when times were good, instead they spent that money on other programs when they should have at least been putting their retirement plan contributions into the bank. The Cities are getting hit hard now because they did not fund their portion of retirement contributions for their workers.
Peter Carpenter, you yourself voted for increasing the retirement maximum benefit 15%? How could it have apparantly been something you felt was a good benefit then but now something you feel has caused such major problems?
Again, one can only get to the maximum benefit by working for 30 plus years. Again you gotta work at least 30 years to get the max and the maximum percentage has only increased 15%.
Police and firefighters also do not get Social Security benefits. As you know they also pay almost 10% of their pay into the retirement system.
I also don't know where you get your figures but most of the firefighters/paramedics I have come into contact with work at least three 24 hour shifts a week.

Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2011 at 4:05 pm

"Taxpayer" you say benefits have increased "60%"??? please, explain your math.
I'm sure you can do a little research to see the fact is the benefit maximum has increased by 15%. To reach max one must work at least 30 years. Salaries go up but the members contribute almost 10% of their pay into the retirement system. So when their pay goes up, so does the amount they contribute.

Posted by Tulip Craze, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2011 at 4:55 pm

We are so quick to jump on the bandwagon. Whether it be the tulip craze, .com boom, real estate boom, bash public employees, etc. What will it be next?

This is not a local issue. The public employee bashing is going on across the country. Right Wing vs. Left is pinning Private vs. Public employees against each other and it is working. It is popular to all of a sudden be informed on the issue. We are in an unprecedented time in our nation and our politics. I don't have to recite the issues that are occurring across the nation, but I assure you, this battle against public employees is futile. There are much larger issues to address.

We are in the middle of Silicon Valley, the wealthiest neighborhood in the US, and you people are complaining about public safety compensation....Really??? They don't make enough money to buy a house within a 20 mile radius of the City. A few make a lot of overtime but they work 80+ hour weeks. They have a Pension but don't get a dime from Social Security. Not to mention, the work stress kills them on average years before the rest of us.

The FF's offered 3.1 million dollar savings to the City next year and every year after that until a new contract is signed. How is that not enough?

Would you rather they gave up more. That is perfect. Then they can all be forced to foreclose on their homes and their families will be forced out of their school districts and into temporary housing. People, they have families and mortgages to pay for as well.

And to bash these people like they stabbed your sister in the back is shameful. Most people including myself could not deal with the day to day stress FF/PD have to deal with. I think they deserve much more respect.

Instead of jumping on the public employee bashing bandwagon, learn a little about the issue, the history, and the reality of the larger picture. Then make a decision.

Posted by Fed Up Voter, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2011 at 5:30 pm

The private sector is, in this globally competitive world, constantly being forced to improve its productivity.

The public sector, through its unions, fights any form of accountability (why haven't the Alameda firefighters from the Crown beach incident been fired or even disciplined?), and as such has not achieved the same "do more with less" capabilities that the private sector has.

Public sector compensation has risen relative to the private sector. This trend is completely backwards, and is unfair to the taxpayers forced prop up their priveledged counterparts. It should be not only stopped, but reversed.

Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 27, 2011 at 6:08 am

Pension is a benefit. Pension payout % has increased from 2% to 3%, an increase of 50%. Age eligibility for pension went down from 55 to 50, for ff who was on the payroll for 30 yrs. 5/30 = 16.6%.

Posted by Marg, a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 9, 2011 at 10:29 am

People who voice their opinions should really get the facts straight. Public employees are not the ones bankrupting the system. Look at the large corporations that don't pay one penny towards taxes. We pay our taxes whether it be 15%, 28% or 33%; so why shouldn't they? In fact, they get tax credits! If they paid their fair share of taxes, the Country wouldn't be in the fiscal crisis that it is in. Take at look at corporate heads salaries and bonus'. Millions and millions of dollars a year. How much does one really need??? Look at the bigger picture. Make adjustments from the top - those are the savings that will have a bigger impact!

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