Councilmember Swanson Explains Her MOU Vote and the Process

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For Councilmember Rochelle Swanson, the Vanguard column the other day following the council meeting and the 4-1 vote to approve a new MOU for four bargaining units was a reminder of how far things have come since the days of 2010 when the discussions and the tone, in her words, were “contentious.”

“We’re a different council, we’re in a different time,” she said.

Councilmember Swanson said, “If you look at those, not only were they contentious for their point of view, they also got very personal and it very much came down to who had the higher moral ground.”

“That is not the case here,” she said. “This is the case that you have five intelligent caring committed ethical people who simply have a different perspective at this particular point in time on this particular issue.”

Councilmember Swanson noted that four members have gone through varying levels of making cuts to city services and employee compensation. Speaking for herself, she said, in both 2010 and 2014 when she ran for election, she made it very clear, “I refused to only balance the budget on the backs of our employees.”

She said at that time, she was committed to the fact that “this is not the way it will always have to be.”

“This group of employees has given – and they gave and they gave,” she explained. “Cutting compensation, cutting positions was only a portion of what we need to do to get back on track.”

There are two issues involving the decision on Tuesday however – one is the decision on the three percent COLA (Cost-of-Living Adjustment), but the other was the decision not to pull the item off consent. The Vanguard’s perspective is that this is an important issue and a change of direction, and it should have had public discussion and explanation by the council.

Councilmember Swanson offered a different perspective.

“To have pulled it Tuesday would have been to talk about arguably why is one side right and the other side wrong,” Councilmember Swanson said addressing a key concern by many that the MOU item was left on consent. “Frankly there’s too much respect for our colleagues between all of us to do that.”

She reminded the Vanguard that this was an MOU, hashed out in closed session, as is required by law. That, in her view, limited the scope of what could be discussed in public.

She maintained, “The only reason to pull it would be to be justifying votes and I think undermining that respect. Everyone respects everyone else’s decision on this.”

“I was a little surprised it didn’t get pulled,” she said.

One point that Rochelle Swanson raised on the record – that others raised off the record – was the expectation that Mayor Pro Tem Robb Davis, as the dissenting vote, would be the one to pull the item off consent in order to register his concerns.

Councilmember Swanson was delicate with this issue, explaining that this was not a swipe at the mayor pro tem, but she said, “I think it probably made more sense for him to pull it than for us. “

Generally, when an item is pulled from consent, she explained, it is because there is disagreement or “some level of concern.”

On this one, she said, “procedurally this is accurate.” At the same time, she acknowledged that “MOU’s have been a really big deal for a number of years – rightfully so – and this has been a change.”

She added, “I respect the position and perspective. I truly believe we all have a well-reasoned and respectable position on this.” She added, “We also have different perspectives based on history and what happened in the last four to five years.”

Rochelle Swanson offered that the council is going to be discussing in more general terms the budget priorities as soon as next week in the council retreat.

Procedural issues aside, the Vanguard has also raised the concern that the city lacks the money to fund this modest cost of living increase for four bargaining units.

Rochelle Swanson pointed out that “we would not have had an MOU or an agreement had we not bargained for what we bargained for.” She argued that they got the best deal that they were going to get with the employee groups. “Plain and simple,” she said. “I absolutely feel that.”

“We negotiated,” she said. “This was not a rollover… We negotiated the best deal that we were going to get to get an agreement.”

Her point was that “to assume that we would have had a different outcome ignores the realities that this was a bargained agreement… This was the best deal that we could get.”

That said, she said, “We have to find the money.”

For Councilmember Swanson, the other part of the picture was that cuts were only part of the picture. She explained, “We need to grow revenues. We are in a better position than most communities to grow our revenues significantly.”

Rochelle Swanson clarified that that doesn’t necessarily mean a bunch of growth or a bunch of houses, “but we do have a lot of opportunities that a lot of other communities don’t have” and businesses with interest in coming to Davis and “investing in our downtown and investing in new opportunities.”

“I have put blood, sweat and tears into trying to grow revenues,” she said.

Moreover, she explained, “there are revenue opportunities besides just the innovation parks.” She talked about the desire to see greater densification in the downtown. She wants to see more retail in the downtown. She noted, “Businesses locate where they think they are going to make money and we frankly don’t see a lot of people spending money in Davis. I think the numbers bear that out.”

Bottom line, she said, she thinks they can find that money, but they also may need revenue measures. She said, “These MOUs are not going to make or break the investments that we need to make in our roads.”

In addition to looking at revenue measures, Rochelle Swanson said she believes that the city needs to be looking at its fee structures “to actually match how much it costs to provide services.” She also said any time that the city has wanted to raise fees for city services, there have been concerns expressed about the impact on low income families.

Overall, Rochelle Swanson believes that her vote is “consistent in what I said. I think it was small overall in the big scheme of things. It’s not three all at once – it’s graduated.”

She also noted that the city remains 100 employees down from its peak a decade ago. “We have employees that are doing the same if not more work with less bodies and that takes a toll over time. Any organization – public or private – that has a lot of employees, we can only do that for so long.”

“It’s true that a budget reflects your values,” Rochelle Swanson told the Vanguard. “For us to run the level of services that we do in this community, it costs.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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67 thoughts on “Councilmember Swanson Explains Her MOU Vote and the Process”

  1. SODA

    To me, the elephant in the interview room was ‘what will happen to the employee groups whose MOUs are yet to come up’, the ones who went to impasse. Will this 3% be a beginning point for them? Did that question come up?

    1. Matt Williams

      SODA’s question is a good one, but the even bigger elephant in the room is the precedent that the Service Term Bonuses set.  It is really easy to see the Firefighters arguing that all Public Safety employees should be handled the same way, which for the Sworn Police Officers is as follows:

      E. Service Term Pay
       
      In recognition of the substantial contribution to the community made by employees as a result of the length of their aggregate City service, the City shall award each bargaining unit employee the service term pay indicated below:
       
      Sworn Employees Service Term                                                      Service Term Pay
      After five (5) years of service with the City                                     2.5% increase above base salary
      After ten (10) years of service with the City                                    2.5% increase above base salary
      After fifteen(15) years of service with the City                                2.5% increase above base salary
      After twenty (20) years of service with the City                              2.5% increase above base salary
      After twenty (25) years of service with the City                              2.5% increase above base salary

      The maximum Service Term Bonus for a sworn employee is a twelve and one- half percent (12.5%) increase above the sworn employee’s base salary.

       

      Simple mathematics tells us that a sworn employee with 25 years of service will get an additional 10.0% raise over and above the 3.0% COLA (the current contract has a 2.5% at 5 years provision).   That will mean a 13.3% raise in total, which also means that the City’s Pension obligations for that employee just went up 13.3% as well.  If a sworn officer retires at 55 and lives to 85 (both reasonable assumptions) then the 30-year elephant for the City is 13.3% higher as a result of this MOU than it was before the MOU.  It is very easy to see the firefighters arguing that they deserve the same Service Term Payment treatment as their police bretheren.

        1. Matt Williams

          Miwok, why does the fact that the FD got way more benefits and raises in prior contracts prevent them from asking for more?  They have never shown any bashfulness in the past when it came to asking for more.

  2. Tia Will

    I truly appreciate Rochelle Swanson’s willingness to speak openly about her reasoning on this issue. I agree with many of her points, and had this all been addressed openly prior to the vote, I would have had not even the mild criticism that I do have with the process.

    “The only reason to pull it would be to be justifying votes and I think undermining that respect. Everyone respects everyone else’s decision on this.”

    Here is the main problem that I have with her reasoning. I do not see “justifying votes” as the only reason to pull it from the consent calendar. I see building public trust over a previously and presently contentious issue as another reason. I see presenting ideas openly as a means of building that trust.

    While the council members may all respect each others points of view, the public does not have any way of knowing that….and indeed did not, until now really have any way of knowing what those points of view were.The readers of the Vanguard probably also know what Robb’s point of view is, or could discern it from his previous writings. I would very much appreciate hearing from the remaining members of the council the rationale for their votes. I am likely to agree with them since I think this was a close call. But agreement is not the point. Understanding is.

     

  3. Michelle Millet

    “To have pulled it Tuesday would have been to talk about arguably why is one side right and the other side wrong,” 

    This is not a martial dispute. This was a decision made by elected officials about how tax dollars are being spent.

    I appreciate all of our council’s hard work, and I understand this was a tough decision, but I find this particular reasoning for not pulling the item condescending. It smacks a little of, “don’t you all worry your little heads about this”.

    1. Mark West

      I agree but would go a step further.

      “Frankly there’s too much respect for our colleagues between all of us to do that.”

      Too much respect for each other perhaps, but too little respect for the public for certain.

       

        1. Michelle Millet

          I’m troubled by the way the word “respect” is being used in this context.

          Laughing and snickering at someone, with the person sitting next to you, while they are explaining the justification for their decision on the Dias is disrespectful.

          Avoiding a public conversation where the differences in opinion over how tax dollars are spent is not a sign of respect. It is condescending at best, at worst it perpetuates the idea that council is hiding something.

  4. Davis Progressive

    i’m sorry rochelle but i have lost a lot of respect for you.

    1.  you don’t give a concrete answer on whether this damages our finances and how you plan to rectify that.  it seems like a ‘pound and pray’ approach – you’re hoping that revenue measures will save you but what if you don’t?  then you have to lay off employees.

    2. you’re justification for not putting your justification for the mou is nonsensical and frankly insulting.  this isn’t a comparison of whose idea is better, this is a way for the public to understand your reasons for supporting the mou – maybe we would have agreed with you.

    3.  everyone seems to want to put the onus on robb davis, this isn’t on him.  this is about proper process – you don’t put controversial items on consent.  the measure of the controversial item is not if you have 4 of the five councilmembers supporting it – you have to look to the community.

    4.  a lot of people are mad about this.  but you put a staff report on the website over thanksgiving – i didn’t even get back into town until late on monday.  how was i going to find out about this item and then email you?  that’s ridiculous.

    1. CalAg

      3.  everyone seems to want to put the onus on robb davis, this isn’t on him.  this is about proper process – you don’t put controversial items on consent.  the measure of the controversial item is not if you have 4 of the five councilmembers supporting it – you have to look to the community.

      There’s plenty of blame to go around.

      Davis should have pulled it because a major action on the consent calendar needs to be 5-0 with nominal community dissent – and protocol would be for a dissenting member to make the motion.

      Brazil should never have put it on the consent calendar in the first place.  Accordingly, the bulk of the blame for this falls on Brazil unless he was given instruction by the CC in closed session to put it on the consent calendar. If this was the case, then the plot thickens into something much more nefarious. I’m making the more generous assumption that this is just an example of the Peter Principle at work.

      Wolk should have invoked his authority as Mayor over the agenda.

      Frerichs, Lee, Swanson – along with Wolk – get failing marks for a huge political blunder that puts any new revenue measure they might put to the voters at risk. All four are seasoned enough in Davis politics to have understood the situation well in advance.

  5. Michelle Millet

    Councilmember Swanson was delicate with this issue, explaining that this was not a swipe at the mayor pro tem, but she said, “I think it probably made more sense for him to pull it than for us. “

    I call BS on this. (my kids new favorite card game). Again this isn’t about who is right and who is wrong, I imagine this like most other issues are more nuanced than that. It’s about making decisions in an open and transparent way so the community understands how and why their tax dollars are being spent. All the council members had an equal responsibility to pull the item. (I’m still not sure how it ended up on consent).

    1. Anon

      Mayor Pro Tem Davis was the only dissenting vote, so he would be the logical choice to pull the item from consent.  Or any member of the public could have asked that it be pulled from consent.

      1. Michelle Millet

        I don’t follow your logic. First of all no member of the public can pull an item off consent.

        Second, Robb was not the one voting to spend more tax money. The four other council members were. In my mind this makes them responsible for justifying  their decision to taxpayers.

    2. Matt Williams

      Michelle Millet said … “I’m still not sure how it ended up on consent”

      Michelle has posed a really important question … one that should be answered by the City Manager.

      If you look at the Long Range Calendar from the November 17th Council Meeting, any consideration of the MOU is nowhere to be found. The items on the December 1st Consent Calendar are as follows:

      CONSENT CALENDAR
      1st Quarter Budget Report
      CDBG/HOME Grant Process
      City-UCD LRDP Goals & Objectives
      Election Code Update
      Social Media & Brown Act Provisions
      PVUSA Agreement
      COOL Davis MOU
      Broadband Update
      Custodial Contract
      Grande Pricing Affordable Units
      Northstar Deck
      New Pathways Short-Term Housing Program for Chronically Homeless

      The items on the Regular Calendar for December 1st are:

      Measure O Update
      Pavement Update
      Mace Ranch Innovation Center Status Up-date
      Facilities Assessment Report
      Public Hearing: Appeal of STEAC Modular Bldg

      It might be useful and transparent for the City Manager to explain what happened after November 17th that caused the MOU item to be added, especially since the due date for December 1st items is reported to be November 12th (see )

      1. CalAg

        Good observation. There may have been a public notice requirement that was violated. The City Clerk should be able to provide the records. The City Council cannot take a discretionary action without proper public notice.

        1. hpierce

          ok…. agenda and staff reports were on-line, and agenda posted at least 72 hours prior to the meeting.  Meets Brown Act requirement.  The law requires 72 hours, not “three business days”.  “legal public notice” issue is a bogus issue.

  6. Mark West

    “This group of employees has given – and they gave and they gave,

    This is not an issue about what the employees deserve, but rather what the City can afford.  We don’t have the money, plain and simple. Clearly the CC majority doesn’t understand that basic fact.

     

      1. Don Shor

        Just carrying these questions forward, since you haven’t answered them.

        Did you endorse/support the sales tax?

        If so, did you believe it was going to be used, in part, for higher employee compensation?

        Was that made clear during the campaign, in your opinion?

        Should Davis set its compensation rates for safety employees based on what nearby communities are paying?

        If so, should Davis, also set its compensation rates for non-safety city employees based on what nearby communities are paying?

        How do you see Davis getting to a fiscally sustainable future?

        1. Anon

          I don’t agree with the premise of your question. The funding derived from the sales tax has not been used for the COLA.  The COLA hasn’t even been implemented yet.  The more appropriate question is: Where is the money going to come from to pay for the COLA?

          1. Don Shor

            Where is the money going to come from to pay for the COLA?

            Are you aware of any other potential source of revenue becoming available before the COLA takes effect? If not, then this question is moot. They are spending the sales tax revenues, now and into the future.

      2. Mark West

        When we can pay for it (and all of our unfunded obligations) without raising taxes.

        We can get there by cutting expenses (outsourcing jobs), or by growing our tax base through economic development. As long as our sole source of increased revenue is increasing taxes on residents, we shouldn’t increase total compensation for employees. I am not opposed to potentially rearranging how the compensation monies are utilized however, so if we need to boost compensation for one class of employees, we can do so by reducing compensation for another.  Management seems to be a place ripe for reductions.

        1. Mark West

          “So I assume you are not willing to give city employees a COLA until the budget is truly balanced?”

          Have you read anything I wrote, or taken a glance at what Matt has posted?  Compensation for our employees has been rising steadily, and would have continued to do so even without the new MOUs.  We have to stop that increase and deal with our other obligations first.  No, we don’t have to pay off everything else, but we do need to have fiscal stability and sustainability before we start talking about increasing compensation.

  7. TrueBlueDevil

    I think we may miss the forest looking at the trees.

    Didn’t they just make the city’s financial future more difficult, promising more money to (comparatively) overpaid city employees when there are huge unfunded liabilities and projects in the hundreds of millions of dollars?

    Did some of these officials also vote themselves a raise?

  8. Anon

    “This group of employees has given – and they gave and they gave,” she explained.

    When employee groups have negotiated in good faith, making concessions in the past when fiscal times were tough, when fiscal times get better at what tipping point does the City Council concede the cooperating employee groups need to be given a COLA?  Obviously 4 or 5 City Council members thought that time was now.  It was almost a unanimous vote.

    That said, she said, “We have to find the money.”

    That is the real question – where is the money going to come from for the COLAs?

    “I have put blood, sweat and tears into trying to grow revenues,” she said.”

    No City Council member has worked harder than Councilmember Swanson to bring more economic development to Davis.  I applaud those massive efforts on her part.

    Bottom line, she said, she thinks they can find that money, but they also may need revenue measures.

    This may be a tough sell.  Citizens are experiencing tax fatigue, the city has tended to send out mixed messages as to the state of the city’s economy (our roads are in terrible shape; the city is doing better financially; the budget is “balanced”; we need a new sports park), and PREVIOUS City Council members’ fiscal mismanagement is being ascribed to the current City Council.

    1. Matt Williams

      Anon, when the 9-year trend in annual Total Compensation is looked at, it gives a context to your comment “When employee groups have negotiated in good faith, making concessions in the past when fiscal times were tough, when fiscal times get better at what tipping point does the City Council concede the cooperating employee groups need to be given a COLA?”

      The employees want us all to ignore FY 2009-2010 when Total Compensation rose 38%. Even worse when one looksa at the aggregate increase in Total Compensation per Employee from FY 2009-2010 to FY 2015-2006 it is a 78% increase, which over that 8-year period amounts to 9.75% per year (using simple interest). Using the Social Security COLAs over the same 8-year period the increase is 1.64% per year (using simple interest) (see for SSA COLA data)

      1. CalAg

        “The employees want us all to ignore FY 2009-2010 when Total Compensation rose 38%. Even worse when one looks at the aggregate increase in Total Compensation per Employee from FY 2009-2010 to FY 2015-2006 it is a 78% increase, which over that 8-year period amounts to 9.75% per year (using simple interest). Using the Social Security COLAs over the same 8-year period the increase is 1.64% per year (using simple interest) (see for SSA COLA data)” @ Matt Williams

        MW: This is the second time you’ve posted this table and I’m very surprised it is not getting any discussion.

        The numbers are so disturbing, that my knee-jerk reaction is that there must be some error.

        Are you sure there is no mistake? If not, this is profoundly substantive – probably rising to the level of a legitimate scandal.

        1. Don Shor

          I think 2009 is when all the contracts were up for negotiation and the city proposed a pay hike in exchange for some benefit reductions. One of them (DCEA, I think) went to impasse and ultimately the city paid a penalty for what happened with regard to that one. I think the other negotiating groups basically agreed to the proposal. How that exactly affects the numbers Matt has posted, I’m not sure. But 2009-10 is when it happened, and that’s when you see the big spike in compensation.

        2. Matt Williams

          No mistake. Jeff Miller, the Chair of the Finance and Budget Commission took the employee and total compensation numbers right out of the City’s Budget documents.

      2. hpierce

        matt… do you know what year they changed the way they showed retiree medical contributions, and started to show it as “current” expenditures? Was there a change in accounting methods in that FY?

        1. CalAg

          hpierce: So are you saying a change in the accounting procedures may be partly responsible for the jump in 2009? That would make sense.

          It doesn’t negate the fact, however, that total employee comp after 2009 remained relatively flat while the headcount dropped by more than 90.

          1. Don Shor

            Yes, I think without further clarification we should probably set aside that anomalous increase in 2009. But with a nearly 20% reduction in full-time employees over the last 8 years, the city has actually had total payroll costs go up. If the council can’t get a handle on that, then all revenues are basically encumbered for as far as the eye can see–with the budget plunging back into red when the temporary sales tax expires. And giving a COLA just makes that worse. So if the 4 council members can’t explain how they’re going to solve this basic cost conundrum, they can’t really ask for any further revenue increases.
            Cynical observers might assume that the city manager and some council members are just assuming the sales tax increase is permanent.

        2. hpierce

          Yes, does not negate… but you have to look at all ‘factors’, if you want to be honest… will assume, for the moment you want honesty.  “It’s Complicated”.

          To maintain the medical COVERAGE, rates went up, and, in recent years, the City and employees have shared those increases… the City’s share would show up as increased compensation, the employee’s share as less take-home pay.  Coming out of any salary increases

          PERS has increased the cost of the employer share of retirement contributions.  City employees are now paying the full employee share,  8% for non-safety.  Less take-home for a given salary.  In the previous round of salary increases, salaries just about covered that shift.`The increase in the employer’s share, less the increase in employee contributions, which the City used to pay for, will show up as an increase in apparent employee compensation, by the chart.

          The COLA’s under discussion is salary only.  NOT total comp.  So, as the salary increase will increase the employer PERS cost, which will then show up in the total comp cost in a chart like MW’s.  In addition to salary increases.  In addition to employer share increases in medical.  Despite of less take-home due to employee shares to PERS (8%) of salary increase, increased medical contributions as required by the cost increases to premiums for the same existing coverage.

          I neither have access to, nor time/energy to grind all those numbers out.

          But, thus far. most of this discussion has been either simplistic or philosophical.

          1. Don Shor

            The point is, if all of those changes and increases in benefits negated the savings that should have been achieved from a 20% reduction in staffing, then the city needs to fundamentally reconfigure how it compensates employees.

        3. hpierce

          ok, Don, what is your proposal?  Matt’s chart was per employee (the focus) … you now shift the field to workforce total, it appears.  That is important, too.  I focused on the how did we get here.  I hand you the baton to give concrete proposals for where do we go from here…

          1. Don Shor

            If I were a sitting council member about to run for re-election, or about to move into the mayor’s seat, I would propose a council subcommittee tasked with creating the broad outlines of a five-year sustainable budget strategy for the city. The major focus of that would be the costs of payroll. Whether they would have the city manager develop those outlines and action items really depends on what skill sets they hired this particular city manager for. Pinkerton was hired to cut the budget, and he did that. I don’t think that was what they were looking for with Dirk.

            So it is likely that this budget subcommittee would have to make some specific proposals. Those might entail setting payroll as a fixed percentage of revenues. It might involve reducing some benefits at some levels of employment, necessitating a two-tier level of benefits; not a happy thing to do, but probably the only way to move forward with cost reductions (new hires get less). The trade-off, and really the only incentive to the bargaining units, would be that a cap on the budget (fixed percentage of revenues) would mean layoffs if cost targets aren’t met.

            If they don’t bend this cost curve, the city is on the road to bankruptcy. It requires a multi-year strategy, and they can’t keep talking about revenue increases. There are no business parks underway. There is no tax increase in the offing. So the focus has to be on expenses. They need to enunciate clear goals, clear steps and benchmarks, and develop and explain the strategy for getting there.

        4. hpierce

          Don, re: your 8:42 response… fair answer to my question.  Thank you for that.

          Pinkerton achieved most of his cuts via normal/forced attrition, irrespective of classifications, and leaving positions vacant/unfunded.  Not much of a well thought out strategy.

          But, he did make progress in cutting the budget, at whatever ‘expense’.

          Oh, and we now have multiple tiers for PERS and retiree Med.

        5. CalAg

          DS/hpierce:
          In the private sector, this is a pretty easy problem to solve.

          There is a $1.1M COLA expense and the average annual cost of labor is $153K per FTE.

          If the policy decision is that labor costs need to remain fixed, that means the headcount has to be reduced from 352 to approximately 345 (2%) – more if the CM elects to lay off lower cost employees.

          The City is not so finely tuned that the CM can’t identify 7 positions to eliminate. It just simply isn’t. It’s painful to lay people off, but that’s the reality of the real world where these types of choices have to get made every day. If you treat your workforce like a group of tenured lifetime employees, the organization is in trouble and everybody suffers.

          I guarantee you that if there was an anonymous poll of the City of Davis workforce on whether they would prefer a 3% COLA or 7 layoffs, the 3% COLA would win by a huge margin.

  9. aaahirsch8

    1) I think Matt has a point about the extraordinary 13% Raises/Service Bonus that we will be paying for for Decades in Higher pension plan. It might be justfied based on past cuts…but if so, why couldn’t council lay out that case to the “tax payers”?  Makes one Suspicious. Rochelle’s argument “just trust your local politicians on this..we don’t want to bring up controversy” is a thin tea.

    2) That Council did not have the courage to discuss openly their logic on this certainly makes one think they were embarassed by this decision… that they could not explain it to the public or knew it was ill timed coming just before Christmas (grin) or something.   Hoping this would all fly under the radar so not have to justify their decisions….

    3. Blaming Robb Davis, the one no vote, for not pulling it to discuss  is just Chick Shit.

    4) Rochelle has got it all backward..first you get the Revenue, then you spend it.  They could have OK’ed a 1 year MOU with contingency to go back based on what happens with voter approval of Industrial Development Rochelle is championing in June and November.

    5) Everyone should note in context with Rochelle comments about working for Revenue growth to pay for the raises, that the Nishi Developments forecast of financial benefit to the city’s (by BAE Sept) shows that the revenue benefits to the city do not even cover TODAY’s municipal costs, much less the expanded salary/ pension costs Rochelle OK’ed.

    Something is happening behind the curtains here……

    1. Anon

      “4) Rochelle has got it all backward..first you get the Revenue, then you spend it.  They could have OK’ed a 1 year MOU with contingency to go back based on what happens with voter approval of Industrial Development Rochelle is championing in June and November.

      Now that is an interesting idea…

  10. Don Shor

    In addition to looking at revenue measures, Rochelle Swanson said she believes that the city needs to be looking at its fee structures “to actually match how much it costs to provide services.” 

    A couple of days ago a firefighter walked through my shop, checked that both of my fire extinguishers were current, and signed an inspection notice. In and out, maybe two minutes. For that, I will receive my annual bill for $40.

      1. Don Shor

        I have a fire inspection every year. Typically it takes less than five minutes. They walk through and check the (2) fire extinguishers, briefly look for other things, sign it off and go. And then I get a bill for $40. The city charges fees for all kinds of things, and this is one example. Presumably this is what Rochelle was referring to as to possibly increasing or reviewing fees as a revenue source. I’ll be renewing my business license shortly; the business license fee is based on your gross receipts (which has no direct correlation with any city services). I would guess they may try to raise that as well. In short, the implication is to raise the costs of doing business in town, because they need more revenues to pay the employees.

        1. hpierce

          No, Michelle… that’s $40/year.  Employee presence time (they usually also look for overloaded circuits (too many power strips out of one outlet, general ‘housekeeping’, etc.)[inc. benefits], vehicle time/cost of maintaining that vehicle, tracking records, maintaining the computers to track those records, preparing/sending bills, lights/heating/maintenance for all employees involved, etc.

          1. Don Shor

            Clearly it’s working. We’ve never had a fire, and that must be the reason. I bet if they inspected twice a year, we’d have even fewer fires.

  11. Frankly

    Interesting.  To me is seems that the majority of the CC is more oriented toward the city employees than the city residents.  It seems that they are in denial of the dire financial situation and continuing to be willing to kick the fiscal can down the road to prevent the reality of employee morale problems and trouble recruiting.

    I have come to the same conclusion over and over as to the root cause of this fiscally-irresponsible behavior by politicians… it is the combined power of allowed collective bargaining by public sector unions and employee groups that is increased by their ability to fund and organize-support political campaigns.

    It is a weird orientation from a business perspective.  It is almost that management (the CC in this case… the CM is just another employee) runs afraid of the potential actions of labor.   And this fear of the potential labor actions seems to drive the fiscally-irresponsible management behavior.

    From a business perspective the honest assessment of budget and fiscal plan would always come first before providing employee raises.  The business can only pay raises if the business has the money to pay raises.

    So what happens when a business lacks the funds to pay adequately to retain talent?  The business has greater employee turn-over and struggles to recruit and retain talent.  That is the issue with Davis at this point.  The City (the business) lacks the budget or fiscal plan to justify giving raises to City employees.  Consequently employee morale, employee turn-over, employee recruiting… should all be negatively impacted… because that is the REAL circumstance.  Obviously the CC (management) does not want to have to deal with these types of problems, and so they adopt a policy strategy that risks voter anger to prevent dealing with too many city employee issues.

    But the other frustration over this situation is that the “pay adequately” point is corrupted by the fact that public-sector labor is a closed system where most cities in California are over-paying and are involved in a competitive race to the bottom trying to attract talent.  The unions and employee groups have done a great job constraining the recruiting and hiring process to limit the pool of qualified candidates.  An example of this is law enforcement.  And in some cases the over-abundance of qualified candidates is just ignored and the compensation is still set comparing only to the public-sector labor market and not the general labor market.  An example of this is the firefighters.

    We need to inject more business-sensible fiscal management into our overall city policy and management.   In my mind, I would enhance and strengthen the role of the City Budget and Finance Committee.  And I would consider a city policy… possibly by city measure… that any and all increases to employee compensation must have a funding source identified and approved first.

    Long-term I think we need a state initiative to force all city and county government entities to have to comply with the same.  And ultimately to make illegal any and all unions and collective bargaining groups for government employees.

    1. Topcat

      To me is seems that the majority of the CC is more oriented toward the city employees than the city residents.  It seems that they are in denial of the dire financial situation and continuing to be willing to kick the fiscal can down the road…..

      Yup, that’s the way I see it too.

      1. Michelle Millet

        They understand the finicial situation.  My guess is that they believe giving raises comes with more benefits then costs. What those benefit are, whether they be some political advantage, or whether they feel like in the long run its better to reach a negotiation early in the process, we do not know, because they refused to have a public discussion about why they voted in favor of pay increases.

        Lucas and Dan have been pretty consistent on this issue. Brett and Rochelle are the ones breaking rank. I’m mostly disappointed that neither of them were willing to pull the item and explain their reasoning.

  12. Frankly

    I have heard that reducing the in lieu of health insurance cash payout of $500 is the sweet spot… anything more and the city is giving away more than it needs to…. but dropping it lower would result in more city employees opting in for the city coverage and thus driving up total costs.

    I’m not sure how this plays into the 3% COLA increase or even if it does.  Assuming healthcare insurance costs are going up (which they are significantly because of Obamacare impacts), is this 3% increase to help offset the increase in out of pocket costs for healthcare insurance, or is that a separate issue?

  13. Anon

    Frankly: “To me is seems that the majority of the CC is more oriented toward the city employees than the city residents.  It seems that they are in denial of the dire financial situation and continuing to be willing to kick the fiscal can down the road to prevent the reality of employee morale problems and trouble recruiting.

    So I am assuming (correct me if I am wrong) that you are in the camp that believes the city should give out no COLAs to city employees that take fiscal hits in labor negotiations in hard times until the budget is truly balanced?

    I am having a very difficult time with your private business analogy, since it is not uncommon for private business to do anything but what is fair.  How many times have CEOs taken huge bonuses as the company is failing, screwing over both employees and investors?

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