Pension Reform Settled, POA Still Pending

You’ve probably already heard the news. The City of Simi Valley has settled negotiations on pension reform for City employees after several weeks of talks with the Service Employees International Union that represents all city employees (not including police officers).

City Councilmembers acknowledged that the city employees are making sacrafices and are grateful for that in these rough economical times. Councilman Steve Sojka was quoted in the Simi Valley Acorn acknowledging that city employees are effectively taking a cut in an effort to help the city keep its head above water during hard times.  The Acorn article elaborates on the deal:

That help included the SEIU’s making significant concessions concerning employee retirement plans. Under the terms of the new agreement, current employees will contribute 3.97 percent and all new employees—hired on or after July 1, 2010—will contribute 7 percent of salary to the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS).

The change is expected to save the city $1.65 million.

It’s probably a sure bet that the city employees aren’t necessarily happy with the deal or walking away from negotiations with a warm fuzzy feeling. Nobody wants to make sacrifices in either the form of reduced pay, reduced benefits, or suddenly having to contribute more to a benefits program when not having to worry about that in the past. Speaking personally, I can say with sincerity that I am VERY grateful for the sacrifices made by our city employees. Thank you!

But the negotiations aren’t over yet. Simi Valley Police were asked to make pay cuts last year and did so after a lengthy and dramatic negotiation process, where the Police Officers Association (POA) considered hiring a Public Relations firm to spread the word about the issue. Once the terms were settled, the POA was clearly unhappy with the resulting cut in salaries and shortly after announced the formation of their Political Action Committee (PAC). The PAC is funded by an increase in POA union dues.

Despite the fact that other city employees were asked to take cuts in pay, a strong belief remains that the pay cut applied to Police Officers in Simi Valley was unfair. With more contract negotiations looming, anticipation is certainly beginning to build. City Council Candidate Mike Judge has something to say about it to his supporters, suggesting that “pro law enforcement” sentiments by our current City Council are disingenuous (see his remarks below on his campaign page on Facebook).

Our City Leadership scored some points with the negotiations with city employees, but it’s obvious there’s more challenging work ahead.

City Council Candidate Mike Judge on Facebook

Q&A With Mike Judge – Simi Valley City Council Candidate

If you followed the Simi Valley election in 2008, then you already know Mike Judge.  He ran a good race for a newcomer, ranking well in the final vote count with 17% of the votes.  Other newcomers scored 8%, 6% and 3% of the total votes.  I saw a lot of signs for Mike Judge and heard more buzz about him in the community than any other newcomers in the race.

Mike Judge has been a police officer for the LAPD for 20 years, has been a long time resident of the City of Simi Valley where he and his wife are raising three children, and is a self-described “conservative, law and order, pro-business candidate.” I asked him some straightforward questions the other day which he answered promptly so that I can share his remarks with you.

Vote Simi Valley: Both Glen Becerra and Michelle Foster are running for re-election.  Is your campaign specifically targeting one of the incumbents, or are you asking the voters to simply elect you to one of the open seats?

Mike Judge: I have entered the election process for Simi Valley City Council because I want to serve my city.  I am sure that all  of the candidates, including the incumbents,  will be sharing their ideas and goals in order to win the support of the voters.  Our city is facing many challenges in this time of a weak  economy. Every citizen and business is looking for solutions from community leaders to lead the city in the right direction. Over the next several months, serious discussion and debate of those issues by all the candidates should take place.

This upcoming election is not about the incumbents, the status quo or the typical political tactics of the past.  People across the country (including Simi Valley) are unhappy with government’s rapid growth and spending.  The voters of Simi Valley will decide what type of leaders will be best for their families and their businesses.

Vote Simi Valley
: In local elections, name recognition is an important asset.  How do you plan to “get your name out” to the Simi Valley voters?

Mike Judge: In the past, name recognition was important but an informed electorate will ultimately elect their leaders for specific reasons, not popularity.   I do believe that people are more interested in learning about the candidates today than ever before. Ideas, character and integrity should be the foundation of the voter’s decision making process.  It is my job to inform the voters of Simi Valley of my background, commitment and my recommendations in moving the city in the right direction. I will do everything possible to reach and inform the people of Simi Valley.

Vote Simi Valley
: How will the Simi Valley City Council be better or more effective with Mike Judge as a Councilmember?

Mike Judge: This upcoming election is not about whether the City Council will be better or more effective.  This election is all about moving Simi Valley in a positive direction. Government is not the solution to our economic problems. Government is the problem… Leadership is the solution.  Leaders must be dedicated and committed in improving the opportunities for our people and businesses to prosper. My hope is to become one of those leaders.

Thanks for participating, Mike.  I look forward to chatting with you more during the course of your campaign.  Good luck!

Can They Get Their Name Out?

Now that the incumbents have secured their positions on the Simi Valley City Council, how will the challengers strengthen their positions the next time they run?  Bruce Witkin, challenger for Mayor (who received my support and my vote this election) took on the challenging and seemingly impossible task of taking on the super popular and heavily supported Paul Miller.  Mike Judge took on Barbra Williamson and Steve Sojka, long time council members with lots of support and lots of campaign dollars.  So how does a challenger build up their reputation in the community to earn that same level of support?

Richard Paul Carter opted NOT to print and post campaign signs citing his desire to prevent cluttering the Simi Valley landscape.  Gerald Smith (challenger for council) and Ed Lang (challenger for Mayor) didn’t have signs, no reason stated that I could find.  Mike Judge and Bruce Witkin, on the other hand, did have signs printed, and they were also nearer to victory than their other challengers.  Signs and ads help, but clearly it’s not enough to oust popular incumbents.

Business owners who are running for office should join the Chamber of Commerce.  It may seem like a conforming move, but it’s a move that is effective.  Before I joined the Chamber (and after, for that matter) it was described to me as a good ol’ boys club, where the elite members enjoy attention, rewards and honors, and lots of referrals from influential figures, while the new members have to claw their way to the top, proving themselves as worthy.  My advice would be to disregard those warnings and join.  The Chamber consists of your peers in business.  The same things that concern you concern them as well.  There are hundreds of newer or non-elite members, more so than the elite top-dogs, and they are registered voters.  And don’t join when your campaign starts.  Join now!

As a candidate, you obviously have a passion for your community.  Prove it now, to yourself and to voters, and join the Rotary Club.  The Rotary Clubs in Simi Valley are responsible for many high profile annual events that raise a significant amount of money for charitable organizations.  Be ready, because joining the Rotary Club requires true dedication.  I was a member of a Simi Valley Rotary Club for nearly a year, but dropped out of the club when my divorce kicked into high gear.  If you have a high demand career or personal issues that will prevent you from participating right away, then take it slowly and strategize before you join.  But without a doubt, Rotary is a rewarding organization in which to participate… you’ll feel good about your efforts, and so will those who support you and vote for you.

I’m curious to know how folks like Mike Judge and Bruce Witkin plan to spend the next few years before they run again.  I’m hoping to catch up to both of them soon to find out.  When I do, I’ll post that info here.

Mike Judge for Council

Mike Judge seems to be flying somewhat under the radar, but not in a bad way. He hasn’t said anything outrageous during a public forum and he hasn’t attacked the incumbents. He’s just shared his ideas, specifically regarding law enforcement, a topic he understands all too well as a law enforcement officer.

I highly recommend checking out his website at and reading a little more about his campaign. Of all the other council challengers, excluding the mayoral candidates, I’ve seen more signs from Mike Judge throughout Simi than for anyone else. In fact, as I type this, it occurs to me that Mike Judge’s are the only signs from a challenger that I’ve seen. We might be able to use the election results as a scientific conclusion to the sign argument.