Williamson Supporter Slams POA

I read a lot of positive letters to the Editor of the Simi Valley Acorn this morning, along with a few negative ones.  Among the negatives was a letter from a Barbra Williamson supporter with some commentary regarding the Simi Valley POA’s lack of support for her campaign.

So now let me get this straight. Barbra worked to get $100 million for Simi Valley, which included this shooting range for our police department, and yet the Simi Valley Police Officers Association isn’t endorsing her? What’s up with that? Maybe they like all that extra overtime and the comfy desk jobs.

To read the letter in its entire context, click here.

The Simi Valley POA has been very active this election cycle. They’ve endorsed Simi Valley School board candidates (Blough and Daniels) in addition to their endorsements for Council and Mayor. They’ve also made financial contributions to several Council candidates beyond the ones they endorsed.  Their motives appear to be in the best interest of the community, encouraging democracy and providing voters with more choices than just the incumbents. I applaud their efforts.

Election Union Wars

Eric David Halub, write-in candidate for Simi Valley Mayor, has said on a number of occasions that he believes Steve Sojka is influenced by unions. But it isn’t Sojka who is benefiting from the tens of thousands of dollars spent in campaign advertising by the Simi Valley Police Officers Association. Bob Huber and Keith Mashburn are.

This morning, a full page ad in the Simi Valley Acorn paid for by the Simi Valley Police Officers Association calls out to readers with the following headline:

Ask Any Cop – We Are Sounding the Siren on the Truth About Your Safety & the Rise in Crime in Simi Valley.

These guys mean business. They’ve collected thousands in dollars in union dues with the intent of making their message loud and clear: they want the old guys out and they want THEIR candidates in.

How serious are they? The ad mentions a figure of $391,714.04 as the city manager’s 2009 compensation. Months ago, the anonymous poster calling himself “Sedell Soldier” dropped off a copy of that same compensation breakdown at my home with the same total figure. Since then, I have received copies of that document dropped in my mailbox TWICE while I’ve been at work. The intent, I’m sure, is to get me to publish the detailed figures. The problem is the source is always anonymous (or off the record in the case of “Sedell Soldier”) and the document is printed on plain paper with no identifying City mark, making it relatively useless. Today’s Acorn ad reveals the source is from a 10/2009 public information request by the POA, but it also reveals to me the anonymous source of this frequent gift in my mailbox!

Days ago in the Ventura County Star, an editorial was published regarding Police Unions flexing their muscles to influence elections. I grabbed the following snippet that relates to the Simi Valley election:

The same sort of power play by public safety unions has been seen in Ventura County in recent months. There was an independent expenditure campaign mounted by the Ventura Police Officers Association against Councilman Neal Andrews last fall, and this year the launch of a political action committee by the Simi Valley Police Officers Association. That group is backing outside challengers against incumbent members of the City Council in the wake of tough contract negotiations that included pension issues.

One reason public safety unions are so politically powerful is because they can cloak their support for a given candidate under the banner of concern for public safety.

In a message on its website — posted beneath a form to order lawn signs backing Bob Huber for mayor against incumbent Councilman Steve Sojka and Keith Mashburn for council against incumbents Glen Becerra and Michelle Foster — Simi Association President William Daniels writes: “When we hear demands for cuts that threaten public safety, we have a professional and moral obligation to sound the alarm.”

Click here for the full article…

Currently, the City of Simi Valley benefits from a balanced budget. Part of getting their meant a number of sacrifices, among them were pay cuts for city employees as well as pay cuts for police officers. It’s a very unpleasant fact, and one that makes me grateful not to have to make those decisions. I certainly don’t want our elected officials making promises that put them in a position to rob Peter to pay Paul once they get elected.

SIMI PD FACTS: All Police Officers represented by the union make more than $110,000 in pay and benefits annually. A third of Simi PD officers make more than $175,000 in pay and benefits, making our department the highest compensated officers in the County. Read the facts for yourself.

Police Endorse Huber/Mashburn

FURTHER READING: What’s behind the Police Officers Association Political Ads?

I just arrived home from a lunch meeting and, no offense to my meeting partner, I’ve never wanted to come home faster to publish an announcement. The Simi Valley Police Officers Association plans to announce their endorsement for Bob Huber as Simi Valley Mayor and Keith Mashburn for Simi Valley City Council. Several weeks ago, I included the following commentary in a blog post regarding the endorsement of the Firefighters Association:

Representatives of the Simi Valley Police Officers Association recently had a meeting with Congressman Gallegly.  Would anyone be surprised if a press release comes out soon with another big Bob Huber endorsement?  Honestly, probably not.

Keith Mashburn, Candidate for Simi Valley City Council

Going back to those thoughts, I’m certainly not surprised by Bob Huber’s endorsement. But I’m very surprised by their support of Keith Mashburn. I’ve spoken to Keith very casually on a number of occasions and I think he’s a good man with sincere goals regarding his hopeful Council career. As a retired Firefighter, he’s had a career that involved service to his community, so I can see why he would be worthy of the nod. But I’m surprised because I fully expected Candidate Mike Judge to get the endorsement. As an LAPD police officer and outspoken supporter of Simi Valley’s finest, it seemed like a sure thing. Though I didn’t expect it, I’m definitely pleased for Keith Mashburn and send him my sincerest congratulations.

One of the first things Keith Mashburn said to me when we first spoke on the phone was in response to my remark about this race being an up-hill battle.  He said, “I’m up to the task.” He definitely seems to be, and so far so good! His signs are popping up, and this endorsement is huge! Find out more about him on his Facebook page, linked below.

So what does an announcement like this mean for the incumbents and how does the support of the POA shift? According to this recent press release on the City website, communication between the City and Police Union has been successful. Do the police not feel the recent negotiations were a step in the right direction? Weeks ago, I speculated that Elton Gallegly’s influence might shift support towards Candidate Bob Huber after a meeting took place at the Congressman’s home. Are we seeing the result of influence, or a response to events behind the scenes? Remember the highly publicized vote of no confidence in the Chief of Police? And why Mashburn and not Judge? There is a lot to discuss and I’d love your feedback.

UPDATE: Please note, this information was shared with me outside standard communication channels. Press releases from all parties are most likely forthcoming.

Big Simi Valley News

The high profile negotiations between the City of Simi Valley and Simi Valley Police Officers Association have reached a new milestone. Here’s the latest according to the city website:

The City of Simi Valley announced today that it has reached agreement with the Simi Valley Police Officers’ Association (SVPOA) to revise and extend the current labor contract for a three-year term. The term of the contract, originally set to expire on December 31, 2010, will run from August 2, 2010 through June 30, 2013. The revised contract is a reflection of the tough economy and need to cut labor costs while achieving the City Council’s goal of maintaining the maximum possible level of public law enforcement services.

This effectively extends the 3.43% salary decrease that was effective in July of 2009 for another three years. Additionally, the new terms include modifications to various medical benefits, specialty assignments and opens the door for discussions regarding PERS retirement contributions by new officers.

CITY OF BELL SCANDAL

Mayor Paul Miller expressed his sincere concern on Saturday night at Steve Sojka’s campaign fundraiser regarding the safe keeping of our city’s finances in the wake of the City of Bell Scandal. Mayor Miller indicated his desire to do whatever was needed to keep from having to pay for another city’s mistake.

According to the City website:

Bell’s Police Chief, Randy Adams, is reported to have drawn an annual salary of $457,000, many times in excess of a normal salary for a Police Chief in California and, if permitted to receive a pension based on that salary, there have been insufficient contributions made into the CalPERS system to provide for the unanticipated, inflated pension. Under CalPERS’ actuarial practices, the additional funding needed to cover those pension costs would be apportioned among the cities where Adams spent some of his career, including the cities of Simi Valley, Ventura, and Glendale.

To protect its taxpayers against the irresponsible actions of another jurisdiction, the Simi Valley City Council is taking a proactive stance in pursuing all avenues to prevent Simi Valley from bearing any costs attributable to Adams’ employment by the City of Bell.

I’m pleased by Paul Miller’s immediate and proactive response. This is an important issue to me and I intend to follow it closely as it continues to develop.

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

Simi Valley PD Contract Negotiations

I read an excellent editorial in the Acorn this morning. I’m a strong believer in the Simi Valley police force, but it’s sincerely unfortunate that the city employees and Police management (non union members) have agreed to small pay cuts while the Police Officers Association refuse to make a sacrifice.  I’m not privileged enough to know the details of what’s holding up the negotiations, but I do know in the past that the police officers’ union has managed to negotiate healthy pay increases for their members.  In these economic times, I can’t see how realistic continued negotiations of that type actually are.

Below is the editorial from The Acorn.

Are the Simi Valley police negotiations turning into a war of words?

The fact that the Simi Valley Police Officers Association (POA) might be hiring a public relations firm in its battle with the city over a new union contract doesn’t bode well for either side in the dispute.

The city and its police force need to maintain a cooperative, healthy working relationship, and the union’s plan to engage in a bit of spin doctoring only figures to create more ill will.

The call for a public relations firm to get involved in the contract negotiations is a signal that the talks, which have been going on since June, are not faring well.

Worse than the fight with city hall, the ongoing debate threatens to cause a rift between the 110 Simi police force members who belong to the union and those at the management level—lieutenants, captains and the chief—who are non-union.

As always, salaries are a key issue.

In an effort to help balance the city’s general fund budget for fiscal year 2009-2010, two employee groups—the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union and a separate management group—agreed to take a 2 percent reduction in compensation.

It’s time for the police men and women, who already enjoy an excellent public employee benefits package, to make sacrifices of their own. Police management earlier agreed to a reduction in benefits, but the union rank and file has not.

The POA is completely within its rights to hire a PR firm; union dues will pay the cost. Even so, the move figures to hamper the negotiations, not help them. And the fear is the battle could turn personal.

It’s time for both sides to turn down the rhetoric and come to terms on a new contract for the brave men and women who keep Simi a safe place to live.