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.

Healthcare in Simi Valley

Is it just me, or is the Simi Valley healthcare community getting some kind of a shakedown?  Rather, are the Simi based medical groups at war with one of them taking a hit?  It certainly seems that way from my perspective.  As a not-so-proud participant in an HMO program, my primary care physician is with Community Medical Group of Simi Valley and the past year has been one of many surprise departures.

For years, my doctor was a terrific doctor with Community Medical Group named Dr. Michaels.  I found him to be knowledgeable, kind and sensitive to my medical concerns.  My wife started seeing him as well based on my recommendations.  After years of reliable medical service, Dr. Michaels suddenly disappeared.  The people at the appointment desk weren’t talking, other than to say he was no longer with the medical group.  With no forwarding information available, I began to see Dr. Lee, also a terrific physician in the same office.

Dr. Lee quickly got up to speed on all of my medical issues, specifically my occassional break-out of hives and my chronic sinusitis.  I became just as satisfied with Dr. Lee as I was with Dr. Michaels.  I later learned that Dr. Michaels had moved to Regal Medical Group of Simi Valley.  Because I had established a rapport with Dr. Lee, however, I chose to stay with Community Medical.  Then, Dr. Lee left the group… and joined Regal Medical.

When a couple of doctors that you depend on suddenly jump ship and land in the same place, it definitely makes you think.  Should I be concerned?  I recently learned that Dr. Whyte, one of the best pediatricians for Community Medical Group, who treats my children, is also moving to Regal Medical Group.  Uh oh.  What does all this mean?

I’m curious to know if anyone else has any insight into the migration of all the outstanding physicians from Community Medical making their way over to Regal.  Are any members of Community Medical Group of Simi inclined to make the switch to Regal Medical Group?  Have you done so already?  And if so, how was the transition?

No Coverage of State of City Address

One event that I look forward to regularly is the State of the City Address sponsored by the Simi Valley Chamber, presented by Mayor Paul Miller. In better economic times, I recall being very moved and excited about the months to come. While the economic climate has shifted and the city recently adjusted for a $3 million budget reduction, I’m just as eager to hear what’s going on. Considering my recent “interactive” nature, I’d like very much to bring my camera and microphone to share the event with the people who subscribe to my content. But it’s not going to happen. Here’s the scoop:

The Simi Valley Chamber of Commerce will once again host the Mayor’s State of the City Address. The Annual State of the City Address will be presented to the Chamber membership on Friday, February 20 at 11:30 a.m. at the Grand Vista Hotel. The Mayor’s address will provide an overview of City Departments and City Projects. “We appreciate and look forward to the opportunity to present the State of the City and to share in detail how our City is doing. We are all facing challenging times and this event will allow the City Council to provide information and to gain input from our businesses and residents to ensure that we are doing our best job to meet the challenges on behalf of the community,” said Mayor Paul Miller.

There are lots of people who are interested in what goes on here and want to witness it for themselves.  These events cater to elite members of the community, business owners and members of the Chamber of Commerce, so the average Simi Valley citizen cannot attend this middle-of-the-day event.  I think it’s important to see and hear these things for yourself, to be present for tone of voice and hear quotes in context.  But most people most directly impacted by the state of city affairs, the citizens, will be hard at work at their day jobs.

Sponsorship opportunities are available at the following levels: Table Sponsors – $600 for a table of eight or $350 for a table of four. Sponsors will receive preferred seating, table placard, acknowledgement in the Chamber’s Mid Month Mailer and the event program. Tickets are $40 for members and $55 for non-members.

As a business owner and member of the Chamber of Commerce, I’ll invest the $40 to learn more about where things stand with the City of Simi Valley.  However, I’ve tried to bring my camera and microphone to Chamber sponsored events, and it’s a no-go, so unfortunately, most of the rest of us will have to read about it in the newspaper.  If you plan on being there as well, please let me know and perhaps we can meet up afterward to discuss.

Simi Valley Employment Survey

I’m currently in the midst of completing, among several other web based projects, an employment portal specifically geared towards the Simi Valley community.  Personally, I think we have a troubling couple of quarters ahead of us and I’d like to see our community work together to keep us all out of harms way.

To give me a better sense of how to prepare my site content, could you please assist me by taking the following survey?  I promise you, it’s extremely painless and super fast.  It’ll give me a clear sense of the minds of the Simi Valley working class.

http://www.polldaddy.com/s/422487E04994F8AC/

Thanks so much for your help!

City Officials Manage Budget Effectively

Weeks ago, I sat in the City Council meeting anxious to hear news about the city budget, knowing the city was pressured to cut just more than 3 million dollars from the budget without eliminating jobs.  City employees sat near me, even more anxious, seemingly unsure where things stood.

City Manager Mike Sedell began going through the proposed budget modifications line by line, with brief explanations of the impact of each decision.  For example, when we heard the DARE program was being cut, Sedell quickly clarified that the cut was not a permanent removal of the program, but rather a postponement.  DARE would begin again later in the year and the city would look at ways to reduce the expense.  Even Mayor Miller suggested having the program led by a retired officer rather than pulling an office out of the field.

Programs like Shop Simi Valley First will certainly be effected, though I can’t recall specifically whether or not it was mentioned that night at the council meeting.  In the past, I’ve been critical of the city’s spending on this program, not because the program itself is a bad one, but rather because I believe with the vested interest of business owners, the cost of the program should be a shared cost.  It will be interesting to see how organizations like the Chamber of Commerce step-up during this crisis to ensure the program stays alive.  It should be noted that if the city or the Chamber are looking for volunteers, here I am! 🙂

In economic situations like these, I couldn’t be more delighted to see how important it is to the city to retain their employees.  Unemployment is the harshest aspect of a recession, making things much worse before they get better.  The City of Simi Valley has done an amazing job of keeping people employed.  I read the following in the Ventura County Star the other day:

Some of the people in the positions eliminated already had planned to leave their jobs. Others were sent to different city assignments, officials said.

Simi is waiting for an eventual resolution to the state’s fiscal crisis, and “it will undoubtedly bring further damage to the revenue which we rely upon to provide services to our residents,” Sedell said.

Sedell said Simi officials have managed taxpayers’ resources well, and unlike state legislators, haven’t overspent.

“We will find a way to provide the quality local services that residents have come to expect,” Sedell said.

Read the whole article online here.

Cheers to the City of Simi Valley for a job well done.

Writers Wanted – New Community Website

I’ve been working for several months now on a web project for the community. It’s a social network of sorts, but the staple content revolves around blogs that focus on Simi Valley. I’m looking for interested writers for the following Simi Valley related blogs:

* Restaurant/Entertainment Blog – Rate, review and discuss Simi Valley’s dining options and entertainment venues
* Fitness Blog – How best to stay fit and in shape in Simi Valley
* Neighborhood Blog – Meet your Simi Valley neighbors, a blog about stars in the community
* Business Blog – The ins and outs of doing business in Simi Valley

Of course, we’ll defer to Brian Dennert for those interested in reading about local government!

This website will be free for everyone who joins, and ANYONE who joins is free to create and publish their own blog. Each member blog is hosted free and uses the powerful WordPress blogging engine, a professional level tool that is easy to customize. Members will be encouraged to create personal profiles, meet new Simi Valley friends online, join groups, discuss issues in the forums and promote their events and businesses free.

Technology is a terrific way to promote unity and to give all members of the Simi Valley Community a voice. For those interested in participating and helping me launch this online community, please contact me.

Candlelight Nightclub and Campaign Reform

An email from Brad Jashinsky, former candidate for Simi Valley School Board, to Brian Dennert sparked my interest in this story. According to Brad, Candlelight Nightclub in Simi Valley is the source of drunk drivers that have a bad habit of destroying property in nearby neighborhoods. This is the partial story according to Brad:

At 2am on Saturday November 29th I heard a loud explosive noise, and ran outside to see what had happened. I came out to see my sister’s car in the condition above with the obvious drunk driver getting away up the street.

Brad emailed me and told me he planned to be at the City Council meeting tonight to speak about the issue. I strapped on my video camera and made my way to council chambers to record the issue. More to come on this issue… That video is being edited as we speak!

Campaign Reform was another topic touched on this evening. Here’s a brief video of Steve Sojka who brought up the subject. Apparently, the Council will cover the topic of campaign reform and address the recent issues about campaign financing over the course of multiple sessions. Meanwhile, please watch the video and share your thoughts.

Moorpark Does it Right

Councilmember Janice Parvin of the Moorpark City Council is now the city’s new mayor.  Of course, this opens a vacancy on the Moorpark City Council.  In the city of Simi Valley, our council would appoint someone to the vacant position, which is what was done when Michelle Foster filled the vacant position left by Paul Miller when he was sworn in as mayor.

I like Michelle Foster a lot, but I didn’t vote for her (well, eventually I did… but not then).  It almost seems undemocratic to elect some members of city council and not others.  Further, I believe Steve Sojka was also appointed when Bill Davis was elected mayor years ago.  Again, I’ve since voted for Sojka many times, but it wasn’t the voters who positioned him as the incumbent on every election since his appointment.

Here’s an article from the Acorn on Moorpark’s handling of the vacant council position:

Eighteen local residents submitted applications to fill a shortterm vacancy on the Moorpark City Council. The deadline to apply was last week. City officials will interview the candidates at a special meeting next Wednesday and select one on Dec. 17.

The interim appointee will replace Councilmember Janice Parvin, who was sworn in as the city’s new mayor on Wednesday, until voters elect a new person to complete her Council term on June 2.

Read more here…

I think that’s a solid, democratic way of handling it, even if a special election (which can be costly) is in order.

Simi Valley Headlines – December 5, 2008

Simi Valley Police Get a Pay Raise

Simi residents Al and Nan Kay believe that Simi police work hard for their money and the couple has no problem with the community’s cops getting a raise.

“I think it’s great,” Al Kay, 42, said. “They deserve all the money. They do a good job.”

Denise Rusiecki, 62, had mixed feelings though.

“I realize we need them but these are tight times,” said Rusiecki, who has lived in Simi for 35 years. “It’s tough justifying them getting raises when there are people that can’t afford to buy food and are losing their homes. It’s a tough call.”

Read more here…

School District Employees Lose Their Jobs

Simi Valley Unified School District, which has already shed $187,577 from this year’s budget, notified 16 classified employees this week they will be fired.

The 16 employees—including 11 custodians, four clerical workers and one information technology staff member—were given 45-day notices that their jobs have been terminated.

And more cuts may be on the way soon.

This is awful. While this opinion may not be well received, I think it’s hard to justify pay increases for (already well-paid) police officers while school employees get terminated.

Read more here…

City Council says ‘Wait a minute’ to Simi Couple’s farm animals

Miller explained that the Bridle Path HOA has covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) that prohibit homeowners from keeping certain animals and that just because the planning commission approved a conditional-use permit does not make it OK.

“The CUP doesn’t trump the CC&Rs,” he said.

Williamson, who serves as treasurer for her own HOA, agreed.

If I can possibly get away with it, I will never again live in a community that is governed by an HOA. Then again, I wouldn’t have 8 cows and 2 pigs living in my backyard either.

Read more here…

Barbra Williamson Campaign Finances Challenged by The Star

Glen Gerson donated $3,000 under the names of three separate corporations, including The Vineyards, in this year’s council race. He said he gave money to Williamson after she asked him for support in her bid for a fifth term.

“When a local politician comes up and says ‘Donate to my campaign,’ I’m going to do it,” Gerson said. “We make donations to have people leave us alone.”

I’m fascinated that the Simi Valley Acorn doesn’t touch this story. It makes me wonder if they think it’s a wild goose chase.

Read more here…

If you have some SImi Valley government news that you’d like to share with my or publish for my readers, please contact me.

Waste Management Landfill Tour

This morning, I had the pleasure of touring the Simi Valley Landfill. Yep, I said “pleasure.” It was truly a fascinating experience. About three years ago, I brought several loads to the landfill to dump on a Saturday afternoon and was amazed by all the things to see. The brief experience prompted me to do a little casual research on the workings of landfills. I haven’t really been opposed to the expansion, unlike my favorite Simi Valley City Councilwoman, Barbra Williamson, so I was really hoping this tour would answer some questions about not only what goes on now, but what would be going on at the site should the proposed expansion be approved.

Before I get into my reaction, which admittedly is less than controversial or even interesting, for that matter, I do have to encourage you to take the Simi Valley Landfill tour soon. I didn’t know this, but they’ll take groups through the landfill, sharing and showing the operational aspects of the landfill, from the dumping of solid waste and the sorting and collecting of recyclable material, to the grooming of closed “cells” and collection of natural gas produced by buried waste. The operation as a whole is as impressive as I thought it would be and I highly recommend everyone take the tour BEFORE deciding your position on the expansion project.

The trip started with immediate disappointment when my tour guide, Scott Tignac, District Manager of the Simi Valley Landfill, told me that my video camera wouldn’t be able to join us on the tour since I hadn’t received prior approval. Scott was kind enough to provide me with contact details for the Community Relations Manager so that I can return in the future to take some shots of the operation. Clearly, however, questions about some of the more compelling political issues behind the expansion would go unanswered. The purpose of the tour was to better understand the operation aspects of the landfill and to get an idea of the geographical footprint of the proposed expansion.

The landfill is a heavily scrutinized and regulated operation, but they manage to run it very well. One of the most fascinating aspects of the operation involves bird’s-eye-view photos of the entire property allowing WMI to closely match the landscaping elements of covered portions of the landfill with surrounding, untouched land. The covered cells are groomed and seeded, maintained with reclaimed water for as long as needed until plant life is normally sustained. I was also fascinated by the gas wells throughout the property collecting the natural gas produced by the buried waste. The gas powers the on site offices, but is also funneled to “the grid” generating enough electricity to power several thousand homes.

One point of criticism I’ve heard in the past is that Waste Management uses green waste to spread over the trash that is buried. This turns out to be correct. The practice is completely legitimate, in fact. Solid waste traditionally is covered by dirt. However, 10,000 cubic feet of dirt will always be 10,000 cubic feet of dirt, where as 10,000 cubic feet of green waste can decompose. Not all green waste can be used to spread over solid waste and is recycled and used for various functions, such as compost for example. See correction notes below. *

The daily management of the waste that is processed in the landfill is very laborious. The people working the solid waste burial work 12 hour days sometimes because all waste must be 100% covered/buried by the end of the working day. They don’t go home until that goal is accomplished on a daily basis. Further, it was very surprising to see the the sorting of recyclable materials was a manual process involving quite a few hands.

We did stop to look at the land that Waste Management now owns and intends to use for the proposed expansion. It’s a significant piece of land, very large. If the expansion is approved, the GI Rubbish offices and trucks would be moved up the hill to the landfill, effectively limiting at least some of the existing Madera Road traffic. Plus, the landfill would continue to expand north of the city, rather than moving south towards the city to reach currently planned capacity. And considering the way the landfill is operated currently, I can’t imagine there being a negative impact on residents regarding sights and smells.

From what I was able to see on my tour, I cannot see there being a significantly negative impact on the city of Simi Valley by approving the landfill expansion. The landfill as it is currently has been in place and out of most peoples’ minds fr 35 years. My suspicion is that most people who are opposed to the landfill are opposed because (1) the natural emotional response to a project of this type is to consider our city as “the trash can for neighboring cities near and far” and because (2) it is unclear if or how the City of Simi Valley will benefit by the expansion.

I suspect I’ll be able to form a more solid opinion on the expansion once the complete Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is complete. Until then, I’m just not sold on the idea that it’s harmful to the city. I am sincerely hoping that someone will comment on this post with some reasons for me to see it the way Barbra Williamson sees it. Her mailer is below…

Williamson Anti Expansion Brochure

Williamson Anti Expansion Brochure

* CORRECTION: The State of California allows green waste to be used as an Alternate Daily Cover. In the past, approximately 10% was used in that manner. Currently none of it (0%) is used for daily cover. 99% of the green waste is recycled. The other 1% represents trash that sometimes gets put in the green container that is removed. The green waste is shipped throughout Southern and Central California as a soil amendment. Some of the material is sent to a composting facility where it is refined into products that you would find at a nursery (as I referenced in the text above). Some of the material is sent to the central valley as a fuel and some is used onsite at the Simi Landfill to “re-landscape” after soil cover has been placed.

Also, the company that manages Waste Management’s green waste is called Agromin and can be found at www.agromin.com.