Saturday, January 24, 2009

Negotiated Settlement with Vallejo Police Officer's Association

$700,000 Fee Giveaway to Northgate Developer At the Council's last meeting, the Council majority (5-2, with Joanne and I dissenting) granted the developer's request to amend the Northgate specific plan and allow the senior housing project to be downgraded to generic multi-family housing. In addition to losing more senior housing, by agreeing to this request the City was prevented from being able to collect an additional $700,000 in additional fees. This will be the final reading of the ordinance. Negotiated Settlement with Vallejo Police Officer's Association I wish the VPOA would have agreed to this deal two years ago, even one year ago. As it stands now, though, it's simply not enough. I won't go into all of the details of the settlement now, that will come on Tuesday, but I will say that I have four key issues with this agreement:
  1. It does not require VPOA to pay a portion of their health care premiums. Every employee in the city, including the City Council, should pay 25 percent of their premiums. And by giving VPOA a free health care ride, that sets up the other employees to ask for the same benefit. Which the City simply can't afford. But it wouldn't be fair to ask IBEW, CAMP and IAFF to pay a portion of their health care, but not VPOA. We should not have different classes of employees.
  2. Guaranteed raises. This recession, optimistically, will last at least another two years. How can we guarantee raises when we don't know where we'll be at financially next year or the year after? The State will be taking more city funds back, giving IOUs, cutting programs. Our big development projects that we're counting on to bring in new revenues won't come on board for at least two to five years. It looks like we might get Stimulus monies from Congress, but that won't be enough. How can we promise raises when our revenues will at best remain flat, more likely go down further? That is simply irresponsible. We should agree to consider cost of living raises every year, but it would have to depend on our ability to pay.
  3. Agreeing to pay VPOA attorney fees if the City can't meet the promises in this agreement. That is simply unacceptable. As a member of this City Council, it is my job to look out for the best interests of this City and make sure we are protected. Agreeing to this would be an abdication of that responsibility. Who knows what is going to happen in the next two years? Giving VPOA insurance against future economic downturns is nice for VPOA, bad for Vallejo taxpayers.
  4. A piecemeal process. Again. Until we know what the other employee groups will agree to, we should not be signing any agreement. What happens if IAFF works the political system in Sacramento and legislatively prevents the City from cutting their wages or benefits (don't think they're not trying to do this). With the VPOA contract signed and IAFF wages and benefits untouchable, that would again lock up 75 percent of our general fund. With the economy getting worse and not better, where will our cuts come from? Not VPOA, unless we want to pay their legal fees when they challenge us. Not IAFF, if they get their backdoor way. We'll be in the same boat we were in before BK, but worse. Cuts will have to come from city services and non-PSU personnel. Agreeing to this now will tie our hands in the future. Business as usual.

City Updates

  • The City submitted a list of 30 local street and transportation projects estimated to cost over $182 million as potential candidate projects for Federal economic Stimulus funding. Our water and sewer lines are old and desperately need updating -- we could help Vallejo by updating our infrastructure and create/maintain jobs, which is what the Stimulus bill is all about.
  • Costs to replace streetlights due to copper wire thefts have recently cost the City $64,000. We recently installed a $36,000 vandal proof system that is already slowing down the theft rate.
  • The City is working on a Residential Abandoned and vacant Building Urgent Ordinance with Code Enforcement, which will be presented to Council at the end of February. I have participated in several meetings with Code Enforcement and local real estate professionals, who are volunteering their expertise to help draft the best and most useful ordinance.
  • The first volunteer anti-graffiti paint-out of 2009 is scheduled for Saturday, January 31 at 8:30 a.m. If you'd like to join us, please call (707) 648-4230 to sign up.
  • I am working with local artists to create a mural for the wall on Marin Street next to the barber shop where Jonathon Brunson was killed. The draft theme is "Silence the Violence – Take a Stand." I hope to get broad community involvement, particularly youth.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Dream Whose Time Has Come

Sorry I haven't been up to writing lately -- I'm into my third week battling a wicked flu bug. But hopefully I'm on the mend now. Just wanted to note an important event happening on Monday, January 19. "A Dream Whose Time Has Come," is a pre-Presidential inauguration and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration being hosted by the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Kappa Beta Omega Chapter, and the Vallejo Unified School District. "A Dream Whose Time Has Come" Monday, January 19, 2009 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. Hogan High School 850 Rosewood Avenue, Vallejo