Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Vallejo Tax Increase: Fool Me Once...You Know the Rest

Back in 2011, Mayor Osby Davis and his Council majority wanted a new public safety tax. They knew they didn't have the votes for a special tax, so they put forward Measure B, a general tax (they only needed a simple majority of voters to approve a general tax -- 50% plus one voter -- vs. 2/3 of the voters for a special tax).  They promised it would sunset in ten years, they promised they'd stick to our new policy of one time monies for one time costs. Councilmember Schivley and I knew that Measure B was a bag of empty promises pushed by the Public Safety unions, and we wrote the Argument Against Measure B.  Measure B passed in the 2011 election by a vote of 9,295 to 9,136 -- it won by less than one percent! 

I feel the same way now about a new proposed tax  by the City Council. First show me you can spend the money you have right now wisely before we give you any more. Right now, your grade is a solid "D-". 

Measure B: To enhance funding for 9-1-1 response, police patrols, firefighter and paramedic services, youth and senior programs, street and pothole repair, graffiti removal, economic development, and general city services, shall the sales tax be raised one cent, expiring after ten years, with all revenue legally required to stay in Vallejo?[4]


Stephanie Gomes, Councilmember, City of Vallejo
Joanne Schivley, Councilmember, City of Vallejo

Vallejo has been hit hard by this Recession - people and businesses are struggling just to survive.

If Measure B is approved, Vallejo will have higher sales taxes than American Canyon, Napa and all Solano County. This will put our existing businesses at a disadvantage and discourage new businesses. Sales taxes also hurt those who can least afford them – seniors on fixed incomes, students and the poor.

For years, Vallejo has balanced its budget by reducing staff and slashing essential services. We must stop cutting services and start reducing the cost of providing them. Many city employees make more than $100,000 per year, get free or reduced cost health care, and can retire in their 50s with pensions far greater than the private sector. These costs ($61,993,036) consume more than 94 percent of the current General Fund budget ($65,717,328) – leaving less than six percent for everything else.

Vacaville has 36 more police personnel (sworn and non-sworn) than Vallejo, and pays $4,000,000 per year less. They have three more firefighters, and pay $1,800,000 less. If our Police and Fire Departments were staffed and paid the same as Vacaville, we could have more public safety employees and still save $5,800,000.

Future City Councils will be able to spend new sales tax revenue however they choose – no restrictions. In bankruptcy, the Council majority approved two employee contracts that guaranteed raises and free health care. Considering that track record, we cannot trust that increased taxes will be spent on improving services, not on employee pay and pensions.

Increasing Vallejo’s sales tax now is a bad idea. It’s time to make tough choices, reduce employee costs and quit kicking the can down the road. We must get our fiscal house in order before asking taxpayers for more money.

Vote NO on Measure B


Osby Davis, Mayor, City of Vallejo
Michael Wilson, Vice Mayor, City of Vallejo

Now is the time to rebuild our great city by reinvesting in public safety and economic development, attracting new businesses, repairing our streets, reestablishing quality of life services such as programs for our youth, senior citizens and the arts. It is time to put our safety and well being in a position of strength.

Voting YES on Measure B will allow us to begin the process of strengthening these vital services.

Since we were elected, the city council has passed resolutions and adopted measures to stabilize our finances. We have balanced our projected expenses with projected income. Our budget is projected to be balanced for the next five years. We have set in place policies for living within our means.

We are now in the process of rebuilding our city and this is the perfect opportunity to do so without costing the citizens of Vallejo any more in sales taxes than we have already been paying during the past years. The state of California’s 1% sales tax which diverted our tax dollars to state of California and away from Vallejo ended earlier this year. Measure B will allow us to keep our 1% sales tax dollars in the city of Vallejo to rejuvenate and rebuild our beautiful city. We will continue to pay the same sales tax rate as before.

It is time us to come together and invest in our future. If you want to rebuild Public Safety, Economic Development, Quality of Life Services and Repair our Deteriorating Infrastructure, we urge you to join us in Voting Yes on Measure B.

Let’s keep our sales tax in our City by voting yes on Measure B.


Stephanie Gomes, Councilmember, City of Vallejo
Joanne Schivley, Councilmember, City of Vallejo


The City Councilmembers who support Measure B are the very people who, while in bankruptcy, approved a new contract, with pay raises, that cut our police force from 134 to 117 in 2009, to 104 in 2010, and to 90 now.  Then, they approved a management contract with pay raises while employees in other California cities were taking salary and benefit cuts.  If all salaries and benefits had been cut 10 percent while in bankruptcy, Vallejo could have saved $6.8 million.  Now, they’re asking us to pay more taxes to fund those increased salaries and benefits.


Supporters of Measure B argue that it won’t cost more than we’ve been paying because the State sales tax was reduced one percent. If Measure B is approved, Vallejo will still have higher sales taxes than American Canyon, Napa and all Solano County.  This will hurt residents and businesses and slow job growth and economic development.  And, it doesn’t address the real issue that most contributed to Vallejo’s bankruptcy – unsustainable employee contracts and the exploding cost of pensions.


“Living within our means” doesn’t mean increasing taxes to cover costs that are too high and need to be reduced.  Because this is a general tax, there is no guarantee any increase will be spent on economic development, infrastructure improvements or quality of life services – and not on employee pay and pensions. Tell the City Council to make the needed changes to our employee costs first. Then they can ask for more tax dollars. 


Vote NO on Measure B


Thursday, July 09, 2020

Link to final Citizens Public Safety Committee report

Bloody Their Noses (Police Union reformers)

There have been many online conversations lately about the Vallejo Police Officers Association (VPOA) and their support of City Council candidates. What does their endorsement mean to candidates...and to us citizens? Some suggest their endorsements are benign, just an organization expressing their support. 

Ask yourself one question: why are Vallejo Police officers involved in Vallejo's elections at all (probably 99 percent of them don't live in Vallejo)? 

The answer: the candidates they support who win the election will vote on their next multimillion dollar contract, raises, benefit increases, etc. They will vote on things like giving the Vallejo Police Department a multimillion dollar office building on our waterfront. They will vote on whether to require officers to get drug tested after police shootings or any other reform the public wants. The VPOA is involved because they are trying to elect their next bosses, bosses who will vote the way they want them to vote

I will be repeating this often: when I first ran for City Council in 2005, I was asked by the unions, word for word, "If we endorse you, will you stay BOUGHT?" 

Yes, they asked that. Out loud. 

How some Vallejo Police Officers and the VPOA behave and what they do to get what they want is clearly laid out by Ron DeLord, a former Texas police officer and consultant to police unions. He wrote an article in 2008 in "American Police Beat Magazine" posted online called, "Time to Circle the Wagons." It's essentially the Police Union Playbook: how to confuse and scare citizens, buy local elections and votes, and how to threaten and intimidate "nonconforming" council members to shut them up.

Ron DeLord instructed police unions to buy local elections: 

"Police unions can avoid many of these issues by endorsing and supporting candidates who will not ask them to make such a decision {arbitration or a legal decision} or negotiate in good faith with the union over any change. You have to recruit candidates and be involved in each election. Every decision impacting police officers is decided by a political vote. How many votes do you have on the issue? If you lack a majority, how many do you need to                     get right side up?"

DeLord also told police unions to, "get dirty and fight to win" by getting personal with "reformist" council members and to "bloody their noses".

"The main event is a POLITICAL GAME and the legal game is the side show. Unless you beat them politically, you will never win even if the courts one day decide in your favor. If you discover you cannot win under the current rules, change the rules, and go outside the experience of the elected officials. Think outside the box. Get dirty and fight to win. If you are in this predicament, then your elected officials did not RESPECT the union or the officers. To get respect you have to bloody their noses and demonstrate that the union is willing to make it personal, because it is personal on so many levels."

In 2008, when we went into bankruptcy, they began bloodying noses all over the place. Below is a billboard the Public Safety Unions paid to put up in downtown Vallejo to try and make the City Council look bad; some citizens felt it served as a welcome mat home robbers and car thieves.

2008 Public Safety Union billboard on Georgia St. and Sonoma Blvd.

Kurt Henke, former Vallejo firefighter and president of International Association of FireFighters 1186, specialized in bloodying noses. He filed lawsuits against fellow city employees, a Human Relations Commissioner and several City Council members who were pushing back against him. They were clearly SLAPP suits (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. A SLAPP suit is a lawsuit intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. In the typical SLAPP, the plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. (Wikipedia)

Henke lost. Bigly. He owed a lot of money in legal fees (judges don't typically take kindly to SLAPP suits), and his union was on the hook for them (they weren't pleased). But he just tried to get the City to pay for those legal fees as part of their contract. Because that's how Henke rolled. It almost worked, too. But I caught it in my first budget as a Council Member, buried in an obscure line item so nobody would notice. 

When we finally started the Citizens Public Safety Advisory Committee after much gnashing of teeth and threats by VPOA, they circled the wagons. A post on Topix said it all, the wagons were circled: 

"The Schivley-Schussel lynch mob will not have the cooperation of any public safety agency in this state. They will have to form their reviews by researching public documents only. The word has been passed on what is driving this committee. The wagons are circled. A complete waste of time."

I'm not sure when, but American Police Beat deleted the "Time to Circle the Wagons" article and I can't find it anywhere online. But thanks to Marc Garman and the Vallejo Independent Bulletin, you can see the full copy, below. And Ron DeLord, who began trying to appear to play nice-nice in the sandbox, told Reuters in 2014 that, "he had learnt to be more collaborative since 2008, but said of the “get dirty” message: I wrote it. I believe it.”

It's still happening today. In Vallejo. And the VPOA is counting their votes and hand picking their candidates as I type this -- so please, beware any candidate endorsed by the VPOA or Jump Start. Trust me, we've been down this road before, and it's ugly. 

Note: I edited this post to shorten it and keep the focus on "Time to Circle the Wagons". I'll share more about my bloodied noses in future posts.

Time to Circle the Wagons

By Ron DeLord (2008)

The world of law enforcement is changing, not just in the U.S. but globally. The cost of wages, health insurance, pensions, training and equipment are skyrocketing at the same time as the economy worldwide is entering a recession. Elected officials are being forced to trim their budgets, and the biggest budgets in any state and local government are police and fire. In many states the non-essential public services have been trimmed back as the economy slowed down. Now many governments have decided to see how much they can trim from essential services. In the poorer communities, there is not much fat left to trim.

So who should be worried? The highly compensated law enforcement agencies, especially in areas of the country where the housing markets have collapsed, are the most vulnerable. These agencies have received wages and benefits that far exceed those enjoyed by the general public, including many of the elected officials. Some police unions have started to believe that they are bullet-proof from budget cuts. Just ask yourself what happened to the mighty auto workers, steel workers and coal miners. They were at the top of their game and collapsed. If your union believes nothing bad will happen, you are in for a rude awakening.

It will start with a trickle such as civilianizing or contracting out more positions and using technology. The elected officials will tell the public, “Why should we pay a police officer $100,000 a year to do a job a non-sworn employee or private contractor will do for half the cost.”

It is getting harder and harder to justify using sworn officers in many jobs that were traditionally police functions. The next move will include red light and eventually speed cameras to “free up” these highly paid officers for more serious police work. Do not expect the revenue to go back to the police department.

Next the pressure will mount to create two-tier wage and benefit plans. Despite knowing the internal dissension that will be caused by having two officers working side-by-side, and each having different health insurance or pension plans, police unions are starting to accept or be forced to accept two-tier plans. The common employer pitch to the union is, “We can continue to fund your pension, but we must have budget relief by allowing the city to pay less for future officers. If you refuse, we will be forced to lower the pension for current officers.” The pressure to sell the unborn to save themselves is more than many union leaders can stand.

And if all else fails to squeeze concessions out of the police budgets, the city will declare bankruptcy to abrogate its employee contracts like Vallejo, California did recently. While the city is far from bankrupt, the goal is to use tax payer money to tie the unions up in court and drain their treasuries.

If you know what to expect in the future and you do not prepare yourself, you only have yourself to blame. Here are some simple rules when you are forced to say, “I never believed it would happen to me.”

Rule No. 1 – The battle is in the Court of Public Opinion! The employer will be making its case to the public and media. It is a fight for the hearts and minds of the tax payers. If the public is in a foul mood over their personal finances, you will get little sympathy by arguing you deserve to be paid more than the high school principal. The message has to be directed to how the reduction in police services will impact their lives. It is all about the public!

Rule No. 2 – The political fight is the main event and lawyers are a side show. If you are forced into the courthouse or arbitration, you may have waited too long to start the political machine. Police unions can avoid many of these issues by endorsing and supporting candidates who will not ask them to make such a decision, or negotiate in good faith with the union over any change. You have to recruit candidates and be involved in each election. Every decision impacting police officers is decided by a political vote. How many votes do you have on the issue? If you lack a majority, how many do you need to get right side up?

Rule No. 3 – If you get caught behind the eight ball, and the employer is attacking you as a greedy and uncaring union you must identify the vocal critics and make them feel your pain. Somehow this seems to be where the unions get queasy and weak-kneed. It is often difficult to convince yourself or the members to picket some councilman’s business, put their home telephone numbers up on billboards, and in general make their lives a living hell. Union leaders who feel they are too professional to stoop to these tactics are the same ones who believe they can win by remote control using some lawyer.

The bottom line: The main event is a POLITICAL GAME and the legal game is the side show. Unless you beat them politically, you will never win even if the courts one day decide in your favor. If you discover you cannot win under the current rules, change the rules, and go outside the experience of the elected officials. Think outside the box. Get dirty and fight to win. If you are in this predicament, then your elected officials did not RESPECT the union or the officers. To get respect you have to bloody their noses and demonstrate that the union is willing to make it personal, because it is personal on so many levels.

Ron DeLord is the former executive director of the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas


Time to circle the wagons

American Police Beat Magazine - The Leading Law Enforcement Publication. The Police Magazine for Cops.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Why I can't run for Mayor -- Who's In?

Photo: a very sick me after six years on the Council

When I was elected to the Vallejo City Council in 2005, the City was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Former city councils had been kicking the budget can down the road in order to stay "solvent" by making deals with the Vallejo Police Officers Association (VPOA) and the International Association of Firefighters #1186 (IAFF). They kept agreeing to give these public safety unions (PSUs) raises and other extra benefits in exchange for agreeing to defer payment of previously given raises for the next couple of years. As councils kicked the can down the road year after year, these deferred raises and other contract sweeteners kept compounding. When I was elected, 12% was due. We didn't have the money to pay for those deferred raises -- though the PSUs "generously" offered to defer again if we gave them another sweet deal for a couple of years. 

I said no way, not going to happen. We'll take our medicine and fix the problem. I wouldn't leave for future councils what was left for me, and the citizens of Vallejo deserved better. We tried to bargain with the PSUs, asked them to take a modest pay cut so we could stay solvent. They refused. In the end, even the PSU paid-for council members had to vote for bankruptcy -- despite some of them frantically scribbling numbers just minutes before the vote. Numbers don't lie; we were bankrupt. 
The PSUs were livid. For years they'd gotten used to buying and bullying city council members, and hated me for leading the charge to tell them, "No." They made sure I paid for it, though. I've haven't talked publicly much about what they did to me, how they harassed me, harassed my family, helped try to recall me and Councilmember Marti Brown, the complaints I filed against them for their harassment, the Internal Affairs Investigation the police did, the brutal, misogynistic cyber bullying they engaged in on a daily basis on the Times Herald blogs, Topix. I stopped reading the blogs early on, and had friends who would read them and reported the ones to me that threatened my life or had personal information, etc. I had to stay away for my own sanity. I was being cyber bullied before it even had a name.

I NEVER let them silence me or stop me from pushing for reform and changes (like PB and passing Measure A -- yay!). However, with the bullying and harassment, combined with working a full time job, caring for my ailing mother, in addition to my Council duties, I got very sick. The photo above is what I look at when I'm tempted to run again. I'm not a thin person, never have been -- I obviously became very ill. 
So I understand Mayor Sampayan choosing not to run again. I'm so thankful to the wonderful people who have reached out to me asking me to run -- your support warms my heart. I know Vallejo needs strong, independent leadership like I could provide. That's the hardest part, I know I could do it. But I have to choose me first this time. 

It makes it so much harder knowing that our current choice is Councilmember Hakeem Brown, who is a PSU-supported candidate who follows their lead. And I'm sure Councilmember Rozzana Verder-Aliga will run, who is also a PSU-supported candidate who follows their lead. The same group of people who participated in bullying and harassing me for opposing them are now trying to elect a mayor who will do their bidding. 

I will say that I am very heartened by all the people showing up and demanding changes to the corruption and excessive use of force in our VPD. The people following the money, researching the budget, participating in meetings, watching what they're doing. I can only tell you from my experience, that while it may not feel like it does any good because the council majority just does what they want, it matters. Daylight matters. Your voices matter. It may not be instant gratification...but your pushing impacts them. There is such strength in a loud, vocal citizenry. I was in the minority on the Council for six of my eight years. But I was a strong, dogged, vocal minority, and I was able to make changes. And when I couldn't effect change, I spoke the truth about what was happening, and that made those who were serving the PSUs instead of the people of Vallejo mighty uncomfortable. 

I promise to keep fighting with you. I'm getting ready to start to tell stories and share information from before and during bankruptcy, which is in many ways mirroring what is happening now. I want to give you hope that we can make change together, and help you all see where we shouldn't repeat some mistakes

Now. I know there are a lot of people who have proven by their work in the community that they can be a good, independent mayor. You don't have to have experience as a city council member. That's easily learned. I've been watching the various battles you've all won. Will you consider running? I'd be happy to help. Who's in?