Sunday, August 29, 2010


Misconception #1:
"El Segundo firefighters shouldn't make more than firefighters from a larger city like San Jose."

The size of a city has no correlation to compensation. It is not as if San Jose has 18 firefighters protecting an estimated 1,000,000 people. San Jose has 201 sworn personnel on per day. That equals 1 firefighter for every 4,975 residents.

I already talked about El Segundo staffing in an early post. El Segundo has a fluctuating population; 17,000 to about 100,000, with a maximum of 18 firefighters on per day. So, lets understand both: 18 firefighters for 17,000 population, comes to 1 firefighter for every 944 residents. 18 firefighters for 100,000 population, comes to 1 firefighter for every 5,555 residents.

The Fire Chief and the City decided, taking into consideration the high volatility of El Segundo, to staff at 19 to meet the demand (according to this math one may even wonder why more firefighters are not on duty). Due to El Segundo's unique nature and well documented influx of population, a prudent person can understand why 19 fire personnel is recommended. (Currently, the fire department has been slashed to 18 per day and running down to 14.)

Just because San Jose is a bigger city does not make it a more demanding job and deserving of higher compensation in relation to a smaller city. Anyone who says different is selling nothing more than cheap propaganda with malicious intent.

Misconception #2:
"San Diego residents don't pay for trash either."

"In a memorandum released Friday, Goldsmith (city lawyer) laid out how the city could get out of the trash collection business at a savings of $34 million each year.

That cost would be shifted to single-family homeowners, who under an antiquated city law do not pay trash-collection fees — a law that doesn’t apply to condominium, apartment and business owners.

With private companies taking over the service, Goldsmith said citizens “would have to do what other cities have to do: Treat their trash (service) like the cable bill.” - San Diego Union Tribune

San Diego shares the same problem. They are in the process of making their residents pay for trash as well.

Misconception #3:
"The 1% increase in the UUT (utility user tax) tax adequately addresses the deficit."

Not even close. The tax will be mostly paid by Chevron, who in my opinion is the real political heavyweight in town. This meager increase from 3% to 4% will generate about 2 million a year and it has a sunset clause (in 2 years it will revert back to 3%). The residents are not expected to contribute, and the remaining 11+ million will come from the wages of city employees. This tax increase should be considered more of a political gesture than an answer to the problem.

Misconception #4:
"City labor groups demanded high salaries and that is the reason why El Segundo is in the state that it is in, they should take the cuts."

People want to demonize the city labor groups and use them as a scape goat for the city's revenue loss. What excessive salary demands? I am aware that the Fire Association's last contract was settled for an annual raise of 3.75 percent, but many conveniently leave out the fact that incentive pay was considerably reduced in 2008 saving the city thousands of dollars. The Fire Association gave up percentage based incentives for flat dollar amounts. The City has already realized this savings and will continue to do so.

AND. It is also known and recorded that the Fire Association approached the City Council to give back their 3.75% raise in 2009 but it was flatly denied by the City. Recently, the Fire Association was the 1st group to agree to the 5% concession.

Misconception #5:
"Past Council's created this mess, only the current Council can solve it."

Carl Jacobson, Eric Busch, Bill Fisher, and Don Brann. 4 out of 5 were on the last City Council. However, Don Brann was the only council member that voted against the contract raises for the Fire Association, Police Association, Police Management Association, and Fire Management Association. 

Misconception #6:
"For nearly 10 years, the city's safety unions have asked for, and received nearly 100% salary increases with base salaries now close to or exceeding $75,000 annually.

It wasn't very long ago that El Segundo was one of the lowest paid departments in the South Bay. Over the years, through the 'meet and confer' process with the city and using comparable salary charts from neighboring cities, the El Segundo Fire Association worked with City Councils to bring up income, benefits, and morale.

75,000 is an average salary for firefighter here in the South Bay, it is nothing out of the ordinary.

Misconception #7:
"Seniors have a fixed income; any increased fees can have a major impact on quality of life."

Yes, I will agree on that singular point. But, regarding the insinuation to trash fees, I am pretty sure the Council said that trash fees could be waived for citizens on Social Security or if they meet other financial constraints.

Misconception #8:
"The fire union agenda seeks to abandon the city entirely."

This is the biggest misdirection and an absolute lie. The El Segundo Fire Association did not ask the City Council to merge with L.A. County Fire. The option was brought up by the Fire Chief (who is not in the Union) as a way to save the city money and maintain appropriate fire protection. The City Manager agrees that this is the best way to solve the problem now. The reason the merger is backed by the Fire Association is because the City Council wants to reduce the firefighters in the City from 19 on per day to 14. This means losing a fire engine completely, and jeopardizes the safety of the community.

This translates into reduced service and protection for the city as well as a more dangerous working environment for the firefighters (as explained in my first post). L.A. County Fire provides a better service than El Segundo at 14 firefighters. This was clearly stated and presented by Deputy Chief Osby and Fire Chief Kevin Smith. Why are the experts being ignored? Their concern is not control or political agenda, it's providing the best possible service for the City as a whole, and with the inevitable proposed cut of fire staffing, the better choice for the City and its' residents is to go County Fire.

But, many would have you believe that the firefighters want to leave because County benefits them individually. This is false. In fact, the merger may effect the majority in a negative way. Many will lose seniority, most will not get an increase in salary, many members may lose medical benefits that they have invested in for the last 20+ years, and for many it may mean being stationed farther away from home. So I don't buy this argument made by local spinsters. As the Fire Chief stated, L.A. County Fire can provide a better service to El saves 94 employees from being laid-off adding to the 12% California unemployment rate, keeps services and activities up and running in the city, and saves the City over 5 million a year. It seems like a no-brainer!

Misconception #9:
"The firefighters are making high salaries."

Since October of 2009, the City mandated that the Fire Department "run short" from 19 to 14 firefighters per day. This means that if a member calls in sick or has scheduled vacation, their position is not filled and the remaining members on duty are arranged accordingly to staff the apparatus. This was done to reduce 'leave replacement' (overtime) spending, which is the main topic of concern for many regarding the 2009 year end compensations.

Leave replacement pay has been practically wiped out. This means a 25% average drop in income for the firefighters since last October, 2009. They have currently agreed to give back 5% more August 1st, 2010. People have asked for 20-25% cut in firefighter pay. Well, they got it, and then some.

Many claim that the city unions are to blame for this financial mess we are in. This is typical behavior in times of crisis. I understand the issues from the inside and as a citizen I see them from the outside. I do not enjoy engaging in verbal warfare, but someone has to stand up to the falsifications, exaggerations and complete and utter misinterpretation of information. I am asking for a more prudent citizen to see through the blatant attacks; the finger pointing has to stop.

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