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The Power of Unions

Original post made by Joe D., Atherton: Lindenwood, on Aug 4, 2010

As a long-time observer of these forums, I read with interest about the retirement of Mike Wassman after the Almanac wrote a story about alleged misdeeds on his part relating to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Sweidy.

I say this is an indication that the system works. †Obviously no one can be truly happy that a person's career is over, but if what Mrs. Sweidy said is true, it seems to me that Mr. Wassman should never have been the building official, and certainly should not be that official any longer.

How and why, then, are the police officers who were involved in the police report falsification issue with Mr. Buckheit, and their management, still employed? †To me, the falsification of a police report is even more serious that the incompetence or alleged bribe taking of a building inspector.

I come to only one conclusion: it's the power of unions. †Mr. Wassman did not have one behind him, but the police officers do.

This is certainly an example of the system NOT working. †

Comments (65)

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Posted by standard M.O.
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 4, 2010 at 11:50 pm

The Daily Post had a front page article today (08/04/10) about Cailfornia's State Comtroller, John Chaing ordering all cities and counties to report out all salaries of employees and elected officials.
ATHERTON!, 3 other peninsula cities and the unions, had sued the Post in 2003 through 2007 to withhold this information from the public. The Post dropped out of the suit but Knight Ridder finally prevailed in making this information available to the taxpayers and press on demand.
The fact that the employees unions had sued to keep this information secret is no surprize to me--but the fact that Atherton AS A CITY had used public funds to sue to withhold how our money is being spent , is beyond disturbing.
I hope the Almanac will run it's own article on this for those who missed out on today's Post--there is no way to view Post articles on line and so if you missed the print edition you could miss out on a major clue to what has gone wrong around here.
I am wondering if the police union was upset with Mr Bothum (Atherton resident now in Jail) about any of this as he was a reporter and editor for the Post during the time frame of the Post's suit to get this information released........................not real hard to figure out.


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Posted by Information Please
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2010 at 7:40 am

California law sets out due process afforded Police Officers:

Web Link

Though union power conspiracy theories make for good reading, it is merely representative of the mix of fact and speculation found on these forums.


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Posted by Per your request
a resident of Atherton: other
on Aug 5, 2010 at 7:51 am

The extreme shielding from accountability within the "Police Officer's Bill of Rights" you cite was legislated due to enormous union pressure. Joe D. has it pretty spot on in his analysis.

Also, an APD officer admitted the falsification of this police report more than seven months ago. Even with all the "due process", shouldn't someone have been held accountable by now? Or does "due process" mean immunization from the consequences of wrongdoing?


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Posted by Information Please
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2010 at 7:54 am

More speculation exposed: Atherton chose to decline the Public Records Act request for the salary information. I don't believe that action had any legal expense beyond, perhaps, having the City Attorney review the request.

That they did so was in line with law and precedent at the time. A review of the time-line shows how the decision was derived.

Also, the Palo Alto Daily Post did not exist in 2003, so that piece of dis-information should be discounted as well.

****

TIMELINE OF THE FIGHT FOR GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE SALARY INFORMATION
IN CALIFORNIA

February 2003 -- Palo Alto Daily News files routine California Public Records Act requests with 10 San Mateo County cities for the names and yearly salaries, including bonuses and overtime, of all government employees. Two employee unions object, and five cities -- Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, Foster City and San Carlos -- reject the request.

April 2, 2003 -- San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Rosemary Pfeiffer grants an injunction stopping the release of salary data, ruling that employees' right to privacy trumps the public's right to the information. Daily News soon appeals. San Jose Mercury News joins the suit.

Oct. 29, 2003 -- The California First District Court of Appeal rules in favor of the employees, upholding Pfeiffer's decision. The decision says employees' salaries are held in personnel files, which are off-limits to the public. The case becomes known as the "Priceless decision" for the name of the Daily News' owner, the Priceless company.

May 21, 2004 -- The newspapers settle the case by allowing the cities to release a list of all employee salaries and a separate list of all employee names. The lists don't associate a specific employee with a specific salary. The newspapers' attorney says a Supreme Court appeal was not filed because the unions initiated the case and the media would prefer to pursue a case of its own choosing.

June 7, 2004 -- Oakland, which has released employees' salaries with names for at least a decade, announces it will no longer make them public. The City Council cites privacy concerns, basing its decision on the Priceless case. City Attorney John Russo disagrees with the decision and says he will recuse himself if the decision faces legal challenges.

June 28, 2004 -- Times reports that some cities and government agencies, including BART and the city of Richmond, are now citing the Priceless case in announcing salaries will not be released. Other cities soon make similar announcements.

July 22, 2004 -- Times sues Oakland in Alameda County Superior Court, demanding the names and salaries of the city's employees. The state's newspapers quickly rally to the case on the side of disclosure. Public employee unions join the case on the side of the city.

Nov. 8, 2004 -- Alameda County Superior Judge Steven Brick orders the disclosure of salaries, writing the information is needed "so that citizens can effectively monitor the activities of the government." The data show that 74 of the cities' 100 highest-paid employees are police and firefighters, and some increased their yearly gross by more than $100,000 through overtime.

Dec. 1, 2004 -- The Oakland Police Officers' Association and Local 21 of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers appeal Brick's ruling to the state appellate court.

April 18, 2005 -- The California First District Court of Appeal upholds Brick's decision in a 3-0 ruling. "Payment of public employees' salaries is a public expense, and the amounts and recipients of that expense are public records," the justices wrote. The decision sharply contradicts the October 2003 decision by a different panel of appellate justices in the Priceless case.

May 27, 2005 -- The unions appeal to the Supreme Court, which July 27 grants review of the case.

May 30, 2007 -- The high court hears oral arguments in San Francisco. Justices indicate they believe salary records are public. They spend most of an hour long argument grilling lawyers on whether information on police officers working undercover should be exempt from salary disclosure.

Aug. 27, 2007 -- The Supreme Court rules 7-0 in favor of disclosure of non-police officer salaries. It also carves a small exemption for officers working undercover or in other positions in which the release of their names may endanger them, but otherwise rules that police salaries can be disclosed. One justice dissents from the release of police data.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 5, 2010 at 7:55 am

The Public Safety Officers Bill of Rights Act does not shield peace officers from prosecution for a crime.

They are subject to prosecution just like anyone else.


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Posted by A non moose
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 5, 2010 at 8:11 am

"...the "Police Officer's Bill of Rights" you cite was legislated... "

Key word is legislated. Is it "power of unions" as titled above, or lack of will with elected officials?

With union representation less than half of previous periods such as the 50's and 60's, I submit it is the latter.


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Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2010 at 9:14 am

Jon Buckheit isn't the only victim of police misconduct. I'm still waiting to hear from Chief Guerra about my complaint.

See below:

++++++++++++++++++

From: "john johns"

To: mguerra@ci.atherton.ca.us
Cc: jgruber@ci.atherton.ca.us, rbatti@almanacnews.com, wfurth@ci.atherton.ca.us

Dear Chief Guerra

If I am not mistaken, it has been over six months since I submitted a citizen's complaint along with supporting documentation thereto regarding official misconduct on the part of at least two of your officers.

The concerns I brought to your attention within this citizen's complaint (which as you recall, Mr. Peter Carpenter signed his name to as well) and that I have subsequently brought to your attention include: evidence tampering, violating my right to privacy, unlawful detention and the falsification of a police report.

I have since been given no indication from your office as to when a report on said complaints will be forthcomming.

I must therefore ask, without meaning any disrespect. Must I wait until those whom I have accused are retired, happily collecting their 3 percent at 50 pension before action is taken on this matter?

Please advise

John P. Johns


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Posted by DO THE MATH
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2010 at 10:22 am

The Buckheit police report "falsification" issue is simply an allegation that has never been proven by someone who is suing Atherton.

The Johns police report "falsification" issue is simply an allegation that has never been proven by someone who was suing Atherton.

Do you think either one of these two individuals possesses a lot of credibility? If a police officer had indeed falsified a police report, he or she would have been criminally prosecuted by now.

Mr. Johns and Mr. Buckheit are simply beating a dead horse. The lack of action simply shows they made brazen and baseless accusations with no evidence to back it up.

Not to mention, the police officers I know are too busy risking their lives every day to protect us to have the time, inclination or ability to falsify a report. It's just sour grapes [portion removed; disrespectful comments violate terms of use].


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2010 at 10:36 am

Do the Math states:"If a police officer had indeed falsified a police report, he or she would have been criminally prosecuted by now.

Unfortunately this is not true in San Mateo County where the DA has very little interest in enforcing the law as it applies to elected officials or police officers. Look at the data, there has not been a single indictment against elected officials or police officers in the last ten years - either we have the most ethical officials in the world or the DA isn't doing his job - you decide which it is.


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Posted by Information Please
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2010 at 10:37 am

... the "Police Officer's Bill of Rights" you cite was legislated due to enormous union pressure ...

You will have the chance to put that same Governor (Jerry Brown) back into office in November. He's the one who signed the POBOR into law. Guess we now know why the unions love him.

But, whether you like it or not, the POBOR *is* the law in CA. As POGO said, cops are still held to account. Mehserle comes to mind as a recent example.

The POBOR is intended to protect cops from political whim, not the law. Perhaps it's working as intended ...


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 5, 2010 at 10:39 am

do the math:

clearly, you haven't been paying attention. A police officer testified, under oath, in court that a report he had written had be tampered with. That is not an "accusation" it's a fact.

If you really did know any Atherton Police Officers you would know the biggest risk Atherton Police Officers face is scalding themselves with hot coffee. This town is Disneyland compared to where I worked.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Do the math. A judge in San Mateo Superior Court does not agree with you.

Joe D. I do not believe Mr. Wassman is alleged to have taken a bribe. While his troubles may be many, I do not agree with casting such an aspersion.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 5, 2010 at 12:04 pm

DO THE MATH -



While Atherton and Mr. Johns settled their dispute - for something like $600,000, for Mr. Buckheit, the court will likely make the final determination. You are apparently unaware of the facts. The police have already admitted they falsified his police report and that isn't going to look very good in court. If you're a taxpayer of Atherton, you'd better put on your seat belt.

Unfortunately, Buckheit is just a warm up for the Sweidy case. I'm not sure there's a parcel tax big enough if the courts find Atherton was negligent.

Don't blame the victims. Each of these cases speak to incredibly poor governance and management. The people of Atherton deserve better.


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Posted by Information Please
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Peter said: "... there has not been a single indictment against elected officials or police officers in the last ten years ..."

What about Mike King, former mayor of San Carlos?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2010 at 4:00 pm

The Grand Jury issued the indictment.

The DA did everything possible to avoid charging King - here is from the trial transcript:
"San Mateo County District Attorney James P. Fox met with the Belmont City Attorney in his office. His advice to her was just fax the fraudulent invoice back. No crime has been committed if the faxed invoice is faxed back."


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Posted by Information Please
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2010 at 5:37 pm

"The Grand Jury issued the indictment." My understanding is the DA presents the charge and the Grand Jury issues the indictment, if they find probable cause. Allegations only go before a criminal grand jury with the DA's involvement. (Perhaps you are thinking of the civil grand jury, a different animal.)

"The DA did everything possible to avoid charging King ..." I don't have access to the transcript and, therefore, can't assess the context of the alleged quotation. I'm impressed you obtained the official transcript so quickly.

The DA is not shy about holding Police Officers and elected officials to account. The DA has charged and prosecuted several Police Officers, including Officers Rivers and Taflinger (EPA). Mike King was a political official, indicted and found guilty at trial.

Your suggestion that the DA is reluctant to prosecute is unfair. I think a better characterization would be that the DA chooses to spend taxpayer money on cases which not only meet the elements of a crime, but also can be proven to a jury. As it should be!


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 5, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Information Please states:"Your suggestion that the DA is reluctant to prosecute is unfair."

I have provided the DA's Office with clear proof of Brown Act violations, proof obtained at considerable personal legal expense, and they declined to even investigate the matter. No, I am not being unfair, I am just well informed.


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Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Here is Mike Guerra's response to my request for information on my citizen's complaint.

We will soon find out whether the Atherton Police Department is capable of policing itself.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

From: "Michael Guerra" <mguerra@ci.atherton.ca.us>

To: "john johns"
Cc: "Jerry Gruber" "rbatti@almanacnews.com" "wfurth@ci.atherton.ca.us"

Hi John,

Thank you for inquiry concerning your Citizen's Compliant dated February 26, 2010. Your complaint is the subject of an active internal administrative complaint that I anticipate will be completed soon.

Mike


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Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2010 at 6:19 pm

Mike Wasmann did an inspection on a property that had a third story and nearly 5,000 square feet of habitable space that was illegal in view of Atherton's floor area ratio limits.

Did Mike Wasmann take a bribe? I do not know. One might argue that he was just ignorant of the Town's zoning ordinance or that he just didn't see that third story resting on top of a second story.

Others might argue however that Mr. Wasmann's disregard for Title 17 of the Atherton Municipal Code while inspecting the property constituted probable cause.

What I do know is that the FY 2007 Civil Grand Jury urged the San Mateo County to perform a criminal investigation of another high placed Atherton appointed official. One who, unlke me was a good friend of the former police chief. One who was at the center of the building department scandal.

My former colleague and assistant was interviewed by an investigator by the DA's office in this matter. My former colleague and assistant was shocked at how dismissive the DA was, inspite of the FY 2007 Civil Grand Jury's referral.

I suppose Peter Carpenter is right, I suppose it is entirely possible that San Mateo County is the most ethical and law abiding county in the country.


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Aug 5, 2010 at 10:43 pm

Look, you people are entirely out of line. The law in the United States only applies to regular folk. It certainly does not impact the actions of our ruling political class except in the most unusual circumstances.


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Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2010 at 8:46 am

As usual, Mr. Peter Carpenter, the ONLY person consistent with facts, figures and logic........along with supportive written outcomes of past cases involving law and the San Mateo County's monied ability to circumvent it in the past ten years, is right ON.
Who is anyone fooling?
Our structure is crumbling. The reasons are plain. Mostly GREED, but the banking system's BUST, removed the cornerstone for all that is false and frail in our County.
There is going to be a restructuring, a lot of lost money found, and a lot of people should be prepared to find the brightest YOUNG attornies with no ties to the past....Construction of jails seems to be one of the first priorities one should think about and get their minds off the Union run construction of the HSR and not being able to buy all those electric sports cars before the roads and bridges are fixed.....it is such a mess, that even the Historical Preservationists have had to stop looking for places to save..
Build the gallows high and fast.


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Posted by cast a wider net
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Aug 6, 2010 at 10:52 am

Peter Carpenter's reference to county DA Jim Fox was good for a laugh, particularly in a thread about The Evil Unions. How many people even remembered that Fox is the DA?

The invisible Fox has been the county's fabulously paid DA for so many years I can't even remember when he was first elected, but what has been his role? His second in command Wagstaffe seems to be the one running the show, while Fox plays the part of Fat Cat dozing in the corner, ready to exit the stage. And it's a show in which The Evil Unions played no role.

I'm angry with how public employee unions have grown in power to the point of undermining the public's interests. But let's not forget the other part of the picture. Our elected officials (in some jurisdictions at least) and top management aren't benefiting from union representation, but they are contributing to the approaching public employee-cost train wreck. Can't blame The Evil Unions for that.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 6, 2010 at 11:17 am

The union leadership that asked for above market compensation and pension benefits are not blameless. But they are like petulant teenagers who always ask for larger allowances (ie, Daddy, pleeezzzeee!).

I agree with _cast a wider net_ that our elected officials have let us down BADLY. Our City Councils did not do their homework and we're all paying for it.

They were elected to represent the citizens of their towns. Unlike the union's leadership, these elected officials are supposed to be adults with the ability to say no.

While I fault both parties, I expect more of adults.


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Posted by R.GORDON
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2010 at 12:10 pm

R.GORDON is a registered user.

Look forward to a more ethnically diverse in the history of our country.
Let's call it a reformation.
Corruption took over in California, and as a result, we lost one of the largest moneymaking industries for thousands of employees with the best benefits who succumbed to the same thing as politicians, and that would be GREED.
It is called the movie industry........gone, but with one hundreth of union employees and a HUGE amount of victims of overspeculation on the power of the trust put into their unions. As a result, film artists took the control away and moved to other places where the money earned is still formidable for a few people.
That is, unless you like television and reality shows along with the CGI kids stuff. The auto industry is trying hard, but it will be run by a different type union leadership IF it able to catch up to other countries.


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Posted by A non moose
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 6, 2010 at 12:29 pm

"...one of the largest moneymaking industries... "

Hollywood? Larger than aerospace was? Agriculture? Tourism? Fed money in all the military bases we used to have? And those cottage industries represented by Intel and Genentech?

And reality shows are popular with networks and studios, not because of cutting out unions, but because they are cheaper all around: no writers or actors to pay in syndication, etc...

Of course, writers and actors are represented by guilds, unions, etc.., but even Ronald Reagan was a supporter of actors guilds or unions, wasn't he?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2010 at 12:51 pm

A non moose states:"even Ronald Reagan was a supporter of actors guilds or unions, wasn't he?"

Yes, and properly so. Unions have very important functions which include protecting their members from abuse, workplace hazards and unfair labor practices. But the current leaders of public employee unions have left those honorable objectives by the wayside and instead are seeking to make public employees the highest paid employees in our communities and with pensions that no one else has and which we, the taxpayers, simply cannot afford.

Unions can and do serve many honorable and important functions but extorting salaries and benefits that are both unjustified and unsupportable is not an honorable objective.


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Posted by DO THE MATH
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Peter Carpenter, you are wrong. The D.A. has prosecuted county police officers, including an Atherton police officer who actually did falsify a police report in connection with the theft of a golf club. This is proof THERE IS SIMPLY NOTHING TO the allegations of Buckheit and Johns. Again, there is no evidence, just their own loud protestations. That's not enough to tarnish the reputation of police officers who do so much for the community of Atherton. And you'd think that after buying his "factual innocence", it would have been enough for Buckheit to just be happy with that.


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Posted by A non moose
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 6, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Peter: I can't believe I'm responding to this, as it's unlikely we will reach further common ground than you already outlined....

"...but extorting salaries and benefits that are both unjustified and unsupportable is not an honorable objective."

Sure. But a couple things about that, and the postings to these forums:

- it seems a lot of the complaints on this thread are about non-union, management position decisions and salaries; and elected officials. And all those management positions are approved by elected officials, are they not?

- and re: the cops and the *all powerful* unions, their "exorbitant" wages and benefits? Back in the Clinton economy, they couldn't find enough applicants. It's relative; this recession is brutal, it needs to be turned around, not take it out on the working folk who, along with small business and manufacturing, are the best engine to revive this economy.

- re: "extorting". Really? are seeking to make public employees the highest paid employees in our communities? When I think *compensation extortion*, and unsustainability, I think of things like Wall Street, AIG, Lehman, etc..; or the Goldman Sachs compensation committees that Meg served on.

I know, my statement:
"are seeking to make public employees the highest paid employees in our communities"
conlicts with your
"...are seeking to make public employees the highest paid employees in our communities..."

If I had the time, I'd like to search for some lists of salaries for private and public wages, in the Bay Area, excluding fast food and the WalMart-ish service sectors. Or is that the type of person you want answering your 911 call?


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Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Unions followed the example of all businesses and high salaries paid to executives to the point of incredulity, and ended up EATING IT as a result and took its members with them. Unions got as greedy as those who could make tons of money for overtime, wanting more health benefits, and if you want to get really GRIMM about this entire mess of a fairy tale, blame Elizabeth Taylor for being the first person to ask for a million dollars a film.......the entire world in every business from banking and housing and aviation went after the same thing at the same time with the help of Ronnie and the Republicans and it poured into the Democrats lifestyle as well.
Of course, this is absurd, but in a preposterous way, it has truth.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2010 at 3:28 pm

A non moose states:"If I had the time, I'd like to search for some lists of salaries for private and public wages, in the Bay Area, excluding fast food and the WalMart-ish service sectors. "

You don't need to look that far - As of 2008 the median income for a Menlo Park family was $133,251. That is, on average for 2 wage earners,
the same as our police and firefighters are getting for one person.


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Posted by A non moose
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 6, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Peter, thanks for the data point.

In all honesty, though, I think "your side" ;-)

...is better served by not including public safety workers in the debate.

Because how many families of two wage earners are the ones who run INTO buildings, when the rest of us are running out?

Maybe $133k is high for cops and firefighters (also: does that include overtime, which is a management decision,) but do you really want the quality of candidate that would be attracted to $50k? (in "normal" economic times.)


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2010 at 4:00 pm

A non moose asks:"but do you really want the quality of candidate that would be attracted to $50k?"

Strange question when we are already paying much more than that. What IS your point?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2010 at 4:13 pm

a non moose states:"the ones who run INTO buildings, when the rest of us are running out?"

The ones who actually ran into the buildings on 9/11 were NYC firefighters and the 75 percentile for their salaries is $62,143 or half of what the median is for local public safety workers.


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Posted by A non moose
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 6, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Peter:
Since you brought it up, what is the *current* FDNY salary vs salary for MPFD (w/o overtime?) Apples to apples, so to speak; I'm sure their pre-911 salaries are different than current.

re: my point about attracting quality candidates in a robust economy (assuming we can get back to a Clinton era economy after all this debt and job loss,)is: are public safety workers where you want to do this on the cheap?

So: you're the boss, you decide what it's worth - what would you pay to attract quality candidates to save your family? 50k? 75k? 100k?

Put yourself back in your thirties, would you have done it for that number? (inflation adjusted, of course.)

Gotta run, fun to post with ya...


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2010 at 5:15 pm

a non moose asks:"Put yourself back in your thirties, would you have done it for that number? (inflation adjusted, of course.)"

I spent three years as a US Forest Service Smokejumper parachuting out of airplanes to fight forest fires - the current rate for that job is GS-5 which pays $40,000 per year.


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Posted by A non moose
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 6, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Pogo just loves that I walked into that... ;-)

But apples and oranges, we're talking urban fire. If you were in your thirties and forties, would you (and other quality candidates) do it for 40k, in an urban setting?

And when the economy picks up, and candidates look at other jobs?

So: you're the boss, you decide what it's worth - what would you pay to attract quality candidates to save your family? 50k? 75k? 100k?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2010 at 5:31 pm

A non moose states:"But apples and oranges, we're talking urban fire"

I was also an urban firefighter and I can assure you that being a Smokejumper is much more demanding and risky.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2010 at 5:34 pm

A non moose asks:"what would you pay to attract quality candidates to save your family? 50k? 75k? 100k?"

As noted above the 75 percentile for NYC firefighters salaries is $62,143 or half of what the median is for local public safety workers.

Why should California firefighters get paid so much more than some of the busiest firefighters in the world?


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Posted by A non moose
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 6, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Of course. And thank you for your service to our environment, and I assume, our state.

Since you were an urban firefighter, I'm curious about the internal debate you must be having about answering, since you've avoided the question twice.

You are in your home, at night, late. You hung up the phone. A minute later, sirens are blaring down your street, heading towards your house.

What's it worth?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2010 at 5:46 pm

A non moose asks:"You are in your home, at night, late. You hung up the phone. A minute later, sirens are blaring down your street, heading towards your house.

What's it worth?"

It is worth what is required to hire and train highly qualified people to respond to that emergency - and no more. The fact that there are 100 applicants for every firefighter vacancy demonstrates that we are dramatically overpaying for this job. The fact that we are paying TWICE as much as NYC demonstrates that we are dramatically overpaying for this job.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 6, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Yes I did, A non moose.

Just examine salaries in Menlo Park. We trust our children to teachers - that's pretty important stuff, I would think - who make about $75k a year. No they don't have to run into burning buildings, but it does require significant training and certifications, it's a highly trusted job with a lot of responsibility and they have to live in the area. Sounds somewhat comparable to me.

So $75k seems about right to me as an average salary for our fire fighters and police. The most senior fire fighters and police should be in the $100k range - plus or minus. And to answer your next question, that's a GREAT wage and I don't think you'll have ANY problem keeping the line of hopefuls overflowing at that target.

And remember, a lot of families, perhaps even most, are two income households. If the two wage earners are a fire fighter and a teacher, they would be pulling down at least $150k. I think that's reasonable, respectable and rational.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 6, 2010 at 5:52 pm

And those fire fighters and cops in New York City who make less money aren't any less qualified to answer my 911 calls.

More money does not necessarily mean more qualified.


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Posted by A non moose
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 6, 2010 at 6:08 pm

Pogo: thanks...

"So $75k seems about right to me as an average salary for our fire fighters and police. The most senior fire fighters and police should be in the $100k range - plus or minus. "

I agree, that works. And 75k is close to the BASE salary in The City, I believe, excluding the upper echelon. (again, overtime is a management issue, any worker takes overtime offered, and the firefighter isn't the guy who makes that decision.)

So what is MPFD's BASE salary, for a firefighter past probation?

And Peter, I can't answer why FDNY is as low as you claim. Have a link to your numbers?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2010 at 6:12 pm

a non moose asks:"And Peter, I can't answer why FDNY is as low as you claim. Have a link to your numbers?"

Yes
Web Link

And it not not just NYC, firefighters' salaries outside of California are ALL well below what we pay here.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2010 at 6:17 pm

a non moose asks:"So what is MPFD's BASE salary, for a firefighter past probation?"

$92,585.76


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Posted by A non moose
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 6, 2010 at 6:19 pm

here ya go, using the same bull**t source, problem solved

They make the same in Menlo according to that BS site.

Web Link


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Posted by A non moose
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 6, 2010 at 6:20 pm

Maybe we should stick with apples...

have a godd evening, gents.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2010 at 6:25 pm

apples and apples - here are the base salaries using the local MOU and the FDNY web site:


Menlo Park Fire Protection District Firefighter $92,585.76

FDNY Firefighter $44,995
Web Link


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Posted by Information Please
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2010 at 7:46 pm

An inconvenient truth:

Top step MPFPD Firefighter = $92,580
Top step FDNY Firefighter = $99,104

Sources:

Menlo Park FPD MOU (page 38)
Web Link

NYPD Salary (from Peter)
Web Link


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Posted by Information Please
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2010 at 8:06 pm


The state income tax rate is higher in CA than in NY. Thus, the take home of FDNY firefighters is relatively even greater.

Web Link


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 6, 2010 at 8:56 pm

Information Please states:"The state income tax rate is higher in CA than in NY. Thus, the take home of FDNY firefighters is relatively even greater."

Wrong - NYC also has income taxes and the combined state and city income taxes are greater than the California state rate. And there is NO way that any tax rate could make up for the big differences in base pay.

Information please incorrectly includes benefits in the FDNY firefighter's pay - the base pay at the top level is $76,488 vs 97,600.44 base pay for a MPFPD firefighter at the top pay level.

Details are important.


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Posted by Jon Buckheit
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 6, 2010 at 10:47 pm

To Do the Math: others have pointed this out, but I'll do it again. The falsifiction of my police report was admitted to by an Atherton cop on the witness stand. Either someone should be getting prosecuted for that act, or he should be getting prosecuted for perjury. Based on all the facts I know, I believe the former. But, you really can't have it both ways.


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Posted by A non moose
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 6, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Talked to a friend tonight.

FDNY does make considerably less. They got reamed when the city went thru bankruptcy 20 years ago, and haven't recovered. That's a shame.

So, for now, I'll stick with apples and oranges.

Been a slice, folks...


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Posted by John P Johns
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2010 at 11:08 pm

To Do the Math

I was at Jon Buckheit's hearing at which arguments from both sides were made.

For one I simply could not belive taxpayers' money was being spent to oppose what Jon Buckheit was asking for.

Rather than Mr. Buckheit trying to buy anything, the reverse was true. The DA was trying to use its enormous influnence and resources to crush someone who should not have been arrested in the first place.

I heard the Judge's reaction as testimony was given by both sides. I heard the Judge explain his reasoning. What I saw was an example of American jurisprudence at its finest.

What Do The Math alleges is an insult to both Mr. Buckheit and to Judge Forcum.

As far as Do the Math's insistence that there is absolutely nothing to my allegation of criminal conduct on the part of the Atherton Police Department. I have documentary evidence. I have given that evidence to Chief Guerra.

I challenge Chief Guerra to have the courage to do the right thing.

As far as the Atherton Officer who was convicted. That was a setup plain and simple. Clark Yee was one of the few officers on the Atherton Police Force who put in an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. He was incorruptible. That is why he was destroyed.

Clark Yee was set up on that bogus stolen golf club charge.

This is another devastating story about what is going on in Atherton that will soon play out. Just like Buckheit's story, just like Kimberly Sweidy's story, just like my story.

Sometimes it takes a while, but the truth does get out, eventually


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Posted by Jon Buckheit
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 7, 2010 at 1:34 am

To expand upon Mr. Johns' comments, Do the Math, if I had "bought" the factual innocence, I think the judge would simply have given it to me without launching into an expanded censuring of the police officers involved, an unprecedented action in a San Mateo County courtroom (remember, this is not Berkeley or San Francisco).

Regarding Mr. Johns, many misguided individuals have tried to discredit him since he discovered most of the serious problems in this town while still finance director, but all of his investigations have proven to be completely valid. If Atherton had listened to him then, it wouldn't have the mess on its hands that it has now.

Will it listen to him now?


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Posted by Information Please
a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2010 at 8:50 am

Does MPFPD extend the following to its employees?

"Lifelong medical coverage for you and your family" (from FDNY weblink)

I can understand offering lifetime medical to the firefighters, but not to the family. That's a pretty significant benefit and liability to NYC.

Can't help what FDNY wages / benefits might be relative to MPFPD's if this benefit were included.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 7, 2010 at 9:16 am

Information Please asks:"Does MPFPD extend the following to its employees?

"Lifelong medical coverage for you and your family"

No. Retired members have access to a group plan at their expense.


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Posted by he told you so
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 7, 2010 at 9:18 am

Jon Buckheit is right. Instead of running Johns out of town, they should have promoted him.

Johns is the kind of plain speaking straight shooter Atherton needs as City Manager.

Too bad he built a better life elsewhere. Maybe Buckheit or Sweidy will step in and take the helm of this ship adrift headed towards the rocks.


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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 7, 2010 at 9:29 am

What needs to happen in Atherton is a change of the Town Council's majority and hiring a professional, top rate, ethical Town Manager.

The Town Manager is the CEO and they can get most of the important stuff done, including staff changes. They just need the support - and not the interference - of the Council.

There aren't a ton of qualified candidates out there, but there are enough that a thorough search should reveal a few that live in the area.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 7, 2010 at 9:29 am

Pensions are also a big difference.

MPFPD firefighters can retire after age 50 with 3% of their final salary for every year that the worked. 20 years service = 60%, 30 years = 90%.

After working 20 years, FDNY firefighters can start collecting a pension of 50 percent of their final year's pay, or the average of their last three years - including overtime. The pension is exempt from city and state income tax, but not federal.


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Posted by Information Please
a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2010 at 10:20 am

Sounds as if FDNY unions have negotiated a better retirement plan than MPFPD:

* Lifetime medical, including family
* State / local tax free income (50% without tax vs. CA's 60% less tax)

The wages being discussed are for fire fighters. The senior ranks look a lot higher. How do those compare to MPFPD's?

And, going back to the central point, to what extent are MPFPD's employees more highly compensated than NYC's which, arguably, may be busier at certain houses, but require the same level of training and expertise as MPFPDs?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 7, 2010 at 10:36 am

MPFPD Battalion Chief $ 137,472.00

FDNY Battalion Chief Battalion Chief $140,945


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Posted by R.Gordon
a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2010 at 5:34 pm

To those who do not get it.
Don't mess with Peter Carpenter when it comes to details, facts and experience.
He is not a communist.......or whatever name people here are trying to make of him.
I suggest you read and share some of his knowledge/wisdom.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by A non moose
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 9, 2010 at 10:29 am

R Gordon:

If you re-read the thread, I think you will find that we all did some fact finding, and learned some things, even the esteemed Mr Carpenter.

Just a another reason to enjoy these local forums - thanks again to the Almanac!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 10, 2010 at 6:20 am

U.S. Personal Income Took a Hit Last Year - particularly in the Bay area:

New data released by the Commerce Department show that personal income declined in 223 metro areas in 2009, increased in 134 others and was unchanged in only nine regions. "Even though prices declined last year -- down 0.2 percent from a year earlier as measured by the national price index for personal consumption expenditures -- incomes fell even more," the Wall Street Journal reported after analyzing the data.

2009 2008 Change 2009 From 2008 Change 2008 From 2007

San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont CA $59696 $62598 -4.6% -0.1%
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara CA $55404 $58531 -5.3% -1.4%


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