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On Thanksgiving: Here's How Atherton Cops Give Thanks

Original post made by Giving Thanks, Atherton: other, on Nov 22, 2012

On the November 28 council agenda is the following item:

5. WORK FURLOUGH: As a result of the Town's fiscal condition, for Fiscal Year 2012-2013 and subsequent fiscal years until rescinded by the City Council, the work days between Christmas Day and New Year's Day shall be an unpaid furlough week for all non-essential personnel as determined by the City Manager. Essential personnel may include, but not be limited to Police, Public Works, and Administrative personnel required to meet the needs of the community as determined by the City Manager. Employees may use accrued vacation or personal holiday time during this period.

As every well-managed company in Silicon Valley does, Atherton is shutting down over the holidays because it's just not possible to get much work done. The employees who wind up not taking their vacation on these days wind up being on vacation as they come in for a few hours over the holidays, since no one is around and there's really no work to be done.

A holiday shut-down is the most benign type of cost-cutting an organization can do, well behind non-holiday shut-downs (as our court system now has; the courts are closed several days each month due to budget problems), layoffs, salary/benefit reductions, etc.

The Atherton Police Officer's Association vindictive diatribe about this move is pasted below. They demand that Cary Wiest, their hand-picked and hand-purchased candidate, make the decision instead of Kathy McKeithen.

I'm sure Cary's refrain would be "this isn't the private sector, it's government," with no real substance or analysis to argue why "government" should be exempt from common-sense cost-savings measures.

Instead, Atherton cops should be thanking Atherton and the council for the great jobs they have, and great salaries and benefits.

Comments (15)

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Posted by Giving Thanks
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 22, 2012 at 11:07 am

Text of APOA letter:

ATHERTON'S LAME DUCK COUNCIL TAKES REVENGE

On November 28, 2012, the Widmer McKeithen Dobbie Council will meet for their final time as a majority. It's a lame duck Council. They should be meeting to recognize their achievements. Instead, the Council will use the meeting to implement policy based on their disconnected views. Widmer,Dobbie, and McKeithen will use their last majority vote to exact revenge for their political loss upon Atherton's residents and its employees.

At this next Council Meeting, Widmer, Dobbie, and McKeithen will consider a resolution that fundamentally changes the way it compensates Town workers. The resolution will also shut down non-essential services for a week.

The voters know Widmer, Dobbie, and McKeithen have been passionate about their causes. They wanted to build at 13,000 square foot library in Holbrook Palmer Park. They resisted attempts by residents to stop the project. At the election, nearly 70% of the voters rejected their plans. Voters also elected an outsider, Cary Wiest, who promised a change in the Council's direction.

Yet, the lame duck majority was apparently not persuaded. They continue to believe their principled views on other issues reflect those of the community. This new compensation resolution is yet another example of the lame duck majority's arrogant perception of their elected authority, despite having been recently checked in the election.

Similar to their library plans, Widmer, Dobbie, and McKeithen have dogmatic views regarding California's fiscal problems. They championed Joe Nation, an advocate for government reform, and had him speak at Holbrook Palmer Park. This lame duck majority has declared publicly their disdain for Government workers who they perceive as overly compensated. Though Atherton contributes a miniscule percentage to the State's problem, these three plan on correcting the larger problem on the backs of their residents and employees.

To be sure, Atherton's compensation and benefit costs have increased tremendously in the past decade. Atherton has kept pace with the surrounding communities competing for government workers. There is now a trend among local governments to dial back this spending and shift the benefit burden to their employees.

It's a problem created over a period of years that the Atherton Council seeks to correct in a matter of months. Their drastic changes will harm Atherton, not only through the loss of employees, but also through their inability to hire replacements. They will be uncompetitive in the market. Atherton residents will suffer from the Town's inability to deliver services for lack of employees to perform the work.

More bothersome, perhaps, is the vengeful nature of this last minute resolution. The Mayor will even attend by telephone to ensure sufficient votes. That this Council would rush to implement a furlough that shuts down Government for a week certainly appears to be a punishment for the voters not approving the library and their preferred candidate(s). Though the Atherton Police Officers' Association (APOA) caused the political disruption, the Council will take its revenge upon Police Department's Chief, Lieutenant, and Training Manager. It's as if they want to send a message and quash further political activities.

The Town's fiscal problems don't rise to the level of a "fiscal emergency". The Council would not be able to declare one based on the funds they have in the General Fund or many of their other reserved accounts. They fired many of the other Government workers last year, pocketing a great deal in savings. They have also benefited from growth in their tax base. The severe policies in this resolution simply can't be explained by fiscal issues alone.

The Council majority of Widmer, McKeithen, and Dobbie will use their final session to enact vengeful policy that aligns with their personal views, but not necessarily with those who elected them into office. Their plans will cause significant disruption to Town services. The resolution will drive up employee replacement costs, offsetting whatever savings they might achieve. This lame duck majority should heed to the will of the voters and allow this resolution to be considered after the Council's newest elected representative is seated.


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Posted by TJ
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 22, 2012 at 11:32 am

Shutting down local government does not seem like the will of the people.

Government is not a for profit technology company: "As every well-managed company in Silicon Valley does..."

Perhaps "giving thanks" doesn't care if our government provides services, sounds like she doesn't.

Ho, ho, ho...


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Posted by Giving Thanks
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 22, 2012 at 11:47 am

1. I predicted the response would be "government is not a company", yet without any rationale for why this corporate cost-savings measure should not be applied to government.

2. "The will of the people". You mean because Cary Wiest got elected with Teamster's union money, all the while telling Atherton residents like Peter Carpenter that he would be tough on police compensation (so he could get elected), the result of this election is that Atherton residents want money flowing to cops? Funny. I agree Cary will support the cops getting what they are not entitled to, but that's not what Atherton residents want, otherwise he wouldn't have had to lie to them to get elected.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 22, 2012 at 11:52 am

"To be sure, Atherton's compensation and benefit costs have increased tremendously in the past decade. Atherton has kept pace with the surrounding communities competing for government workers. There is now a trend among local governments to dial back this spending and shift the benefit burden to their employees.

It's a problem created over a period of years that the Atherton Council seeks to correct in a matter of months. Their drastic changes will harm Atherton, not only through the loss of employees, but also through their inability to hire replacements. They will be uncompetitive in the market. Atherton residents will suffer from the Town's inability to deliver services for lack of employees to perform the work. "

In two paragraphs the APOA contradicts itself. Other surrounding cities are dialing back pay and benefits, yet Atherton following suit will make it impossible to compete for government workers. Just where's the competition if other cities are also cutting pay and benefits? NOWHERE!

Don't let the APOA scare you. There are plenty that want city jobs, no matter what they pay in this economy. Also your cops aren't going anywhere, at least those that wouldn't leave already. You either have cops using the department as a stepping stone who will leave no mattter what you pay and the rest that are too lazy or inept to go anywhere else. They'll stay.

To the APOA: you guys should consider hiring a professional publicist to prevent you from continually shooting yourselves in the foot. This letter is just stupid.


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Posted by Last Minute
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 22, 2012 at 11:55 am

I posted this on another thread hoping for a response from "Curiously"--- maybe "Give Thanks" can explain.

1. Whose idea is this? The New City Manager? A member of the council?

2. Curiously and Give Thanks both compare Atherton to a private company. I would thank most companies are closing out their books and preparing for the new year during the last week of the year. Wouldn't you agree?

3. And what other city governements "close down" for a week?

There must be more to the story of this agenda item:
5. "WORK FURLOUGH: As a result of the Town's fiscal condition." ????

The Mayor just made a video that he does not see a need to renew the Parcel Tax, and now the Council declares we have a "Fiscal Condition". What is that condition?

"...an unpaid furlough week for all non-essential personnel as determined by the City Manager..."

This is a furlough week for all "non-essential" personnel. But "non-essential" is not defined.

Who is left to furlough?: The City Clerk... the Finance Department... The Police Chief? The Lieutenant?

The City Clerk and Finance Director probably need to come in that week to do the end of month and end of year activities. It seems those that show up do have work to do. I agree with TJ.

Wiest won with the votes of Atherton residents. He will have to govern with this decision and should be allowed to have a vote in it, even if it means delaying the vote for a week and getting him sworn in.

Residents should "Give Thanks" to the APOA for informing residents of issues the council has decided to avoid.

What is the "Fiscal Condidtion" of Atherton? and Why hasn't there been an open discussion on that condition?


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Posted by TJ
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 22, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Yes, the WILL of the PEOPLE. The 'run government as a company meme' is so silly as not to address it. It is consistently, and rightfully, rejected by citizens.

Isn't it, Governor Whitman? And your opinion, President-elect Romney? Yup, thought so.

The WILL of the PEOPLE -- commonly referred to as 'voting'.

As in ELECTIONS have consequences (and no, my 'guy' did not win.)

Folks want a functioning government at all levels, at all times, not one that is shutdown when they, or other citizens, may need it. Folks want both sides to work together, not some lame-duck revenge. Ask Governor Christie.

And the (real) President-elect.


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Posted by Giving Thanks
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 22, 2012 at 6:19 pm

I'm not disputing any of the following:

1. Atherton is not a for-profit corporation.
2. Meg Whitman lost the race for Governor of California.
3. Mitt Romney lost the race for President of the USA.
4. Cary Wiest won the race for Atherton City Council.

My question is: why will shutting down non-essential services for the week between Christmas and New Year's have a bad effect on any Atherton resident? If they have a police or public works emergency, these groups are exempt.

No one has sought to explain why saving this money is a bad idea. Instead, there's lots of personal attacks, vitriol, and a sense of "if Kathy McKeithen is for it, we have to be against it", irrespective of the factual merits.

I'd still like to hear why it is wrong for Atherton to take this step (sticking to the step taken, and why it's a bad idea). There has not been any refutation of this at this point, at all.


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Posted by Last Minute
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 22, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Giving Thanks,

Before I could answer your question, I need to know what: "non-essential" services mean. Who is left to be Furloughed. The Finance Dept, the post office, and the City Clerk. I think those people have work to do.

Will you answer my questions? This Agenda Item is vague.

1. Whose idea is this? The New City Manager? A member of the council? Did the Finance Committee of Widmer and Dobbie review it?.

2 What other city governements "close down" for a week?


There must be more to the story of this agenda item:
3 "WORK FURLOUGH: As a result of the Town's fiscal condition." ????

The Mayor just made a video that he does not see a need to renew the Parcel Tax, and now the Council declares we have a "Fiscal Condition". What is that condition?

You ask: "Why is this a bad idea?" No information is being given.
How many people will be Furloughed and how much does that save?




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Posted by Giving Thanks
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 22, 2012 at 8:51 pm

1. I don't know. Perhaps you should go to the meeting and find out.

2. A Google search on "California city furlough" shows multiple examples. Here are a few: Oakland, Santa Maria, Concord, Santa Clara (which states in its press release "City staff furlough days – closing down services a few days a year with reduction in pay – are helping the City of Santa Clara to balance its budget."), Los Angeles, Santa Paula, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, San Jose (which states in its press release "San Josť City Hall and other City offices will close on Thursday, December 23, 2010 through Friday, December 31, 2010, for the holiday furlough. All City offices will reopen on Monday, January 3, 2011. Police and Fire departments, along with other critical City services, will continue unaffected by the closure."), Los Gatos...the list goes on and on.

3. The condition, obviously, is that Atherton's budget is not in balance. This is readily ascertainable by reviewing materials on the Atherton web site.

>>> You ask: "Why is this a bad idea?" No information is being given. How many people will be Furloughed and how much does that save?"

Not true. Information is being given. It's on the agenda for a public meeting. If you have questions, or comments, you should go to the public meeting and ask your questions and/or make your comments.

The bottom line is that forced vacation/furlough days are commonplace in California these days due to the nationwide recession and fiscal crisis. This is not a "WMD Conspiracy" or "revenge" as the ridiculous letter from the cops states. A check of the web shows this is not at all unusual. I was unable to find, incidentally, any comments for the multitude of other cities in California implementing furloughs relating to revenge, conspiracies, lame ducks, etc.

The news here, if there is any, is not Atherton is considering adopting a Christmas furlough. It's that Atherton cops have decided to basically try to control a small city government based on propaganda and general citizen apathy.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 22, 2012 at 9:36 pm

Keep shootin' APOA! How many toes can you blow off?


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Posted by Last Minute
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 23, 2012 at 6:02 am

To Giving Thanks,

My statement is true.

You asked: "I'd still like to hear why it is wrong for Atherton to take this step".....Why is this a bad idea?"

I responded with "No information is being given. How many people will be Furloughed and how much does that save?"

You responded: "Not true. Information is being given. It's on the agenda for a public meeting. If you have questions, or comments, you should go to the public meeting and ask your questions and/or make your comments.".

You did not provide the information I asked for and neither has the council. As Peter Carpenter posted- the Fire District would provide 15 days notice to the public of proposed changes.

If the council has such information, it should make it public and part of the Agenda Packet before the meeting so residents can arrive with comments to the data and use Internet Forums to debate the issue.

The council is mishandling this situation and what it is calling the Atherton "Fiscal Condidtion" by not informing residents of what exact adjustments it plans to make and how bad the "Fiscal Condition" is.

The Mayor just sent out a press release--- rather than advise residents of the "Fiscal Condidtion" of Atherton he claims the APOA is making false statements.

The news is:
1. Giving Thanks states: there is "general citizen apathy" in Atherton. However the effort of residents to stop WMD from building a County Library in the Park indicates that to be false.

2. Atherton has a "Fiscal Condition" that the council has not shared with the residents and this condition is causing Furloughs and more.

3.The residents have voted a new council member to address the "Fiscal Condition", determine policy, and lead. He should not be restricted by the council making a Last Minute announcement of a Fiscal Condition.

4. The "Nationwide Recession" has not changed Atherton's finances. Atherton's budget is not subject to Sales Tax revenue. Rather than attacking the APOA for advising residents of Atherton's Fiscal Condition, the council should have been leading the discussion and advising solutions.






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Posted by Giving Thanks
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 23, 2012 at 9:22 am

>> I responded with "No information is being given. How many people will be Furloughed and how much does that save?"

You're wrong. It's on the Atherton council web site (agenda packet).

>> Atherton has a "Fiscal Condition" that the council has not shared with the residents and this condition is causing Furloughs and more.

You're wrong again. The lack of balanced budget is regularly discussed at the council meetings. You should know this, as a cop (I infer), since you've taped the meetings and posted them to YouTube.

>> The "Nationwide Recession" has not changed Atherton's finances. Atherton's budget is not subject to Sales Tax revenue.

So wrong to be laughable. The lack of sales tax in Atherton exacerbates its financial problems, since there is no source of potential revenue to offset the mounting expenses, due to police salaries and benefits that have (like the rest of California) gone out of control.

The other laughable thing that's going on here is that the employee group that has a contract coming up, a contract in which they don't want to make concessions, is going to be telling Atherton residents through anonymous blog postings , letters, etc., that the fiscal condition, lack of balanced budget, is all a fabrication.


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Posted by Last Minute
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 23, 2012 at 11:15 am

TO: Giving Thanks:

The Agenda Packet shows several changes in compensation besides the Furlough.

Again my point is this is being rushed through at the last minute-- days before the new council member takes office. He should be able to call his own shots. It is clear the residents want a change.

This is from the agenda packet on the Web Site:
"The work furlough saves the Town $14,213 in salary over the four days." It does not show how the $14,213.00 number was determined. That could be 15-20 employees. No list is provided.

Do you know the breakdown?

Per the Agenda Item: "unpaid furlough week for all non-essential personnel as determined by the City Manager. Essential personnel may include, but not be limited to Police, Public Works, and Administrative personnel..."

Who are the 15+ non-essential enmployees?

Atherton's unbalanced budget- "regularly discussed at council meetings..." Yet barely a campaign issue. You should visit the candidate's web sites. Not covered in the "Around Atherton" You Tube series of Mayor Widmer and not part of his Press Release.

I wrote: "The "Nationwide Recession" has not changed Atherton's finances. Atherton's budget is not subject to Sales Tax revenue."

You write: "So wrong to be laughable."

My response: Atherton does not have to balance a budget that suddenly loses a Tesla sales tax generator. The budget is constant and can be projected. You earlier stated the Nationwide Recession had an impact on Atherton finances... How? Town Revenue can not change much year over year. Is that right??

My question to you is "How has the National Recession had an impact on Atherton Finances?"

Looking at the proposed changes in the Agenda item, much work would have to go into such a project. Yet no public discussion. Who was working on this? Why wasn't it shared before.

Why not send it to the Finance Committee to review and come back to the council?
















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Posted by Chuck Russell
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 23, 2012 at 11:57 am

giving thanks writes : "Instead, there's lots of personal attacks, vitriol, and a sense of...."

Yet it wass giving thanks that uses language such as:

" vindictive diatribe"

"hand-purchased candidate"

" the ridiculous letter from the cops"

"to be telling Atherton residents through anonymous blog postings

Says "giving thanks" a totally identifiable blog posting!

Pot, meet kettle.




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Posted by Last Minute
a resident of Atherton: other
on Nov 23, 2012 at 12:23 pm

From Mayor Widmer:

Date: November 7, 2012 9:10:07 AM PST
To: Athertonians@yahoogroups.com
Subject: [Athertonians] Election Results

Atherton Residents:

The people have spoken on the Library, Ballpark and New Town Center....

My vote of support on the Library measure was inline with my 2010 campaign platform. It is clear that my position misread the community. Please rest assured I will ensure my actions are inline with the voter mandates on this issue as well as on the other two.

I congratulate Elizabeth on her re-election and our new Council member, Cary, whom I am looking forward to working with.

Bill Widmer



There is a strong likelyhood that Mayor Widmer's position on the compensation issue is "Misreading the community..." He should table the issue and wait till December for Cary.


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