Menlo Park's Future

 

Vote Update and Proposal

Fellow Residents:

On Tuesday night, January 13, the City Council did not heed our request to delay their decision to grant eight (8) police sergeants an unprecedented raise – an average 30% raise that will cost the City $500,000 a year, added to its current million dollar projected budget deficit.  We argued that there has been no consideration of how to make room in the budget for this hefty new expense, and there has been no time to review the key piece of information that was missing from the staff report.  Fifty-one of your letters did not sway this Council.  The issue was passed 4 to 1.  (As a past Council member, I can assure you that getting 51 emails about an issue is a BIG deal.)

The Mayor’s statement to a local reporter (Almanac Jan.13) may explain the majority’s lack of interest in what the taxpayers/residents had to say: “If you just announced it two weeks earlier, that gives people two weeks to send nasty e-mails, get a hot and heavy debate going, et cetera, et cetera.” *Note:  Your emails were far from nasty; they were thoughtful and well reasoned.

I contend that we need public debate on employee compensation issues.  None exists now.  And if debate is considered “nasty” by this Council majority, I wonder if they are confused about whom they are supposed to represent – the taxpayers/residents or the City employees. 

Here is what I propose:

1.        Before labor negotiations begin, have a public, properly noticed council meeting whereby as much information allowable by law is made public.  This information should include:

a.       Comparable salaries/benefits in the public and private sector.  (The latter is never done.)

b.      Management efforts to expand the employee pool via recruitment innovations and the like.

c.       Thorough financial analysis of salary and benefit increases and/or decreases.

d.      Options for budget adjustments to accommodate salary and benefit increases.

e.      A complete staff report must be offered, and council discussion and questioning of staff must be allowed.

                                                              i.      Council labor “philosophy” should be articulated, i.e., where Menlo Park should rank in placement of pay and benefit scales as compared to other public and private entities; a policy position on public/private partnerships and potential for outsourcing; willingness to find “economies of scale” and combine services with other nearby public or private entities, etc.

                                                            ii.      Enough time for council members to interface with the community should be allowed beforehand, so as to get as much public input as possible.

f.        A tentative offer should come out of this public meeting.

2.       After this tentative offer has been discussed and responded to by the representatives of the employees, the employees’ counter offer must be brought back, in a public council meeting.

a.       All usual City Council meeting protocol must be followed, i.e., staff report and timely public noticing.

b.      During the Council meeting the public should have a chance to comment; council members should have a chance to ask staff questions; etc.

c.       Discussion of overall budget implications of new employee demands.

d.      End product – A counter offer, or acceptance of employees’ demands.

3.       Depending on how many changes and counter offers, this proposed process may have more reiterations.

Bottom line:  Finally we achieve transparency and opportunity for public debate on the issue that comprises more than 70% of our City’s budget.  The secret system we have now, with 72 hour notice, no preview, and no debate, is not satisfactory.

Warning: There will be great reluctance by City staff, employee representatives, and probably most of the council members to make these changes. 

As always, I appreciate your comments at menlofuture@gmail.com

If you would like to read any of my other articles, please go to http://menlofuture.weebly.com

Thanks,

Lee Duboc