Public vs. private pay round II: reader comment and more

I got an interesting letter from a reader last week who wanted to comment on my previous post exploring the merits of public vs. private employee pay and benefits.

She wasn’t able to post a comment on the story at the time, so I am taking the liberty to post her letter here. Enjoy.

I work as an accountant in the private sector, but have also worked in public sector. I see all the salary information, pension agreements, I can see personal files, level of education. I built excel sheets where I import salary data against level of education, and guess what, Ted? (Note: My friends from high school call me Ted. I hate it. My name is Daniel. UPDATE: I was not implying Allison is my friend. She isn’t. She accidentally called me Ted, which, sadly, isn’t uncommon) If you get an education, you make more than those who don’t, across the board. The real losers in this game are the people that believe that they suffer from outlier syndrome, and think that showing up for work everyday on time with no education beyond high school is going to make them a millionaire. We have raised, in my opinion, two generations of individuals that live under the entitlement system, they feel underpaid because they are so out of touch with reality.

The reality is that an employee is an expense and a liability to an employer, public and private. The people that get paid well, understand their place on the balance sheet and income statement. They are involved with the business more than just 9 to 5. They seek out new business, bring ideas about cost reduction. They don’t use up every hour of their sick allowance or personal days. In short, they minimize their expense to the company and maximize their
ability to contribute to income. Have you ever met a dedicated employee that also takes every single paid day off that they can? Is this in the best interest of the company to have an employee out on personal leave, sick leave, and also vacation 20 to 30 business days a year? It’s work, not get paid to feel important while your at home playing with your G4 phone.

If I went to our CEO and started telling that person I was underpaid and deserved a COLA adjustment, there’s a high probability that I would be laid off, because that request is not rooted in reality. Human beings are priceless. Employees are expenses that must be managed for a business to remain profitable, or for a public service agency to maintain funds for appropriate
programming.

In the coming decade, we are going to have the crap taxed out of business and individuals, so we are still in a trend where there are going to be fewer and fewer resources. The time for belt tightening is here, and won’t have any real upward movement for several years. We will have a better economy and better pay when the indicators start perking up, new home starts, jobless
claims, CPI, etc. Those indicators are very real, and are the reason everyone
can’t “make bank” like we did in the 90′s.

Peace,

Allison

I don’t want to dissect this in depth, but I do want to offer up a couple comments.

First, I think her initial hypothesis is right and wrong. I went to college and I have plenty of friends with degrees who are underpaid and overworked. In fact, much of the empirical data (and here) out now suggests a college degree doesn’t exactly mean you are going to be swimming with Scrooge McDuck. That may contribute to people’s perception of being under paid, i.e., they believe they should be paid more because their worth – based on education, intelligence, experience, etc. – is more than their value – actual job duties.

As for the paragraph on valuable employees who go beyond what is asked, I think the conundrum a lot of people face today is motivation and priorities. For career driven individuals whose work is their life, this statement makes sense and the ends justify the means.

For the average worker, they believe the basic 9-5 aspects of their job, done well, are credit enough to earn a wage that allows them to provide for their family, live somewhat comfortably (I’m not talking Mariah Carey comfortable) have security, the ability to continue their way of life past retirement, and – the big change in today’s world – the opportunity to have a life outside work that provides fulfillment. Is that possible when – in order to get a raise, better pay, have job security – you are actually not asked to do your job, you are asked to do your job and someone else’s? Is that fair? Does fair matter?

Last, I want to address this statement: “Human beings are priceless. Employees are expenses that must be managed for a business to remain profitable, or for a public service agency to maintain funds for appropriate programming.”

Employees hate to hear they are a dime a dozen. Even more, they hate to be looked at as mules, there to be worked to provide for someone else’s riches. But Allison’s point can’t be overlooked. Businesses have to do what is necessary to survive at times. What is difficult is being able to tell when it is survival and when it is greed. (On both sides of the coin, employees and employers)

In the end, what is the more successful business? One where managers are able to boost production and profit at all costs and keep a select group of executives highly paid and successful or one where the mass of employees are happy and successful and the profit margin is marginalized?

Depends on your definition of success.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Glendora woman loses court case against apartment management company, faces eviction

45054-Sharon Green-thumb-400x300-45052.jpg

For frequent visitors of Glendora City Council meetings, Sharon Green is no stranger.

Green, 69, is a common speaker at the council meetings, either talking about her issues with turning onto Glendora Avenue from her (former) apartment complex Heritage Oaks or lately she has been giving updates on her trial against her landlords for what she claimed was an illegal eviction.

But Green’s civil trial ended with a jury siding with the apartment complex managers, Anchor Pacifica, and Green’s eviction will stand. A press release regarding the trial says Green now faces homelessness.

Green was given 90 days notice of eviction from Heritage Oaks in Oct. 2009. She wasn’t given a reason for the eviction, she says.

She claimed the eviction was retaliation and argued that despite receiving a government subsidy to pay rent, she should be covered by the same laws that protect section 8 users and tenant based rental assistance.

The jury didn’t see it that way. They sided with Heritage Oaks management in saying they were justified to evict.

Green’s attorneys are considering an appeal.

Maybe Sharon Green to check move to one of these cities that offer a homelessness prevention program.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Azusa Rock Quarry battle by the numbers

Just wanted to throw out a few numbers that will be addressed in a story we will run soon about the money spent in the ongoing battle about the Azusa Rock Quarry.

Legal fees, public relations, consultants, etc. Azusa, Duarte and (presumably) Vulcan Materials Co. have all spent money in regards to the now approved amended plan that has faced a lot of scrutiny.

Here are some of the figures.

Duarte:

The city set up a $700,000 fund – Fight Against Vulcan Expansion – a few years ago anticipating a lengthy battle. Of that money, here is a breakdown of funds spent.

Legal (Rutan & Tucker): $200,707.53*
Printing, Postage, Flyers: $14,359.17
Public Relations: $34,332.07**
Technical Consultants: $18,010

*Total is for billing from Rutan to the city between 2005 to July 21, 2010.
**Is a combination of funds spent on city contracted public relations from Marry Barrow as well as Englander, Knabe and Allen.

Azusa:

The city hasn’t needed to hire a public relations firm to defend or fight the plan considering they have a technical consultant on board for the environmental impact report and staff to defend its recommendations. In addition, Vulcan has their own ability (and money) to defend its plan.

As for the environmental impact report, it cost about $613,000. (Vulcan had to reimburse the city for that money)

Also, knowing that city lawyers have been very involved in this process and will be in the future, we can assume that a chunk of the money the city spends on its city attorney and other legal fees went toward this project. Here is a city breakdown of those numbers.

Retainer for services from Best, Best and Kreiger (namely City Attorney Sonia Carvalho) – $252,315 from the city’s general fund. Other legal service charges from general fund total $79,403.

The absolute total amount of money spent of legal services for the city across all departments is $1,317, 675.

Vulcan:

Being a private company, Vulcan isn’t bound by the same public records laws as Duarte and Azusa. What we can say is they eventually had to pony up for the EIR with the $613,000.

In addition, we know they have hired and use public relations firm Curt Pringle and Associates out of Anaheim. Throughout the process (until post-approval) Curt Pringle’s Vice President Todd Priest functioned as the spokesman for Vulcan.

Curt Pringle and Vulcan have also put out flyers, launched an education campaign in Azusa to present the plan pre-voting/city discussions, callers and door-to-door campaigns (via another PR firm and Curt Pringle).

That all didn’t come free.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

It smelled like pee, but I still loved it

This probably happened years ago, but I noticed the city concreted in the tunnel at the bottom of the playground airplane at Palm View Park on Lark Ellen and Puente avenues in West Covina. I grew up in a cul de sac across the street. And I spent a lot of time playing in that thing.

In case you”re not old, the plane used to have a tunnel on the bottom that ran from front to back.
It always smelled like urine, so I only went in when my mom wasn’t paying attention.

Some of my best memories took place at Palm View. I remember getting a remote-controlled car and launching it out of the tunnel into the sand for a couple hours until the car broke. I also remember the city park staff putting down black trash sacks on the hill by the clubhouse and turning on the sprinklers so we could go sliding on hot days.

BREAKING: Man who allegedly shot and killed 5 in Lake Havasu previously lived in Glendora

A man who Lake Havasu police say shot and killed his ex-girlfriend, her boyfriend and three others, had an address in Glendora, according to public records.

Brian Diez, 26, apparently committed suicide after shooting ex-girlfriend Deborah Langstaff, 23, and four others before abducting his two children.

Glendora police said they have not been contacted by Lake Havasu Police in regards to any connections Diez may have had in Glendora.

Glendora Police Lt. Joe Ward said Diez’s DMV regards have not listed his address in Glendora since 2005, and since then his address has been listed in Lake Havasu.

Still, Diez has apparently spent time in the San Gabriel Valley during that time. He was last arrested in the area by Glendora Police on Jan. 17, 2010., Ward said.

Pomona police actually made the initial arrest of Diez on a bench warrant regarding a previous arrest of driving on a suspended license, Ward said.

Glendora was the original arresting party in 2005, when Diez was cited for driving without a license, Ward said. When Pomona police arrested him earlier this year, he was turned over to Glendora before going to court, he said.

That was the last contact Glendora police had with Diez, Ward said.

Here is a story from the San Bernardino Sun on the shooting. Diez was found in Rancho Cucamonga at a relative’s home where he killed himself:

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

In case you missed it, here is a roundup of weekend news

Are you ready for a crazy week in review?

Doesn’t every week in review say that… every week? It seems that when ever I see a week in review on a website it is always crazy. Is every week really that wild or do some writers need to get a thesaurus?

For us, it appears the weekend included some tragic news with a 14-month-old girl killed when her aunt struck the child with her car in a driveway.

The weekend also included two fatal collisions, one in Hacienda Heights and another in Glendora.

Also this weekend, Glendora police are searching for two men believed to be responsible for a string of day-time home burglaries. They have a good description of the vehicle and are seeking the public’s help.

West Covina may lose one ambulance in a cost-cutting move. The city would replace that lost ambulance with a contracted service. The city is facing a $3.5 million deficit.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Power Rangers (sad) connection to Whittier

We got into a little discussion in the newsroom about the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers considering 1) There is a Power Rangers convention in Pasadena this weekend and 2) the Blue Ranger from the original series recently came out as gay and claims he was harassed on the show.

In light of those things, we also stumbled across another local news connection to the former wielders of the Megazord.

Thuy Trang, the Yellow Ranger on the original series, died in a car a tragic crash on the 5 Freeway in 2001 near San Francisco. Her ashes are housed at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier.

Portions of her funeral service can be seen on this old Fox 11 news clip from Sept. 10, 2001.

Montebello hires former Santa Paula city manager for interim job

I missed this yesterday. Apparently, Montebello named a new city administrator (the same as a city manager. Why cities decide to go with different names I have no idea).

Peter Cosentini will take the (interim) post in what he dubbed “a serious fiscal situation.”

A quick Google search of Cosentini shows he was formerly the City Manager of Santa Paula and was working for Pico Rivera’s John Herrera.

In his new gig, he will be bringing in $17,500 a month.

Is the private sector underpaying or does the public sector over pay?

That is a question I have been thinking about lately while covering the ongoing dispute between the city of Glendora and its municipal employees association as well as when looking at the salaries of various city employees.

Is the private sector employee rife against the higher pay and much better benefits public employees receive caused by an objective discontent with the misuse of public funds or is it just because their jealous?

When talking about merit increases, benefits, salaries, concessions, etc., many of the Glendora council members tried to make a case for their argument to impose concessions on the employees association by saying, basically, you still have it better than the private sector.

Getting raises for “satisfactory” performance wouldn’t happen in the private sector, Mayor Ken Herman said. And most people agree that government pensions are much better (in terms of compensation) than 401Ks or social security.

And make the argument all you want about the need for pension reform and how CALPERS is a drain on government, that is now what I am talking about here.

The question is this: Do private sector jobs pay for the work employees do? Think about it. How many people out there believe they are paid what they deserve?

No idea? That’s OK. Gallup has a poll for you.

In a 2008 Gallup Poll, half of Americans believed they were underpaid and only 3 percent believed they were overpaid. Middle and lower income earners made up a large portion of those feeling they weren’t getting their dues.

So, hypothetically speaking, if private sector workers are often underpaid, wouldn’t that distort our objectivity or perception when evaluating the pay of someone, who on average, makes more than us for the same job – such as public employees?

That makes me wonder: who has it right? Public pay or private pay?

You have to acknowledge the possibility – especially given the fact that private company CEOs, board members and executives pull in million dollar + salaries – that the public sector may pay its middle and lower wage employees closer to their worth rather than overpaying for the same jobs that pay less in the private sector.

If that is the case, should officials and the public make the comparison to private employee pay as much as they do, when being critical of high pay for public employees – or should it be vice versa? Should we be critical of private pay and look to the public sector as a (gasp!) good example?

I am not claiming to know the answer, but it is within the realm of possibility.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune

Azusa referedum still in waiting mode

Azusa citizens anxious to learn the fate of a referendum effort aimed at stopping an Azusa Rock Quarry mining plan will have to wait a bit longer.

The Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office said they have no estimated date to finish confirming the alleged more than 2,532 signatures gathered to put the referendum on a ballot. The group needs 1,650 confirmed signatures from registered voters in Azusa.

Azusans Against Mining Expansion submitted the signatures on Aug. 19 to the Azusa city clerk, who handed over the signatures to the county recorder’s office.

The referendum, if approved, would either be part of a special election or future city election. Its goal is to strike down the development agreement associated with Vulcan Materials Co.’s Azusa Rock Quarry mining plan.

The referendum group believes that by terminating the development agreement, the use permit approved for Vulcan would also be nullified. City officials believe the permit would still exist, but the city would lose out on various benefits, including taxes from Vulcan.

Email: daniel.tedford@sgvn.com | Twitter: @dgtedford @sgvtribune | Facebook: SGVTribune