Holiday weekend edition of weekend recap

Did you enjoy those three long days off? So did I. Although, the catch-22 is that it always makes that first day back that much more difficult.

Anyway, if you are struggling to get into that work mode, here are a few stories from the weekend to pass the time (oh, and make you a better, informed citizen of the republic and all that).

Reporter Thomas Himes did a long researched piece on city attorney fees that showed cities with their own police departments often pay more in legal fees, according to city documents and records for the last fiscal year.

Covina’s police chief made his position known on the a proposition to legalize marijuana. (SPOILER: He is not a fan)

Well, despite a huge push this year for the Census – including hundreds of millions of dollars spent – it looks like national participation is down. The good news? San Gabriel Valley participation is better than the national average. The bad news? It also dipped below 2000 Census totals.

Finally, as a recent post alluded too, Glendora goes for the trifecta in asking the Supreme Court to hear its case after the county won two court cases regarding a redevelopment area designation.

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Glendora asks for state Supreme Court to hear redevelopment case, plus legal fees spent on four year battle

A few months back we reported on Glendora’s failed attempt to appeal a previous trial court decision (initiated and won by the county) that wouldn’t allow Glendora to claim portions of the city as blighted, and thus be in line for millions in redevelopment funds.

Well, Glendora is now asking for the California Supreme Court to hear the case and should hear back within weeks. More in tomorrow’s paper.

One of the questions regarding this issue was how much the city has spent on pursuing, what has been thus far, a losing battle.

Some speakers at recent city council meetings claimed the city spent more than $800,000 in legal fees. That doesn’t appear to be the case.

According to city records, the city has spent $459,714 in legal fees since the complaint against the city was filed by Los Angeles County in Sept. 2006. Those funds are taken from the city’s redevelopment agency fund and not the general city fund.

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Breakdown of pay for Glendora’s contracted employee association negotiator

A quick note going back to the recent impasse between Glendora and the municpal employees association where the council forced a one year contract on the association with several concessions.

In years past, the City Manager or other members of the city’s executive team would handle negotiations with the association. This year the city hired Richard Kreisler to handle negotiations for the city with all its employee associations, teamed with Deputy City Manager Brenda Fischer and Finance Director Josh Betta.

The total cost for Kreisler’s services (contracted through Liebert, Cassidy, Whitmore Legal Fees)
is $42,797 since March 2010.

Kreisler’s pay breaks down like this:

He was paid $6,682.05 for work ending March 31, 2010.
– $1,296 for work on the Glendora Manager’s Association.
– $1,039.05 for work on the Glendora Municipal Employees Association.
– $2,727 for work with the Police Officer’s Association.
– $1,620 for work with the Police Manager’s Association

For work completed between April 1 and April 30, he was paid $9,855.
– $5,427 for work with GMA.
– $1,161 for work with GMEA.
– $324 for work with POA.
– $2,943 for work with PMA.

For work between May 1 and May 31 he received $6,804.
– $2,106 for GMA
– $2,889 for GMEA
– $783 for POA
– $1,026 for PMA

For work between June 1 and June 30 he was paid $10,681.32. All of that work was with the GMEA. He was also paid $1,701 for work with the GMA during that time.

For work between July 1 and July 31, he received $6,993 for work with the GMEA.

He finally received $81 for work with the GMA at the end of July.

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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

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.



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.

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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.

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Rosemead city manager gets a bump in pay

Rosemead City Manager Jeffrey Allred got his raise Tuesday, 2.5 percent.

The bump in pay pushed the city executive’s pay from $175,000 to 179,375.

The raise came despite a city projection of a $1 million drop in revenues for this fiscal year.

Councilman Stephen Ly justified the raise because of Allred’s “stellar” performance and the fact that city services remain intact.

Read more the online story here.

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Weekend Review: Top News = I’m Back!

My vacation is but a distant abstract in the rear view window of my life and the busy catch-up of this week awaits me.

I hope you all missed me. If not, thanks for the web hits!

This story is just shocking, like something out of a television show. Azusa woman killed in Pomona shooting was key witness in capital gang case. Daily Bulletin reporter (sister paper) Will Bigham does a good job telling the story.

In another Sunday report, Bethania Palma Markus looked at salaries of area police chiefs. A question for the reader folk: What city characteristics are most important when determining the pay for a police chief – population size or amount of crime? If amount of crime, should a city with a higher crime rate pay more for a police chief? or should the city with minimal crime “reward” the police chief?

More to come today as I get back in the saddle, or the wagon, or on track, or whatever – as I get
back, get back to where I once belonged.

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Paul Krugman says a lot of the fuss over state, local employee pay is much ado about nothing

Ran into this blog post by Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist for the New York Times, regarding public employee pay.

Krugman clearly isn’t talking about the scandalous issues going on in Bell, but the general rage against state and local employees and what they make.

We at the Tribune have been covering the issue of pay for local leaders and employees over recent weeks and Krugman’s article addresses specifically how some people react when they hear a city manager is making $200,000 a year and what affect that salary really has.

What are your thoughts on Krugman’s opinion?

(PS – the blog post by Krugman is short, so it won’t eat away your day to read it)

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Council pay, a WWII vet is honored, bedbugs and the final piece in our doctor series = weekend roundup

I’m convinced bed bugs are trying to take over the world.

OK, my general fear of bugs mixed with the paranoia I have had about bedbugs for the last four years probably contributes to my earlier exaggeration. They aren’t out for world domination. Just our blood. That’s not so bad, blood is only MY LIFE FORCE!

Seriously though, the bedbug problem seems to be getting out of hand. Ben Baeder’s story today say calls about bedbugs have ballooned and that the bugs have become immune to certain pesticides.

One expert went as far as to say it is an “epidemic” of bugs. I won’t sleep for a week.

Let’s switch to a happy hero story. Remember Carl Harstine, the WWII veteran who had his American Flag stolen twice? Well, following that initial story, the community rallied behind Harstine.

An event at his home turned into a community block party. Seriously, it was like something out of a Disney film. People walked out of their homes, children rode their skateboards, people generally flocked to see Harstine presented with new flags and a pole for an overall tribute to the man. It was awe-inspiring.

Also over the weekend, we continued to look at how cities pay their executives, this time at city councils.

No councils are making outlandish pay, generally speaking. But many do receive benefits that are more common with executives: $600 car allowance, executive health benefits, reimbursement stipends.

Finally, everyone should take the time to read Rebecca Kimitch’s two-part series about how a doctor shortage could cause a health care crisis. Read the first part here and the second part here.

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Are police departments abusing their DUI checkpoint privileges?

I can hardly believe the recent events in Baldwin Park.

Last night the council unanimously agreed to suspect all DUI checkpoints due to protesting residents who felt local police were abusing their power.

This is unheard of (by me) to see a council suspend DUI checkpoints and for such protesting to occur.

DUI checkpoints, for most people, have just become a fact of life. Busy weekends, neighborhoods with bars, etc. all bring on the checkpoints proposed to help prevent or catch drunk drivers. Most of the checkpoints are run by local police departments, but are funded by the state through a grant program from the Office of Traffic Safety.

But the reality is most checkpoints don’t catch drunk drivers and while they are hailed as a deterrent, there really is no empirical data to support that assertion.

Opponents often look at the checkpoints as more of a “papers” check, a place where police can happen upon unlicensed, uninsured, unregistered drivers, parolees, people with warrants for arrest, etc.

In fact, most people arrested or that have their cars impounded at checkpoints are of that variety than of the drunk driving group. Vastly.

Here is an editorial from a police Lieutenant defending checkpoints that makes a similar point that even without much DUI arrests, checkpoints serve the health and safety of society.

But is it constitutional?

At a recent Baldwin Park checkpoint leading up to the suspension, 150 cars were impounded but a source said the majority were unrelated to issues of sobriety.

Prior to that, Tom Himes reported about a woman suing the Baldwin Park Police Department for unlawfully impounding her car.

In El Monte last month, police checked more than 2,000 cars, impounded 27 vehicles and made one arrest for driving under the influence.

Those numbers are contradictory to the purpose of checkpoints. In 2005, the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals decision in Miranda v. City of Cornelius established that many impounds are “unreasonable seizures” that don’t jive with the Fourth Amendment.

Still, police departments don’t seem to be listening too closely to the appeals court decision, but this newspaper is.

Editor Frank Girardot took the practice to task in his column here.

The paper’s editorial board also took a stance against the checkpoint structure and system.

More background on the issues in Baldwin Park here.

I think it is safe to say, that in Los Angeles Courty, a system of checkpoints that worked relatively under the radar without critique or oversight is finally getting a dash of its medicine.

What are your thoughts? Is using sobriety as a reason for checkpoints misleading? Should they no longer use the guise of DUI deterrent if they continue checkpoints? Are police officers stepping on the rights of citizens? Or, despite the contradiction between their name and the outcome, do the results of the checkpoints, (i.e. arrests of wanted individuals, impounding vehicles of unlicensed drivers, etc.) outweigh the potential infringement of the Fourth amendment?

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