Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Slow Trickle in the Dark

The latest dismal financial news: Half the city's steetlights will be out in an effort to save $70,000.

Again, like last night's post, not good news.

I know there are a lot of people who are opposed to switching off the lights, for public safety reasons. Perfectly valid.

Let's do this here though: If you're opposed to a cut, whether it's the streetlights, PD, or somewhere else, that's cool. We all have priorities. But if you're against a cut, you have to realize that the money has to come from somewhere else. Where would you take money from to fund your priority? Or where would you find new money to pay for your priority? It's easy to say you want the streetlights on, but unfortunately we're at the point where you have to figure how to pay for something like that.

So, before you write a two-line rip job, think about it. Where would you get the $70,000 to fix the streetlights? And try to be specific. If you say "school dept.," that's fine, but say where. Two teachers? An adminstrator (one that isn't state mandated)? Maybe, just maybe, there's a good idea out there waiting to be discovered.

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Layoffs? Layoffs?

So, it appears some layoffs in city government are in the cards. Not necessarily good news.

A couple of things:

I still think the union settlements last year were a good thing. Yes, I know, that was a lot of money. But at the end of the day, retroactive raises were off the table. Take the raises that were given out, and add a couple hundred grand. Happy now? Plain and simple, spending some money on raises saved at least as much on the retros. Long-term vision, people. That said, I still don't under stand the department head raises (sorry, department heads). That doesn't make as much long-term sense, unless you want to argue morale and keeping people on board. But...

I like Joe Solomito's work, and I'm not trying to pick on him here (although he did bring it up). But it might be time to stop thinking about back taxes as a way to fix some of this problem. Clearly, that money won't be easy to get. Why not target it for the rainy day fund, and then money that you budgeted for stabilization can be redirected when tax money comes in? First, it's one-time revenue, so you can't build a budget on it. Second, it's just not coming enough to be reliable. Go ahead, argue the city isn't pursuing hard enough, but what aren't they doing that they should be?

Here might be the most interesting thing about this long-term: What will the unions do? Will they make concessions to save members, or will the long-timers throw the young'uns overboard? You go to some other spots and see city employees argue for layoffs. Will there be a universal movement on that, or will different unions do it differently? Will there be furloughs?

Someone said four-day weeks should be instituted at City Hall. The Pride editorialized for that last year. It should be done.

* * * * *

Two more things: I'm befuddled by the Mylott situation. I really like the guy personally, and I think his political skills would make him a good city councilor. And then I look at his track as mayor. It will be very interesting to see how his summer and fall goes. Veeerrrrry interesting.

Part of my "sticking around" plan includes a monthly column in the Fitchburg Pride. The first one is in the paper this week. Check it out, won't you? And yes, I'll ask the editor to keep my face off the cover from now on. I'd steal Shaq's twitter term of "sugly," but it's more "ugly" than "s."

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Monday, February 23, 2009

No One. No Way.

One thing that was reinforced by Rachel Rosenfeld's mayoral announcement last week: The top suspects for the job aren't interested.

As first reported in the Fitchburg Pride over a month ago, the names that kept coming up as potential challengers -- Joel Kaddy, Dean Tran, Marcus DiNatale -- are taking a pass. Rosenfeld said she asked them to run, and they declined.


Well, here's a few possible factors:

First, maybe Lisa Wong isn't doing that bad of a job. No matter what you thought in 2007, the top issue was the city's finances (although Ted DeSalvatore would disagree, but no one believed him then. Or now). Both Wong and Tom Donnelly ran on a platform of fixing the city's finances.

Just over a year into her term, and maybe she hasn't done so bad. Library fans are screaming right now. Fair enough. But the overall picture is better than it was a year ago. There's $1 million in the stabilization fund. The city hasn't laid off dozens of workers. The city is making do, even though there's less money and fixed costs are increasing.

Wong detractors don't want to hear it, and that's fine. But if you were running for mayor, what would have done differently. Differently that wouldn't piss off a whole bunch of people. For example: if you restore the library's $800,000, where do you take the $800,000 from elsewhere?

Wong has made plenty of missteps: She's been shaky handling delicate personnel issues, she's sticking to a trash fee plan that seems DOA, and she's done just cutting in various departments to get everyone upset with her. But if you're running for mayor, are there enough holes there?

Second, and relatedly, has she done enough wrong to lose 2,000 votes? She won in 2007 by winning about 75 percent of 8,000 votes. To knock her off, you need to get about one-third of the people who voted for her change their minds. Can you do that? That's tough math to run on.

Third, who wants the job right now? Wong had to cut $1 million this year, and $4 million next year. She's getting slaughtered for it. She asks for more money, and she gets double slaughtered for it. If you're watching this, aren't you thinking, "I'm not doing this. Especially for $60,000." Love for the city only goes so far. Consider Tran. He's got a family, a good job, and enough headaches on the council. Is all that garbage enough to quit your job, lose family time, and get pounded on a daily basis? Who wants to go through that? And if you think I'm crazy, as Rosenfeld how it's gone for her over the last week. My last post was, um, highly cynical of her candidacy, and I didn't even come close to treading on issues or with a tone that you'd see elsewhere (I"m looking at you, S&E commenting forums). Who needs it right now?

Fourth, take all of the issue above, and drop everything else for the next 10 months. Go knock on thousands of doors, beg for roughly $1,000 a week, and spend every waking moment wondering how to pull this off. Good grief.

So, it's no wonder there's minimal talk for mayor candidates right now. Is there a more unappealing job in Fitchburg right now?

* * * * *

Perhaps more on this at a later date, but as I write this we're watching Andre Ravenelle's budget presentation right now. Between his enthusiasm, intelligence, and suprises like he subs in a classroom once a month, this guy is very, very good. Why do I worry he's going to bolt soon?

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

About Rachel Rosenfeld

Two parts to what is probably going to be a giant post. First, a Q&A with Rachel Rosenfeld (that's "Really Rachel" in these parts) via e-mail. Nothing changed in questions or answers. I'll admit it's not comprehensive, but it touches on background, a few issues, and gets the ball rolling. Second, a few of my thoughts on her announced candidacy for mayor.

Part 1:

Why are you running for mayor?
I love Fitchburg. I sincerely believe I can lead the city in the direction the citizens of Fitchburg would like to see the city go.

What made you decide to dedicate 10 months on a campaign and an election?
If not me, who? If not now, when?

How long had you been considering running?
Many years, Jason.

What's your message? What are the important things that you think you're going to be talking about?
Respect. Teamwork. Bringing the city government - processes, technology, methodology into the 21st century. Sound fiscal management. Public safety. Healthcare. Community. Resurrecting Fitchburg. Unitil, energy and technology. Elderly, disabled, families, children - people as the priority. Accountability. True transparency. Consolidation, coordination, cooperation.

You've certainly been critical of the incumbent. How much of that will be part of your campaign?
Critique and compare. We have differing opinions of how best to serve the citizen-taxpayers of Fitchburg. The voters will see a marked difference between us based upon her record and my platform.

Have you ever run for public office before? If so, where and when? How'd it go?
Ran for planning board many years ago in Shirley against an incumbent townie. Spent no money, didn't campaign. Got nailed to the wall. And got my message across.
Helped to organize and was the co-chair of the Northern Healthcare Coalition, the grassroots group from 12 cities and towns that fought the closure of Burbank Hospital during the Bean administration. We preserved an urgent care center at the Burbank Hospital and ALS ambulance service in Fitchburg. First time in history that DPH ever
issued an order of conditions on the closure of a hospital. Hence my undying loyalty to Emile Goguen who poured himself heart and soul into it while his late wife Connie was undergoing chemotherapy.

What's your organization looking like? How many volunteers or staffers do you think you have now? How many do you want as the campaign gears up?
Volunteer recruitment isn't underway but all are welcome. Folks can email me. isn't a big secret.

How much money do you expect to raise?
As little as possible to run a campaign on a shoestring - the same way I live, the way I mean to manage the city - do the maximum with the minimum.

There's a couple of schools of thought on door-knocking: That it's very valuable, that it's merely window-dressing. How do you feel about it? When do you think you'll start knocking on doors?
To be decided.

You've been pretty open about your health issues. Do you think you're healthy enough to serve a two-year term and be available 24/7 as the job seems to dictate?
It is not an issue for the citizens. Just don't smoke near me. I have never failed in a commitment to family, friends, community or synagogue. I have the personal assistance I need for any mobility issues that may arise, my reasoning and intellect are superb, and I
don't plan to invade a foreign country or sign up for any cross country hikes. I have as examples Ted Kennedy, JFK, FDR and a close relative Cordell Hull (who had the same familial disease for most of his lifetime), as well as my own mother and grandfather who dealt with this inconvenience for many years. I have the advantage of knowing both my abilities and my limitations and while my abilities will be an asset to the city, the citizens will not be inconvenience in any way by my limitations. My breathing and mobility issues have taught me the value of persistence, objective and goal setting, patience, and priorities. Similarly my financial issues have brought home priority setting and strict fiscal management.

You've talked in the past about how the Mayor's Office is too powerful. How would you work as mayor to reduce the office's power. Would you push for a charter commission to change from mayor to manager?
The last thing I want is to be "Lady Rachel" or "Queen Rachel" and our archaic strong mayor weak council government is set up for just such a scenario. It's modeled on the old English Lord Mayor - Privy Council model that has not been in use in England for a very long time. The reason given for not having pursued charter review and revision has always been that it's too hard, complicated, confusing, time consuming. I have the time and the doggedness to see it through, or at least make a heck of a good start during a term in office.
In addition, the very setup causes unnecessary conflict in the city. There is no reason a mayor and a city council should find themselves in an adversarial position if all have the best interests of the taxpayers at heart. Our current system is practically a bloodsport and it needs to be realigned so that there is a truly balanced balance of power, and equalization, with management responsible to the board of directors, i.e. city council. Sounds like I lean toward a city manager form of government - I've seen it work well and I know there have been issues elsewhere. That's why one person doesn't make that decision.
I want to see a more democratic (little d) form of government in Fitchburg where people feel they have a voice beyond biannual elections. Otherwise they become frustrated and angry. And unlike sausage being made, I believe people DO want to see the process and be involved in how things are done.
Lots of interaction between the mayor and the citizens, open forums, "mayor's open house" if invited to rotate at ward meetings, stay in touch with the people. I see the mayor's role as much more hands on with the people day to day, "mayor at large" with executive responsibilities.

The city is facing a $4 million deficit next year. How do you fill that gap?
One dollar at a time. Seriously. $4M is less than 5% of recent city budgets. You tell me you can't cut 5% out of your household budget and still preserve "vital services" at home.

How do you slow the rapid increases in health care?
What was promised during the 2007 mayoral campaign and never done. Sorry, that's a criticism. In addition to the not-yet-dead horse we've been beating for the past several years, there are additional options that may coincide with bringing healthcare access back to the city.

Would you favor layoffs?
Let's stop giving out raises like candy first. There may be alternatives to people losing their jobs through a well thought out, well planned reorganization program, reduction of hours of hourly workers without losing healthcare and full time benefits, a carefully crafted attrition program.

What departments would you target first?
I would never "target" a department or an individual. I don't believe in people as targets.
I will, however, target inefficiencies. The rationale "we might get sued" won't work. City vehicles are not for commuting. Period.
I would assess the mayor's office first. With computers there's no need for someone else to type my letters. Assistant to the mayor is an essential position (not a chief of staff). Administrative assistant could most likely be shared with another department. As those are two positions each mayor personally fills, I might choose not to fill the Admin Asst position.

Part 2:

So, what to think?

At the outset, you probably fall into one of two camps: "Go, Rachel. Wong needs to go." Or, "Rachel? Really? Isn't she that crazy Internet woman?"

It's no secret Rachel and I have had a, um, combative past. You can flip through the countless comments and catch the highlights. I'll be honest. I'm highly skeptical of her candidacy. Here's why:

First, she's lacking on some organizational basics. Volunteers are welcome, but I don't get the sense there's been a real effort to put together a campaign and organize. Legend has it that Marcus DiNatale has the best voter database and organization in the city through working for himself and his father. If that's true, Wong might have the second best. There are reams of information -- active voter lists, probable voter identification, organizing standouts, blah, blah, blah -- that someone has to do to pull off a well-run campaign. And "to be determined" is an answer on door-knocking that needs to be substantially improved.

Then there's the money. "Shoestring" sounds good, but rarely competes in a high-money race. The 2007 race was around $30,000 in the preliminary. I'm sure both Donnelly and Wong were in the $40,000 by the time it was all said and done. How do you compete with the mailers and the organization? The scrappy underdog only goes so far. Ask Ron Dionne.

Second, I'll call this the DeSalvatore factor. It's not quite what the Unicow posted today, but similar. As the campaign went on in '07, DeSalvatore started pulling his punches. He spent the first part of the year firing from the hip, and then when it got late, he got cautious. People were scratching their heads, and it came across as a bad performance in debates.

What does Rachel do? She created the "Queen Lisa" tag for crying out loud. Is she going to stop name-calling and play it a bit more safely? For my money, she seems a little tame in some of the questions above. If you doubt that, hit the comments. It's all relative. She's been raging for the better part of a year. Does she keep her foot on the pedal, or ease off? I'm not sure either is really a winning play. She might be stuck here.

Third, let's try to probe the thoughts of Rachel here. Does she really want to be mayor, or does she want a larger soapbox to hammer Wong, her archenemy? While the S&E pointed to her blog today as her launching pad, I'm arrogant enough to guess old SF does much better business, and that this is really where she made her bones. While I love old SF, let's be honest here, it's a limited audience. What's really her goal? Is she in it to win it, or hammer at Wong for the next eight to 10 months?

Similarly, is she a stalking horse for someone? She clearly makes the rounds, talking to councilors and other city movers-and-shakers. Is she going to throw bombs and clear the path for another candidate? If I didn't know any better, I'd bet on Tran considering his remarks in the paper today. But that's too cynical, I think. But weirder things have happened in politics.

Fourth, Rachel at some point is going to have answer to a lot of things she has said on her blog and in other spaces in the last two or three years. Some of it would cause people to take pause. I'd love to say I'm going to do it, but the thought of rolling through thousands of comments makes me want to cry. It's a long campaign, I guess I have time.

Fifth, she needs to prove she can play well with others. Right or wrong (and this goes back to me running through comments), most folks feel like she was pro-Ted, and bailed. And then she was pro-Wong and bailed. Personally, I know the feeling. Some days I'm an honest, dedicated guy, somedays I'm jerk blow-in.

Being mayor means playing well with others. You need to massage the unions, work with the council, keep the department heads motivated and working, and be the public face of the city, not only at home, but with regional and state officials. Who knows how she'd roll, but her history here would be Exhibit A of not really playing well with others.

Sixth, being mayor is hard, and there's a lot to learn. I don't expect her to know it all yet. But even for a Day One candidate, a question about a $4M budget gap deserves more than a three-line answer.

Seventh, she's gotta shift into some facts. Consider her answer on health care costs. The first part says nothing has been done. Not true. Wong brought in new coverage last summer that was cheaper than an old plan. So, there's that factual error. This also goes to the paragraph above. Making health care cheaper is a horribly complicated thing that include giant companies and many unions throughout city government. There's no sense of the magnitude of that task in her answer.

On this issue, she pulled for the S&E her quote about Wong not understanding how to live on a shoestring budget. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn't. But (as discussed here in the past) Wong's parents are first-generation immigrants who opened up a restaurant in Cambridge. Generally, restaurant owners aren't rolling in dough. During the last campaign, Wong talked about working in the restaurant as a kid. Yes, she went to BU and she's traveled a good chunk of the world, but I'm guessing she and her parents weren't commuting from Wellesley to the family restaurant, if you know what I mean. Does Rosenfeld have the Wong family W2s from the 1980s? Most of Wong's backstory points to a family working hard to get by and do what they could for their kids. So when Rosenfeld fires away like that, you either believe the hype, or question its validity. She can't afford to have people questioning her validity on anything.

Look, she's got a lot of time to answer these questions. She's a known entity from her spirited blog comments and posts at her site. But what's she really like? I've never met her in person, so I don't really know. Her announcement has certainly raised eyebrows, and it certainly plays well with the anti-Wong crowd. But is that crowd currently at 50 percent-plus-1? And if it is, will they all rally around her? It's unique for a new candidate (and by new, I mean never running before) to be this polarizing. How she runs, what she says, and how she says it will make for an interesting campaign, that's for sure.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

And Then There Were Two

If you missed the news, Rachel Rosenfeld said today she's running for mayor. That makes her and the incumbent as the two on the ballot right now. I've fired off a slew of questions about Rachel's decision and her plans via e-mail. Hopefully I'll have more later.



Saturday, February 14, 2009

McKay to B.F. Brown?

OK, right off the bat, I have a vested interest in this one, with SF Thing 1 at the McKay School for kindergarten, and likely Thing 2 following her in a couple of years. The future of the McKay is important at the SF Mansion.

So, it didn't go unnoticed that School Committee member James Reynolds is talking about moving the McKay School to a renovated B.F. Brown Building.

At the crux, as in the past, is the nearly $1 million the city pays for rent to FSC for the McKay. Holy crap! $1 million! That's outrageous.

Is it?

I don't really know the answer, but I do know it would cost $5 million to renovate B.F. Brown (according to the super), so it might be awhile. But it's a good reminder that rent is out there.

So, is the city getting $1 million out of that rent? Again, I don't know, but consider:

Principal John Early is consider an associate dean at FSC, and the college pays at least part of its salary.

The electricity and heat are paid for.

The daily a.m. and p.m. police details at the parking lot entrance on Rindge Road are FSC.

FSC may handle custodian duties, and they certainly handle building repair and upkeep.

We toured all four elementary schools last spring. Far and away, McKay was in the best shape of all of them. It wasn't the deciding factor for us, but it certainly was a factor after Thing 1 went to school some days at South Street without heat. It was noticeable.

I guess the unknowable is, how much is the city saving on not owning and having to keep up another building? Consider this: According to my math, the city has $10 million in school repair projects on the stimulous wish list. That doesn't count B.F. Brown, which is in there. You can only assume at this point that if the city was running another school building, it would need repairs there, as well.

In some ways, it might not really matter for Thing 1 or Thing 2. They'd stay at McKay, or they'd get a renovated B.F. Brown (in theory). But before there's an overwhelming chorus of "Hey, $1 million in rent? WTF," there should be consideration as to whether or not it's a fair deal to the city. It's easy to get all fired up over the numbers, but is reality different from the dollar signs?

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

When Do You Say 'Ouch?'

So, here's the question:

What cut will be egregious that you'll be offended?

The PD "demotions" got some fire, but really, it wasn't that bad.

The school department's talk of merging BF Brown and Academy barely raised an eyebrow.

Last year's library cuts are certainly grist for the mills, but really, it's not like there was a big protest outside City Hall.

Mayor Lisa Wong told the City Council this week that the city will need to cut $4 million out of the budget for next year. Certainly, big cuts are going to come. With the chances of new revenue looking shaky, based on early reports, you can bank on more cuts than new money. And that's putting it lightly.

I guess it's kind of a hypothetical question that you can't really get a handle on right now, but it's worth asking not just here but throughout the city: When do you say "ouch?"

10 police department layoffs? Closing Summer St. fire station? Closing some parks for the summer? Turning streetlights off?

I guess it's a different way of asking, what are the priorities? Seriously, I hope for some good feedback on this. Recent budget discussions have quickly devolved into "Lisa Wong sucks," and "the trash fee sucks almost as much." I'd like to move beyond that and get some kind of sense of what people think. What cut would make you stand up and say, "absolutely not." Consider stuff like: 3 cops OK, 5 no. Keep parks open, but don't maintain the fields. Stuff like that. What's your limit? You can't avoid them, you can only pick the ones you dislike least. Ready? Go.



Monday, February 09, 2009

Northeastern = Fitchburg?

A most excellent winter of Northeastern University sports reaches one of its high points tonight when the Huskies tussle with Boston University in the finals of the Beanpot.

NU has had an excellent winter on the ice, leading Hockey East as late as I can remember in the last 20 years, and ranked No. 3 in the country. In hoops, the Huskies are in first place in the Colonial Athletic Conference, and are in the mix for a NCAA tourney berth. It would be the first trip back to the tourney since 1991.

Tonight, NU goes up against BU, and one of two things are going to happen. NU is going to get smoked, or everyone is going to walk out of the building thinking they just saw one of the best hockey games they’ve ever seen. BU isn’t going to get blown out. It isn’t going to be a 4-1, 5-2 kind of boring game. Blowout or nail-biter.

The funny thing is, for Northeastern fans, this excellent hockey ride now reaches an apex, and we’re scared to death. Everyone’s talking up the Huskies, and that makes us nervous. NU hasn’t won the Beanpot since 1988, so most of the NU people I know have never enjoyed a late night at Punter’s Pub celebrating the championship. After 21 years, we’ve been conditioned to expect the worst on one of the first two Mondays in February, especially when BU is involved.

BU, of course, is the Darth Vader of the Beanpot. (And that’s being generous. I can’t put into words how much I dislike BU, and “dislike” is charitable.) They’ve won half the time, and are a very tough out the other half. They will bring they A game tonight. They are beatable. But the Northeastern folk will have to see it to believe it.

However, tonight, we have hope. Perhaps the most hope going into a Beanpot final in 21 years. Since 1988 the Huskies have been in the final a handful of times, and each time they were the significant underdog. This is the first time in 21 years they have a realistic chance of winning this thing. While Northeastern fans and alumni are excited and looking forward to tonight, we’re holding a piece back because we know there’s a good chance that embarrassment or heartache is three periods away. We want to drink all the cheap Punter’s beer we possibly can tonight, but we know we must put up an insulator before we get there. It’s better to say “I thought this might happen,” than sit and watch in horror -- again -- as it goes down the way it always has.

In a lot of ways, rooting for the Huskies is like living in Fitchburg. The news has so bad for so long, that you don’t want to embrace the good. Destare moves downtown? Great, but it will be gone within a year. CoCo Key? Nice, another place for the dirty kids to go swim and pee in the water. Industrial development along Airport Road? Fine, but who really wants to move a business there?

And so goes. After riding out bad years like bad teams, or watching potential squandered, Fitchburg residents are conditioned – like Northeastern fans – to expect the worst. Even when something looks good, we expect it to go bad

Fitchburg has started to build itself back up in recent years, but there’s still a long way to go. Re-creating a city is a lot harder and bigger job than rebuilding a hockey program. Tonight, Northeastern goes into the Beanpot final with a chance – a good chance – to restore that faith and announce its return to prominence. For a Northeastern fan living in Fitchburg, a win tonight will illustrate that, yes, good things can happen, even in places where all hope seems lost.

Is tonight the night? I don’t know. But I hope so. Is now the time for Fitchburg? I don’t know, but I hope so. A Husky win tonight does nothing for Fitchburg, except stand as an example that rebuilding can happen, even in the face of giant obstacles, and it’s OK to hope for and want success.

One more thing: BU sucks.

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Friday, February 06, 2009

Not a Secret

A bizarre letter in the Fitchburg Pride today, from the president of the utility workers' union. Bizarre in that, I don't really know anyone who thought the workers were the problem. He's right, there's plenty of anger at Unitil and its management, but people seemed supportive of the actual guys hanging off poles. He's trying to drum up support for more workers, which is fine, but he also kind makes it sound like Fitchburg turned on these guys, which I don't think happened. Did I miss something?

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The Unusual, the Not Good, the Phone Calls

So, what to make of the announcement this week that a handful of Police Department managers were getting demoted and taking a pay cut?

It’s unusual, it’s not good, and if I were a manager in another city department, I wouldn’t be taking too many calls from 345-9550.

First, the unusual. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of this before. It’s creative, I’ll say that. It’s obviously an effort to keep cops on the street, which everyone agrees is the top priority. It’s probably worth mentioning that the “demotions” aren’t based on job performance (obviously), but instead are a mechanism for lowering pay. I don’t know if maybe they’ll all get “promotions” in the future, but I do feel bad for the “demoted” and their families. A pay cut is never a happy affair. It would be good if they were given some preference on details (yes, more work, but more opportunity) to make up some of the difference. (Note: This is not an endorsement of details as presently constituted. But if we’re playing by the rulebook, use the rules to their advantage.)

Now, the not good. Obviously, this is in reaction to current and upcoming local aid cuts, and there’s more to come. These guys are the first victims, but there’s certainly more to come. I’m not sure if this is the final solution to keeping cops on the street, or if there’s more to come. There’s no way of knowing right now, but this is a sure sign that things are going to more difficult in the next five months. Layoffs were avoided, and hopefully that remains the case. It’s easy to hammer the classic city employee/donut-eating cop stereotype, but this is no time to be wishing someone out of a job. Put this way: If you lost your job tomorrow, how many options would you have for a new one? More and more, people are realizing the answer is “very few,” or “none.” While this is predominately about numbers and services, there’s also human decency involved, and I wouldn’t want to be the one handing out pink slips. That’s gotta play a role now, and later. But this doesn’t soothe any jagged nerves in City Hall and other departments.

Finally, that phone call. There’s a very interesting thought process that seems obvious here. The goal is to keep police officers on the street. How do we that? One way might be get higher-paid members to take a pay cut, and use that savings to keep offices out there. This wasn’t a random numbers cut. It had a direct purpose. You’d have to think that the Mayor’s Office might have similar ideas – or other department-specific ideas – up their sleeve. Are other department managers going to play the same ball? Will they have a choice? Chances are, the phone is going to be ringing soon, and their not going to have any choice but to answer it. I guess we’ll see.

Additionally, what’s up with the Police Department. I’ll admit it. A year, nine months ago, I was really turned off by the union’s moves on raises. Since then, they’ve led the way on contract negotiations by agreeing to no retroactive pay and taking a fairly modest annual percentage increase. (Note: I know people are hung up on those settlements, but please, please, please, don’t forget the general dismissal of retroactive pay. That is such a huge savings, and can’t be overlooked. I’d think we’d be doubling the numbers, if not more, if retro were included. It might not have been the best time to settle, but if you get nowhere, the unions dig in, and a year from now you’re paying the same raises PLUS another year of retro? Yikes.) Now, some of the highest-ranking members of the department are taking bumps down. Looking back, I still can’t get happy about the public tactics, but the contract and this move has me impressed with what they’ve done. Knowing the guys who took this cut, they’ve got a lot invested in the department and the community. It would be unfortunate if they left. Wouldn’t blame them, but it would be unfortunate. I guess we’ll have to see.

So, it begins. $250,000 or so down, $2,750,000 to go (probably actually more, but don’t let big math get in the way of a literary device, I always say).

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