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Sound judgment & city employee contracts back in 2006 and today

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POSTED October 16, 2009 1:57 a.m.
Adopting the employment contracts entered into for five years in 2006 with Manteca’s municipal employee groups were – for the most part – sound judgment at the time.

The steps that have been taken in recent weeks to modify those same contracts also reflect sound judgment.

It was a different world back in 2006. Manteca was competing with cities for trained and skilled employees – from police officers and firefighters to specialists who operate the sewer and water systems – who were willing to pay significantly more for just a short drive. The available labor pool was small and those with the proper credentials even smaller.

Building was going strong. Economic growth put upward pressure on everything.

Few – if anyone including those who negotiated the contracts on both sides plus the people who ultimately pay for it which are Manteca residents – saw it coming. “It”, of course, was the massive shockwaves from the housing bubble that burst on the back of liar loans and mortgages made with low introductory rates for two years on the assumption one could just sell or refinance when the day of reckoning arrived.

Whether you gave into the temptation of easy money and deals too-good-to-be-true when it came to loans, the simple truth is we are now all paying the price. Like it or not, we are all in this together.

Some appear to be upset about parts of those contracts being revealed to the public, specifically triple overtime for law enforcement for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the Fourth of July and the paid holiday for the Friday after Thanksgiving. Such an act, of course, is being described by those who feel police are being singled out as being anti-law enforcement.

Funny, but when a few people stepped forward to support the original public safety tax that got pounded with 83 percent of Manteca voting against it they got smeared as being pro-big government instead of being pro-law enforcement.

How things are perceived of course, has everything to do with the times.

Transparency in government is something that everyone wants but few people take advantage of until their proverbial ox is gored. For those critics who think triple time for law enforcement is an obscenity, no one was storming city hall when it was put in place. As for those who have no problem with triple OT for police, transparency isn’t a good thing when it sheds light on stuff that may prompt adverse reactions from a Manteca private sector that is struggling with record high unemployment, record high foreclosures, no raises, reduced hours, and other economic challenges. These are the same people, by the way, who willing taxed themselves so Manteca could expand the ranks of police and firefighters.

The vast majority of people probably believe police should be the highest paid rank-and-file city employees as well as have the ability to retire early.

Simply having double overtime for those three holidays like firefighters do would still keep them the highest paid. Yes, they are missing time with their families but so are firefighters. And heaven forbid, a Manteca firefighter is just as likely to lay down his life while serving and protecting Manteca as a peace officer. Beyond that, there is nothing that can compare to the stress of being a police officer but does it justify triple overtime at this juncture in time? The police obviously believe it does, which is fine. It should be noted the city is not talking about messing with triple overtime. However the people footing the bill who are being told that police are getting the short end of the stick compared to everyone else need to know what that contract provides everyone. It is a public document and it is the people’s business.

The issue at hand today is not whether police should be compensated as well as possible. What is happening – whether you want to concede it– is an extraordinary tough time unrivaled since the Great Depression. and it’s not just a Manteca issue as virtually every jurisdiction in this state – and nation – is facing similar issues.

Manteca must weather the storm in such a manner that it is not crippled for years to come.

Again, the contracts as adopted in 2006 where responsible government for the most part. And the steps being taken today to modify municipal expenses to keep the city intact with reduced servcie levels are both responsible and realistic.

The days of free flowing money are gone.
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