Thursday, April 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Give us a strong dialogue on issues

Regarding Rich Rifkin’s column published May 8 in The Davis Enterprise, I was confounded by his accusations and conclusions that City Council members Dan Wolk and Lucas Frerichs were unduly influenced by a local labor union. It is also as probable that Wolk and Frerichs came to their positions from listening to past managers in the Fire Department who support the long-standing state rule on four to an engine configuration.

While The Davis Enterprise seems to be practicing the same anti-union rhetoric that has recently been prevalent in the Midwest, such as in Wisconsin, I would rather hear about the facts on the city of Davis bleeding red ink. Are the salaries and benefits of city employees the only cause of deficits or have have elected officials made political promises or decisions that current and recent former employees must be squeezed to pay for? For instance, please tell us how well the mayor and the City Council have managed the closure of the city’s former redevelopment agency the governor declared obsolete.

I for one am not interested in reading the results of The Davis Enterprise’s practicing a version of the Koch brothers school of journalism. The city’s problems will not be resolved by anti-unionism. A strong dialogue on issues would be helpful and the newspaper could help facilitate that.

Charles A. Lacy
Davis

Letters to the Editor

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Discussion | 11 comments

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  • Rich RifkinMay 19, 2013 - 9:24 am

    "It is also as probable that Wolk and Frerichs came to their positions from listening to past managers in the Fire Department who support the long-standing state rule on four to an engine configuration." .... Charles, you would do well to read the Aaronson fire report, which exposes the corrupt influence of the Davis firefighters union with regard to the chief you speak of, Rose Conroy, who originally changed our staffing from 3 per enigne to 4. If you really understood that union's power in creating the inefficient staffing model we have had since 1999, you would never point to Chief Conroy or others who worked for the union against the interests of the residents of Davis.

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  • Dedicated to DavisMay 19, 2013 - 5:56 pm

    Wow, Rich. Six comments to a letter to the editor? Guess he touched a nerve: mainly that you care less about our homes and property's safety than you do about bashing unions and organized labor. And if you are for "honest and clean government" perhaps you can tell us who subsidizes your work and that of the Vanguard, which publishes under the guise of a "nonprofit" without revealing its funding sources.

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  • Rich RifkinMay 20, 2013 - 3:27 pm

    No one subsidizes my work. I am paid The Enterprise for all columns I write for The Enterprise.

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  • Rich RifkinMay 19, 2013 - 9:24 am

    .... "I would rather hear about the facts on the city of Davis bleeding red ink." ... Okay, Charles, I can help you. We have a large current deficit. We have not spent sufficient money to pave our roads and now have a liability of something like $400 million. The Public Works Director proposes we spend $25 million over the next two years on road fixes. That's out of an annual general fund budget of roughly $32 million per year. We also have a debt of roughly $152 million to our employees for post-retirement medical and unfunded pensions. Additionally, medical premiums are rising at roughly 9.4% per year, while City income is growing at under 2%. (Less than that since 2007.) Also, our pension obligations are about to get much more expensive, as CalPERS just approved a 50% increase in employer funding rates.

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  • Rich RifkinMay 19, 2013 - 9:24 am

    .... "Are the salaries and benefits of city employees the only cause of deficits?” … Labor expenses make up about 80 percent of the general fund budget. But keep in mind that high salaries and benefits for firefighters and some others is only one part of the problem. Pensions, early retirements and lifetime medical care after retirement for employees and their families is a serious issue. Thanks to your friends in the fire union, a fire captain retires at age 50 with a retirement package (pension and medical) worth about $4 million in Present Value.

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  • Rich RifkinMay 19, 2013 - 9:25 am

    … “Have elected officials made political promises or decisions that current and recent former employees must be squeezed to pay for?” … The promises you speak of are almost all promises made to current and former city workers (including top city managers). The people who are being squeezed are the current and future residents whose services are being badly reduced to pay for these labor deals you favor and future city workers who will get much less in total compensation than present and recently retired city employees. … Note that it is not ALL city employees. Some are especially overpaid. In Davis, where firefighters make one-third more money than the cops make, no one who is honest would fail to see the problem we have with the deals Local 3494 has won by corrupting our city council for the past 20 years.

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  • Propaganda RebuttalMay 19, 2013 - 6:00 pm

    Do you have any evidence of "corruption"? Because that's a pretty strong charge to make against someone. As far as anyone in Davis knows, there has been not been any. Perhaps less rhetoric and a few facts once in awhile?

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  • Rich RifkinMay 20, 2013 - 3:41 pm

    Sure, there are plenty of examples of the Davis firefighters corrupting city council members and candidates. Take, for instance, the 2008 race. There were, if I recall correctly, 45 members of Local 3494, and they had 3 favored candidates, Don Saylor, Stephen Souza and Sydney Vergis (who lost). In each case, every member of that union was told by Bobby Weist, the president of Local 3494, to give $100 (the max amount) to each of the favorite candidates. I know in a few cases, a few union firefighters did not contribute to all three candidates. (I don't know why a few were left out.) But overall, the union members gave about $4,200 to each of those three, a total of more than $12,000. Additionally, they gave roughly that much money indirectly to their three candidates, by walking door-to-door and handing out fliers advocating those three for office. The union did the same thing in prior elections. Is that illegal? No. But it is corrupt. It clearly influenced the votes of the members of the city council who took the firefighters' money. When, for example, in 2005 (right after the corruption of the 2004 race) the council gave the firefighters a 36% raise. They did that because the council had been corrupted by the union's money. They gave a raise to the police, too, but only by half as much. The police union (the DPOA) did not give any direc aid to any candidates for city council. As a result of this corruption, our firefighters make about one-third more than our police make. That is purely a result of corruption. ... Note also that in our recent elections, no other public employees beside the firefighters have funded candidates for the city council. Only the fire union. And it should be noted that due to corruption, our residents pay the salary of the fire union president, including overtime pay as a fire captain, when he is not working for the city, but instead is working for the union. Is that corruption? Yes. There is no other explanation. .... Keep in mind that firefighter unions across our state are experts at corrupting politicians. A good example locally is Mariko Yamada, our corrupt member of the Assembly. If you want to see some examples of how that union money had affected her votes, to the detriment of cities like Davis, look up my past columns on that for the facts.

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  • Rich RifkinMay 19, 2013 - 9:27 am

    … “Please tell us how well the mayor and the City Council have managed the closure of the city’s former redevelopment agency the governor declared obsolete.” … The RDAs were not closed due to obsolescence. They were closed because they cost the state money that the local agencies were using, mostly for infrastructure. For example, the recent repairs to Third Street were paid for the RDA funds.

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  • Rich RifkinMay 19, 2013 - 9:27 am

    … “The city’s problems will not be resolved by anti-unionism.” … Charles, you would have an argument if you could point to a single thing I have ever said about any unions in Davis or in our state which is not 100% true. You have every right to think I am “anti-union.” But the reality is that I am for honest and clean government. And as long as a few unions have corrupted our politics with huge campaign war chests, we never will. Our massive deficits in Davis and elsewhere in our state are proof of that.

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  • ScottMay 20, 2013 - 8:25 pm

    The union influence will never change in your lifetime. However, the stress it seems to cause you is probably taking years off of your life! Keep it up!

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