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(Feb. 7, 2017, 11:15 a.m.) -- Long Beach's incumbent City Councilmembers and Mayor, who profess support for openness and transparency (just ask them, they'll tell you) need to practice it today (Feb. 7) by making, seconding and passing a substitute motion to withhold action for one week and directing city management to make make public significant matters currently concealed from the public (and the press) concerning a proposed three year contract with LB's Police Officers Association (union) agendized for rubberstamp approval today (item #17, Feb. 7.)
This is not only the public's interest, but bluntly in the political interest of Council incumbents, who may otherwise find themselves confronted with costly, profligate consequences and angry taxpayers who'll blame Councilmembers who rubberstamped them. (Recall the now-notorious 2002 "pension spike" that stained the political careers of some otherwise meritorious Councilmembers who uncritically accepted what they were told.)
We urge the Council to direct city management to release today -- and let the public (and the press) review for at least the next seven days -- the following items:
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1. The "market analysis" cited in paragraph 2 of this City Hall release purporting to show [release text] "that of the 10 comparable agencies, Long Beach consistently ranked at the bottom and more than 10 percent behind today's median pay for a Police Officer." When LBREPORT.com requested a copy of this last week, we were told there is no such document, a response we find hard to believe. We think it's more likely that the "comparable agencies" were probably chosen by negotiators for LB Police Officers' union, who aren't stupid and likely picked agencies paying high salaries, and agreed to by City Hall negotiators who also aren't stupid but didn't drive a hard bargain on this point. When we asked City Hall about this, we were given the names of the ten allegedly "comparable" police agencies used in the "analysis." We checked and (big surprise) some of those agencies ranked at or near the top or above the median of agencies listed by the Sacramento Bee in its 2016 report on what various cities pay their police officers. (Kudos to Cal Hts political consultant Ian Patton for spotting this issue and correctly noting that LB City Hall's release didn't transparently provide the public with fact-checkable figures.) LBREPORT.com wants to see these figures so we can perform some independent oversight on them. This morning before dawn, we cited a section of Brown Act that we believe requires disclosing such a document if it's been shown to a majority of Councilmembers. (No City Hall response as of 11:00 a.m.)
2. A concealed, embedded pension spike? Steve Downing (a former LAPD officer who writes elsewhere and is no fan of LBPOA's leadership) emailed all Councilmembers and the Mayor (and cc'd us among media outlets) of a provision in the MOU that would transform what was bonus pay into a new pay-step that could, he alleges, increase future pension costs. Is this true? If so, the public has a right to know the cost of including this time-bomb in the MOU handed to future LB taxpayers.
A "me too" (blank check escalator) provision City Hall's press release doesn't mention this (and some other media outlets missed it), but city management's agendizing memo states (p. 2, paragraph 6): "During the POA MOU term, should non-POA bargaining units receive a greater compensation increase, including one-time payments, such an increase will be given to the POA bargaining unit as well, with certain exceptions." That means the raises aren't 9% over three years, they could be considerably higher. Exactly how does it benefit LB taxpayers to agree to this balloon-style "blank check" obligation with current undisclosed costs?
LESS cautious : In its "Fiscal Impact" section, city management states: "...[T]he FY 17 costs will be covered by higher than expected revenues, vacancy savings, and additional funding achieved from taking less conservative budgetary actions such as reducing charges for insurance and funding for unfunded retirement liabilities" [emphasis added.] Yikes! We want to see who on this City Council thinks it's smart to take LESS cautious budgetary actions regarding City Hall's unfunded retirement liabilities at the same time as a pension tsunami approaches and CalPERS is backtracking on its previously assumed investment returns likely meaning higher costs for City Hall with fewer services and/or higher taxes. And as for reducing insurance "charges," we'd like to know how much greater exposure and less coverage LB taxpayers will have as a result of this.
If there are LB Council incumbents who think it's smart to rubberstamp these items without providing transparency for their taxpaying constituents who'll pay the costs, we'll find out tonight. We strongly suggest that prudent Councilmembers make, second and approve a substitute motion directing city management to provide this documentation fortwith (management already likely has the informaton at hand) and hold the contract over for more businesslike action at the Feb. 14 City Council agenda.
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