Oh The Games People Play

By now many of you have read or heard about the tremendous deficit that our City is facing this year and projected for the next few years to come. How does all of this happen so rapidly, especially in a City like ours that has such a solid and far reaching tax base, that is a tourist destination for people from all over the World, is headquarters to some of the wealthiest corporations in the country, and is encompassed in a land-locked 47 square miles with only approximately 800,000 residents?

No doubt, these cash strapped days are due to the economic realities that have befallen our country and indeed the world is forcing us all to realign our priorities. But my question is, does it have to be this bad, and are we truly addressing the underlying causes of over-spending that have contributed to our current predicament.

Could it be that what we pay for our municipal services is higher on a per capita basis by some 2 to 4 times when compared to any city in America because San Franciscans just like paying more for local government in order to live up to our humanitarian image?

Could it be that people who live here are just too busy to really look into the issues that affect costs and therefore just can’t be bothered because after all, this is really a pretty good place to live?

Could it be that the issues presented to the public are deliberately obscured and complicated by politicians who curry political favor and expediency as opposed to providing basic services in the most efficient manner?

I certainly don’t know all of the answers to the above questions other than to say that it could a bit of each. Before I present some facts to you so that you can make up your own mind, let me forewarn those of you, including most of the members on the Board of Supervisors, who believe that the only way to balance our budget and reduce the deficit is by additional taxes on the wealthy, this column may present some disturbing facts that undermine your theories on just whose “ox should be gored” or whose income should be redistributed.

A couple disclosure facts might be in order for those who like to cast dispersions…
1. I have never been considered wealthy in monetary terms by any standard and the pursuit money has always been secondary to me in favor of other achievements. 2. As a career civil servant for thirty years, I never made more than $80,000 in one year and that was only in my last position, although I served as an executive in seven different City departments in all three branches of government. 3. My reasons for seeking employment in the public sector in the sixties were much different than what I suspect motivates people to do so today. 4. I am not really concerned about how much money anyone makes…. good for them, as long as they have not made it by exploiting others or “gaming the system” in such a way that the end result suffers. That being said, considers the following facts:

Our city work force consists of 27,852 fulltime and an additional 9,425 part time employees for a total of 37,277 serving a population of approximately 810,000 residents. That’s a ratio of approx. 1: 22, easily the highest in the country.

More than 1 in 3 workers makes in excess of $100,000 in base salary and when overtime is factored in almost 10,000 workers make well over $100,000 per year. These figures do not reflect the additional costs to the City for health care and pensions.

There is currently over 9,587 employees earning over $100,000 annually amounting to an increased cost of $1.5 Billion dollars to the City budget. This is an increase of 800 % in the number of City employees earning over $100,000 in the last decade

In fiscal year 2009 salaries accounted for 2.5 billion of the 6.6 billion dollar budget. The amount we are now spending for salaries is well over 3 times what Frank Jordan allowed for salaries when Mayor and twice that allowed by Willie Brown.

The population of the City has not changed and it would be very hard to find anyone who would attest that essential City services delivered are better now than in prior years.

In 2007, as Newsom was running for a second term, he gave a 23% pay increase to police and firefighters. In the following two years, the amount paid for salaries of City workers increased by 207.4 million dollars.

Of the 100 highest paid city employees, 71 of them are police and fire and the majority of them earn between $250,000 and $350,000 per year with overtime.

In fiscal year 2008-2009, 1,637 city positions, many of them vacant, at a salary range of less than $80,000 annually were slashed from the budget in a much ballyhooed report claiming to save $55 million. 90% the 1637 positions eliminated earned less than $60,000 per year. (So much for our low income wage earners and the dwindling blue collar sector!)

In later 2009, pay raises were given across the board to all City employees making over $80,000 per year, and ironically, just as the Mayor’s designs for higher political office started to surface, 616 new employees were hired by appointment and without civil service examination to earn over $80,000 per year. These raises and appointments are now costing the City $91.3 million more annually. (As a result, we now have a new type of mid to high level civil servant whose only qualifications appear to be his talent as a political operative. Hopefully, pension and benefit reform will discourage these new appointments from taking root in the City and they will move on to their next assignment.)

California Employment Development Department data shows that San Francisco City workers make an average of at least 20% more than their counterparts in the private sector.

Today, our budget comes in at 6.7 billion and is projected to go to 7.2 billion next year. Compare that to the 5.1 billion budget that reflected Willie Browns last budget or that of the 2.9 billion for the Frank Jordan budget.

Anyway you slice it, dice it or cut it, the question remains for you to ponder. Are we getting our monies worth from our local “municipal service providers?” If not, why not and what can we do about it. As a person who is against discrimination of any kind, I just don’t think we can continually go back and ask those who got it, to pay for those that don’t have it, because those who are supposed to deliver it don’t know how!

OBSERVATIONS:
Patrick Monett -Shaw is a one man marvel when it comes to fact-finding, number crunching, corruption watchdog and telling it like it is. He has paid dearly for his talent and his avocation by those who want to silence him on what is really going on at Laguna Honda Hospital. He has written at length about very important and complicated issues that affect us all, so to you Patrick, I say congratulations!

His latest observation about the muni driver’s reform petition that you are being asked to sign is interesting. He notes that not just bus drivers salaries are set by cross-jurisdictional salary surveys, but also the salaries of police and nurses are pegged to the highest paid in other jurisdictions. Of course bus drivers are the easiest to pick on because of non-salary related issues that this administration and the sponsoring supervisor are too weak to address. Nevertheless both the mayor and the supervisor keep popping off about the 8 to 9 million in salary increases due the drivers in July while both politicians are on record as supporting the 207.4 million in raises for those other City employees already making over $100,000 per year!

Policemen, Firemen, Nurses and yes bus drivers and all of our civil servants should be paid well if they are performing well. There is no question about that, and like most other San Franciscans, I am proud of them and want the best for them when they are doing their best in an environment that they do not always control. I fail to see how paying the drivers less will result in anything other than less qualified drivers when the real corrections need to be addressed at the Muni’s 393 managers who are responsible for all aspects of the Muni’s performance. And oh yes, who by the way are all members of the $100,000 a year club as referred to in my above article.

What is really happening here is that lower income City workers are being thrown “Under the Bus” in order to insure that the high-end salary people continue to receive their raises as they have for the past 6 years.

Laguna Honda Hospital:
The Dan Noyes chi. 7 I-Team investigation of the shenanigans going on at Laguna Honda Hospital at 6:30 pm Thursday evening may 20th was amazing. If you get a chance try to see it on the net. Dan Noyes is a real asset to San Francisco.
http://iteamblog.abc7news.com/ or
http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/channel?section=news/iteam&id=7104859

Voter tip:

For all of you Democrats out there who are tired of the Democratic County Central Committee being dominated by the far left activists, take a look at the candidacy of Andy Clark. He has served the interest of democrats on the west side of town with his moderate politics and years of service as an Assistant District Attorney.

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3 Comments

Filed under Notes from Tony, SF News

3 responses to “Oh The Games People Play

  1. Andy Frazer

    Very well said, Tony. Good luck on your bid to be mayor of SF.

  2. Kimo

    Why don’t you point out the millions wasted on illegal immigrants, drug addicts, criminals
    and system leeches in this city, before you point the finger at hard working city employees for the financial decline of San Francisco… Maybe Jeff Adachi could be your campaign manager.

    • Kimo – I dont blame city employees – I was one of them for 35 years. And I oppose sanctuary city policies and the disrespect so many have shown our city streets. But our pension system is financially unsustainable. That’s just a fact. and someone has to tell people the truth about it. Tony

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