Sunday, October 07, 2007

Free-association Sunday Ramble

My usual free-association Sunday Ramble. One thing about focusing on local items, it allows some distance from Party politics. I found myself today on the S-T site saying for the third time in a month, "a plague on both your houses" this time in reference to the SCHIP veto. Not to get too far from the local focus, basically the Democrats are deliberately asking for more than they can get, Republicans are scurrying for cover, everybody's attention is on re-election, and in the end, it is so much blatherskite and havers, by adjournment Congress will have passed, and Bush will sign, a bill insuring more children than are now covered. We pay them money for this.

SAISD is starting to appear to be genuinely concerned about a new bond measure. Workshop this Monday, but real action the next meeting. Good timing, this Monday WILL find me in front of a TV hoping Da'boys R back. New England won Sunday, but pushed on the point spread, next week, Cowboys /Patriots in big D. If Dallas can avoid looking past a badly hurt Buffalo (third string QB starting) Monday night, next week is THE gameadaweek in the NFL. If you accidentally find an end-zone ticket to that game, you can probably make the next few mortgage payments on E-Bay. Next Monday I will be at SAISD offering my usual free advice.

The Police Chief Charter Amendment is the big item on Charter amendments Nov. 6, 'nuff said there, but let us not forget the other 28 measures. Twenty-some are purely housekeeping. They will change nothing in how the city does business, we are cleaning up language, bringing Charter into compliance with state law, doing away with bodies that no longer exist, that sort of thing.

There are important issues out there aside from the Chief measure. My personal top-of-the- chart is #25, which imposes on the budget process a capital improvements presentation. Previous City Councils have ignored pipes and potholes and left us with a crumbling infrastructure. These problems obviously pre-date the tenure of anyone now serving on Council, but the steaming pile is in their laps. This year, Council and City Manager Harold Dominguez put capital improvements at the top of the budget process. Prop 25 will force any future Manager and Council to look at capital improvements first. It does not mean a future Council has to ratify whatever a future Manager gives them as a CIP report, but if we pass #25, it will mean that in the future, we will always have a five year plan for infratructure and Council will not be able to hide behind "Gee, nobody told us". If you missed the "Voices" radio program on this topic Sunday, it can be accessed on the gosanangelo website. Earned your money on that one Harold.

Prop 16 is designed to let us quit being West Texas' Police Academy. Abilene, Lubbock, Midland/Odessa, etc. have shamelessly recruited our officers. Lubbock has a portable sign on south Bell, the Border patrol has a billboard just east of Bell St. and they all go internet. I am told some cities send personal e-mails to our officers trying to recruit them. We spend the training money, they offer a little more pay, our officer jumps and takes the raise. Can't blame him, he's trying to make a living. Prop 16 allows us to make a contract with officers saying "OK, we're going to pay for some valuable schooling, BUT in return, you are going to promise you will stay with for X years or repay the cost if you leave early". Governments and industry do this all the time for sound financial reasons. It doesn't mean Officer Friendly is a "wage-slave" it just says, if you take our freebie to Abilene, you, Abilene, somebody is going to repay the Angelo taxpayer for your college credits. The major problem is in the Police Dept., but this Proposition would include firemen, water treatment plant, any employee whose continuing education is taxpayer funded.

Prop 5, increasing pay for Council/Mayor. The existing compensation, roughly speaking, doodly-squat, is lost in the mists of time. It may have been addressed in 1947, may go back to 1915. Most of us have had a pay raise since then, Council members deserve one too. I argued for higher than Prop 5 allows on the grounds that realistic pay might allow a working man to run and serve without beggaring his family. What we have in Prop 5 might help on that and in the context of an $80 million budget it is revenue neutral. I know how much time these people put in, this is the right thing to do.

Prop 15 should not be controversial. It recognises we have started selling Nasworthy lots instead of leasing them, and allows the city to responsibly manage that Trust fund.

The most important thing to do Nov. 6, if you have not early-voted by then, is VOTE! This election has no Presidential, no Congresscritter, no officeholders at all. Historically, such elections run under 10% turnout and my main job as election judge is to bring a thick book to read. We can do better. You don't have to become a pain, but maybe nudge your co -worker's elbow, mention it to your neighbor, we have not done a Charter review to this extent in thirty years, may be that long doing another. It really matters, take a few minutes and vote.

Nearly forgot, happy Columbus Day. When I was in grade school we all heard the "Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Marie", and of course, Columbus discovered America. Then why aren't we Columbia? Turns out an Americus Vespucchio (optional spelling) never got around to leaving Italy, he was too busy drawing maps. If Columbus did not discover America, (and he never touched the mainland) which he obviously didn't since there were people onshore to greet him and his crew's diseases, where did the greeters come from? Was this "First Contact" a greater genocide than the holocaust or purely accidental ? Did the federal gov't establish Columbus Day to buy off politically crucial Italian immigrant voter blocs in the northeast? Does Minnesota have enough electoral votes to rate a "Lief Erickson Day"? Do I personally wish we could go back to the "Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Marie" without having to adjourn for a navel-lint introspective course in consciousness-raising?

Must be getting old and crotchety. Happy Columbus Day.


  1. Item #16

    Sure, pass this one! Not only will you have police officers leaving from the department - you won't get replacements either. Good on ya!

    Raise the pay scale for the police department and you will have better retention. It is a very simple concept to understand.

    Forcing an officer to stay on the job will cause poor morale, which will result in a lack of production and job performance.

    This is typical San Angelo leadership thinking - "We'll make 'em do it and they best not complain or we'll fix 'em for that too!"

    A pox on you!

  2. Don't understand where you're coming from Anon.

    Not "forcing" anyone to do anything. What 16 does is allow a contract for training. If an officer, or any employee, wants the city to pay for their training, then they have to agree to either work off the training or repay the city.

    So anon, you think it is much better that the city can pay for thousands of dollars worth of training for an officer so that the day he graduates training, he can say "Thanks for the training. I'll write from Lubbock."

    Officers won't be forced to sign a contract. They also won't be forced to get city paid training. If they want the training, they will have to agree to stay on the job long enough so the city gets its moneys worth.

  3. As it happens, I would support a raise for officers. They and their union(s) have elected to use the "Meet & Confer" process for this and other issues.

    Our intent was to protect the taxpayer, not to punish police or other city employees. Many jobs in today's world have educational requirements, often a matter of regulatory law.

    Let's say the city has a management opening coming up at the Waste Treatment plant. They have an employee they would like to promote, but he lacks some State Certification courses the job mandates. The city would prefer to promote the fellow we already know, but they don't want to pay for the training, then have this fellow take his new Cert and immediately jump to another city. Being able to contract with employees gives the city more incentive to educate and promote from within rather than advertise for someone already having the necessary Certification.

    In practice, if an employee signs a contract and then decides to move before the contract period, the new employer pays off the contract as part of the relocation package. It allows an entity, corporate or governmental, to offer more continuing education with less risk of wasting money training someone else's employee.

    Such contracts usually have a clause forgiving the payback in the event of disability. In the long run, by protecting the investment in further education, these contracts encourage a gov't to be more liberal about investing in upgrading employees' skills.

    I promise you, our Committee looked at this as a measure beneficial to both taxpayers, whose investment is then protected, and employees, who are more likely to be granted continuing education courses and degrees.