Police and fire attack new budget task force

July 11, 2010

City Manager Katie Lichtig

San Luis Obispo Firefighters Association and the San Luis Obispo Police Association are withdrawing their support for a new behind-closed-doors budget task force recently assembled by City Manager Katie Lichtig because of allegations of elitism.

In an email sent out Sunday, Erik Baskin, president of the Firefighters Association, and Matt Blackstone, president of the Police Association, announced their decision to withdraw from the Financial Sustainability Task Force, citing numerous concerns about how the group was set up by Lichtig.

“When the concept of this task force was first proposed to us a few months back, it was presented to be made up, “a cross-section of the community”…These meetings were to be moderated to ensure discussions were frank, respectful, and productive,” Baskin and Blackstone write in their email.

“Initially, we supported the new City Manager in her efforts to bring a diverse segment of the community at large, along with city employees and employee representatives, and were optimistic that this would be a good opportunity for citizens to have a voice in city business. Unfortunately, when the selection process was completed and the task force was unveiled, the task force’s composition was far from the average citizens of San Luis Obispo, and was comprised largely of elite special interests and insiders within the County–the majority of which are Chamber of Commerce board members, business owners, CEO’s, and City department heads, unreflective of the community at large.”

Lichtig recently formed the Task Force to provide feedback in setting budget priorities and providing advice as San Luis Obispo wrestles with a multi-million dollar deficit.

The City Manager had already rebuffed attempts by New Times to have a reporter attend the meetings, arguing that closed sessions would yield better discussion and policy.

Baskin and Blackstone said they attended the first meeting and were immediately concerned by the priority placed on secrecy in the deliberating process.

“Our continued presence there would give this Task Force a sense of legitimacy it was unworthy of and did not sit right ethically with us, whether we agreed with its findings, or not.”

The two public safety officials are especially concerned that half of the Task Force members don’t even live in San Luis Obispo, a decision that is inconsistent with city policy, since, they argue, all other city committees require members to live in San Luis Obispo.

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When the first thing the new city manager does is to set up secret meetings, then SLO, you know you’re in trouble. The City Council needs to insist that these meetings are open, then they need to start looking for a new city manager.

Citizen you are so right about the city manager being sleazy and should go . but i think the main point is the city council’s part in this ( see my last post ) . the city council should be making the decisions of where to make cuts ( police , fire , maintenance etc ) where to and how to raise revenues and much more . this crappy committee thing is only a ” shinny object ” to throw you off the path of the city council’s responsibility to do this them selfs . think of city hall as our football team , lichtig is our quarterback ( QB rating -20 lol ) it is important how she executes the plays that come from the coach/the city council . the coach/city council decides on how much to send on personal , who to cut and makes the plays for the quarterback to executes . the quarterback does not make up a committee of prima donna players , to the detriment of the team , all plays will go to the prima donnas . the city council should stop side stepping their responsibility and we could can go back to arguing over if the fire and police make too much money but ultimately this decisions is the responsibility of the city council , not some prima donna committee .

please excuse the spelling and grammar it’s worst than usual i’m in the hospital from an accident right now , medication or not i’ve got to do something i’m going stir crazy !

I gave you thumbs up, wasn’t going to because your post was such a mess. Hope you’re back on your feet soon. Enjoy the meds?

no matter what side you fall about the unions , more money less money etc i think should it should be addressed by the city council isn’t it their J-O-B here is a comment i posted at the trib

” IT’S THE CITY COUNCIL ! IT’S THE CITY COUNCIL ! IT’S THE CITY COUNCIL’S job to do the dirty work of trimming the budget , allocating money etc . they are showing us the cowards they are by hiding behind this lichtig committee of smoke and mirrors trick , where is all that leadership BS you all said you were full of . did i not hear one or all of you champaign with words like … i ran a department … i ran a successful business … I’M NOT AFRAID TO MAKE THE UNPOPULAR DECISIONS . with the budget only getting worse , the whole city council should quit or be fired so we can have a city council that will make it’s own decisions , i think it’s called governing . while i’m at it lichtig should be fired too , although her strings are pulled by the city council , she should have enough sense to pick a real committee , i mean she should care about the tax payers of this city too . ”

“Note: Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the

issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site.” please

Transparency in City meetings? The only thing we should be concerned about is negotiations between the unions and the City. The City Manager needs to take a hard line to keep the City solvent. Everything else will then fall into place.

I don’t know why your comment was in response to the moderator, and I violate the cautionary advice here but I have to agree with JJ this time about solvency. That is the bottom line, but it should be done in a transparent way with any and all residents welcome to observe and contribute to the discussion.

We have seen where the ‘experts’ put this country, and world, insofar as our economic situation is concerned. The ‘suits’ are often a bunch of bumbling and greedy crooks that have it all wrong. If our city continues on its path to destroy our heritage in favor of a bunch of new plastic (stucco) constructs while wiping out historical buildings we will regret it.

The strip malls and outlying developments damage a vital downtown. The evidence is clear, a healthy and vibrant community is based on walking and decreasing dependence on driving miles to boring big box stores where continue to spend our money on oil and cheap foreign goods we don’t need. City and regional planning should focus on downtown, where most of the residents and visitors feel comfortable supporting.

Any government outlook should reflect that concept, and consider revitalizing the downtown in gentle and exiting ways instead of the thrash and burn methods that benefit only the rich and will result in SLO looking just like any other cookie cutter burg.

Any secret meetings will only increase our suspicion we are being ‘left out’ in planning our future.

A good policy but does it extend to new ideas posed by other bloggers? Even though we get ‘into it’ at times that is what free speech is all about and it often stimulates new ideas. Yet we often get carried away so where do we draw the line? Seems vague to me.

I don’t think secrecy with a city-sponsored, taxpayer funded committee is even legal in California. Someone should sue to either verify that they can operate behind closed doors, or to throw open the doors and let the public and the press in. That’s the only way we’ll ever get to the bottom of what is legal and illegal.

That said, the public needs to go to the council meetings and voice their opinions. Put the people you elected to represent you on the spot and light a fire under their butts to open this committee’s workings up to public scrutiny. Clearly, if the firefighters and police unions think something stinks, there must be something wrong. A lawsuit may be the only way to get to the truth.

I’ve never heard of a public policy committee, advisory committee, ad hoc committee or task force, being able to operate behind closed doors. It just isn’t done in California, what with the Brown Act and all.

Public committees like this are required to publish agendas, and give notice as to the meeting times, and places, too. So where are these meetings being publicized?

This city manager needs to rethink her position. It may be easier to conduct business and you may get a lot more freedom to express ideas by locking the doors, but taxpayers have absolute right to know how their money is being spent. I assume the city manager isn’t doing this as a volunteer, on her own time, or whomever is acting as her assistant/secretary for these meetings.