I Blame the San Luis Obispo City Council
June 16, 2011
You can see I sent the following letter almost two months ago. Near the end of my missive I asked my representatives on the San Luis Obispo City Council to address these issues without condescending arrogance. Well, they certainly complied-by not responding at all! If that is not OK with you then contact them and let them know. Is SLO government any better than that in Atascadero? An insulting question, but alarmingly appropriate.
Since I wrote that note events in SLO, Atascadero, Cambria and Oceano only emphasize my accusations of sleaze and the need for reforms (in management of governmental affairs and police response) in our county, of which the city of SLO is the county seat.
April 18, 2011
Dear SLO City Council,
Three of you were on the council when we had a change of city managers, and I believe you three (with Dave Romero and Allen Settle as well) approved the contract and hiring of Katie Lichtig five to zero.
In tight times (very evident in 2009) why did you offer a contract that was even pricier than before? In tight times we cut back, not spend more.
Here is a brief outline floating around:
“Katie Lichtig is authorized…to take time off with pay while ensuring appropriate coverage of her duties.” $221,500 plus cost-of-living adjustments. One month vacation per year. (Paid?) All relocation expenses, including up to two house-hunting trips. $2,500 per month housing rental to assist her while relocating. $125,000 home loan tied to city’s local agency investment fund rate (taxpayer expense) Indemnification against any claims, actions, losses…arising from Katie Lichtig’s duties… “Council shall not…reduce the salary/compensation/benefits of Katie Lichtig.” Severance: “Council agrees to pay nine months compensation/benefits.” Moved: Settle/Ashbaugh voted 5-0: Settle, Ashbaugh, Romero, Marx, Carter on 12/15/2009’s/Dave Romero.
Very interesting. A single woman (I assume her husband lives in their Malibu house) needs a $2500/mo housing allowance? One can rent a 5 bedroom house for that much money. What is the 125k loan for? And immunity from any future mistakes while performing her duties? $222k and rising salary and relocation expenses. Fat severance and the council is hog tied if we can’t afford this expensive contract. What a sweet deal you handed her, out of our tax money. Our local, state and federal economies are now in shambles (another question for you, what have you been doing while our city budget has fallen through the floor?) and you hand out what looks like a sweetheart deal to someone who might not even work full time (and one wonders what the CM even does of any value). So you see this seems like a bum deal for us, sweet for the new CM. While making a fortune (by local standards) she also gets oodles of perks and protections and slack- and just what do we get? We pay more than top money for a professional and then give immunity because that ‘professional’ may not perform well sometimes!
Those are just some thoughts about these issues. I am not privy to all the ins and outs but this thing (along with a zillion others in our county) stinks like Bell. The bloated salaries, the waste, the strange allocation of dwindling resources (I hear a parking structure is slated for painting for around $250k). Giving sweetheart deals to developers (handing out MY land at low prices) and then getting geared up to tax us more to build another parking building to make up for the lost parking due to the give away! Boggles the mind. I was at the meeting where Andrew was maybe the sole dissenter about this scam, and where a citizen offered you MORE to buy the Chinatown lot-he was ignored. I guess you just won’t be able to sleep at night until you have wrecked the town; it is almost gone now to boring large new stucco structures with plenty more in the pipeline the city is intent on approving no matter what we say; making us ugly, wrecking skyline views and creating wind tunnels. After the Chinatown and Garden Street deals even more of our old, funky- and charming, spots will be gone. Pretty soon we’ll look just like any other small city full of modern strip malls and boutiques.
By the way, though our CM probably advocated strongly for good terms in her contract it is YOU who should have advocated for good terms for us- your employers. At this point I urge you to confront this issue head on and give an explanation to us. The public, though largely only grumbling quietly, is not happy. While we struggle to survive you spend our money in ways that don’t make sense to the riff raff ‘out here’.
We live in a pretty good area, you and everyone else always says how great it is to be here. I’m sure many of our citizens have taken healthy pay cuts just to live here and raise their children in this environment. So you see we have a built in incentive- you probably should have asked applicants ‘how much you will pay’ to take this job, instead of ‘how much can we give you?’ And of course everyone is wondering, did this go to open bid, weren’t there any ‘locals’ to take this job? Did you use a ‘headhunter’, was it the Santa Maria firm that the Oceano CSD used to create their fiasco?
So no matter what happens with this case I am hoping to start a conversation that will prevent this from ever happening again. The double dipping, the seemingly outrageous example of the ex fire chief, after passing on, collecting a fortune ‘because he is a nice guy’. The two cops busted smuggling drugs (and we had to carry them for a year!) until some resolution happened (didn’t that cost us around $300 grand?). I suppose these issues were ‘contractual’- no more. This is not Watts or Fresno; we don’t have to pay more than top dollar to get some talent here. We don’t have to guarantee this and that. I never got that, no one I know ever got that. This is just a fractional example of the Wall Street bonuses- quite infuriating. I know you can’t wait to lecture me about government and the realities of the situation. I am hoping for a public response from you that will address these issues without condescending arrogance.
Based on the antics of your police dept I think you should consider a new chief. The cops mentioned above, the road rage SLO cop who flipped out in Atascadero over a year ago (timely justice!!!) and on and on. There is unequal justice (worthless word in this community) for cops vs. citizens. If timely and proper discipline and management of the cops is hampered by contractual details, then????? Duh, don’t ever again allow those items in the contract and start now discussing this with all dept heads and employees. If not by contract, this poor behavior and incredibly slow response to it must be due to lousy leadership, so you know what to do. Of course, this is all under the purview of the CM, isn’t it? Well???? Are there any grounds by which the present CM contract could be modified? Can the CM never come to work and still collect the salary? Can the CM not do anything and still collect?
This seems so lame, like a kid could have gotten us a better deal.
You are the managers of the city, manage.
Pete Evans is a long time San Luis Obispo resident and activist.