An Open Letter to the SLO City Council and the Citizens For SLO

August 22, 2011


My name is Rob, and I am a Fire Engineer for the City of San Luis Obispo. My wife is a local business owner downtown, and we live here in the City.

I am one of the “knife in the back” wearing demonstrators who also drive an old fire engine around town (and no, it is not a city vehicle). After all I’ve seen and heard over the course of this campaign, I have some things I want to say to you A and B supporters and City Council Members (Carter, Smith, Carpenter and Marx).

My first point is that while you are quick to point out that many police officers and firefighters “don’t even live in the city,” I would also say that many small business owners don’t either.

We are still a large part of this community, and there are at least 22 of us in town, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We shop here whether on-duty or off, and we try to support local businesses because we want our community to prosper.

Even though one of my co-workers could have gotten a better deal at Costco or online, he bought a nice new camera in a downtown store before his wife gave birth to their first child. I used to buy cigars occasionally at Doug’s shop downtown even though they are about one third the price when purchased online.

Please be advised that we take notice of your campaign contributors and supporters, and we will speak with our wallets. You also tend to say “it’s not personal, we appreciate what police officers and firefighters do for us…”

Well, when we take our business elsewhere, that’s not personal either. We just don’t feel the need to support those who don’t support us. When people ask for a restaurant recommendation, you can be sure I will tell them to avoid your “saloon.”  When I take my uniforms (and my wife takes her work clothes) to the dry cleaners, we will be sure to find a new laundry service. She will be sure to tell all her co-workers and clients to do the same. But please don’t take it personally!

Regarding the back-stabbing:  I personally walked door-to-door with political endorsements for you Jan Marx, Paul Brown, and Dave Romero. We as firefighters went out to the public that trusts us and recommended they vote for you. We supported you because you (Jan Marx) told us to our face that you would neither propose, nor support an attack on our binding arbitration that the citizens saw fit to give us 11 years ago.

The knife in my back is a symbol of your bold-face lies. I now understand it’s just politics, and it’s commonplace for politicians to lie more than ever these days.

That is why we don’t trust you to treat us fairly in negotiations, and why the public should not trust you to keep their best interests in mind. We negotiate for higher levels of service, not just benefits.

We are the public’s best advocates; we are here for our full career. You are only here for a two year stint, with a platform, a cause or in your case, Andrew, a crusade.

That brings me to my next point, Andrew Carter’s holy crusade. Yes, Andrew, we know your father was a minister and that whole “judging trees by their fruit thing.”

That’s cute, and I’m sure he would be proud of your evangelical prowess, getting so many sheep to follow you after getting them to drink your “kool-aid.” You remind me of Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and all the other hypocritical, self-proclaimed leaders on a crusade.

With your misleading graphs, false statements, and campaign violations, you think you are going to save the City but you are really just attacking the middle-class employees of the City. In the process you are going to reduce the high-level of emergency services the public now benefits from. That CPR “save” we had recently near City Hall – that won’t happen when you have to “brown-out” Fire Station number 2.

I have a 4-year degree from Cal Poly, and I know my way around a spreadsheet. It’s easy to manipulate the graphs, choosing to start with “PERS holiday” dates, and tweaking numbers to make the graph show something dramatic. What about Monica (Maloney) Irons’ memo to the employees regarding the refinancing of our PERS employer contributions (see attached)? She went on record saying that the City would pay lower rates at the time (2004) to help with budget-balancing, but the rates would go up in the future (like an adjustable rate mortgage that was so popular then).

You mislead the public when you say that our “binding arbitration” is the reason pension costs have “skyrocketed.” First, they have not “skyrocketed”, they are only about 10 percent of the city’s budget, and it’s just not true that we are the sole reason for the actual increases.

Why don’t you mention this? Because you need to deceive people for votes.

Your mailer states that we don’t pay our share of Social Security. We don’t get Social Security!

Why would you list that as “Reason  number 5 to vote for Measure A? You are deceiving the public for votes.

You also lie when you say our police officers make more than those in LA City. You compare “apples to oranges” with this statement in an attempt to deceive (hiding the truth is also known as lying).

You also argue that our public safety officials make more than other cities in this county. Well, we are the biggest city in the county, and it is generally true that the larger the municipality, the higher the workload, responsibility, stress, and salary.

Isn’t this why you and your fellow council members took Ken Hampian’s salary (already handsome) and increased it significantly for Katie Lichtig?  Why, Andrew is it ok for the city of SLO to have the highest paid city Manager, but not ok to have the county’s highest paid “blue-collar” workers?

You can’t argue it both ways and maintain credibility.

Let’s mention credibility. You also state in your campaign that police and fire employees can retire at 50 years of age with over $100,000 pensions. You have chosen to not take actual statistics, but use the hypothetical, unrealistic “worst case” scenario. The reality is that very few of us actually cross the finish line at that level or without going out on a medical disability.
Our average starting age is not 20 but closer to 30. You don’t see many 60-year-old-firefighters cutting a hole on the roof above a fire (like I did for you recently, Paul Brown, when you came running out of your burning house shirtless and panicking).

Public safety is a young-man’s sport. Do you really want a 60-year police officer old trying to hop a fence to chase down a rapist or drug dealer?

Do you want a crippled old firefighter trying to throw a 58 pound ladder against your house while wearing 40 pounds of gear? Most people don’t.

Back to credibility, I just read the former police and fire chiefs’ letter in the Tribune. What hypocrisy! These two men must have amnesia, or that is some damn fine “kool-aid” you’ve brewed up. These two are drawing not only a $100,000 plus pension you are so upset about, but lifetime medical insurance as well. Plug those numbers into your little spreadsheet, and let’s see some costs “skyrocket.”

Former Chief Neuman with his lack of leadership, and non-support of his people is exactly why we fought for (and won) binding arbitration in the first place. Those $100,000 pensions that you say are hurting the city doe not belong to the “blue collar” workers, but management.

Again, you deceive for votes – whatever it takes to convert people to your crusade. Yes, your dad would be proud, Andrew. Praise the Lord.

Former Mayor Romero, you also have no credibility. Attached also is your justification of the pensions and salaries you presided over giving to us. That’s a complete 180 degree reversal you’ve done now that you’ve had the “kool-aid.”  Strong work.

We in public safety are not getting rich; we are making a “living wage.” You say we make too much. When you look at our hourly rate, I make under $26.00 per hour.

The only way I was able to afford a half-million dollar fixer-upper in this City was because my first house in the north county rode the roller coaster up and my timing was good. Many of my coworkers would love to live in the City, but can’t afford it. The homes here are just too expensive, and then the City charges so much on top of that.

The utility rates here are among the highest in the county, (oh, there’s that argument again). What, Andrew would you propose is a fair salary for what I do? I would venture to say that you don’t have a clue as to what I really do. Let me enlighten you with a few of my recent duties:

*When a 16-year old drunk driver center-punched a tree, I held his friend’s warm-blood soaked head in the car while we cut the car away from him. He took his last breaths as I lied to him and told him we would get him out and he would be OK. I drive by that intersection on Chorro Street every time I go to work or return home. I can’t get that out of my head, and it makes me sad every time I think about it.

*When a kid got hit by train near California and Foothill, I was the one who retrieved his foot (still in the sneaker). I can still visualize that grisly scene that made me wretch and nearly vomit.

*When a drunken college girl pulled up her skirt and sprayed diarrhea all over the Chamber of Commerce alcove on Chorro Street, I was on the crew that helped clean that up. By the way, Chamber folks, you’re welcome!

*When a psych patient recently released from ASH decided to use a razor blade to cut off his genitals, I was the one left behind that had to fish from the trash can his penis and testicles for transport to the ER for possible re-attachment. Would you do that for $26 per hour?

I’ve been in the fire service locally since 1990 and with the City of SLO for nearly 10 years.  I have lots of stories that would disgust you, but I won’t go on. As horrifying and grotesque as this job can be, it is still the best job in the world. Not because I am making a decent wage, but because I love having kids who come to see us because they want to be firemen. I love making a difference when that 911 caller is having the worst day of his or her life.  I like being the one they call to solve their problem.

I am not the greedy, overpaid, selfish public enemy you have made me out to be. I do not deserve to get “flipped off” as I drive the city’s fire engine to emergencies in town but thanks to you, that is now my reality. Several of us have witnessed your “converts,” Andrew, and we’re very disappointed.

Yes, this is a divisive issue, and yes, we all trip up or make mistakes once in a while. We should however, be truthful with the public and not try to use our positions as public servants or elected officials to deceive them.

Well, I could go on, but I think I’ve made my points. Win or lose, I will go on doing the job I love, and knowing that it is only your vocal, misguided minority who has signed on to your cause. Most intelligent citizens know they can trust firemen and policemen far more than the lying, back-stabbing, political zealots sitting on the City Council, and their “kool-aid-drinking” minions, the “Concerned Citizens for SLO.” But, of course, nothing personal!

Sincerely, and with all due respect, Rob Farino, a San Luis Obispo firefighter

Monica’s Memo (scribd)

Romero Letter (scribd)

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Couterproductive rant to say the least.

Although I share some of the distrust of our City of San Luis Obispo elected, appointed and employed officials, it is based on decades of interactions and observations.

If I thought that the long term governance of the city was going to be kept in their hands, I would not have voted for BOTH measures A & B. I am aware that there are many in city government who would like to reduce the fire and police departments and feed their sacred projects: ecoslo, various non-profits and the fiscally irresponsible goal of increased open space. However, I have faith that in the next couple of go arounds we will have an opportunity to ‘throw the rascals out.’

The problem for the city — more pointedly the taxpayer and the business person — is we have a city budget that is not ‘sustainable.’ I am being a little cavalier, but the bills are piling up and there is only one place to go for money…. the tax payer and the local business and property owner is gong to be asked to shoulder the burden.

Everyone thinks THEIR job is valuable, irreplaceable and the most necessary. Who’s more valuable to our community: a business, a fireperson, a policeman or a city manager? Well, fire the city manager and you can keep the other three. It is one of critical priorities and our city council has lost it.

I voted for the original measure to give collective bargaining rights, now I have voted for A & B to give the right city officials some of the tools necessary to combat this crisis and I urge eveyone to do the same…. then lets get a new set of rascals!

Point taken.

If I might have been on the fence before this petulant rant, I’m not now.

Poor little Robbie. He only gets paid $26 per hour when he sleeps. And since he didn’t started fighting fire when he was 20, he’ll have to wait until he’s perhaps 55 to collect his measly $70k per year pension. Boo, who, who. Poor little Robbie.

Rob-in response to your letter, you still fail to justify your bloated $100,000+ salaries plus benefits, far above the state average for comparable jobs. Living and shopping in the city is not a justification for earning 50% more than average. Your group of 22 is controlling the city not by your shopping habits but by your bloated salaries and pensions.

You do not represent the public’s best interests and are not advocates for anyone except yourselves when you are draining the city’s coffers. You certainly do not represent the middle class which is suffering so much in this recession since your salary and benefits far above the average. I would strongly urge you to do a survey of the salaries and benefits of other non-union city employees and then you may come back down to reality and perhaps appreciate what you are earning since you are good at reading spreadsheets.

How many in this city would love to make a “living wage” of $100,000 plus pension, benefits, and be able to retire at 50? I am sure many of the 10%+ unemployed would.

Attacking one’s personal religious beliefs is sadly telling of your desperation and personal beliefs, and I sincerely hope that your hate is not shared by many of your fellow firemen. Calling a respected Council member and all religious leaders hypocrites and liars is not the best way to persuade members of our community to preserve your salary and benefits. I wish you would have shown more respect like you claim to have given in your last paragraph and toned down your name calling.

Rob-I hate to break the news to you but those in the health profession deal with body parts, urine, feces, vomit, and life and death every day-ask a nurse, hospital worker, another EMT or ambulance worker. Then ask that person what they are earning – you will find that they are not earning anything close to what you are earning.

Your letter is truly telling of your desperation to maintain your earnings and retirement plans.

Wow, spiteful at all? Thanks for throwing a fit for all to read and as for your list of unpleasant duties performed, you signed up for that.

Was this written in a fit of anger, or am I to believe that this is the attitude of SLO firefighters/police? My salary has been cut from 100K to zilch, as I’m in sales. I would be grateful if my job included benefits. However, if I chided the public as you’ve just done, you can bet I’d kiss my career good-bye for good.

Bob – and how do you expect that this tirade is going to help your cause? You need to re-read what you wrote and reconsider it.

Sounds like a nice guy.

Why is he complaining about being paid “only $26/hr” to go “shopping in SLO on duty?”

Which is a little bunky anyway, since his pension obligations and benefits DOUBLE his hourly rate, indicating a snoozing-for-dollars rate of $52/hr (interrupted, of course, by moments of actual heroics and work).

“Why is he complaining about being paid “only $26/hr” to go “shopping in SLO on duty?” and using a city fire truck to do his shopping in too. I don’t feel the bit sorry for this dude. Like others have posted on here,there are unemployed people who would love to have your over paid, heroes job anytime

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