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

August 22, 2011

OPINION By ROB FARINO

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)


Loading...
BeenThereDoneThat

O.k. I live in Paso, so I have no dog in this fight but I do have an observation on the article.


Rob you mention that you have a four year degree from Cal Poly. Why don’t you use it? Is is possible you make more in this field (firefighting) than the field of your degree?


Second. You hint that you guys don’t make as much as L.A. firefighters. Well why don’t you work down there? Is it possible the quality of life?


I don’t disrepect firefighters and do appreciate their work. Just like anyones work. The guy that fixes my car in an emergency to get me back on the road and to work to make a living. The grocery store owner that sells me food, so I can live and eat. The store that sells cloths to put on my back. Do you get it Rob? Yes you are important. So are a whole bunch of people out there working 40 or more hours a week. We make decisions. I have had jobs I didn’t like. I didn’t go around complaining to others, I found another job. And as much as I would like to think they couldn’t carry on without me, guess what they did. My bet is it would be the same situation here.


slorealitycheck

Dear Rob,


Try working in LA, even Santa Maria for that matter, that would justify what you get paid, down there!!!. You are a fireman in the city of SLO! Do you know how many firefighters would love your job and probably take less. SERIOUSLY ROB, Yes there is the occasional horrific scene you must attend, but the diarrhea thing is nothing. What about the person who works at a fast food restaurant getting paid minimum wage who has to clean up the bathrooms with this scenario everyday? What I see is you crying because you might just have to have a staycation or better yet might not get to buy that new car your wife might want. The city of SLO has been over indulgent for way too long. Like someone said, you signed up for the job, horrific scenes and all. If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. When the majority of the time time spent by a local firefighters is cleaning the trucks, making sure everything is working on them, driving around town in a humongous truck wasting gas and getting paid to exercise, grocery shop, and snivel. Be thankful you have what you have and count yourself lucky. Do you know how many firefighters living in other areas would love to come work here and maybe live in GOD FORBID a modular home just to live and raise their kids in a safe environment. Talk about drinking the Kool Aid, I want to know what you’ve been smoking???


scapegoat

It’s unfortunate that when people are down, they try to bring everyone else with them. How is the economy ever going to recover with this attitude. Rob, that was a well written letter and I commend you for standing up for yourself and brothers. The same business owners complaining about over paid firemen and 10% unemployment are the same ones not hiring employees and keeping record profits for themselves. I, as a business owner understand the reason for that, but don’t dare blame others for our economy bliss. Two things I do know are true and respect: first, public safety works are losing their homes and hurting like everyone else in this economy and secondly, firefighting is incomparably more dangerous than most other Careers regardless of what the inexperienced forum trolls belive. Thank you SLO firefighters for what you do. You still have some business owners in the community not drinking Kool-aid. Too bad only the minority extremes post here.


BigRed

Fishermen, Loggers, Pilots, Farming/Ranching, Roofers, Iron/steel workers, sanitation (garbage men), machinery installers and mantience workers, Drivers (including salesmen and truckers) and construction laborers. Those are the top 10 most dangerous industries.

No public safety. I know it too is dangerous…. but let’s keep it real.


As a business owner too, (who cares) I don’t know what your talking about.


BeenThereDoneThat

Easy confussing Rob. You may make him spill his KoolAid.


horsesense

It’s unfortunate that a small group of people are bringing down the city budget by trying to maintain their outrageous salaries and benefits. If you are a business owner, which it certainly doesn’t sound like, you would know that businesses in this city are not making record profits and hoarding money as you claim-that is truly laughable since so many are going out of business-just check out all the empty spaces around town and “for rent” signs. If someone is losing their home making $100,000 per year, I have little sympathy for them-perhaps they need to learn to budget better and lead a less extravagent lifestyle.


Mr. Holly

Well it took me a little while to dry my tears for this cry baby. Sounds like Rob only cares about himself and his buddies.; Does he care about the citizens of SLO who have to pay for his glamorous life style, benefits and early retirement? He tells us about the gore he is exposed to.and the trauma placed on him because of this. Does more money and benefits reduce this trauma? I admire the SLO city council for having the guts to take this issue on. This is not only a SLO city issue but an issue that is going to affect the entire county. All of these self proclaimed heroes will want what the SLO city gets, and will cry all the way to the bank until they get it.

Just look at the payments to the highest paid people in all of the cities and it’s firemen. For the most part they could be replaced by San Luis Ambulance Paramedics at half the cost.

Rob thank you for your blabbering about yourself and everything else you cried about.

I do not live in SLO city but if iI did I would definetly vote YES on A & B.

If it is successful maybe some of the cry babies will resign their positins and try to get a real working job. My money would be that there are hundreds of people that would apply for these jobs at a significant reduction in cost to the city.


Ugluk

Earth to Rob Farino,

Quit complaining about your $26/hour pay. There are many unemployed people out here who would be glad to do for $25.


abigchocoholic

Come on Bob,


quit holding back. Tell all how you really feel.


BigRed

Ever send an email and then immediately reget it? I have, but at least it wasn’t an op-ed for an online news site. Somebody earlier mentioned hospital workers and ambulance workers, you could all sit around the bar and tell war stories. However, I think you, Rob, should be the one to pick up the tab. You can’t BS everybody about what firefighters really do. Many of us know too well. A portfolio of “shock and awe” stories that get well played around civilians. The reason you’re getting you asses handed to you? It’s the economy, stupid. Your sob stories don’t provoke empathy in this climate. You’re not alone. Ask Minn State workers, Verizon employees, and possibly the grocery clerks union. For those of us slaying the dragon without safety nets (even the contrived ones like disability, talk to any construction worker about your back issues) we don’t give a damn about a potiental cut in salary and benefits for our public saftey workers. You’ve lost the PR war as bone heads like Mason and drug smuggling cops make more headlines than any of your heroics.

Try another tactic… Dignity. Do we trust you anymore… not really. Besides, if my house is burning and I happen to run out with my shirt off in a panic its good to know a-holes like you are filing it away for use later. Good thing Paul wasn’t nude, you may have taken a picture for future political capital.

For the record.. not all firefighters are whiners. Just the ones you here from most often.

Now go decide whose making the enchiladas tonight.


Crusader

That made me feel good. Thanks! :)


Bob

OPINION By ROB FARINO


“Stupid is as Stupid says”


Vote Yes A & B.


SLOCare

Kudos to you, Rob, for telling it like it is!!!! As I read what racket et al have posted above, it turns my stomach that there are “citizens” like that who continue to malign the good, heroic work that public safety employees take for granted as their jobs on a daily basis. Don’t you get it, folks???? On one hand you complain about the city council, general manager salaries, etc., but on the other hand you are talking about relinquishing your voter rights to them by supporting measures A and B.


I do not blame you for your rant, Rob – you have every right to be angry. Just know that there are plenty of us out there who are angry right along with you!! We just aren’t regulars who post our outrageous comments on this site!


Mr. Holly

OK tell about heroic that they do only a daily basis? Is it cleaning the trucks? Is it working out? Is it shopping for groceries? Is it cooking the meals? Is it watching TV? Is it cruising thru town checking everything out? Is it checking the internet to see where you are going to spend your next 6 days off because you worked 2 straight shifts? Is it taking the stranded cat out of the tree? Is it ASSISTING the San Luis Ambulance Paramedics on medical calls? Or is it the occassional dumpster fire that you go to?


SLOCare

I guess you do not believe that extricating folks from crushed vehicles in the middle of the freeway is heroic?? How about giving CPR to your wife, or child, or neighbor?? Maybe rescuing someone from San Luis Creek when it is running rough during a storm? How about cutting a child lose who is stuck in a drain pipe or has fallen down a poorly boarded up old well?


And, I guess they are not supposed to cook meals and eat during their 24 hour shifts? Keep their emergency equipment clean and in good working order? Maintain their physical shape so they can throw that ladder and carry that hose?


Sure – you can put any kind of spin on it you like – but the fact remains, when there is an emergency, who comes to your aid????


From the sound of what I read here, most would prefer not to have qualified emergency service workers – that is until they need them.


Mr. Holly

I appreciate your spin. But come on, does the pay equal the work? Tow truck drivers are exposed to as much if not more dangers on the freeway. By the time the firement get there the traffic is stopped. How many have been injured on the freeway? I’ve given CPR on a couple of occassions and saved a couple lives-I was gald to do it for nothing. Yes they do good work and are important to the community but lets get them in line with reality.