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)


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cooperdog

Rob,


My wife has been an ER nurse for over 30 years. She sees what you describe on a daily basis, severed feet from boating accidents, crushed arms, children with crushed skulls. No accolades, no medals. I doubt the City will give her a parade on her passing, although they should. Nurses are the real heros.


Hell, my crews are more often at risk than you; they work in the streets on a daily basis. Again, no accolades, no medals, just people doing their job.


Crusader

Amen. Heck an ER orderly sees greater trauma on a daily basis then most firefighters see in a year.


scoopone

I heard that there were 4 or 5 on-duty firefighters at Idler’s recently trying to decide which new refrigerator to buy, leaving their city truck parked outside. Obviously they couldn’t do that project on

their own time. You guys in public safety better pray that A & B passes because if it fails I don’t see anyway out of this but to lay off a bunch of you permanently. There will be lines of eager replacements just waiting to take your jobs for a lot less $$.


Kevin Rice

scoopone: You heard??! That’s low. HAVE YOU CONSIDERED it might have been a purchase for the station?


slojo

Exactly. It could have been CalFire too.


wolfhound

Seemingly, our once-sacrosnact firefighters are taking a lot of economically driven heat these days.


This well-paid, pampered class (or cult) have become the envy of our American blue-collar worker which is understandable, but not sustainable during the current depression, or even a deep recession as some call it.


Firefighters as a group have vacuumed up more than their fair share of municipal resources across the nation for decades.


According to the spokeswoman for the mayor of San Jose Ca, the cost of firefighters wages & benefits has increased 100% over the past decade, while city resources have only risen 20%.


Don’t get caught up in the hysteria trap that if we don’t cut budgets grandma & the kids may burn up.


Paul_Brown

Rob-


Sorry I wasn’t wearing a shirt and only had on my pajama bottoms on when I was making breakfast the crappy morning I had my house fire. I didn’t realize the sight of me shirt-less would have made such an indelible impression on you. If I had, I may have focused my efforts on finding a shirt instead of fighting the grease fire as long as I could. I suppose I could have been more stoic as irreplaceable items were consumed by flames. The overall impact of the event and the fact I was not able to prevent it from happening, however, affected my professionalism. I apologize if my demeanor that morning was not up to your expectations.


There is not a day that goes by (fire occurred 12/4/2010) where I am not thankful for the opportunity to be alive, the timeliness which the SLO FD station #4 responded to the incident, and for the personal items your team was able to save and prevent from being consumed. The professionalism and compassion expressed to me, both during the event and after, is both commendable and truly appreciated. I know many of the firefighters who responded that day personally and could see in your eyes the empathy you felt for my situation.


As my house rebuild nears completion (hopefully by November ’11) and I am finally able to move back in, I will continue to remember the courage and professionalism you and the rest of the crew exhibited that day. Again, thank you.


Rob, you’re a good man and I get your passion regarding this issue. I don’t expect any one who works for, or directly connected to, either the SLO FD or SLO PD to see it from any angle other than how you have expressed it. Having Binding Arbitration as the way SLO decides negotion conflicts is a huge benefit to the public safety unions. Unfortunately, it has proved to only to be “fair” and beneficial to the labor groups.


The fact that the California Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional for the state and general law cities to have binding arbitration as their form of labor negotiation disagreement resolution, only supports the argument that binding arbitration sways the power too far over to one side. If the history of how binding arbitration has been used, in SLO and the other cities in CA (less than 25, out of almost 400 cities), it is crippling local city’s ability to make sound financial decisions regarding two-tier benefit packages for new hires, etc.


While this vote on A/B personally effects the public safety employees and their future bargaining position, this ultimately, to me, is about local control of our local budget and being able to effectively react to the current economy without having our hands tied. This is not an us vs. them. I respect and personally understand the importance of their roles in our community. It is a calling not many are suited for and I’m glad we have the employees we have upholding the thin blue/red lines here in SLO. The issue here is, how do we balance all of our local priorities so none are ignored or diminished. We can’t pay one group of employees more without affecting our ability to pay/hiring others (including more firefighters/police officers) or to pave roads, maintain parks, etc. (By the way, I believe this also in regards to what upper city management and the city manager is being compensated)


If we, as voters, don’t like the budgetary decisions our council makes regarding police/fire, roadways, parks, open space, traffic circulation, public art, etc., we can choose to elect at least three new council/mayor people every two years. Those five people are not appointed by some unseen hand. They are elected by us, to represent us, and are ultimately accountable to us (the citizens and voters of SLO).


Regardless of the outcome of this election, Rob, I will still honor and respect the job you have done and will continue to do for our city. My hope, to those reading this post, is we all remember we have to continue to live/work in this community after this election, so let’s keep the discussions civil and productive. Then the healing can start quicker after these divisive issues have been decided by the citizens of SLO.


Disgusted

You’re a bigger man than Rob for sure. Good for you for taking the high road. Unfortunately, the damage done by Rob is already irreversable.


dhg

Rob – at this point it must be clear to you what severe damage you have done, all by yourself, to your cause with your thoughtless rant. You may have turned the tide with it. If I were a fireman or policeman I would be coming down hard on you.


SLO LOCAL

“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.”


Wow… I guess now I will have to join the people that are flipping you off when you tool around town in your stupid million $ firetruck. Your little rant here really shows the ungrateful pigs that you are and has greatly undermined the respect that I did have for the firefighters.


You guys just don’t get it. It’s simple. The rest of us that are not lapping up at the government trough have taken pay cuts from this serious economic downturn from 10% to 50%, or have lost a business or job entirely and have taken a pay cut of 100%. Your compensation has stayed the same or has increased substantially while the people that pay your paycheck, largely small business owners, struggle not to add to our million dollar pensions but to keep our doors open and to feed our families.


I expect that many, many others would take your job for half of your compensation and appreciate it. And do a fine job. It would be nice to see the city offer your job for half the compensation and watch the hundreds of applications come in. There would be many qualified people that would love to work in SLO.


Nice to know that because I have put my name on a list to support what I believe will be one step towards helping our financially strapped city get back on it’s feet, you guys will boycott my business. What a simpleton you are. Tens of thousands of my tax $’s have gone to your paycheck. Where do you think your pay comes from? The great pension fairy in the sky??


In my opinion, you are one disgusting person. Greedy people like you, trying to suck as much as you can from us will ultimately bring the demise of your own cushy jobs. Our back is breaking from carrying your lazy butt. Be thankful for what you have. Try giving a little to save your own cushy pension.


SLO LOCAL

“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.”


Wow… I guess now I will have to join the people that are flipping you off when you tool around town in your stupid million $ firetruck. Your little rant here really shows the ungrateful pigs that you are and has greatly undermined the respect that I did have for the firefighters.


You guys just don’t get it. It’s simple. The rest of us that are not lapping up at the government trough have taken pay cuts from this serious economic downturn from 10% to 50%, or have lost a business or job entirely and have taken a pay cut of 100%. Your compensation has stayed the same or has increased substantially while the people that pay your paycheck, largely small business owners, struggle not to add to our million dollar pensions but to keep our doors open and to feed our families.


I expect that many, many others would take your job for half of your compensation and appreciate it. And do a fine job.


Nice to know because I have put my name on a list to support what I believe will be steering the city in a right direction


horsesense

And please don’t keep stealing my “Yes on A and B” signs off of my lawn-3 times is enough!


Logically

You should call the cops and report the theft. Stealing is stealing…


BTW – could somebody stop stealing mine too? Or at least return them to a higher-visibility location?


Kevin Rice

LOL!! Call SLO PD to report stolen yes on A/B signs? Have some respect and don’t do that. Just replace. Mount them on your roof if you want to make a statement!


slojo

The firefighters are not asking for more money…..they are willing to take cuts. Why is that so hard to get through to you people?


The issue is taking away thier RIGHT to collective bargaining. Binding arbitration protects the level of service in this city, the number of firefighters on duty and the number of paramedics on duty.


The people who think if B passes that the city will be able to afford more firefighters are complete idiots. NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.


ApathyWillKillYou

Dear SLO Police and Firefighters…..


The city of San Luis Obispo SIMPLY CANNOT AFFORD to continue to PAY the HIGH SALARIES!


It’s that SIMPLE and has NOTHING to do with your worthiness!


slocorruptionhater

My sentiments exactly