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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Logically

Can somebody tell me if I am reading this right?


Police work 3/12 Patrol, which means they work three 12-hour shifts per week. In 28 days they work a total of 160 hours. So, in 4 weeks they have 3 work days per week, plus an extra day somewhere in there. See page 64.


Police also have overtime pay for any hours worked over 160 hours per 28 day period. They get to include vacation, sick, holiday, IOD, and comp time as part of their 160 hours in computing overtime. Overtime is 1 1/2 times normal pay. See Page 16.


A police officer at Step 7 makes $102,600 per year. See Page 12. If they work 1 extra shift per 28 days they now earn $114,142 per year. If they work 2 extra shifts per 28 days they earn $125,685. (just math). It seems their hourly wage is $53.44 ($8,550 per month / 160 hours). Overtime rate is $80.16.


Plus they get Standby pay, $1,000 per year uniform allowance, $1,277 contributed to their health insurance premiums, 3% at 50 retirement, 13 holidays, up to 160 hours of vacation per year (that just so happens to be a full month of work), sick and family leave, and $375 for a gym membership. See pages 23, 26, 71, to name a few…


Am I reading this for real?


http://www.slocity.org/humanresources/download/SLOPOA%20MOA%201-06%20to%2012-09%20Signed.pdf


Mr. Holly

At least they arn’t crying about it like the firemen. And while they are being paid they are actually working and not passing their time like the firemen.


unlisted

They’re not crying because they’re earning 1/3 more than fire fighters.


Side_Show_Bob

They’re not crying because they don’t want anyone to notice! Insane salaries with all the overtime they bank. INSANE!


Crusader

B I N G O.


slofrmn

Logically – here’s some other info available on the city website. Please take a look at what Monica Irons has to say. Page 1, “Key Observations”, especially 1, 2 and 3.


slofrmn
slodog

police work a 3/12 shift with an extra 8 hour shift every other week. so they work 80 hours every 2 weeks. one week is 36 hours and the next is 44 hours. standby pay is for detectives that are on call not all officers. this is because they have to be on call day or night for a major investigation that may arise. this rotates so only one detective is on call at a time. the gym membership money is for swat team members only since they have to pass a rigorous physical entrance test and regular training. normal officers just get access to the city gym that all city employees do.


all these things sound like great perks and they are. as is the pay and retirement. but it is a trade off for the other tedious working conditions. 12 hours days are long and exhausting as are graveyard shifts. not to mention a 12 hour graveyard shift. numerous officers work holidays and aren’t able to celebrate with their families. the argument that is always put out there is “yeah well you signed up for the job so you knew what you were getting into”. very true and they also signed up for the pay and benefits to make up for those downsides to the job.


if you have any other questions regarding police working conditions, politely ask and i can inform you of the facts. it certainly isn’t a bunch of secrets since it’s posted on the city website but people tend to interpret it how they want to further their cause.


lakerhater

Don’t they also get paid 1 hour overtime each shift to dress and undress?


slodog

nope. they are given 5 minutes to do so which was the result of case law for emergency workers.


Crusader

A very good friend of mine, an ACTUAL “professional” was tired of the law pay at his job. The beginning pay was excellent but (like many) it did not keep pace with the economy. Unlike Rob my friend is an actual professional. What did he do? He sought a new job from a new employer. That’s how things are supposed to work for “professionals” (as today’s firefighters consider themselves.)


His employer freaked at the prospect at him leaving and countered the new offer. My friend ended-up staying put. I dare you, Rob, tender your resignation unless you get paid as much as LA Firefighers and see where it gets you. ;)


Crusader

In the end I am thankful that a few SLO City Council members have the courage to face this very difficult issue. The more they are attacked, the more I feel they are doing the right thing.


Crusader

Dear Mr. Farino:


While growing up I viewed the job of a city firefighter as one that was somewhat low in pay but one that afforded great hours, lifetime employment and unbeatable benefits. You’re not only protected by civil service, you have your own union.


Over the years your wages continued to grow, well surpassing the free market wage demands for your chosen career. Now you’re trying to sell me your belief that civil service and union protection are not enough? I find that offensive, Mr. Farino. Very offensive.


We (the USA) are at the very beginning of a great reckoning for gov’t employees. A reckoning that private enterprise employees have been living with for the past 30+ years. You need to face that fact with some courage rather than dig in and try to “get all that you can get.” You and your brethren are engendering hatred in the taxpayers no matter how much we might appreciate the role of gov’t safety employees.


surfdawg

I have great respect for our public safety personnel, and I was a firefighter/EMT. With that being said, the energy put forth in this letter really clearly reflects a major disconnect. Unemployment is significant. The public sector is broke, and all public sector employees need to open their eyes and get a reality check.


A private sector employee has been forced to contribute more and more to benefits, forget about salary increases, and has no job security, but is typically thankful to have work.


This letter has a vindictive tone. While I love living in a society that allows us to decide where to shop, unless I am missing something, I don’t get to select who will come help me or my family when I dial 9-1-1. I expect professionalism, excellent customer service and compassion.


While I applaud Mr. Farino’s guts in sharing his feelings, the campaign being waged by these vital employees tarnishes the reputation of Public Safety personnel in other communities. I only wish these folks could see that. These are times of sacrifice, when the economy was growing at an insane and illogical pace, of course the community could support this policy. Times are different, and unfortunately, the community can no longer support the process. As many of us know, there are thousands of people who would appreciate an opportunity to be a first responder, and the reality is that thousands would apply for these same jobs with a lower compensation package.


I hope that whatever the result this election produces, that at some point there will be reflection and some fence-mending.


NorCoMod

Given the liberal use of “we” throughout Rob Farino’s invective, I’m assuming that the SLO FD selected him as their best and most articulate spokesman to tell the community how they really feel.


That is, unless we hear or read something from the rest of that group to tell us otherwise.


We got it Rob.


Maybe you can reach out to the remainder of the community on Congalton’s show. Dave’s wondering why we “can’t all just get along” and maybe you can explain it to him.


slojo

“Maybe you can reach out to the remainder of the community on Congalton’s show. Dave’s wondering why we “can’t all just get along” and maybe you can explain it to him.”


Really? Are you kidding? Did you not READ Rob’s letter? Read it again and you will have the answer to that question.


jackbnimble

I am voiting “yes” on A & B, but I would still shop at Mr. Farino’s wife’s business downtown (if I knew which it was and it provided a service relevant to me). To me, his opinion is his right (as is mine), but shouldn’t influence what businesses I support. Too bad Mr. Farino doesn’t feel the same way and will boycott your business if your opinion doesn’t match his (but how would he feel if all “Yes” supporters boycotted his wife’s business? how would she feel?).


chileverde

Bladerunner


3stacksandarock

Haha..really my wife and kidas go there….NOT anymore!


jackbnimble

as I said, I wouldn’t boycott Mr. Farino’s wife’s business, but if anyone else is…are you sure it is Bladerunner? Because when I went to their website, it lists two males as the owners:


http://www.thebladerunner.com/Profiles.aspx


slo_tgun

So if I understand this correctly, City of SLO Firemen, or Fire Engineers work on 24 hour shifts. So that means each of the Firemen must work 2 out of every 7 days for 24 hours straight. If that is the case then they accrue roughly 8 hours of overtime each week. Should one officer cover a shift for a fellow officer it then results in an additional 24 hours of overtime?


My question then is why do Fire Departments not run 3 daily 8 hour shifts? This would appear to stem the tide of overtime and provide fresh and well rested public safety employee’s? Why not? My guess is it would be a union thing, but I am unsure.


Rob, $26 is by no means overpaid for your work. That equates to an annual salary of about $54,080.00 which for the area is relatively meager. I assume that you benefit from the formula above, which you are not to blame for, and probably do not knowingly take advantage of. It is sad that you have taken this so personal, as the intent is to address long term financial issues within the City, not penalize those individuals who work here. There is not doubt that your job carries both good and bad. And as stated by others, I am confident there would be hundreds of people who would line up to take your position for less.


Kevin Rice

Your math is wrong. 2-1/3 days per week. 56 hour week. $75,712 annual salary.


unlisted

According to the City’s official Salary Schedule, the top pay for fire fighters is $76,596 per year plus an $800 uniform allowance plus the ability to be paid for unused vacation each years plus numerous other benefits.


http://www.slocity.org/humanresources/download/salaryschedule.pdf

http://www.slocity.org/humanresources/download/Benefit%20Summary9-22-10.pdf


Ugluk

Oh, don’t forget, Rob – boycotts cut both ways, and you’ve just let all of us “kool-aid drinkers” know that your wife owns a business downtown. But then, it’s like you say, “it’s not personal, we appreciate what police officers and firefighters do for us…”


Nice attack on religion, by the way. That’ll REALLY get people on your side! (Or not….)


As far as your attack on Paul Brown, and your discussion of his demeanor when you responded to a fire at his home, that strikes me as exceedingly unprofessional. If you typically go around mocking the people you are supposed to be protecting and serving, you are disgusting.


VOTE YES ON A & B!