Shea and Choi are Republicans Supporting More Spending? Is Shea Positioning herslef for Another Run for Mayor?

The Irvine Police Association is embroiled in a debate with the City Council over a pay increase in a new contract.  The city, which has frozen pay increases for every other city department, has asked the Police to freeze pay for the new contract.  No layoffs, no RIFs, no paycuts, no increased hours..essentially a status quo operation to what the city has today.

In fact, the police are planing a picket of sorts on August 20 at the corner of Culver and Walnut to complain that they aren’t getting raises. 

Curiously, after agreeing wih the council majority in executive session that Police wages should be frozen, Irvine Council members Christina Shea and Steve Choi did an about face and voted against freezing police pay and benefits.  I thought these two were Republicans? And a number of Republican organizations are trying to hold the line on salaries for public employees, but not these two and not on this issue. I have said all along, the only time Choi ever sides with the council majority is because, legally, there is no other choice.  Shea would vote no on issues like “the sky is blue and the grass is green” and claim its because she’s defending taxpayers.

From Sean Emery’s article in the Register:

The Irvine Police Association is hoping to extend their latest contract, which expired on June 30. Irvine Police Association President Shane Barrows estimated that the contract extension would cost the city $720,000, with yearly increases of between 5 percent and 8 percent for some employees, while others would remain at their current salary, depending on performance reviews and seniority.

Negotiations on the police contract began in mid-February, Barrows said. The two sides have met at least six times, and last week brought in a mediator.

“We’re done negotiating,” Irvine Police Association President Shane Barrows said. “The city has drawn a line in the sand with us.”

The police association negotiations could directly impact the other city unions, Barrows said, which have a “me too” clause allowing them to re-visit their tentative agreements if another city union gets an increase.

Police association members plan to challenge city leaders during next week’s council meeting, Barrows said, and are considering whether to picket City Hall.

The Irvine Police Association represents 190 of the departments 203 employees. The department’s command staff is represented by the Irvine Police Management Association, which has already come to a tentative agreement with the city over the pay freezes.

The Irvine Police Department is the fifth highest paid in the county, Barrows said, behind Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Anaheim and Costa Mesa. Irvine police employees received 2 percent base salary increases in 2003 and 2004, a 4.5 percent increase in 2005, a 4 percent increase in 2006, and a flat $4,700 increase in 2007 and 2008.

Police are particularly frustrated that the same city leaders who have spent the last five years touting Irvine’s position as the safest large city in America are taking what they feel is a hard-line stance during the contract talks, Barrows said.

“They are demoralized, they feel betrayed,” Barrows said. “To have a city council that brags about you so much take things away from you when it is unnecessary has made a lot of officers upset. They want to know why it is happening, and I can’t give them an answer.”

First of all, nothing is being taken away.  And Shea and Choi, who complain every time the city dips into reserves, are acting like Democrats they routinely criticize for bowing to unions at a time when money is tight.  It takes more than police to make a city safe.  It takes strong neighborhoods, strong schools, a robust economy, solid recreation and alternatives to crime or idle time and it takes a robust local economy.  The city council majority is charged with maintaining this balance and have done a remarkable job in doing so.

If there’s continue insistance that police need their raise, then the department also needs to cut headcount to balance the books.  Keeping things as they doesn’t endanger the public and is not an undue hardship on police professionals.

This letter from a 40 year Irvine resident says it better than I ever could:

Dear Councilmembers’

First of all my apologies to Beth Krom as I could not get her e-mail address to ‘work’ … would Mayor Kang pass this on to her …

The e-mail message from the IPA asked us to write you and plead theri cause … I am writing this as I will not be able to be at the city council meeting tonight … I would like this read into the record by Either Councilmember Shea or Mayor Kang at tonight’s city council meeting at the appropriate time:

I found the IPA electronic slate mailer left much to be desired.  While it is asking for more money from the city to meet it’s union demands … it fails to acknowledge that we are in extremely difficult financial times.  The IPA does not seem to be in the real world … a world where thousands have lost their jobs and thousands more have taken pay cuts so their employers could remain solvent and in business.

The IPA is ignoring reality … the money they are asking for comes from the taxpayers and residents of Irvine … it is not just for the city to give away freely.  Perhaps what should be being dicussed is how much money should be taken away during these times of economic challenge.

They recognize Irvine’s Safest City Status … we are proud of that … but I didn’t think that it would cost us extra money for the police to simply do their assigned job tasks… to intimate that IPA should get more money sounds like a merit raise.  I hve no problem with a merit raise, but not an automatic raise because they did their jobs.  I do my job and I have not had a wage adjustment upward in over3 years … why … because the money is simply not there.

They talk about waste in city spending … I think we all can agree that there are areas and projects that are not performing to expectations and schedule … starting with the troubled Great Park ongoing saga.  Because one department or another is underperforming and not being penalized does not seem fair, but it is not a justifiable reason to say that the IPA should have more money for thier function and wages.

I recommend that the IPS rethink it’s position before taking away money becomes the topic of discussion relative to IPA negotiations.  When we see the next good year, then IPA can come back and visit their demands … until then, they should stand in line with all other residents of Irvine and be very greatful to have a job and be employed … there are probably 5 highly qualified law enforcement personnel waiting to replace every one of those who think they are not being paid enough in this down economy.

Thank you for listening … I do not support more money for the IPA – not because I don’t support Irvine Police, but because I support a realistic approch to budgeting and wage negotiations in a difficult economy  … if it isn’t there, it isn’t there … the so call “surplus’ is not a ‘surplus’ … it is an emergency fund to bridge real needs and requirements … not more money for workers.

***

The schuttlebutt around town is that Christina Shea plans another run at mayor; until last fall, she had never lost an Irvine election.  Her fundraising was pathetic and with her change in vote, she’s pandering to the “public safety” crowd at the risk of upsetting the “voting against Republican/Conservative crowd.”

  7 comments for “Shea and Choi are Republicans Supporting More Spending? Is Shea Positioning herslef for Another Run for Mayor?

  1. Don Scott
    August 17, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    So does that mean that you are against unions? Are you still liberal? Looks like the whole world is upside down.

  2. Dan Chmielewski
    August 18, 2009 at 8:27 am

    I am very pro-union; however the contract offered by the city is what the police have had all along while other departments are cutting back. It’s not unreasonable to accept this package which has no pay cuts and no job cuts which is what management usually asked of labor. That’s not the case here.

  3. Steven Greenhut
    August 18, 2009 at 9:57 am

    You are right on this one. The Democratic majority in the city is doing a good job standing up to the union here and protecting the taxpayer in this particular instance, whereas the Republicans are pandering. Would you honestly have taken the same position if the roles were reversed and the GOP council members were standing up for the taxpayer? By the way, I am giving Agran/Krom/Kang credit where credit is due in my Sunday column even though it’s no secret that I have not been a big fan of the council majority.

  4. August 18, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Steve — when times are good and Irvine is running budget surpluses, as they have in the past, I have no problem rewarding unions with good compensation contracts. Irvine has a healthy reserve due to the city’s progressive leadership and we’re weathering this economic downturn better than most cities in Orange County. I also stand by my statements that it takes more than police to insure public safety; strong neighborhhods, strong schools, responsible parents and neighbors and a strong economy and transportation system are also critical. Irvine’s police unions should ask other cities if they’d accept the same deal; I’m sure many would. Unions do matter and unions are important. This union is being offered a fair contract during a challenging economic time.

  5. Steven Greenhut
    August 18, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Dan –
    Thanks for restating your position. But I’ll repeat the question: Would you honestly have taken the same position if the roles were reversed and the GOP council members were the ones holding firm?

    • August 18, 2009 at 4:19 pm

      Yes; I’d think in tough times, a new contract granting raises is harder to support

  6. Dan Chmielewski
    August 19, 2009 at 8:02 am

    Since your question was in the form of a “gotcha” Steve, why was the way the Great Park conducted the CEO search criticized when the OCTA CEO search, conducted in the exact same manner, never touched on by you; the Great Park CEO search court case against Agran generated 4 columns in the Register – two from you, one from Mickadeit and one from Adam Probolsky (who commits the biggest sin each week with his column — it’s painfully boring). Could it be because OCTA board has only a token Democrat who doesn’t oppose a sound management plan for the sake of opposing it, a la Shea?

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