There were two public meetingsÂ Tuesday nightÂ whereÂ public employees showed up to express their interest in resolving the budget shortfalls affecting both employers. One at the Capistrano Unified School District Board meeting, and one at the Anaheim City Council meeting. The employees were met with dramatically different responses from their governing officials.
From the Orange County Register, Scott Martindale reports:
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO â€“ Shouting “We are united!” as passing cars honked their horns in support, about 1,000 Capistrano Unified teachers and their supporters rallied outside the district’s headquarters tonight to protest the school board’s insistence on 10 percent pay cuts to balance the district’s budget.
About 700 teachers and other employees arrived in 12 yellow school buses, packing tightly into the northern end of Capistrano’s sprawling district office parking lot, wedged between rows of cars and cement planters. Union leaders pegged the crowd estimate as high as 1,500.
Tonight’s rally was the culmination of weeks of smaller rallies staged across Capistrano Unified to raise awareness of the district’s hard-line negotiating tactics. The district’s “reform”-minded school board has advocated across-the-board, 10 percent pay cuts for more than a year now to close the district’s gaping deficit.
Capistrano Unified faces an estimated $25.1 million shortfall in the 2010-11 school year, with tens of millions of dollars of additional cuts projected for future years.
The rest of Scott’s report can be found here.
What I find interesting is that the Capo School Board restricted access to their meeting to available seats and the Board actually left the room when the crowd cheered on one of the speakers. According to Martindale:
Most of the demonstrators were not let into the board room, although they continued to protest loudly outside. Audience members who were admitted to the board room were encouraged to get hand stamps if they exited to guarantee re-entry.
Uniformed sheriff’s deputies were on hand to help monitor the crowds, and no one was allowed to stand in the board room; everyone was required to have a seat.
When teachers union President Vicki Soderberg spoke around 7:45 p.m., the crowd both in and out of the board room erupted in loud and sustained cheers and applause.
At that point, four of the trustees stood up and left the dais, retreating to a back room for about 10 minutes.
“Trustees were to exit if there was undue response to each speaker,” Interim Superintendent Bobbi Mahler told the audience. “Now you are thus informed and we can move along.”
ThatÂ was a far cry from the respectful response that the Anaheim City Council gave more than 150 City workers when they showed up at Tuesday evening’s Council meeting to address potentialÂ layoffs ofÂ front-line city workers. After about half a dozen speakers including the President of the Anaheim Municipal Employee’s Association and the General Manager of Orange County Employee’s Association (AMEA is an Affiliate of OCEA) addressed the Council regarding budget solutions, all five members of the Council responded positively and pledged to work together with the city employees to come up with solutions. Unlike the Capo Board meeting, in Anaheim the standing room only crowd was allowed access to the Council Chambers.
OCEA General Manager Nick Berardino informed the Council of a recent poll of Anaheim voters which showed thatÂ voters; were happy with services provided by city workers, wanted those services to continue to be provided by city employees over outside contractors, and believe that layoffs should be the last action taken only after all other options are exhausted.
Public employees in our cities, school districts, and county agencies are dedicated to serving the needs of the public. They understand the difficult economic times that we are facing. These two meetings demonstrate the dramatic difference in response by our elected official to the current economic situation, and the needs of their constituents and employees. They can behave arrogantly and dispasionately like the Capistrano Unified School District Board, or they can behave thoughtfully and respectfully as the Anaheim City Council did.
It remains to be seen whether the Anaheim City Council actually instructs theirÂ staff to negotiate in good faith, butÂ their actions tonight seem to indicate the possibility that they will try. As far as the Capo School District is concerned, their idea of reform appears to be to close off comment, close off discussion, and simply tell their dedicated employees to like it or lump it.