What happened last night

The proposal to adjust police Chief Blair Ulring’s pay — cutting some things, raising others — was defeated by a single vote.

City Manager Bob Deis had recommended the changes because they would allow the city to hold on to Ulring, who would retire otherwise, and save the city another round of headhunting, or the likely far higher salary the city would have to pay a new hire.

It made sense — $205,000 < $250,000, after all — but it was rejected on principle.

That rejection, though slim, was emphatic, and it was the first major breach with Deis since April, when councilmembers Dale Fritchen, Elbert Holman and Diana Lowery objected to his delaying approval of water and sewer services to a site in French Camp that was being considered for a new veterans medical facility. (There was a competing site in the city.)

In the end, the city granted the services, French Camp won the facility, and Deis requested a closed door performance review to talk about “how the council works among themselves and what that means for me.”

Deis had, until Tuesday, very little to no resistance from the council. He’s had 7-0 votes on momentous moves, and virtually no challenge from the council. There are times the council has even seemed timid about asking questions from the dais. And Deis has made it clear he prefers it that way. At a meeting with the Record’s editorial board on Monday he said he planned to remain in Stockton as long as he had a 7-0 council.

Any executive in his position would prefer smooth, reliable support. The vote on Ulring’s compensation doesn’t really signal that’s threatened. The vote to impose employment conditions on Stockton Professional Firefighters Local 456 passed without so much as a throat-clearing, and that was much more significant, for what it means to firefighters, the city’s bottom line and for what it signals to other labor groups.

And about that throat-clearing: There was a lot of outspoken opposition to protecting Ulring’s pension, but no one spoke against the imposition on firefighters. My (somewhat) educated guess was the firefighters union would rather keep blood cool while it tries to negotiate a settlement to arbitration, extant lawsuits and a new contract.

And on Wednesday the firefighters union came out with a direct overture, in the form of an open letter to the mayor and council. Capt. Dave Macedo, the union’s president, opens by saying the union still wants to reach an agreement that covers all the matters still in contention, including the arbitrator’s ruling.

We understand that there is considerable concern over the City’s liability of more than $4 million in back-­‐pay owed firefighters as a result of the arbitrator’s award. To be clear, at no time during negotiations did we make a demand for the full back-­pay owed firefighters, nor did we make such a request following Mr. Cohn’s decision.

The union sought very little to account for the arbitrator’s ruling, Macedo said: the elimination of vacation accrual maximums, expansion of eligibility for a smaller cut to longevity pay, a written policy on vacation use within 30 days, an agreement on the effective date of changes and an agreement to drop all lawsuits on both sides.

Deis, himself, said Tuesday night that even though the city had imposed terms, he’d prefer firefighters work under terms they’d accepted than terms forced on them. The letter may not go over well, though. Deis has made clear he doesn’t like negotiations going public.

Finally, an apology: I had planned to live-blog the meeting, but my connection was intermittent. I’ll try to get that figured out before the next meeting, but by that time you may have a permanent voice here.

Also, this is a conversation. If you disagree with anything, say so below. If you’re shy, call or email. I can’t do this by myself!

This entry was posted in Blair Ulring, Budget crisis, City Council, City Manager Bob Deis, Fire Department, Labor, Police Department, Stockton Police Officers Association, Stockton Professional Firefighters Local 456. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment

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