Retirees: This is one of those situations where we gain no satisfaction from saying, “We told you so,” because the results are even more deleterious than we suspected. In looking at the photo of Prop B supporters, optimists all, I did not recognize anyone that had hands on city management experience with the exception of Jerry Sanders, and he was leading the parade.
They thought they were pretty good at readin’ writin’ and ‘rithmatic, but they had a blind spot for two more critical “R’s,” recruitment and retention.
They were of the fervent belief that negotiating with employees was a time consuming waste — had to get signatures, had to get this Proposition on the ballot, and “let the taxpayers weigh in.” In their haste they avoided the groups that would have added experience to the theory they were proposing. And at this late date it is also apparent that in avoiding the negotiations with employees, they not only missed out on gaining vital information but they also ran afoul of the law. So while that last critical error is causing sleepless nights for the current elected officials, the city is suffering in the areas of recruitment and retention.
The math used to justify Proposition B has always been questionable, and there has never been a current audit of “cost savings” projected to sell the idea. A lot of money has since been spent in piecemeal efforts to compensate for Prop B deficiencies, first among these was the loss of trained, experienced Police officers. Would anyone dare to add up the $100,000 it costs to train a police officer, multiplied by the number of officers who have left? Similar experience with Fire fighters. Safety services always receive the most publicity, as they say, safety first. But what about the rest of the city work force, engineers, planners, financial analysts, personnel managers, inspectors, plan checkers, code enforcement staff, clerical support staff and field crews? They too have been leaving, and they don’t have to go far to improve their prospects. Public employment is a competitive field, as the city has belatedly learned and this article quantifies. But this report is only quantitative; the important qualitative aspect is harder to measure. But it is apparent that the most qualified individuals have more options – they are likely to leave first. And in the competition for replacements (recruiting) the city is faced with the same disadvantage that caused staff to leave in the first place.
So the lesson to be learned is that negotiation is important, and recruitment and retention can only be ignored at peril.
Joe Flynn, Retiree
This article More San Diego Employees Are Quitting Since ‘Prop B’ Pension Reform by Andrew Bowen published in KPBS News on August 23, 2018 may be of interest to active and retired city employees.