Friday, January 6, 2017

Civil Service and the AFF (Discipline)

The Union has had a problem with the way the Fire Chief, Don Crowson is doing his job and has tried to get him fired for the last three years.  Now they have escalated their unhappiness to Deputy City Manager Bowman and the City Manager.  Their unhappiness was with their W-2 pay.  The Council addressed that.  Now they are unhappy with the disciplinary system and the hiring and promotion practices, and they are willing to reduce their W-2’s in order to change this process.

The Fire Union is seeking to break away from the city’s protection umbrella and seek protection under the state program of Civil Service.  In the afternoon meeting of the January 3rd Council Session we had a very good brief by Ms. Lisa Zepeda one of our staff lawyers.   The subject matter addressed the differences between current Arlington disciplinary action versus Civil Service procedure.  The Civil Service process is contained within Part 143 of the Texas Local Government Code.  Ms. Zepeda stated that the purpose of this section is for the employee to, “HAVE A JOB FOR LIFE.”  Personally I don’t agree with this concept and I believe that it is detrimental to the overall quality of the Arlington Fire Department.  Our Firefighters do a great job and service our community remarkably.  I don’t believe that it would be productive nor foster a healthy environment, to allow a bad apple to rot in our department when he/she should have been dismissed.

Ms. Zepeda went back 13 years and compiled the records of discipline between the previous Chief and the current Chief.  It was found that the current Chief’s record of discipline is 23% less than his predecessor.  It was also brought out that the Chief does not administer the discipline.  But a panel of Assistant Chiefs decides the level of punishment.  The Chief can only either agree or reduce the punishment.  Here again this shows the dysfunction of the Fire Union.   Council is tired of these misrepresentations of facts.

First it was the squad concept that the Union couldn’t handle.  But this concept has been adopted by Fire Departments throughout the United States and is considered the most efficient way to administer protection to our citizens.  Next it was “The Book” accusing the Chief of fiscal misconduct.  Council requested an audit that exonerated the Chief and pointed out that the utilization of overtime by the fire department was excessive.  The Chief reduced overtime from 35,000 hrs. to 6,000 hrs.. Then the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) complaint was made to Council.  Again another audit was preformed and recommendations were made and accomplished by the Chief.  Then because of a complaint of low morale, an independent survey was accomplished.  The Chief again made corrections and the Union ignored the results.  The Council brought up the Fire Fighter’s W-2 to be superior to other departments in the Metroplex.  I might add that a entry level (F1) Fire Fighter, 5 years out of high school, will make $77,000 as a base pay.  Now the Union wants to break away from the City and seek protection under the State’s Civil Service Laws.

The issue of Civil Service will be on the ballot in May of this year.  Personally I am tired of this Union’s whining like mistreated children.  They have a great job in the Best Big City in the South, with a great wage.  Grow Up.   I ask for a NO Vote On Civil Service!!!    Stop the JOBS FOR LIFE movement.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Civil Service and the AFF II

Yesterday was a long and interesting day.  I started my day with a Municipal Policy Committee about the parking of vehicles in backyards.  I finally got out of Council about 9:15 that evening.  We talked about a lot of issues from funding the new Baseball Stadium, to funding the MAX bus system for FY 2017.  But I want to stay on the theme of Civil Service for the time being.  The AFF is the Firefighter Union and they want to be out from under the protective umbrella of the city and under the protection of the state of Texas.  The reason for this is because they don’t like Chief Crowson.  They don’t like the removal of overtime down from 35,000 hours to 6,000 hours.  They don’t like his policies, nor his discipline and here is a sample of their rhetoric:

“For too long, we have endured policy changes that adversely affect many of our members.  Members are disciplined at an alarming rate with punishments far exceeding the circumstances.  We witnessed restructuring of the Battalion Chiefs’ positions, and now a proposed reclassification of those same positions which will diminish their rights to representation and due process. .. .  We have appealed to our elected officials for change and they have only sympathized with us, claiming many of our issues should be handled by city management, not them.”

Well very little of this is true.  The policy changes, such as the squad concept are used by many FD’s throughout the United States.  The Paramedic Program was just given the highest award in the nation.  These policies work and save lives.  It is time the AFF gets with the modern age of firefighting.  If you don’t like the job then go somewhere that is not progressive and forward thinking.

In yesterday’s afternoon meeting, all the instances of discipline were broken down.  It was obvious to see that Chief Paulsgrove administered more discipline to the troops than Chief Crowson.  Concerning the Battalion Chief’s position, it was clear that a commensurate position at the Arlington Police Department is the Deputy Chief.  The Fire Department is simply aligning itself and making a new position called a Deputy Chief.  This position pays $5,000 more than a Battalion Chief, and you move from an hourly employee to a salaried position in management.  Chief Crowson is currently finding plenty of Captain applicants that are applying for this position.

Lastly let me address the AFF’s approach to Council.  This is inappropriate!  You have a chain of command, use it.  You have Meet and Confer, make it work.  Council heard your accusations in “The Book” and the Auditor found them to be false.  She also found your utilization of overtime to be abhorrent.  We have looked at the facts of the above accusations and found them to be false and/or childish.  We have conducted a survey by an independent source, and you have failed to respond.  And you say we have done nothing.  Now Civil Service!

What I think is hilarious about Civil Service is that the Union that is perpetrating all these problems, believes that if Civil Service prevails, firefighters will retain their current benefits.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  You want Civil Service?  You will get Civil Service and nothing more.  Good Luck.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Civil Service and the Fire Union

You may have noticed at the early polling places that the fire union, APFF was asking citizens to sign their petition.  They may have explained the reason in terms of better hiring practices, etc.  So let me go into some things that they didn’t tell you.

The only reason that the fire union has this petition is to get Civil Service on the ballot in May.  The only reason they want Civil Service is because the union and the Fire Chief don’t get along.  If different people were in these positions, Civil Service wouldn’t be on the ballot.  This issue has been on the ballot twice before and was soundly defeated in 1979 and in 1991.  In both instances the margin was 65% against and 35% for. 

Civil Service allows promotions to be accomplished by testing only.  Highest score gets promoted.  There is no interview process, and personal skills are disregarded altogether.  A disciplinary problem is handled by a board of civilians, not fireman.  The board will be appointed, and a Civil Service Director will be hired, with taxpayer dollars, to run the process.   Currently we use a neutral arbitration process.  Since 2007 there have been 59 arbitrations, 47 police, 8 fire, and 4 civilian.  The current Chief has only been involved in 3 such arbitrations. The process works very well because only 4 decisions have been overturned in the last 9 years.  One was in the fire department.

During the last two years housing values have risen.  This increase has allowed the city to give much needed raises to our staff.  In this instance the firemen have received the biggest slice of the pie and their respective pay checks have risen above those of commensurate positions in other cities.  This apparently is not enough.  They want the Chief replaced.  So the Council has given the firefighters a good job, in a good city, with a very nice wage, allowing them a very nice standard of living, while only requiring a high school degree.  The Council has been sympathetic to the union in the past.  We responded to the publishing of “The Book” by accomplishing an audit.  The Chief was exonerated.  Then a survey was ordered by Council.  The Chief responded to the results, but the union did not.  Now it is Civil Service that the union wants.  This is a slap in the face to the Council.  If Civil Service is established  the following will happen:

  1.  All firefighters in the same civil service classification will be entitled to the same base pay.  Any additional pay will be at the behest of the City Council.
  2. Longevity or Seniority pay will be removed.
  3. No 401K.
  4. Assignment pay will be removed.
  5. Educational and fitness pay will be removed.
  6. Shift differential pay will be removed.
  7. Swing pay will be removed.
  8. 15 days of sick leave will be allowed each year.  A 90 day maximum lump, can be paid upon retirement.  (Previously 180 days)
  9. 15 days of vacation each year is allotted.  No carry over is allowed from year to year.
  10. No allocation of pay for union business.

All of the above have been granted in the past by Council.  I for one will not be voting to reinstate any of them.  If the union wants civil service then that is what they will get, not a hybrid of the current philosophy and civil service.  If the union has a problem with their Chief it should be resolved in house and not put on display to the citizens.  If they can’t live with the result of having the current Chief in his position, then there are other fire departments all over the Metroplex that you can transfer to.  For a union to be so concerned about W-2, it would seem that with this move power is the real motivator, and if it costs dollars to its members so be it.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Facts on Arlington’s Ballpark Vote

When considering a vote for a new Rangers ballpark in Arlington, it would be refreshing to stand on level ground and consider some facts, instead of beliefs that are unsubstantiated.

  1. Dallas Mayor Rawlings has had substantive talks with the Rangers concerning a move to Dallas.
  2. Dallas has most of the regional TV stations, Sports Talk Radio Stations, and the Dallas Morning News to use as media platforms in support of moving the team to Dallas.
  3. Two such entities, WFAA and the Dallas Morning News, currently are on sites for a proposed new ballpark in Dallas. They are conflicted and biased in their reporting.  i.e.  Brett Shipp
  4. Dallas currently has $200-$300 mil for the renovation of their Convention Center that could be diverted to a new ballpark without a vote of Dallas citizens.
  5. John Crawford, the CEO of Downtown Dallas Inc., is affiliated with The Hunt Corporation.  Ray Hunt has reliefs of a new ballpark in his office and is the driving financial force in moving the Rangers to Dallas.  Mr. Crawford is Hunt’s financial emissary capable of motivating Dallas interests and rallying additional funds to support this effort.

The movement to Dallas and the bias in the media are substantiated.  So let’s tell some truths about the Arlington deal.

  1. The ½ cent sales tax, along with the parking and ticket tax, are currently being used to fund AT&T Stadium.  The voters will be deciding if they want to extend the current taxes to purchase a new domed ballpark that is capped by the City at $500 mil.
  2. A survey was accomplished by H. R. & A. from Dallas, concerning the economic impact that the Rangers have on the City of Arlington.  The report stated that the City benefits $77.5 mil. annually by having the Rangers in Arlington.
  3. Another survey, from Longwood Travel, Inc. in L.A., stated that the City had 14 mil. visitors in 2015, spending approximately $1.4 billion in the City of Arlington.  Moving the Rangers would be a very significant financial loss to our City.
  4. The third independent study was performed by VISA credit cards.  It confirmed that only 48% of Arlington’s sales taxes are paid by citizens within Arlington zip codes.  
  5. Arlington’s sales tax (.80) and property tax (.64) rates are the lowest tax rates of any city in the Metroplex, due in part by our partners in the entertainment district.
  6. The last survey was done by Money Magazine, out of NY, selecting Arlington, Texas as the “Best Big City” in the South to Live.
  7. Last, if you divide $500 mil. by 30 yrs. the result is $16 mil. per year. Consider that citizens only pay 48% (of local sales taxes) and you are down to $8 mil.  Remove the $2 mil. paid in rent by the Rangers each yr.  Subtract the $2.2 mil. in hotel tax and .8 mil. in rental car taxes, and Arlington residents are only paying $3 mil. per year, but are receiving $77.5 mil. in return.  This is a remarkable return on investment.

These are the facts of this issue that should be considered.  Sure, you can say that I didn’t factor interest. The reason is that I can’t tell you when the ballpark will be paid off, so let’s not muddy those waters.  These are the facts and many were brought to us by outside, unbiased organizations. Number 7 is my set of calculations. It is an easy equation to consider. But this is even easier. Vote Yes they stay, Vote No they go. So Vote Yes and Keep the Rangers in Arlington. 

Charlie Parker
Arlington City Councilman
District 1

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Professional Fire Fighters Speak Out but not the AFF

This last week I had the privilege of going to a fire station, where I encountered actual Professional Fire Fighters.   One was a union member, another was not, and a third was resigning from the union.  I went there because I wanted to educate myself on the matters that concern the claims of the union.  Although Victoria Meyer also attended with me, I can only state my observations:

  1.  Although 90% of the fire fighters pay dues to the union, very few are supportive of the leadership,  nor the direction of their union representation.  Of the six none wanted the Chief fired.  Some even think that the Chief is doing a good job, with some reservations.
  2. Although the union demands transparency from management, the rank and file was blindsided by the publishing of the “Book.” 
  3. Foremost in their minds, they believe that union leadership has a “personal vendetta” against the Chief.
  4. Lastly, they were surprised that a letter was filed with the city to start the civil service process.  Again a travesty of transparency.

I told them that as a response to the ”Book” the city took  union accusations seriously and had an audit accomplished.  Union response, “she did what Trey and the Chief told her to do.”  This is unfounded and not true.  Essentially, the chief took care of the personnel conflict, and hired fire fighters to correct the manning and overtime problems.  The other accusations contained in the “Book” were simply not true.  Secondly, the city took union claims of low morale seriously and appointed the Coleman Group to accomplish a survey.  When complete the survey had issues on both sides of the fence.  The Chief addressed each area of concern in a four page reply.  The union did not reply at all.  And lastly Councilwoman Meyer requested that a mediator be utilized, as an unbiased observer, to try and solve the union/Chief issue.  Union leadership reluctantly said that they would try.  The day before the meeting to discuss the mediator, the union files a letter to start the civil service process. 

Last Tuesday a fire fighter got up in front of Council who I respect as a person and as a professional fire fighter.  He stated that “he wanted the issue resolved.”  He also stated, “we spent $28,000 for the Coleman survey, so let’s do what Mr. Coleman told us to do.”  Although he was wearing a yellow shirt he spoke to the issue that everyone wants except the union leadership.  I don’t think that Mr. Coleman said to fire the Chief.  What he said in the survey was that until both sides want to discuss the issues, there will never be a solution.  So now the civil service process starts because this is what union leadership wants.  The line is in the sand and your union leadership has taken you across it.  As Professional Fire Fighters, are you going to follow the AFF or will you stop this train wreck that they are taking you to?  If you think civil service is the answer to your problems we will talk about that next time.   

PS:  Don't know if you all got this email so I wanted everyone to get it:

We have been made aware that Councilman Charlie Parker is currently visiting with our members at fire stations. Parker continues to be critical of us and the APFF.  He has called us "greedy" fire fighters and has discontinued using Professional when referring to the APFF because he does not believe we are.  We are asking you to record any conversations you have with Parker if he visits your station.


Friday, August 26, 2016

AFF vs. Chief Crowson

I have deleted the “P” from the APFF because I don’t believe that there is anything Professional about the Fire Fighter’s union.  I believe in our Fire Fighters and think they do an exemplary job in the service to our citizens, but I have no respect for their union officers.  Please let me explain.

Since I have been in office the AFF has been trying (unsuccessfully) to get the Chief fired.  Last year they stepped up the effort and published a book telling of the Chief’s inadequacies.  I read the book and took it for action and pointed out that the fire department was undermanned and that the overtime number was the second highest in the Metroplex, even higher than Dallas.  Half of the yearly shifts were undermanned requiring overtime.  This is a rip off, and they have been getting millions in overtime each year by not manning the department as they should.  The Chief subsequently hired 26 new fire fighters and the AFF hit the roof.  Now I know about unions since I started one at American Airlines.  We started with 17 members and now they are over 400 in membership.  Usually more members are what a union wants but not the AFF.  The Chief has saved $1.6 mil in overtime for FY16 and the AFF doesn’t like it.

So the Council took the book for action and had the City Auditor make an independent assessment of the workings of the Fire Department and I was right.  The Chief was given a clean bill of health for running his department in a stellar fashion.  But Ms. Brooks found that overtime was off the page.  The audit stated the following:

                                FY13                       FY14                       FY15         Overtime           FY13           FY14        FY15

F1                           $92,430                 $90,870                $75,173                                 $22,998   $17,445   $15,423
Fire Fighter

F2                           $95,789                 $92,490                 $83,413                                 $21,447   $15,673  $15,423

F3                           $109,414              $104,426              $91,549                                  $30,200  $17,949   $12,553

F4                           $123,818              $117,083              $91,549                                  $30,212   $15,469   $25019

F5                           $$131,119            $148,142              $119,893                              $26,985   $35,511   $23,489
Battalion Chief

So the Book backfired on the AFF and its leadership. 

Last year we gave all staff members across the board a 4% raise because we had a little extra money. 
That wasn’t enough for the AFF.  It got greedy and had to have 5.5%.  So in order to get the extra money to give to the AFF, we were forced to remove spouses from the City’s insurance plan if the spouses had another means of procuring insurance.  All 2,500 city employees were affected in some way by the greed of this union.

The relations got so bad between the AFF and the Chief that the city requested another report.  Arlington Fire Department and Feedback Report accomplished by Coleman and Associates.  What stood out to me in this 47 page report is the following comment:  “The Chief is taking all of our overtime.”  The report stated that:  “Conversations regarding overtime are directed more to concerns about a “promised” income as opposed to absolute provision of full staffing for service operations.”  In other words the overtime isn’t yours.

 So in last week’s Council meeting a number of AFF members approached the podium during citizen’s comment and stated that moral is at an all-time low due totally to the actions of Chief Crowson and the way he has been running the department.  Baloney!  Their claim is that people are leaving due to the Chief’s way of running the department.  Although we do have retirements, it is due to the W2’s not  increasing because of reduced overtime.  The retirement amount is based on W2’s. Therefore, the expectation of increased retirement amounts will not materialize, due to the realization that W2’s will not increase due to overtime reductions.  Approximately  2 fire fighters  a year are leaving  for other reasons.  This is well below the national average.  So overtime is the real reason for low morale, not the Chief’s policies.  This is proven by a new open records request dated the day after the meeting by Scott Hofstrom Vice President of the AFF.   He requests open records for 1.  AFD FY16 Overtime Budget.  2. Expenditures for FY16 Overtime Budget to date.  3.Purpose for Expenses for AFD FY16 Overtime Budget to date.  4.  Anticipated Overtime expenditures from AFD FY16 for the remaining budget year.  5.  Is anything other than Overtime being paid out of the AFD FY16 Overtime Budget as of August 24th 2016.  So the actions of the AFF prove that overtime is the issue not low morale.

The Coleman report did have some claims about other subjects that the Chief is addressing and he gave a 4 page response concerning those issues.  The response from the AFF about the audit is that the Auditor put down what the Chief and the City Manager told her to address.  I have talked to Ms. Brooks concerning this allegation and it is totally false.  The AFF has been totally silent about the issues in the Coleman survey that address their actions.

In Conclusion:  1. I have a total respect for our Arlington Fire Fighters, and I do not associate the exemplary work they do for the citizens of Arlington, with the actions of the AFF.  2.  Our Fire Department is held in high esteem throughout the nation.  The policies implemented by Chief Crowson are cutting edge and other departments come to the Arlington Fire Department because they wish to emulate them, to see how they work so that they can implement them in their own respective departments.  3.  AFF leadership is having a hard time assimilating acceptance of these same policies.  They are not the Fire Chief.  They are fire fighters that come to work and do a good job for a good wage.  So do your job.  4.  Attempting to fire the Fire Chief is not the job of a union.  Jobs and job protection is, and the Chief wants to hire more fire fighters, to bring the overtime solution into equilibrium.  The union doesn’t want this, ergo low morale.  5.  Council is very tired of this friction, and is frustrated by the actions of the AFF.  6.  AFF actions have become a personal vendetta against the Chief.  7.  Fire Department pay for all ranks has been raised to 102% of the Metroplex average, so standard pay categories are commensurate with other fire fighters in the area.  8.  Lastly. There must be made clear throughout the department that overtime pay cannot be counted on as a guaranteed extension to an employee’s base pay and compensation.     

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Economics and the New Stadium

Today at the Arlington Convention and Visitor’s Board meeting we had a report on a study accomplished by a firm in California.  They provide this type of service for most cities across the U.S.  What I gleaned from the report was that Arlington has 13.9 visitors a year, and they spend $140 mil in our city each year, not to include hotel, and rental car.  We are looking at about $100 a night/person to our local economy.   This is significant in that VISA tells us that 52% of our sales tax is paid for by visitors or people that live in zip codes outside the city.  So when you look at the price of a new stadium the numbers prove that the citizens of Arlington will pay less than half of the price.  But remember that rental car tax and hotel tax is also being thrown into the subsidy.  These are likely visitors also.

Let’s break down the numbers for the stadium.  I will do this without figuring in interest, because if the stadium is paid off early, like all the others, that could reduce the obligation by hundreds of millions of dollars.  So let’s keep it simple.

The stadium cost to the city is capped at $500 mil.  If you divide this by 30 yrs. you will get $16 mil a year as an obligation.  Remember that 52% is paid for by visitors or people that simply don’t live in Arlington.  So now we are down to $8 mil to the taxpayers.  The Rangers will pay $2 mil a yr. for rent or the right to play in your stadium.  So now we are down to $6 mil a yr.  So let’s include the Rental Car and Hotel tax also paid by our visitors at $2.5 mil.  That brings us down to the actual cost of $3.5 mil a yr. to the citizens of Arlington.  So for $3.5 mil a yr. the city of Arlington gets major league baseball and an economic impact of $77.5 mil to the economic engine of this city.  Don’t get me wrong, $3.5 mil is not chump change, but the return on investment is much greater.  These numbers clearly indicate the fact that Arlington is a major entertainment venue and we are adding to it with Texas Live and additional hotels in the area.  I hope that you can understand the magnitude of this decision and the impact that it has on the economics of our city and its ability to provide services to our citizens.

I will be voting YES to keep the Rangers in Arlington.  I hope you can see the reasoning in my decision.