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.