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