Friday, April 28, 2017

Meet Ms. Dara Wandel A Lady That Thinks

 Dara Wandel from Parkway Central · 20h ago
Mr. Sanderson, I'm not  going to argue with your math. It's too early in the  morning and a cursory glance indicates it is generally  accurate. As far as it goes. And I won't argue that IF  the City's … View  more only focus were the dollars, paying for  overtime does cost less, in the short run, than hiring.  However, I believe you have missed the point.

 I said it was about the money for the FIREFIGHTERS and the  UNION...not for the City. While it is financially costly to  budget and sustain a high level of overtime per year, and  taxpayers have the right to be concerned, the overtime  number is an indicator of many more problems than just a  strain on a segment of the budget. Not the least being  evidence of inadequate staffing, combined with inefficient  scheduling, a potential negative impact on safety, and a  failure to maximize overall effectiveness within a shift. As  a taxpayer, 35,000 hours of overtime sustained over multiple (past) years, was alarming for reasons beyond the dollars  involved. Especially since those dollars only  "buy" you the status quo. And, at a time when  Arlington is at the threshold of even greater growth,  requiring a greater need for superior Fire and Police  services, the status quo is NOT acceptable.

 Further, it is the Mayor and Council that bear a fiduciary  responsibility to voters, as well as an administrative  obligation to put tax dollars to best use. Civil Service  would never share that burden. And a Civil Service  Commission would never look at the larger administrative  picture. It is designed NOT to.  Those who manage a business know what I mean. Within a  department of approx. 318 employees, 35,000 hours is  unsustainable for reasons far more critical than the budget.

 Productivity falls, performance suffers in subtle ways,  safety suffers, burnout increases, and good employees are  lost as morale goes into the dumper. And you risk being a  handful of employees away from not being able to staff or  function appropriately at all. You can only shuffle things  and people so much, shifts and programming, and the special  demands of events or drills or training, before you  encounter a wall called the "law of diminished  returns." This is not the sort of thing you want to  watch play out. Especially not in a crisis or emergency.

 If the firefighters, or their Union were asking for needed  equipment, more trained firefighters, special training  opportunities and the like, I would Vote Yes. Even if it did  mean a small tax increase. But, they are not asking for any  of these things. They are asking for Civil Service. Which is  what told me, almost immediately, this was politics and that  something was rotten regarding the Union. Or call it an  association if you sleep better.

 From an employee's standpoint, it's great to have a  generous amount of overtime available and the extra money  routinely in your paycheck. But, that extra income comes at  a price. To firefighters, to their families, and to the  Department. A price far higher than the dollars themselves.  Especially if this practice is sustained over a long period  of years. As it previously was within AFD.

Again, remember I am not speaking about simply saving  dollars. And when I wrote "it's all about the  money," I was speaking to the perception of  firefighters in non-management positions. And the direct and  constant, and false, Union message to their firefighter  members and now to voters that firefighters had received a  "pay cut." Union officers seized on the overtime  issue to sow discontent within the ranks, convincing members  that they were being slighted, mistreated, and not listened  to. When in fact, they have received several raises within  the time frame that overtime was being systematically  reduced. I'm not going to waste time, again, on the  provably false Union claims against the City regarding  spousal benefits or failing to support reservists or  scheduling creating safety concerns.

Raises were provided because firefighters had earned them  and certainly deserved them. During the same period, empty  slots were filled with newly hired firefighters and  scheduling was adjusted to get closer to ideal numbers. To  anticipate the next objection, yes, new hires were/are  frequently “green" and need to be assigned and  trained appropriately through their probationary employment  periods. But, the majority of this hiring was done approx. two years ago and most of those hired are now off, or soon  will come off of probation. Where would we be, today, had  these hiring steps NOT been taken two years ago? The hiring  would still have been necessary but the Department would be  two years further behind the power curve.  As for changing the employment status of "Chiefs" or any other senior Department member to effect needed  budget savings, I have to ask why you would be so quick to  go there? At minimum, I'm sure they would object,  rightly, to being referred to as little more than a cost  center. And your argument regarding moving an employee from  "exempt" to "non exempt", or vice versa,  to save money is specious. Pending and existing changes in  federal employment law may necessite certain changes.

 Regardless, exempt employees may not be worked beyond  mandated levels without fair compensation, including  overtime, just because they are salaried rather than hourly.  And, just like all firefighters, Chiefs have received well  deserved raises.

 So, yes, as you have so eloquently proven, this vote boils  down to money. But only according to the Union and their  members. You have spent a great deal of time on the math. But your failure to acknowledge real issues undermine your  argument. Especially since the Union is claiming,  simultaneously, that firefighters received a pay cut AND  that staffing and scheduling issues are compromising safety  of firefighters and citizens. It can't be both. Although  I do know the complaints about working with multiple green  new hires, and instituting quick response vehicles, etc.,  that the Union points to as deficiencies or  “dangerous.” Which I find to be politically  fabricated claims. So, I have to wonder WHICH of the two  opposing claims apply? Where is the concern for staffing  minimums per shift and the compromise of safety when talking  about overtime losses and the assumption of entitlement to  those extra dollars? Where does the concern about lost  overtime dollars fit when complaining about manpower  availability, bodies on fire trucks, shift minimums, and  safety issues?

 In addition to it boiling down to money in the minds of  firefighters, I have also said, repeatedly, it is ultimately  about risking an increase in Union clout. Civil Service  addresses only issues related to hiring, promoting,  disciplining, and/or suspending employees. Nothing else. It  certainly does not address Unions or directly empower them. But, it does, indirectly.  Part 143 uses basic criteria and provides a limited, archaic  selection model. It relies primarily on a test score with  additional points given for years of seniority. A health  exam and age requirements are thrown in for obvious reasons.

 Part 143 requires little else for hiring. And not much more  for promoting. Those minimums can be upgraded, but only at  the discretion of a majority opinion of a three member  Commission. At the same time, it strictly restricts  conditions for discipline or suspension and makes outright  firing in worst case scenarios virtually impossible. It  provides only for permanent suspension in the most grievous  situations which, as we have seen demonstrated in Fort  Worth, can be reversed years later by a single mediator, and  to devastating, punitive effect to the employer City. Even  when the wrong doing is admitted and criminal. In this  context, arguing over the meaning of the word  "permanent" as used in Part 143's  "permanent employment" statement, or when  interpreting "permanent suspension" becomes  demonstrably open to dangerous interpretation. Keep in mind  that, in today's world, there is a great deal of other  law, not in existence when the Civil Service model was  conceived in the late 1930s, that aggressively protects  employees from mistreatment or discrimination or harassment  or abuse unfair hiring practices and many other workplace  evils. Civil Service is the lesser of the choices available  for such protections. Worse, it is immune to many, more  current, State and Federal laws governing independent  workplace administrations and currently protecting non Civil  Service employees. This immunity is one key reason Unions  love Civil Service.
Regarding relying on the judgement of a three member  appointed Commission which, time has shown, in City after  City, and situation after situation, to be fallible and  unreliable, this is an area where Unions can and do exert  influence. This is not to say Commissions don't try to  do their best. But three appointees are no good substitute  for the combined expertise of Fire Chiefs, a City Manager, a  Mayor, and a full City Council, and existing law, when it  comes to administering a municipal department. However,  reducing hiring, promoting, discipline, and suspension  policy to their lowest common denominator, as represented by  Civil Service, and mandating the finality of judgement of  only two out of three people, becomes soil that fosters the  growth of Unions. Civil Service has long remained a Union  preference for obvious reasons. The standards are minimal  and simple but, ironically, can be open to interpretation in  application. Especially if you only have two out of three  people to convince or confuse...or influence. Or, as in some  instances, a single mediator. Confusion, prevarication,  misdirection, and sowing discontent are the cudgels that  Unions use to great effect. Both inside and outside of their  meeting hall. Keeping in mind also that today's Union  does not exist to solve problems. They exist to acquire  money and power.

 Then consider that Civil Service, in general, has been  around since the late 1930s, becoming a common employment  model in the early 1940s when few acceptable models even  existed. Part 143 became a Texas supplement adopted and  adapted in Texas sometime in the 1970s, specifically to  address Fire and Police Department employees. When you look  at those early years, those times, and the sizes and needs  and lack of modern sophistication of Texas cities and their  Fire or Police departments, it is not surprising that Civil  Service, and the later Part 143, were looked on favorably.

Let's face it, there was little other employment  "law" at the time and all manner of  "bad" practice existed. Civil Service provided a  basic and legal structure where no other existed. Few cities  saw the need to develop their own structure for hiring and  promoting and disciplining if Civil Service could do the  work for them and, at the same time, provide the legitimacy  of Law.  Today, however, the only remaining champions of Part 143  Civil Service for municipal police and fire departments are  the police and fire associations/unions. Why? Because other  State and Federal law has long since surpassed Civil Service  in protecting employees and applicants, as well as  instructing employers in practical and legal requirements.

 Arlington does not manage its own administration simply  because it is more reliable and definitive, or more  inclusive. Or because it gives them administrative control.  All are true. But, we must recall that until fairly recently  (relatively speaking) Arlington was a small, uncomplicated  town with only a volunteer fire department. Arlington's  swift growth, and its need for sophisticated and agile  police and fire services is far more recent than those of  historically larger cities such as Fort Worth. So, Arlington  leaders back in "the day," rejected the easy  choice of going Civil Service because of a desire to  build something far better, more demanding, and more  conducive to the challenges presented by the City’s  predicted rapid growth.

 True, other even "younger" cities have adopted  Civil Service. Like Plano, for example. Their choice. But,  Plano remains a much smaller city with fewer demands on City  Services than Arlington. And Arlington voters have wisely  rejected going Civil Service on two previous occasions.  Plano may one day regret their choice. It has been  published, independently by a regional news source, that  many Texas city governments now look enviously at Arlington  and Arlington’s success in building a strong Fire  Department while avoiding the yoke of Civil Service. They  wonder, out loud, how Arlington voters could even consider  taking such a backward step.

 So, I stand by my original statements and recommendations.  This is all about the money. For the Union and for  firefighters. Not the City. And, it's all about clout  and prestige and increased control. For the Union. Not the  City. Civil Service really offers nothing of value for the  individual firefighter. For the City, this is about  continuing to set high standards and provide excellent  services for citizens, to select and promote employees based  on multiple criteria, rather than a minimal few or as  approved by only two of three members of a Commission. For  the City it's about maximizing the effectiveness and  impact of every tax dollar committed to City services. For  No Voters, this is about properly supporting our  firefighters in ways that actually DO support them. Not in  ways that only support the political agenda and ambitions of  a Union. Edited 18h agoThank  Roel  thanked Dara



  1. This lady is more correct than you think. The only missing element is the back end scam in most civil service departments where civil service's "unlimited accumulation of sick leave clause" is exploited during the last years of a firefighter's career because under chapter 143 they can cash in only 1080 hours OF SICK TIME (I wish I had that, don't you?) This unlimited clause creates overtime in fire departments and is crushing city budgets in civil service cities. Firefighters and cops have figured out a way to maximize overtime and how to boost pension payouts. The unions want contol of pensions, budgets, and what they do. Law suits are common under civil service and cities are weaken in their ability to serve the citizens as their decisions must be cleared by unions. If this passes Arlington, get ready for law suits, more costs, and less service. You will give power to few disgruntled union players. I've seen it happen as a friend who is retiring from his civil service fire dept this year. He brags all the time how he is burning up (not going to work) his unsellabe "sick time" (he has 2800+ hours of sick leave) during his last year while increasign his senority time and other firefighters get to work overtime to cover his time off. No, he is not sick. Disgusting.

  2. Isn't interesting, Councilman Parker, that you only repost comments that agree with your views. Why don't you repost my comments?

  3. Because frankly they weren't very interesting. If you want to post your views start your own blog.


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