Tough negotiations ahead?
All of the city’s labor contracts have expired or will expire by the end of this year. The city could be hard-pressed to deny bargaining units a substantial raise this year. Some city positions reportedly pay up to 18 percent below their peers in other agencies, perhaps more. No one is saying what the city is currently offering or what the unions are demanding, contract talks are expected to be spirited. Indeed, a tide of departures may hang in the balance, especially with the police department, according to internal sources who decline to be identified. Every police department statewide is fighting to maintain their staffing levels, which makes recruiting qualified talent very competitive. We’re told that a number of LPD folks have applied elsewhere and could be leaving soon. City Manager Steve Schwabauer reminds us that the city “cannot and should not negotiate contracts with employees in public,” thus he has little to say about it. He offers, “We are aware that a number of surrounding agencies have negotiated significant salary adjustments in the last 12 months counting on little more than fund balance to fund the agreements. That does present a serious challenge in the current economy, especially with police recruitments which are incredibly tight. On the other hand, the City has to keep its long term fiscal health in mind and its ability to continue to provide services to the community.” The elephant in the room are the ballooning retirement premiums, for which the city has built up a $10 million war chest.
GOOD EATS: The now-shuttered Woodbridge Inn is set to reopen after the first of the year, according to new owners Jim and Annette Murdaca (who also own and operate Pietro’s on Kettleman Lane). The restaurant closed late last year. The Murdacas say they will be doing extensive remodeling of the place and when done, it will be reborn as an Italian steakhouse. It should be a first-class joint, as is the case with everything the Murdacas do. … The Keto Diet seems to be all the rage these days. It’s similar to the famous Atkins Diet, which mainly includes lots of protein and few carbs. But some of the keto snacks could make you lose your appetite altogether. A few examples: chicken skin chips (made from real chicken skin!), zucchini cheese, bacon and egg “fat bombs,” pork rind tortillas, and ground beef jerky. Yum!
CABLE GUY: Lowell Flemmer came home recently to find the Comcast TV guy pulling wires and working on the side of his house. Shocked, Lowell asked the guy what the heck he was doing and was told he was installing cable TV in his home. Problem is, Lowell didn’t order cable service. He caught the cable guy just in time, before he started to drill holes and mount face plates inside. Case of mistaken identity, apparently. But the funniest story Lowell tells happened not too long ago when he and his wife went see their grandson play a ballgame at Mather Field in Sacramento, an all-day event. They parked their car in the parking lot and off they went. When they returned at the end of the day, Lowell was shocked to find his car engine running. Guess he forgot to turn it off before they left, so it just sat there idling. All day. Now that’s funny. What’s even more amazing is that the car was still there at all. Talk about leaving your keys in the ignition!
GOING GREEN: Dan Phelps and his 5-year old granddaughter were talking about St. Patrick’s Day recently and why people wear something green on that day. When he
asked her what would happen at school if she didn’t wear green, she replied, “You get executed!” Executed?! Dan was relieved to learn that she actually meant “expelled,” which is still pretty harsh punishment.
WINE ENTHUSIAST: Mayor Mark Chandler is well known for his work in the local wine industry. He is former executive director of Lodi Winegrape Commission and is considered among the top 100 most influential people in the industry. So in between meetings and trips to Japan, he and his wife Jan (Burlington), who owns San Joaquin Sulphur Company, have established their own wine label, Burlington Chandler Wine. They started the boutique winery about a year ago and have bottled their first vintage of two different wines, one of which is sold at Estate Crush and the other at the Lodi Wine and Visitors Center. There are currently over 80 family-owned wineries in the Lodi Appellation. Make that 81.
PAINFUL TRUTH: As retired undersheriff John Drummond surveys all his aches and pains, he laments, “It was easier growing up in the ‘60s than it is to be in my 60s.”
BY THE NUMBERS: The city’s unfunded pension liability status got worse between 2016 and 2017. The non-public safety group went from 73.5 percent funded in 2016 to 70 percent in 2017, according to the latest numbers available. The public safety group (police and fire) was even worse, dropping from 63.4 percent to 59.8 percent. The city’s total unfunded liability went from roughly $130 million in 2016 to $132 million. The reason for the increase is that PERS changed their discount rate (presumed rate of return) from 7.5 percent to 7 percent. “So as they assume lower returns, the unfunded liability goes up,” city officials say.
TOWLESS: Uh boy. Here’s the latest brainstorm from Sacramento: The state is proposing to bar cities from towing vehicles that have five or more tickets, or towing a vehicle whose registration is six months overdue. That’s great news for RVers who want to park overnight in front of your house or elsewhere on city streets. A pile of parking tickets? No problem. The city would have to pass an ordinance to overrule this new rule, which the state senate is due to consider soon.
CHALKTALK: Depending on what the courts ultimately decide, the city’s parking patrol may, or may not, be required to stop using those chalk markers on tires as a way to calculate parking times. But in the meantime, Wayne Craig rants on his Facebook page about a parking citation he received in town for parking 91 minutes in a 90minute slot, for which his fine is $45. He argues, “Is it me or is one minute over a bit of government overreach?” Not to worry. Sacramento feels your pain. See above.