Tough ne­go­ti­a­tions ahead?

Lodi News-Sentinel - - OPINION - STEVE MANN Steve is a for­mer news­pa­per pub­lisher and lifelong Lo­dian whose col­umn ap­pears Tues­days in the NewsSen­tinel. Write to Steve at about­[email protected]

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.

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