Thursday, February 11 , 2016, 8:32 pm | Fair 57º




Questions Surface About Implications of Schneider’s Proposed Ballot Initiatives

Santa Barbara business owners and public safety officials begin looking into the details of the mayor's four-item plan

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @laraanncooper |

After Tuesday’s news conference by Mayor Helene Schneider, in which she outlined a package of initiatives she’s proposing for the November ballot, many Santa Barbara residents were left wondering exactly how the plan would affect them.

If enough signatures are gathered, four ballot items would go to the city’s voters this fall.

The first proposal would require a handful of nightclubs and bars downtown to pay a new business license fee. Schneider argued that those businesses consume an inordinate amount of police resources when they close in the early hours of the morning. Businesses that close at 11 p.m. or earlier wouldn’t be affected, leaving only a handful of businesses in the downtown core that would have to pay the new fee.

Randy Rowse, a city councilman and owner of Paradise Cafe, raised questions Wednesday about the business license fee. His establishment, which serves food until 11 p.m. and drinks until midnight, might be stuck in the middle of such an ordinance.

“The devil is going to be in the details,” he said. “I’m not going to feel fairly treated if my business license goes up because of what’s going on on State Street.”

Rowse said he has been worried about an ordinance like this coming through since the 1990s, when liquor licenses became cheap and a concentration of them popped up on Lower State Street. He believes the intent of the measure was to deal with the “velvet rope effect,” and the release of inebriated people into the streets as clubs and bars close early in the morning.

Schneider’s second proposal focuses on pension reform for city employees, and is also garnering questions. Depending on the bargaining unit, employees typically pay 8 or 9 percent of their total paycheck, and Schneider said she would like to see all employees pay that amount. Members of SEIU Local 620, which represents the largest portion of city workers, pay about 8 percent now.

Police and fire employees are currently required to put aside only 3 percent. If contributions were increased, Schneider said, the city could see as much as $2.5 million in savings every year. She said the initiative wouldn’t affect current contracts or threaten the collective bargaining process.

But public safety officials expressed concern about what the pension reform measure would mean for them.

“Our initial response is one of confusion,” said Tony Pighetti, president of the Santa Barbara City Firefighters Association.

He said he received multiple calls Wednesday from members with questions about how it would affect the collective bargaining process.

Pighetti had just watched the mayor’s press conference again, as well as her comments about the pension reform and making sure everyone pays their fair share.

“Collective bargaining has done that,” he told Noozhawk, adding that the Fire Department took salary cuts mid-contract when the city agreed to pay its PERS costs. “At the time, it made a lot of sense for both sides.” He’ll meet with Schneider on Friday, “and we’re willing to work with Helene to get where she needs to go,” adding that he’s not convinced of the need for reform.

City Manager Jim Armstrong issued a report earlier this year stating that while overall sales taxes haven’t fully recovered, the city is on track to set a record for bed tax.

“[The General Fund] is stable,” Pighetti said, adding that most city employees have already negotiated cuts. He said asking voters to approve a process that should take place through the bargaining process was a mistake.

“We’re living it, and to ask somebody to make a decision on our future contracts, that’s really not as educated about the process and doesn’t have anything at stake,” he said. “It’s dangerous.”

A third initiative, which would pass only if the pension reform proposal also is approved, calls for a half-cent sales tax. The tax rate would be raised to 8.25 percent and would garner up to $10 million annually. A fourth advisory measure that voters would have to approve would split that money evenly between the City of Santa Barbara and the Santa Barbara Unified School District.

Police Officers Association President Eric Beecher said the group is working on the implications the pension ballot measure would have on public safety.

“We are meeting with the mayor soon to talk about it,” he said Wednesday. “We are still trying to figure out what all this means. We just found out about it when everyone else did.”

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.




» on 02.09.12 @ 02:46 AM

How about reducing staff wages perks & pensions like the private sector has had to do? Government workers work for you, its your money—Yes you are their bosses, and if we say cut, and the government Democats in power say No—Its time to strike-Calfornia tea party-stop paying income taxes as a group until they listen—

This is a war long time coming!!!
Governemnt unions put their puppets in power, and we are just screwed-Farr, Schneider, House, White, Carbajal, Wolf, Capps, Taxin Jackson, Gov Brown.Boxer, Fienstein, Perez, Stienberg.

» on 02.09.12 @ 12:21 PM

Its right that our firefighters and police officers pay less of their paycheck, as they risk their lives for the public good. To say that a government worker pushing paper should have an equivalent pension contribution as a firefighter or police officer is silly.
And when you pull back and look at the big picture… does it make sense that those bureaucrats sell liquor licenses cheap, so lower state street bars attracting low-lifes increase, crime increases, our police have more risk, and then we tell our police officers they get a wage cut because we have to have more money in the coffers to pay for expanding government and top-heavy educational programs?

» on 02.09.12 @ 01:13 PM

The Army Navy Marines puts their lives at risk eveyday, the firefighter have 3 day work weeks and easy jobs. they get paid while they sleep??? They should have 8 hour shifts in this century-no more sleep overs, we have phones today boys.$$

The police officer picked that profession stop whining, and yes the inside staffing in Government is over staffed & paid. Too many on the dole.

» on 02.09.12 @ 04:07 PM

Another POV.

California Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) should pay their full share….....

This item should be part of government reform, not hidden in a proposed tax increases OR reliant on one item passing.  Traditionally Civil Service earned between 5% to !0% less then private enterprise workers, not any more.  The reasoning was and is unless there is catastrophic failure of society government pay and benefits are superior in safety to private sector jobs that rely on the health of the company not the taxpayer.  That savings would make up many budget issues.

The business license fee issue…...

Instead how about a fee for service?????  Create a fee for service after say 10 PM.  If a business that serves alcohol has a call for alcohol related police or fire then there is a “service call.”  This is no difference then AMR charging for response.  Charge the individual for the service — if on the public streets without determination of the establishment they were in.  Want to bet the number of DUI, D&D, etc. will drop really fast?)

Add a ½ cent sales tax???????

Businesses and workers need another increase in sales taxes like the proverbial hole in the head.  It discourages businesses from locating in SB.  The businesses have just been able to catch a break with a modest up turn locally.  They have not had a chance to recoup lost revenue, or upgrade long deferred maintenance and now the tax and spend group wants them to pay more.

Split money with the schools?????

Schneider has again created a straw dog, hiding increased government and expense in the form of “saving the school.”  Lowering the costs of government by keeping civil service salaries 10% under the private sector - as discussed above will immediately give the needed money for items like the Library.

The SB School District, under past Supervisor, was nothing more then a clone of very expensive leftist politics that did everything in his ability to tie the district to Mayor Blum and the ethnic preference.  With very, very few examples the City and the School system have traditionally been independent of each other.

» on 02.09.12 @ 09:03 PM

Randy Rowse again showing his priorities and concerns for his own personal financial gain over what is good for the whole city that he pretends to care about.

Being a city council member is only a quarter time job for him, and now this personal financial conflict of interest.

» on 02.10.12 @ 04:53 AM

The only way this would pass is if the 50% of the population in SB who don’t pay taxes and receive services (or are public employees) voted in greater numbers than the other half. Given the demographic changes we are witnessing in Ca., I guess anything is possible.

» on 02.10.12 @ 01:44 PM

John_Adams,

Be sure and not let your biases show, okay?  As both a councilman and a citizen he has every right to question proposed government policies and programs.  As a councilman it is his obligation to do so, and as a business owner it is his responsibility as an employer and as a member of an often overlooked constituency in our community.

Other comments,

It is very dangerous to make broad-based opinions about public employees.  Only a small percentage of the overall workforce make what would be considered “good money.”  These are usually at-will managers and executives.

The issue of safety personnel is another matter altogether.  When it comes to compensation, they clearly stand alone when compared to other public employees.  Who else enjoys a pension of 90% pay after 30 years?  The fact that they only pay a 3% contribution for the highest return on investment is part of the problem facing many municipalities today.

When a safety employee retires, they usually need to be replaced.  In effect, you pay one almost full pay to retire and hire another to work for full pay, creating an upside down pyramid.  Every cycle doubles your cost without sufficient revenue coming in.  No fee schedule will ever slow that proposition down.  That they enjoy a better retirement pay should be enough.  So it is reasonable and equitable that they contribute the same as other public employees.

» on 02.10.12 @ 02:50 PM

does Rowse have the smarts to see how obvious his hypocrisy is? SB taxpayers should pay for 4 more cops because his bar is in the high-crime drunk zone, but Rowse himself shouldn’t have to contribute to the expense - the alcohol he sells doesn’t contribute to alcohol-related expense.

» on 02.10.12 @ 04:03 PM

» 14noscams on 02.10.12 @ 10:50 AM—does Rowse have the smarts to see how obvious his hypocrisy is? SB taxpayers should pay for 4 more cops because his bar is in the high-crime drunk zone, but Rowse himself shouldn’t have to contribute to the expense - the alcohol he sells doesn’t contribute to alcohol-related expense. <<

I have a novel idea for you, how about the drunks pay for their own behavior?  Just as with fires, if fire service personnel are needed to respond, the fine goes to the person who started the fire.  Why should it be any different for drunks? 

Everyone has the right to go out and drink and enjoy themselves.  They don’t have the right to drink to the point that they are harrassing other people, destroying public and private property, or just being a general public nuisance.  Especially if it requires that a law enforcement officer to show up and resolve the issues.  It’s high time people started taking responsibility for their own actions.

I see no reasonable reason why restaurant owners should in any way responsible for the behavior of a patron who has left their premises.  Though I have to admit, there is no shortage of people who want others to be responsible for their own actions, thereby freeing them up to do whatever they please at no cost to them.

» on 02.10.12 @ 04:35 PM

Schneider shows her Democtaic tax and waste side, and remember she is bought and paid for by Government unions.

Did you ever notice that Democrats never say they found waste in government—Democrats never seem to realize we have too many on the dole—Greece) Democrats never say that civil servants are paid too much? also government workers getting 2-5 months off each year paid by the abused taxpayer is just wrong—they retire at age 50 with six figure salaries for the rest of their lives, with cost of living increases? & free health care that they never put a diome into?

Cut their salary time off & pension by 50%, they will still make more than the people paying them—YOU))))

» on 02.10.12 @ 05:32 PM

Overtaxed,

I’m not sure who you are referring to here, Greece or the U.S.? 

The average local public employee gets 12 paid holidays and two weeks vacation per year.  The only public employees I know of who can retire at age 50 are safety personnel—law and fire.  And some of them, depending on their position, can retire with a six-figure pension.  But for the most part, in the neignborhood of 90% of public employees, will ever anything close to six figure pensions, and don’t qualify for retirement until age 57.

Take an office manager who gets 2% at 57 under current rules.  Rough salary is around $60k per year.  If they work for 35 years and retire at 57, they would have a pension of roughly $42k pretax.  That isn’t going to win you any prizes in California.

Firefighters, at retirement age, don’t fare much better.  According to the County webpage, firefighters on shift max out at $51k a year, and on staff max out at $65k a year.  That means that with 30 years at 50, times 3%, they would get $46k and $64k respectively.  Fire captains fare a little better at $59k and $82k respectively.  Only Battalion Chiefs and higher, representing the top 5%, actually get six figure pensions.

And finally, I am not aware of any medical plan after retirement that employees get without having paid into the plan.  Not even the military gets free medical any longer.  They pay premiums like everybody else.

So you see, it’s a little reckless to make broad-based claims about any group of people, because generally speaking, you’re probably going to miss the mark. 

So with the examples above, if you cut their pensions in half, you couldn’t even pay rent in California.  Is that really fair after a lifetime of contributing 8-9% of your salary into a retirement fund?

» on 02.10.12 @ 06:09 PM

Teachers & management and including all the benifits-I know you dont think that counts for anything. oH ya what abot spikink your salaries the last year, and the Workers comp filing right before you retire—Yes Yes we all know your doing it, but the Democrats or puppets you put in power do nothing, because you paid for them—The hell with the private sector worker..

Government is now paid twice the average pay & benifits than the people who have real jobs in the private sector not living off the dole..The ones who pay you..

The gig is up, its just a matter of time before the state is completly bankrupt.(Too many on the dole!)!!!More takers than makers-Just like Greece!!

» on 02.10.12 @ 06:37 PM

Overtaxed,

I’m not going to argue about the size of the government, as I believe it is too big.  But that also means that people like you (the general public) need to stop asking the government to provide for you.  Also, it depends on what level of government you are referring to:  Federal, State, Municipal?  They all have their role.

Again, you dump everyone in the same pot and compare them all to each other, and that’s just not the case.  Just like in the private sector, most workers (90%) aren’t management and don’t enjoy the salaries and benefits of management.  Very few ever move up and can “spike” their pay as you suggest.

Public employees certainly don’t make twice as much in any study.  Additionally, a recent report suggests that what you decry as a foul ball, really isn’t:

http://www.slge.org/vertical/Sites/{A260E1DF-5AEE-459D-84C4-876EFE1E4032}/uploads/{03E820E8-F0F9-472F-98E2-F0AE1166D116}.PDF

But what someone is paid really isn’t the issue, is it?  It’s whether or not what you are paying for is necessary.  If you can figure out how to get the government to stop providing all of the services it provides without there being a general uproar from citizens, you let me know.

» on 02.10.12 @ 06:51 PM

Socaljay,

I think what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If most private sector employees have to contribute to defined contribution plans and rely upon social security, so should public employees. I don’t think you would deny the greatest problem facing most states and municipalities today are the looming unfunded pension liabilities. The numbers are downright scary. It is only a matter of time before these reforms will have to be made.

» on 02.10.12 @ 07:52 PM

» lou segal on 02.10.12 @ 02:51 PM—Socaljay, I think what is good for the goose is good for the gander. If most private sector employees have to contribute to defined contribution plans and rely upon social security, so should public employees. I don’t think you would deny the greatest problem facing most states and municipalities today are the looming unfunded pension liabilities. The numbers are downright scary. It is only a matter of time before these reforms will have to be made.<<

Lou,

I was never arguing for the efficacy of some current pension plans utilized by public agencies and municipalities.  I personally believe it foolhardy to believe that you can fund vast numbers of retired workers simultaneously with currently employees.  The numbers just don’t add up.  Even the military, who pensions at half-pay on base salary, is having a tough time of it.

But the question of compensation, and how to control it, ventures into collectivism and social justice.  Most compensation packages are designed to attract the right people for the right job.  That process exists for both the public and private sectors.  For quite some time, government agencies have been working hard to improve the quality of the services they provide by hiring the best qualified people they can.  That doesn’t come without a price attached to it.

Conversely, when compared to the private sector, talented people in government employment will never make the kinds of salaries or compensation packages that their private sector counterparts will.  Of course, in this scenario you are comparing apples to apples, requiring comparable levels of education, experience, etc.

In addition, some of the highest paid government employees, who have paid into Social Security their whole lives, are prohibited from double-dipping and have limitation placed on their pensions at age 65.  I don’t remember all of the details, but it’s similar to what their proposing for medicare as well.  Having said that, I agree that some kind of changes will have to be made, regardless.

» on 02.10.12 @ 10:15 PM

If the service is in the yelow pages sub contract it out to quality companies. This would eliminate 30% of government waste. Parks and rec would be a great start locally.

Goverment should be here to protect and serve nothing more. Firefighters are a great example of a service that volunteers use to do, bring it back or privitize it at 50% savings.

The number of people on the dole is Greece all over, start cutting before its to late.

Government workers are not the sharpest tools in the shed as we all know, thats why they need government for a job or welfare.  Lets get real, their gig is up.

future un-funded pension?? forget aboit it-BK coming-
Un funded bonds-BK again-The union puppets running government are failed business people would couldn’t make it in the real world- mostly Failures!! thats why the country is broke.

» on 02.11.12 @ 12:14 AM

>>Overtaxed Taxpayer on 02.10.12 @ 06:15 PM—The number of people on the dole is Greece all over, start cutting before its to late.<<

Once again, your tirade is misguided.  Public employees at the local level usually maintain a very low ratio.  For example, County employees number less than 1% of the population.  If you follow workload data, Santa Barbara public employees have one of the highest caseloads in the State.  When talking about first responders, on any given day, the ratio of first responder on duty to resident is approximately 1 per 1,000.  That number includes firemen, law enforcement officer, and emergency medical personnel.  Do you feel safer now?

>>Overtaxed Taxpayer on 02.10.12 @ 06:15 PM—Firefighters are a great example of a service that volunteers use to do, bring it back or privitize it at 50% savings.<<

You talk about protect and serve, yet you would severely handicap their ability to do just that.  In California, the reason why we have full-time fire service personnel is because of the RISK.  Not having highly trained personnel on shift can be devastating to a community due to wildfires.  And you would cut that? 

>>Overtaxed Taxpayer on 02.10.12 @ 06:15 PM—If the service is in the yelow pages sub contract it out to quality companies.<<

If the U.S. military is any example, swapping out soldiers for contractors is anything but efficient or economic.  Companies like Blackwater do what soldiers do, but cost much more.  Also, contracts are much more restrictive than civil servant.  It’s much harder to get a contractor to be assigned a wide scope of duties.  After all the outsourcing the federal government is doing, have we saved any money?

>>Overtaxed Taxpayer on 02.10.12 @ 06:15 PM—Government workers are not the sharpest tools in the shed as we all know, thats why they need government for a job or welfare.<<

That is an extremely bigoted statement.  As a general rule government employees have more education and experience than their private sector counterparts.  There are a few studies out there that prove this point.  Just look at the hiring standards and it tells the story.  Also, most government jobs are more restrictive on personal behavior.  Things like drug and alcohol use, personal finances, and just bad behavior in general can lead to dismissal.

That’s not to say that there aren’t bad apples in every barrel.  It’s just not fair to look at every civil servant as a deadbeat or a loser.  Just like it’s not fair to view all homeless as drug addicts or alcoholics.

Again, my comments to you are based on your broad-based argument that has no merit.  I too believe that the government should downsize.  But it will never happen as long as the voting public keep electing officials based on their ability to get them things they want.  Realize this ... it’s not the government’s fault.  It’s voters fault.  If you want the type of changes you’re suggesting, get them to vote in social and fiscal conservatives.

» on 02.11.12 @ 02:15 AM

Leave cops and firemen alone!  These men and women risk their lives everyday for all of us and SHOULD get better retirement and pay.

» on 02.11.12 @ 03:10 AM

Well socaljay was making some good points (don’t necessarily agree with all of them) and then A123 tells us to leave the pensions of public safety employees alone. Just in case A123 and others don’t know, Ca has almost $1 trillion of unfunded pension liabilities. In the not-to-distant future, unless significant changes are made to public employee pensions, including police and fire, these obligations will bankrupt this state and crowd out all the other essential services provided to our residents.

Whether some people like it or not, public employees will have to accept the same retirement and health care plans that the private sector has been forced to adopt (out of necessity) in the last 20 years. There is no alternative.

» on 02.11.12 @ 08:38 AM

Marines, Army they have jobs who put their lives on the line—Cops OK,  but firefighters thats a joke..There are more dangerous job out there in the US than putting out a fire-Funny)

» on 02.11.12 @ 08:45 AM

I will say it again cut government 50% and ask the other 50% to work harder and faster—problem solved. The reason you need so many civil servants—They are not the sharpest pencils in th box—As we all know!!—They always say they have a huge case laod NOTICE)—Right..Job seciurity handing out free welfare & food stamp money??

» on 02.11.12 @ 06:07 PM

>>Overtaxed Taxpayer on 02.11.12 @ 04:38 AM—Marines, Army they have jobs who put their lives on the line—Cops OK,  but firefighters thats a joke..There are more dangerous job out there in the US than putting out a fire-Funny)<<

Once again your logic befuddles the mind.  It’s almost childish in that it’s so easy to refute.  Just do a simple internet search and you can at least put yourself in the ballpark and not look foolish.

It’s true that you can’t put soldiers in the same category as fighting enemies is their job.  As for law enforcement and fire services, national reports indicate that average line-of-duty deaths for law enforcement is approximately 9 per year for Calif and firefighter line-of-duty deaths are approximately 6 per year.  Not much of a difference, really.

» on 02.11.12 @ 06:19 PM

>>Overtaxed Taxpayer on 02.11.12 @ 04:45 AM—I will say it again cut government 50% and ask the other 50% to work harder and faster—problem solved. The reason you need so many civil servants—They are not the sharpest pencils in th box—As we all know!!—They always say they have a huge case laod NOTICE)—Right..Job seciurity handing out free welfare & food stamp money??<<

Try reading the report I provided the link for, it has some good information regarding your argument:

http://www.slge.org/vertical/Sites/{A260E1DF-5AEE-459D-84C4-876EFE1E4032}/uploads/{03E820E8-F0F9-472F-98E2-F0AE1166D116}.PDF

You mix several different subject into your diatribe, any one of which could be an interesting discussion.  Can government be more efficient?  Like any organization, I’m sure it can.  But if you pay attention to ongoing debates, when the government tries to reduce services, or “OMG” remove services, the general public comes unglued and puts pressure on elected officials to make sure their particular program isn’t cut.

Another thing you continue failing in is separating the different levels of government, each requiring their own discussion.  It’s impossible to lump together federal workers with state workers, just like it’s impossible to lump together state workers with municipal workers.  Each level conducts itself according to laws, statutes, rules and regulations that dictate what services each level provides.  All on account of the politicians that the public votes into office.

» on 02.12.12 @ 12:46 PM

No one should bother trying to be rational with “Overtaxed Taxpayer” who has inhaled too much of his own pesticides over the years. 

But the hypocrisy is growing more and more evident all over about downtown bar owner (first) and quarter-time city council member (third) Randy Rowse complaining about a tiny tax on booze and his own profit instead of the overall good of the community.

» on 02.12.12 @ 02:35 PM

John_Adams is part the problem, he or his wife is either on Welfare food stamps section 8 or a civil servant. Almost 50% of Americans today are dependent on the other 50% to survive. This is Greece all over again, too many takers and not enough makers.

I do believe we need police and a few other valued government services, but not hundreds if not thousands bankrupting our country..

» on 02.12.12 @ 03:47 PM

>>John_Adams on 02.12.12 @ 08:46 AM—But the hypocrisy is growing more and more evident all over about downtown bar owner (first) and quarter-time city council member (third) Randy Rowse complaining about a tiny tax on booze and his own profit instead of the overall good of the community.<<

Why should a bar owner be penalized for a customer’s bad behavior?  Cite the patron instead, and maybe people will start figuring out that you can’t just act however you want, especially in public.

» on 02.12.12 @ 07:43 PM

Not sure I want to step in the middle of this one. But you all should consider that a person taking any job in this country does so voluntarily. That means if you want to be come a law enforcement officer or a firefighter you do so on your own volition. To do that and then through some collective bargaining organization demand higher wages and benefits because the job is dangerous is over the top, its coercion at best. If the job is too dangerous for the wage and benefit provided, you have the option of quitting and going into another profession. Believe me if they cannot find enough good people to fill the need the taxpayer will come up with the money. However if they have no money because the economy is bad then they will assess the risk.

What Schneider needs to do is stop trying to solve a revenue problem by squeezing the economy for more money. Grow the damned economy Mayor, that’s how you fix your revenue problem; otherwise take the hit just like the rest of us.

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