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Rohnert Park city manager fires back at unions

By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rohnert Park labor talks turned markedly rougher this week as the city manager pushed back against unions that rejected contract offers and whose leaders said top level employees weren’t being asked to equally share financial sacrifices.

Jim McIntyre, the senior mechanic in the Rohnert Park Public Works Department, could retire at 55 with up to 94.5 percent of his salary. "I honestly believe everyone should have a pension, every working American, and if it's funded properly it shouldn't be a burden on anyone," he said. BETH SCHLANKER/PD

“I strongly disagree,” City Manager Gabe Gonzalez said in an email to all city employees.

Union leaders had said rank and file workers were being asked to should an unfair burden as the city tries to establish a solid fiscal footing.

It was a striking step by Gonzalez, who has criticized the unions’ willingness to speak publicly about the negotiations.

Gonzalez did not return calls or an email seeking comment Thursday. But his action, and union accounts of the negotiations, suggest the talks are nearing a final stage when neither side can agree on a contract. That could lead to an unprecedented labor battle in Rohnert Park.

“This thing’s just going sideways,” said Jim McIntyre, who heads the Service Employees International Union local that represents 30 public works employees.

The email sent Tuesday outlined cuts 15 management and confidential employees, including himself, are absorbing. Management employees’ salary and benefits are being cut by 13.6 percent and confidential employees, including human resources staff, by just over 14 percent, Gonazalez said.

“I want to make clear that these reductions are all cash value to the city, no fluff,” and add up to $266,679 in savings, he said.

But union leaders questioned the figures and said his email had thrown up another obstacle in negotiations.

“I don’t know how he got or came to those numbers,” said Angie Smith, president of the 24-member Rohnert Park Employees Association, which represents office workers.

“Now the groups are so inflamed, it just got tougher,” said McIntyre, a city mechanic.

Council members, who have supported Gonzalez, had little to say Thursday about the labor talks, which have become unusually public.

“He is very desperately trying to fix our structural deficit, that’s been one of his driving points, that we have to get this city on the right path,” Mayor Gina Belforte said. “Are people having a hard time, I don’t know.”

Both Smith and McIntyre said the city is pushing the unions toward the impasse stage, with final meetings set for Tuesday.

“We’re trying to get back to the table, they’re kind of rushing us to impasse,” McIntyre said.

At that point, there are limited options for both sides. The city could maintain the status quo, force the acceptance of its final offer, lock out employees, or negotiate an interim contract.

“We’ve never been down this road before,” said Smith.

Last week, the city and its public safety officers’ union agreed on a contract containing $2.3 million in concessions.





11 Responses to “Rohnert Park city manager fires back at unions”

  1. Rumor control says:

    And they get a Trillion Dollars a month. What other stupid rumors can you repeat here? There is a fleet of 5,000 cars the city owns to pass out to anyone…. Pas it on… Gullible.

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  2. RealWorld says:

    The reality of it is the only people in this town making a “living wage ” are those who work for the city. Someone should look deeper into exactly how our tax dollars are being spent. It’s rumored that city employees get such perks as new Ray Band sunglasses every year, payment of personal cell phones, city vehicles driven to and from work, ect… Yet the city no longer gives it’s residents who qualify reduced rates for such things as water and sewage. I wonder how many city employees have lost their homes to foreclosure, or go without healthcare coverage .

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  3. GforGreed says:

    Yeah, the taxpayers put the folks who’ve driven this city straight into the ground into office. Go taxpayers!

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  4. Observer says:

    “WE the taxpayers are the employers of public employees and it is our right to decide what we can afford to pay them.”

    Sorry, you have no such right. You can elect official who appoint negotiators. Thats about it. Good luck with the rest.

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  5. Graeme Wellington says:

    If every one of you opened a 401(k) at age 18 and consistently put 15% of your income in there, by the time you were 59 1/2 years old you’d have a 90% pension too. The hard part is being 18 and thinking about being 59 1/2 someday. However, saying most people don’t get a perk like this is true only in the sense that most people aren’t smart or disciplined enough to plan for the future. It’s totally possible and within reach of everyone — assuming you get a good mix in your portfolio. But even if you go the safest most conservative route you’ll have that income for the rest of your life. You can buy an annuity or just draw down enough to avoid the tax man but there are lots of options — if you are smart.

    The average complainer on this board just resents and hates that there are smarter people out there who planed better and wants to take away yours rather than admit they failed to plan ahead.

    All you 18 – 25 year old people — you need to listen to Rob Black on the radio and get yourself squared away now. In the future, there will be a lot of dumb people who will want to take yours away. It’s no different than the terrorists wanting everyone to be at their level of poverty. Don’t give in. Just go to Morningstar or one of a million financial calculation sites and figure out how to do it. The Internet is the oracle of Delphi if you look. There’s a lot more out there than celebrity news and porn.

    Quit complaining and turn to the task of getting it done. Success speaks for itself. Failure looks for excuses.

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  6. bill says:

    It would be nice if we all lived in a world where pensions were the norm, but we do not by a long shot.

    Public employees live in a fantasy world we created for them and now that we don’t have the tax base to maintain this fantasy they are all in a huff.

    Pension reform is a must do item and should be on the ballot in Sonoma County. WE the taxpayers are the employers of public employees and it is our right to decide what we can afford to pay them.

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  7. Romain Clerou says:

    Everybody should have a pension; however, nobody should have a pension that pays out 95% of the salary beginning at age 55. When social security was enacted in 1935 full benefits were paid at age 65, yet the life expectancy of a female was 64 and for a male 59. A simple solution is a combination of actual age and years of service with full benefits paid at 70. For example, I would pay Mr. McIntyre 60% at 55 with 10% increments every five years up to 75.

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  8. GforGreed says:

    Gabe Gonzales, I hope you are prepared to provide proof of these numbers; the cuts you claim are being taken by City Management. How you can grant yourself and your fellow top-dollar earning colleagues such sublime benefits, while further slashing the budgets of some of the hardest working and thinly-stretched departments within the city–and sleep at night, is beyond me.

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  9. Graeme Wellington says:

    McIntyre has a lot of credibility. One of the few “leader-type” employees in Rohnert Park. It’s too bad he wasn’t in charge or a decision maker when good decisions would have made a difference.

    The disparity between the top management and the regular working stiff is pretty wide. The cuts made to DPS and regular employees will go to maintaining the status-quo for management. You didn’t think they’d spend the savings on city services did you? Who will provide the services the DPS savings made possible?

    Watch for Gonzalez to threaten to privatize many city jobs, because in this arena it could actually be practically done.

    McIntyre can go out with his head high assuming it’s not cut off by management’s desire to preserve their sinecures.

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  10. Take it on the chin for a few years UNIONS…until the private sector can get off its knees and create the prosperity needed to produce the makers needed to pay the taxes that will save your precious pensions … [ before its too late for everybody ].

    Oh, and by the way, while we are discussing balanced budgets >> maybe we can start reigning this nugget in >>

    Illegal Immigration Costs California Over Ten Billion Annually
    http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/immigrationnaturalizatio/a/caillegals.htm

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