Public Comment

New: Mayor Gives $200,000 of Public’s Money To Preserve His YMCA Pass

By Victoria L. Peirotes
Wednesday July 13, 2011 - 05:39:00 PM

Tuesday’s Council meeting had its YouTube moments. None was more telling than Mayor Bate’s framing and passage of Consent Calendar Item #14. It was a new low in his long-running show of contempt for the public and his council colleagues. I speak of a man who has proven himself politically dexterous enough to go limbo-low in both categories.  

Item 14 was designed to pass below the radar of public attention. It authorized the execution of a contract with the Berkeley YMCA for $200,000 for fitness center memberships for City employees. Why was it particularly egregious? Look at history.  

Last year Mayor and Council authorized a similar resolution of $300,000 to hand out freebie bennies to City employees (Mayor included). Meanwhile the public, in vast numbers, literally begged for a $78,000 commitment to keep Willard Pool open for south-side and the public for the summer of 2010. The handouts to Mayor, Council and City employees were endorsed; Willard Pool ceased operation and has been dozed under. 

This year’s trade-offs were as just as stark and rank. On 6/28/11 Council passed “sweetheart deals” for city employees without any verifiable reporting of “fiscal impact to the City”. The deals were proposed by city employees, for city employees, public oversight and interests be damned. No independent labor negotiators were contracted. An emasculated Council couldn’t find $65,000 to support a half-dozen deserving social programs. Yet they endorsed $200,000 of public funds so the Mayor can work out, if he so chooses. Where is the public in this equation? 

Berkeleypays some solid-waste people over $200,000/year. We pay some parking enforcement people over $120,000/year. We have, per capita, over 50% more city employees than comparable cities. City commitments to long-term pension debt are purposefully unreported but estimated at $5,000/every resident and growing. Our debt to long-neglected city infrastructure repairs and infrastructure is unreported. 

Yet our Mayor, with Council’s approval, has “spiked” the City Manager’s pay in the past 2 years by 20 %, such that he now draws down more than city managers in larger cities such as San Jose, Oakland and SF. Assuming he lives for another 20 years, our city is indebted to him in retirement for about $7 million. And oh yes, he isn’t a Berkeley resident. 

Finally, consider the City Manager’s suggestion that City employees have made concessions. For years the City Manager has loaded Berkeley’s budget with “place-holder” FTE’s (Full-Time Equivalent) positions. These were never filled but provided a “slush fund” for overtime payouts and other flex payouts. What concessions? There are none. The positions being “given up” were never ever occupied.  

The Council endorsed budget includes no layoffs of a bloated city infrastructure; it gives raises for all city employees while other communities are reducing city employee costs by 10% or more. 

What’s not to like? For a community that is universally hurting, from the highlands to the flatlands and from northlands and southlands, I suggest our Mayor and Council and particularly our City Manager are using and abusing us.