Letters to the Editor

August 18, 1999
A matter of priorities To the Editor:I am responding to Ms. Robin Sullivan’s invitation in the July 28 Santa Paula Times to comment on recommendations made by SPPOA supporters, which recommendations are intended to fund a pay increase 2% greater than that now being offered by the city.Ms. Sullivan is correct when she says the difficulty is basically one of “priorities” and “percentages.” Let me first address the question of “priorities.” It is urgent, in my opinion, for the City Manager, the City Council, and the citizens of Santa Paula to recognize that public safety and law enforcement are always the top priorities for city government - that city government exists, first and foremost, to provide the conditions under which citizens can pursue life, liberty and happiness for themselves and for their loved ones. Law enforcement is “prior” (“first”) in a very basic sense: without it nothing else is possible. All other functions of city government, while important, are secondary.A strong, visible, and unequivocal recommitment to public safety is essential at this particular point in Santa Paula’s history. Anyone who has lived here for awhile and is reasonably alert knows that Santa Paula suffers from a reputation for relatively high crime and gang activity. People tend not to choose Santa Paula when they can live in Ojai, Camarillo, East Ventura or Thousand Oaks and this for understandable reasons: nothing is more important to citizens than public safety and education and when a city is perceived to be relatively weak in these areas nothing else it does to attractresidents, business or tourism will be to much avail. And Santa Paula is perceived to be relatively weak in public safety (education is another matter). This is why a strong and unequivocal signal must be sent by city government and the citizenry: without this, all other attempts to boost Santa Paula - as worthy as they might be - are doomed to fail.In light of the fundamental importance of law enforcement it is nothing short of scandalous that the city will not fund the full 4% raise for our police officers and that the City Manager and City Council have demanded that the SPPOA come up with ways to fund the salary increase. The centrality of public safety as a function of city government dictates, rather, that the City Manager and the City Council take the initiative in this matter and show the kind of leadership and courage that is necessary. Anything short of this is a dereliction of duty.Since I haven’t seen anything that I would consider constructive coming from you, Ms. Sullivan and the other City Council members, or the SPPOA and its supporters (at least as portrayed in Ms. Sullivan’s article) on the question of “percentages” let me turn to that issue and make a modest suggestion of my own. If we look at the pie chartaccompanying Ms. Sullivan’s article in the July 28 edition of the Times we see that funding for the police department is almost exactly 50% of total appropriations if we subtract the appropriations for the fire department from the total:$6,748,729 (total) - 722,065 (fire) = 6,026,664 (remainder)$3,026,572 (police) = 50% of 6,026,664 (remainder)All talk, in Ms. Sullivan’s article and elsewhere, about “eliminating” city services, taking salary surveys, using the reserve account, etc. to fund the additional 2% is a waste of time, as is talk of increasing sales tax revenue over the long term. This problem must be addressed now and the simple fact is that if each department - except fire and police - cuts its operating budget by only 2% the additional 2% needed by the police department becomes available. The math makes this easy to see: if appropriations forpolice constitute 50% of total appropriations, then cutting the other 50% by only 2% yields the amount needed to increase police appropriations by 2%.You [City Manager Cosentini] and the City Council should require each department (again, except fire and police) to submit ASAP a revised budget decreasing appropriations by 2%. This is the way to testify to the importance of public safety relative to other city functions; we do not need to say that other city functions are unimportant or ought to be eliminated, but that they should be cut back by a verymodest 2% in a time of urgent public need. Only when we have corrected our thinking about “priorities” and adjusted our“percentages” accordingly can we turn with some hope of success to the question of increasing city revenues over the long term.Michael F. McLeanSanta PaulaP.S. It doesn’t take a genius to see that if we wanted to send an even stronger message about Santa Paula’s commitment to public safety, as well as bring the salaries of our police officers more into line with those in neighboring cities, we could trimdepartment budgets by the still modest amounts of 3%, 5%, 7% or 10% - whatever it takes to improve the city’s public image, address our public safety needs, and achieve fairness.Distorting eventsTo the Editor:Once again a small group of trouble makers are trying to distort city events for personal and political gain.They blame our four responsible, rational, hard working council members for the fact that the city’s current tight, but balanced, budget cannot pay for everything our underpaid police officers want. Why anyone with half a brain thinks these four council members want this conflict with the police union is beyond me. These are the very four council members that worked to pass a utility tax in order to increase police and fireman’s pay. Unfortunately, it wasn’t approved by the citizens...including councilwoman Espinosa’s lone “No” council vote.How about doing something constructive to increase city funds so we can pay officers more? Everyone I know would like to see our police officers paid what they’re worth.Yes, it will cost us taxpayers, so it’s up to us to talk to our responsible council members about our ideas. How do we make more funds available for officer pay increases?One idea is to cut trash collections to every other week and supply an extra trash container to families of four or more. The savings in labor and truck operating costs would be substantial. Also, increase rates for those citizens who choose not to recycle.You can help with your ideas. Talk to your city employees and support the people that work so hard for our city’s good.Jerry SchmidtSanta PaulaThanks for the memoriesTo the Editor:I would like to thank all the Ventura County Condors for sharing with me their knowledge of track and field and giving me self-confidence while competing against some of the best athletes in and around California.I will forever remember my experience with the Condors with fond memories, the new friends that were made, the new place I visited and the daily workouts that were applied.Even though my coaches made me work very hard, I plan to do this again next year, and I encourage kids to work hard in any sport because the results can be very rewarding.Marizza BerringtonSanta PaulaThese are the factsTo the Editor:This is my last letter or column that I intend to write on the subject of the ongoing stalemate between the City of Santa Paula and their Police Officers. As President of the SPPOA, I invite those City Council Members who have printed articles and written letters to end this verbal jousting. If they are willing, I will do everything in my power to persuade my board to do the same. If desired, an open public discussion would be preferable to this printed dispute.Now for the facts:1) Santa Paula Police Officers/Sergeants are paid between 35% to 45% less than the average for police in this county. The City is offering us a 2% raise, we are asking for an additional 2%. We do not think that this is unreasonable, as this equals only $34,000.2) Santa Paula has the highest overall crime rate and the highest violent crime rate in Ventura County. We spend a significantly lower percentage of our budget on public safety than neighboring cities. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?3) We have not added additional sworn personnel to the Police Dept. since 1974 (with the exception of the DARE officer that is funded through a grant). The population has risen by over 10,000 people since that time.4) The City Council has agreed amongst themselves not to discuss negotiations directly with the POA. I invite them to sit down and talk about this with us, let’s get this thing settled and move on. This is bad for the City Council, the Officers, and the Community.Let’s work together to make this a better place.Gary MarshallSPPOA PresidentAppreciation for supportTo the Editor:To the Citizens of Santa Paula:I am thoroughly overwhelmed by the positive response to my editorial in Wednesday’s (August 4) Santa Paula Times.On behalf of the Santa Paula Police Officers, I would like to express our heartfelt appreciation for the countless numbers of citizens who have contacted us (stopped us on the street and even came down to the station) with their kind words of support in agreement. Your efforts were encouraging to say the least.John CoffeltVice President
Santa Paula Police AssociationThanks for parade supportTo the Editor:On behalf of the Ventura County Mothers of Multiples I would like to publicly thank Jim McCoy at McCoy’s Automotive and Helen Gregorich at The Mill for their support of our efforts to participate in the Ventura County Fair Parade.With Mr. McCoy’s loan of a large flatbed tow truck and Ms. Gregorich’s loan of western memorabilia we were able to create an award winning float! Please support our local businesses. They give so much to our community.Laura TeagueParade ChairpersonVCMOMFrustration feltTo the Editor:After reading the recent editorials from the SPPOA, Mrs. Sullivan and others, I too felt compelled to comment as I am a lifetime resident of Santa Paula. I must first say and admit that I am a strong supporter of the SPPD, so my views may be biased, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong. The letter written on Aug. 4th in the SP Times by Officer Coffelt was not only informative, but moving. I felt the overall frustration that he and the other Police Officers are feeling as a direct result of the city’s unfairness towards the SPPOA, not to mention the distorted comments made by Mrs. Sullivan.I would like to respond to a few of the points that were made in the letters to the editor section on Aug. 6th by Mrs. Sullivan, Huguette Johnson and AlaLe B. Colborne.I. Robin Sullivan’s comments:1) Officer Coffelt’s job is to enforce laws and the protection of life and property, it is not his duty to find solutions for the city’s budget problems. (Even if Officer Coffelt would suggest ways to shift more money to the SPPOA, I doubt very much that the city would listen, as they ignored the many suggestions that an impartial state mediator made who was brought in to resolve the contract dispute.)2) If every city department is given a 2% raise each year, then what happened to the SPPOA’s 4% that was withheld over the past two years?3) Isn’t it obvious that the SPPD should get the largest portion of the city’s budget as they are a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year operation, as is the Fire Department.4) When did the SPPOA say that they are “THE” community. I think the message that they are attempting to send is that the Police and Fire Departments are the most important departments in any city and they are frustrated that they are not being treated as such. Let’s get our priorities straight Mrs. Sullivan, “what good is a clean park, if it’s not safe to visit.” It is clear that public safety is not in any way, shape or form a priority with Mrs. Sullivan and the city.5) In a recent phone conversation with Mrs. Sullivan, concern was voiced about Santa Paula having the highest crime rate in Ventura County, which she denied was true.She had no idea how to obtain the statistics and asked me to send her articles in which this fact was stated - this is one of our City Council Members? As a lowly citizen not educated and experienced in city council politics I might take a wild stab in the dark andsuggest she “call Chief Gonzales and ask him.”II. Huguette Johnson’s comments:H. Johnson stated that the sign on 10th Street was “Offensive.” I know the truth thatSanta Paula has the highest crime rate in Ventura County is not pleasant and our elected officials completely deny this fact. If they admitted to our crime problem, they would have to address it (with more money to the Police Department). And we all know how the council feels about giving more money to the Police Department (unless you live on Mars). Now that my friend is offensive!III. AlaLe B. Colborne’s comments:1) Correction, Officer Coffelt’s letter was just under four hundred words, not a thousand, let’s not exaggerate.2) She stated that he was not setting a proper “example.” Well I disagree, as vice-president of the SPPOA he was merely responding to the outrageous, misleading statements made by one of our elected officials. Now you tell me which one was not setting a proper “example.”3) She stated that he “appears angry,” well I say rightfully so. Wouldn’t you if a city council member attempted to turn an entire city against you and your co-workers with false, misleading statements such as Mrs. Sullivan’s.4) A. Colborne stated that she wants to be “enlighten.” Well ma’am let me enlighten you on some facts that were relayed to me:a) In 1972 the population of Santa Paula was approximately 9,000 citizens, with a Police force of 29 Officers. In 1999, the population is approximately 30,000 citizens with a police force of still only 29 Officers. (What’s wrong with this picture?)b) The City of Santa Paula has the highest crime rate in Ventura County. What this means is the citizens and Police Officers of Santa Paula have a higher chance of being a victim of a violent crime than in any other city in Ventura County.c) Even though the City of Santa Paula has the highest crime rate in Ventura County, our wonderful caring elected officials continue to spend the LEAST amount of money based on a percentage of their budget on the Police Department than any other city in Ventura County. How can this logically be justified? No wonder the SPPOA is so frustrated.d) Santa Paula Officers respond to more calls for service per officer, than any other police officers in Ventura County (as well as Los Angeles Police Officers).e) Santa Paula Police Officers are by far the lowest paid officers in the County by an average of 35%. May I suggest to anyone who feels the need to be “enlightened” to what the SPPDOfficers go through, schedule a ride along. You would be horrified to see what actually goes on in this city as the majority of our crime does not even reach the local papers.To say that I am disappointed with my elected officials would be an understatement. It is apparent that the city council, aside from Mrs. Espinoza, is completely out of touch with reality. Yes it is true that we have an extremely low tax base with no relief in sight,but it seems that the city council conveniently overlooks the main reason...CRIME.Who in their right mind would want to move their business, corporation or family to the City with the highest crime rate in Ventura County. Maybe Santa Paula would be more attractive if they had a city council that was pro Public safety, instead of one thatrefuses to adequately fund their public safety departments. So until this city admits to the crime problem and puts their money where their mouth is by increasing the Police Department budget I can almost guarantee you that our low tax base will remain thesame.Subsequently AlaLe B. Colborne, consider yourself enlightened!Brianna WilksSanta PaulaWhat a celebration - Jesse benefitTo the Editor:Thanks so much to the community of Santa Paula, the family of friends who helped celebrate with the Leidig family. Thank you Knights of Columbus for letting us use your hall, also to the S.P. Optimist Club and chef David Lagesse, you were awesome!Special thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Bob Andrews, the Isbell band and Mr. Lingo for the music. It was great.So may people and friends made this benefit successful. Thank you Laird’s Meat, Boskovich Farms, Crystal Bakery, Clean Foods, Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, Andy’s Plumbing Place, Angel Haven Ranch, Dr. Shuel Chiropractic, Pet & Rowena Mason Banner Towing, Calavo, One Stop Electronics, S.P. Flowers, Gonzales Jewelry, Oliver Plumbing, Shooters Paradise, USA Hair, Suzy’s Hair Cuts, Danny B’s, S.P. Hardware, Karen Cottingham, Kathy, Tim and Erin Hicks, Kathy Aist, S.P. Theater Center, Round Table Pizza, Familia Diaz, La Cabaña, Pollo Bravo, La Terraza, Vince’s Coffee Shop, Tia Babe’s, Logsdon’s Restaurant.Thanks so much Kathleen Shuel and daughters for helping with the door prizes and auction, Colleen and Michelle Thompson for making the auction so successful. Thank you to Nicole Lagesse for the tickets and poster signs. The bake sale was successful thanks to Lynn Pawlick and Laura Phillips.There were so many people that helped make this a success, we hope we did not forget any names. Santa Paula might be a small town, but we have a big heart and a lot of love.Valerie LagesseSanta Paula

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