Posted on 12 October 2012.
Police Union protests cuts
The Mammoth Lakes Police Officers Association (MLPOA) would like to thank the residents, business owners, visitors, and part-time residents of Mammoth Lakes who have been supportive of us for the past 26 years. We would also like to express our sincere thank you for your support over the past couple of weeks during these trying times.
The MLPOA is very concerned about the decisions of the Town Council. We are concerned for your safety and ours if the Town follows through with its plan to lay-off 7 of the 17 sworn officers and eliminate 2 of the department’s 3 field supervisors. The Town Council’s plan also eliminates the Police Lieutenant position. This plan will result in a 41% reduction in sworn personnel from 17 to 10.
It is apparent that the Town Council would like to have the Mammoth Lakes Police Department be responsible for more than half their annual payment on the lawsuit they lost at the rate of $2 million a year. Proposed police department trims would save the Town more than $1 million/year.
Currently the budget for the MLPD is $4,820,415, which represents 27%of the general fund budget.
The Town’s proposed cuts to MLPD would equal 56% of the annual payment [to MLLA for the judgment] this year, 58% next year and 64% the following year.
Some have concluded that Mammoth Lakes doesn’t need so many police officers, and that it’s a nice quiet town with little crime. Don’t be fooled.The Mammoth Lakes Police Department handles hundreds of felony assaults, rapes, robberies, domestic violence, and burglaries. In 2011 alone, the department handled 7,422 incidents which required police action; of the 7,422 incidents, 3,154 of them were radio calls.
Thanks to our dedicated, skilled, and competent police force we are able to solve many of these crimes. It is only due to current staffing levels that MLPD can handle these crimes and incidents in a timely manner in which perpetrators are arrested. Such will not be the case with the proposed layoffs. Not only will the proposed reduction hamper the MLPD’s ability to quickly and competently solve crimes, other services the public has come to expect from the department will not be possible with a force of 10 officers. Those include but are not limited to:
• One of many recent examples involved a child molestation case. In this case, officers arrested the suspect as he was leaving the scene at the time of the event. If services were reduced at the time of this incident, there wouldn’t have been sufficient officers to respond in a timely manner and make the arrest.
• Officers will be very limited and may not be able to provide regular public service activities such as, helping tourists put on chains and/or pull people from a snow bank, jump starting cars, assist with lockouts, returning dogs to their owners, giving people rides home and the other daily activities that are part of the reason we live in Mammoth Lakes.
• Proactive activity that reduces crime will be substantially impacted. These activities would include bar checks, DUI patrol and an overall less visible police presence. We can anticipate an increase in drug activity, thefts, property crime, assaults, drunks and juvenile crime.
With the proposed plan, there will no longer be a School Resource Officer (SRO) or an officer assigned to the narcotics task force. In recent years the SRO prevented a planned school shooting by a student in which the student was arrested and handgun was recovered along with other evidence of the pre-planned event.
The drug problem in Mammoth Lakes is significant; however it is curtailed by the narcotics task force. Without narcotic enforcement, the drug problem will be out of control. A recent example was when a young person overdosed on heroin. The narcotics task force was able to work the case and ultimately arrest the individual who had supplied the victim with the drugs that killed him/her.
This will lead to more thefts, more property crime, and more assaults, not to mention the gang member drug dealers, who will come from Reno, Fresno and Los Angeles area to set up shop in an un-policed Mammoth Lakes.
Some have concluded that officers are overcompensated. Professional, quality law enforcement service is not cheap. In comparison, there are many agencies that have lesser benefit packages and many with higher. The existing MLPOA contract was approved by the Town Council and has been changed several times through negotiations. The contracts are through mutual agreement. Nothing has been forced upon Council.
What you don’t hear at the Council meetings is that during the last pre-bankruptcy mediation the MLPOA was asked to concede 24% in salary/benefits/personnel, while the other Town associations were asked to concede 10%. The MLPOA gave up 23% in salary/benefits/personnel, while the other creditors and associations gave up 10%. Because of the cuts given up by the MLPOA, the budget was approved by Council and the police department is operating within its approved budget.
It should also be known that the MLPOA and other employee associations voluntarily negotiated with the Town two years ago to help the Town meet their budget.
The employee associations were told by the Town during pre-bankruptcy that they “just need one last cut.” We all gave the Town what they wanted, and here we are two months later and they want to cut nearly half the police force. What about the clause in the MLPOA contract signed by the Town that states that the Town will maintain a staffing level for the police department at 17 officers?
This proposed plan will jeopardize the safety of our residents, visitors, and officers. The Town definitely has a problem, but the money for the down payment and annual installments already exists within the Town’s budget outside of public safety and other “essential services.”
All the advertising in the world or free transportation will not sell an unsafe community, even if the skiing is great. Who wants to have their skis stolen, car burglarized or become the victim of an assault? As those problems grow, tourism will shrink.
Whatever the final decision of the Council is, the damage to the police department is already done and might be irreversible. Many officers are seeking employment with other law enforcement agencies and will likely be hired, while others are retiring early. These vested officers will be difficult to replace in a Town where public safety and officer safety are not a priority. Hundreds of thousands of invested dollars will be unnecessarily lost because of the Council’s political decision to continue to attack the MLPOA.
Mammoth Lakes Police Officers Association (MLPOA)
Proposition 30, on the November ballot, is a very important issue regarding school funding.
The Governor [Jerry Brown] and Legislature have placed Proposition 30 on the ballot as a means of balancing the state budget. Proposition 30 imposes a higher tax rate for high income earners (single filers over $250,000, married over $500,000 in annual income) along with increasing the sales tax rate by 1/4 cent for four years.
If Proposition 30 passes, schools will continue to receive the same amount we are currently receiving. It should be noted that the amount we currently receive is 20 percent less than what we were receiving four years ago.
If Proposition 30 fails, the state will immediately reduce education funding by nearly $2.5 million dollars to our local school districts for this school year and subsequent years in the amounts of:
• Big Pine USD: $112, 650
• Bishop USD: $941,734
• Death Valley USD: $67,303
• Eastern Sierra USD: $204,085
• Inyo Supt of Schools: $174,474
• Lone Pine USD: $205,029
• Mammoth USD: $494,911
• Mono Office of Ed.: $154,763
• Owens Valley USD: $37,447
• Round Valley District: $49,363
We hope this information about funding your local schools in the Eastern Sierra assists in your voting decisions.
Dr. Stacey Adler
Mono Co. Superintendent of Schools
Dr. Terence K. McAteer
Inyo Co. Superintendent of Schools 760.873.3262
Given our town’s long-term budget problems, some people have been floating the idea of rezoning single family homes for nightly rentals. This is a bad idea that would only compound the hardships that Mammoth residents are going to face the next 20 years. There has to be a balance between being a tourist destination and being a real town with real people.
The year-round residents of Mammoth are the backbone of the town– they provide the services that visitors and second homeowners rely on when they come to town, and they deserve to have real neighborhoods that aren’t compromised by nightly rentals. At least in condo complexes, there is on-site management to ensure problems from short-term visitors are taken care of (i.e., noise issues, proper garbage disposal, etc.). But single family neighborhoods are particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts from vacationers.
Just because the town made a terrible mistake in entering into the development agreement with Terry Ballas and a bigger mistake in their handling of the litigation, doesn’t mean they should make an even bigger mistake by willfully undermining the character and charm of our neighborhoods.
The settlement is a long-term problem and we need long-term solutions that don’t fundamentally destroy what makes Mammoth a great place to live.
Whitmore: funds need to be found
I write to express my wholehearted support of fully funding the town’s share of the operational costs of Whitmore Pool and Park. Cutting any funds that support our youth (as the funding of the operations at Whitmore clearly does) to close the deficit caused by the settlement reached with Ballas and MLLA is unconscionable. If there are any innocents in this whole sordid affair it is the youth of this community and they should bear no effect. Use Measure R money or Measure U money or move the funds necessary from MLT or hire a clerical assistant to the Town Manager, instead of an Assistant Town Manager, whatever it takes to preserve the Whitmore complex. The Mammoth Sharks, the MHS Baseball and Softball teams need these facilities, our kids need these facilities. What a great impression it will make on all those coming to use the new track to see closed and deteriorating fields as they come in from the Benton Crossing Road to the track.
Before one more trail is planned or built, before one more “wayfinding” sign is purchased, before one more penny goes to MLTPA, secure all of our parks and all of our youth programs! Supplanting is not an issue, the idea that there are currently “existing funds” for anything is ludicrous on its face after the settlement. The funds need to be found from whatever source to fully fund all the programs that benefit the youth of our community.
Behind the badge
Over the past few years, the Mammoth Lakes Police Department has been the object of focus for the Mammoth Lakes Town Council. There have been so many words written recently regarding the details of what the town council has demanded of this agency that I will not revisit them, but the bottom line is this; councilmembers feel that MLPD officers are paid too much. Rick Wood said so at the last council meeting, and I am sure he is not the only one. I would be willing to bet my over-inflated salary that Mr. Wood, Mr. Eastman and the rest of the town council members don’t think that they make too much money. After all they are elected officials, übermenschen.
It is that same level of arrogance that has tainted this council for the last decade; the arrogance that got this town into a $42 million lawsuit in the first place. It is the same arrogance and ignorance that would opine that police officers are overpaid blue-collar plutocrats; hired guns that don’t earn their keep and hide behind the badge while making exorbitant wages off the backs of the taxpayers.
The reality is that according to a 2006 study by the Police Association for College Education, 22.6% of police officers in the United States have a four-year degree from an accredited college or university, and the number of officers with college degrees has been growing by 2% annually. In California, I believe that number is significantly higher. The national average of people with college degrees per capita is 27%. California police officers are the most highly trained professional law enforcement officers in the world. Retired and active California peace officers are in demand around the globe as trainers for emerging departments.
I do not have a degree, but my process for becoming a police officer started when I was a teenager and I made choices not to drink and drive or take drugs, or engage in other activities that would eliminate me as an officer candidate before I ever took the civil service exam. The hiring process took 18 months while I had to pass psychiatric testing, polygraph testing, and a background investigation that was so thorough many applicants didn’t make it. My training started in 1989 with a six month long stress academy with San Diego Police Department and then another four months of field training with a cadre of Field Training Officers (FTOs). The real process of becoming a police officer doesn’t kick into full gear until after the academy and the field work begins. Depending on where a new officer works, the foundation of his or her training isn’t finished until after 3-5 years in the field. Since graduating from the academy, my career has been a long string of specialized training schools, instructor schools, tactical schools, mob and riot training, active shooter response training, cultural sensitivity training and perishable skills refresher courses. California POST mandates much of this training and oversees all of it.
Beyond the formalized training that I have received over the course of my career, just working the streets of San Diego and Mammoth Lakes for the last 24 years has been an incredible education. I have been involved in three officer involved shootings, too many car chases to count, fights, the Rodney King riots, the 1996 RNC Convention and presidential debates between Clinton and Dole, all the while trying to stay “normal” while I raise four children and support a beautiful wife. I was gone way too many nights and days protecting the public when my wife and children needed me at home. I am sorry folks, but I don’t apologize for the pay and benefits that I received. My family and I earn every penny of pay and pension and so do the officers that I work with and their families.
The Mammoth Lakes Police Department has several hundred years’ worth of combined law enforcement experience based out of that mold- infested building the TOML wants to call a police station. Not only are we professional and educated, we have to conduct ourselves calmly in the face of violence and risk to our own safety on behalf of the public that we are sworn to protect. We have to work around the clock with frequent shift changes, and deal with challenging people and circumstances on a regular basis.
Consider: What training have town councilmembers received that qualifies them to run a major resort community … besides winning a popularity contest?
Being a police officer takes its toll on the body and mind. After 24 years of shift work I can’t get more than 5 hours of sleep a day, regardless of how exhausted I am. I have buried one of my academy mates and have attended the funerals of several other SDPD officers who were murdered in the line of duty.
Regardless of whether you love or hate law enforcement, when you need us, we are there for you. That includes government officials like the town councilmembers; people who with the exception of Mayor Matt Lehman and the late Skip Harvey refuse to even go on a ride-along to get an idea of what we do. No, it’s way easier to believe that we are overpaid and unskilled.
One important fact about cops is that, as a group, cops are very loyal like dogs, but like dogs when we keep getting kicked we will jump the fence and you won’t see us again.
People of Mammoth Lakes, I am afraid that many of you do not realize what a precious asset you have had in this police department, and now, due to the arrogant ham-handedness of the town council and their chronic mishandling of this department, the majority of your officers are done. Our faith in this town government is gone and individual officers are taking early retirement or are seeking employment elsewhere. We are here because we wanted to be, not because we had to be and unfortunately after years of being lied to, publicly berated by our employers, falsely accused of corruption, dragged before a grand jury and subsequently cleared by that grand jury, many officers no longer want to be here.
I have made so many good friends during my tenure here, there are so many dear Mammoth residents that have supported this department and worked with us to make Mammoth Lakes a safe resort destination and a safe place to live and raise families. From the depths of my heart I thank you people; the Cert Team and too many others to mention.
At this point, I don’t believe that anything the council could do will change the exodus that is in the process of happening. I am not saying this for shock value or out of pity for the officers; MLPD officers are as good as any in the state and they will find jobs in cities that support them. My pity is for the local citizens who didn’t ask for this to happen, but will have to live with the consequences. Your elected officials have broken it, and you are going to have to pay for it yet once again.
So what will the Town of Mammoth Lakes do when there aren’t enough officers to be able to function? I don’t know, that isn’t my problem anymore, I’m retiring and I am quite done with the mismanagement of this town by people that don’t even know what they don’t know. And what new officers will want to work here in the future; word gets around fast, and Mammoth Lakes, like Stockton, San Bernardino and Costa Mesa will be a “toxic city” – in other words a town with the stink of bankruptcy, enmity for public safety and financial uncertainty wafting around for years to come.
So after the dust settles and you need to call 911, you might want to call one of the councilmembers, maybe they will be able to help you.
As a parting note I want it known that this letter is my personal opinion and was written by me alone as an exercise of my First Amendment rights, I do not speak for the Administration or the officers of the Mammoth Lakes Police Department.
Cage backs Peters for Supervisor District 4:
We all know that Mammoth is facing a steep uphill claim in order to overcome the economic recession of the last few years and the depressed property values that resulted. And now we need to deal with a staggering debt. We have a local election next month that gives us the opportunity to choose another Mono County Supervisor, and that choice is extremely important if we are to overcome the divide between the Town and County that has hampered achieving solutions that will help economic growth of our tourism economy both in Mammoth and the rest of the County.
I recommend and support Bob Peters to be elected to the 4th District seat, which now includes a portion of Mammoth.
Bob has been a business owner in Bridgeport for 13 years, and has been actively involved in Mono County service for 12 of those years. He has served on the County Tourism Commission and understands Mammoth’s problems, and has worked collaboratively to help not only Mammoth, but communities all over the County. Bob understands the importance of Mammoth as the economic engine of Mono County and its effect on our rural areas.
The election of Bob Peters is of critical importance, and I urge all District 4 voters to join me in supporting him.
Mammoth resident/business owner
Owed an explanation
I am writing in regard to the proposed use of voter approved funds in conjunction with the current fiscal difficulties of the Town and the settlement of the MLLA judgment.
Following the intent of the voters in passing the various measures has been a core principle of the Council since 1986. This no longer appears to be true based upon the adoption of the FY 2012-13 budget and the Baseline Before Settlement Expenditures distributed as a part of the package presented to the public on September 27. Together, the two budgets include immediate and long term cuts to various voter approved funds. The immediate cuts are described as a 10% reduction in Tourism, Transit, and Housing with restoration of up to 5% depending on TOT collections. The 5-year projection includes a 18% diversion of Measure T (Transit) funds to the General Fund and a 58% diversion of Measure 2002A (Housing) funds to the General Fund. There was no specific presentation of this change in Town policy in conjunction with fiscal year budget or the baseline budget projections.
It appears that Council has already decided by year 5 to take roughly $700,000 of funds approved by the voters for transit and housing and re-direct them to other uses. This diversion of voter approved funds to purposes other than those intended by the voters should have been publicly vetted. Instead, it was embedded in a series of spreadsheets.
Given the importance that both the Council and public have placed on maintaining the intent of the voter approved measures, I am disappointed that these decisions did not get more specific mention.
As a part of your current discussions on settling the judgment, please schedule a public discussion on your planned direction for use of the voter approved funds. The Council owes the public a detailed explanation of why it is deviating from its prior commitments. If there is an emergency requiring temporary use of the funds for other purposes, that need and priority should be fully vetted in a public forum along with a timeline for restoring the funds to their original purposes. Any future revenue above the baseline should be used to fund that restoration before being used elsewhere. If the funding is no longer needed for the purposes for which it was approved, then the tax(es) should be repealed, not simply dumped into the general fund.
Related to this, there is a question regarding the amount of budget reductions that the Council is seeking. In the budget adopted in June, there was $550,000 (annually) available for paying the judgment. The judgment calls for $2 million per year. This leaves a gap of $1.45 million per year, not $2 million. What happened to the $550,000?