How does Watsonville compare to other similar cities in the region when it comes to salaries, unemployment rates, and performance?
After almost four years on the city council and having experience as a Human Resources (Personnel) professional I am of the self-serving opinion that I can evaluate some of our city staff’s performance.
Compensation based on performance, what seems an antiquated and forgotten manner of conducting business in the public sector, could solve some our city’s problems. But, let’s take a look at some statistics to gather some insight before we venture into attempting finding a solution to our city’s financial looming crisis.
According to the 2012 Department of Labor statistics Watsonville has the highest unemployment rate in the entire state with a whopping 27.7%. El Centro used to hold the state title for the highest unemployment rate for the past few years with 27.2% until Watsonville pulled ahead this year. In comparison, Santa Cruz has an 11.5% unemployment rate and Gilroy has a 13.5% unemployment rate.
Compensation Comparisons of City Employees (according to State Controller stats)
Carlos Palacios, Watsonville $200,700.00 Unemployment Rate: 27.7%
From Gilroy $194,708.00 Unemployment Rate: 13.5%
From Santa Cruz $183,879.00 Unemployment Rate 11.5%
Beatriz Flores, Watsonville $110,000.00 27.7% unemployment rate
Santa Cruz $107,000.00 11.5% unemployment rate
Gilroy $ 93,839.00 13.5% unemployment rate
Parks & Rec. Directors
Anna Espinosa, Watsonville $131,335.00 Ramsey Park in poor condition.
Gilroy $ 80,109.00 Gilroy has won more park design awards from the California Park and Recreation Society than any other city in California
Santa Cruz $159,111.00 32 parks-open spaces & the beach.
Have you been in either Gilroy or Santa Cruz lately? Gilroy just built a new large library, the city has manicured landscaping and gang violence has been remarkably reduced. Santa Cruz with its large city-type environment and Beach and Boardwalk is a national attraction. Watsonville? It has twice the unemployment rate of either Gilroy (pop. 52,000) and Santa Cruz (pop.59,000) our downtown is almost empty, it is littered, weeds grow uncontrollably throughout our city, and gang violence is escalating yet we compensate our city manager, city clerk and parks and recs director $442,036.00 annually? In contrast, Gilroy compensates their three $368,656.00 and Santa Cruz is paying their three only $7,955 more than Watsonville.
What’s going on?
City Manager Carlos Palacios
One of the highest paid city managers in the region managing a city with the highest unemployment rates in the state? Does that make sense? In June 2010 the Grand Jury released their Report and investigated the missing 1999 KME fire truck, the Airport, our Redevelopment Agency, and Manabe-Ow. The report in my opinion made our city look we are infested with a mafia like mentality. Why our District Attorney, the State Controller’s office or the Attorney General has not stepped in to investigate our city is as much a mystery as to why they call them hemorrhoids instead of asteroids.
This past year the city provided low interest loans to George Ow ($750,000) and Stella Romo ($400,000) with Redevelopment money under the auspice of creating jobs. 1.1 million dollars was given to these two individuals and not one job has been produced? Ms. Romo used the $400,000 for work on her Second St. building, but instead of hiring locally, she hired a San Jose construction company (San Jose Construction) to do the work?
The missing fire truck? You really want me to rant about that some more? If you do you can read previous Fishing Reports.
City Attorney Alan Smith (old undated photo)
In the past five years, the city has compensated City Attorney Alan Smith, on average, $235,000.00 annually. In addition the city provides Mr. Smith a “legal secretary” at a cost of $54,000 per year to tax payers. It is costing the city almost $300,000 for a city attorney? And, why is the city providing this independent contractor a secretary?
Another one of my questions that has gone unanswered by Mr. Smith and Mayor Eduardo Montesino is why is it that Mr. Smith is compensated with an hourly wage instead of a salary? I pointed out in an e-mail to both Smith and Montesino page 16, Section 805 of the City Charter which states: “The compensation of all City officers and employees, except as otherwise provided in this Charter, shall be by salary to be fixed by ordinance or resolution.” Unless I am incorrect, City Attorney Smith is a city officer. I wouldn’t doubt that city attorney Smith is getting paid around $1,000.00 per city council meeting.
But, three hundred thousand dollar is peanuts compared to the lawsuits the city has lost in the past 2-4 years. The city forked out approximately 1.1 million in legal fees to the Pilots Association, Friends of Buena Vista, City Attorney Alan Smith and the outside law firm the city hired to assist Smith when it lost its appeal after attempting to build housing near the airport. This did not include staff time. You would think the city would have learned a lesson, but nooooo, they went and attempted to approve a permit to build a cabinet shop near the airport. The pilots again took exception and took the matter to court, the city lost again, and they had to pay the pilots for their attorney fees. Another $50,000 down the legal drain.
The Santa Cruz Farm Bureau also sued the city for attempting to build housing on Atkinson Lane. The city lost again, but it seems that a mystery has been created about how much in legal fees that fiasco cost the city.
We also don’t know how much it costs in legal fees when then mayor and now Assembly Member Luis Alejo decided it was a good idea to rename the downtown City Plaza Park after Dolores Huerta. We do know that so far the city has spent well over $80,000 in legal fees so Assembly Alejo could vote for his replacement on the city council. Not that there was a chance of anybody but council member Oscar Rios (Alejo’s choice) getting appointed, but hey, let’s really rub their noses in it. If the city loses the appeal on this one, it could cost them around $300,000 or more….just to prove a point? What a law maker, huh? And what about the legal advice-good legal advice usually saves money. Bad legal advice….cha-ching for the city attorney and his law firm? Time to pay our city attorney a salary?
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In the real world, not just in the private sector, most employee evaluations are based on some type of rating, Excellent, Good, Fair, or Poor. I formulated a similar rating:
C (for average performance)
F (failure to adequately perform job duties)
U (under achieving)
D (deceptive ways of paying bandas with petty cash?)
K (knowledge of how to balance the budget with grant money?)
E (educated on how to hide a fire truck)
Because that’s what I think somebody is getting….And now they want to raise our water rates? Instead, how about a cut in pay for some city staff members until they improve their evaluation ratings?