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Letter to the Editor: Hercules Priorities

Hercules City Council Candidate Phil Simmons write in.

-By Phil Simmons

Help me understand. On June 6th the good citizens of Hercules voted to increase sales taxes by voting in favor of Measure O. Due to the way Measure O was placed on the ballot these taxes must go into the city’s general fund. Measure O taxes were not set aside for specific needs such as the police or the senior center. But, Measure O was sold to the public based on the priorities that the public, the Hercules City Council, and the city manager all seemed to agree on at the time, which was to save parks and recreation, hire back the depleted police department, and maintain crucial city services.

We all needed to support Measure O in the hopes of avoiding these cuts to the city’s key personnel. The Hercules City Council supported the tax measure and the city manager made his own personal plea and provided the community with information on the importance of this tax increase. In fact, the city manager report for June 2nd and May 26th stated the following:

“Ideas to reduce the deficit were discussed, including the elimination of senior programs, teen and youth programs and aquatic programs, and, if Measures O and N do not pass on June 5, further reducing police services.”

On August the 13th I went to city hall to get some information on a development map. While I was there I noticed a public announcement titled:

“Internal/External Recruitment For: Senior Accountant”

Evidently the city must need another accountant to assist our current financial director. This is a decision that the city manager alone makes. The recruitment notice for this new “Senior Accountant” states that the pay will be between $65,562 - $79,801. Surely this is enough pay to hire one more police officer?  We the public have little input about these decisions and we probably do not really know what the reasons are for hiring a new Senior Accountant. These decisions are what we pay the city manager to make, because, we the public, cannot possibly know what is needed to manage our city.

But what the public does know is that we were told that the city “Has No Money”. It has been shouted from the rooftops for many months. What we also know is that we voted for Measure O based on being told that the emergency measure for Measure O was necessary. We also thought we knew that It would provide for the safety and security of the public and provide the public with the civic services to which we have become accustom.

Help me understand. Why did we vote YES on Measure O? What are our priorities?

Susan D.Keeffe August 23, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Chris, As I responded in the other piece (hate having to do this twice), Phil's letter is about Measure O. I don't know if he even really cares which position was advertised or not. Its no mystery we are struggling fiscally and probably can use the help given the 40% layoffs the City has suffered. There is no reason for such a defensive reaction to Phil's letter. It would indeed be helpful if the City would post an organization chart instead of asking citizens to pour through that huge budget document looking for positions and finding how they are paid in various budgets scattered throughout the document. But your information, useful as it is, like Lori's, was unnecessary - Phil never attacked Duran's right to hire anyone, in any position, for any purpose. In re-reading all of this, I did note that David Charles stated Lori asked the "City Clerk". Her article only states she inquired of the City. How does he know who she asked? In any case, let's get back to the main purpose of Phil's piece, Measure O and how its funds are to be used.
Susan D.Keeffe August 23, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Also, as a footnote. Phil's piece is entitled "priorities". If, as was noted by a poster on the other letter, two more of our police officers have resigned, and we are in fact now down to 18 officers, I am very concerned about safety. Hercules, in fact, has other safety issues as well as i have noted in the other piece. So for me, safety has to be the first priority even though I recognize the importance of getting our fiscal house in order.
Dwayne Hoover August 23, 2012 at 04:48 PM
The letter was titled "Priorities". It was about just that. What are our priorities in city hall with our limited resources. As I stated in the letter and in this letter as well. These are choices the city manager is hired and charged to make. He is doing his job. In the halls of Hercules some postions go empty. Some get replaced. Some get eliminated. Some are on hold until a later day. Several commenters have expressed their views. Their priorities have been expressed. My question has been answered. With one exception. Just were is that org. chart many of us have been asking about for many many months.
Giorgio C. August 24, 2012 at 01:45 AM
JB, The City Council does hire and fire department heads, but indirectly. They can get rid of the city manager if they believe he/she is not addressing poorly managed departments. The same goes for the WCCUSD. If the Superintendent does not want to fire bad administrators, then the school board can give him his walking papers and replace him with someone who will do the necessary firing.
Selina Williams September 05, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Reorganizing the finance department is a very good idea. A short staffed department cannot have "specialist" positions and needs generalists. They have not been able to complete the 2011 audit and have not reconciled the accounts back to October of 2011, completely unacceptable. We have not gotten comprehensive financial analysis of all of any of the land deals, and I mean full and unbiased analysis, that includes all of the impacts of decisions. So far, what we have gotten is talking points and nothing that is comprehensive and concrete. Most urgently, I would like our finance department to analyze the RDA land/debt write off where we are losing $20million dollars. I would like to understand how this is a good deal, saving us from bankruptcy. Please. Show me the money, all of it, not some of it.

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