Monday, January 25, 2010

Bruner says council's not discussing police layoffs tonight

The rumors about city council discussing police department layoffs tonight are, according to Ferndale City Manager Bob Bruner, untrue.

It is not on the agenda. It is not in an attachment. He does not plan to discuss it in his comments to council. He's aware of no plans a council person will make a motion to add it to tonight's agenda.

Rumors may have started after the city manager met with members of the police officers union Friday night to update them on the city's current financial pinch. A $3 million hole needs to be filled. No plans have been made, draft or otherwise (according to Mr. Bruner) that recommend the laying-off of police officers or firemen.

During the last election all the council candidates expressed their commitment to spare our public safety departments from personnel cuts. Housefires and violent crime in public parks and sweet-16 parties don't dip because a city's income dips. I know it was my promise during the campaign (but I'm the one with a bi-monthly column and Scott and Melanie are the votes on city council).

I encourage any resident that wishes to speak to council about the importance of any topic important to them to do so, especially regarding our police and fire departments. I believe it incumbent on citizens to voice their opinions more frequently than Novembers' first Tuesdays.

I also encourage them to attend city council meetings, especially when a topic near and dear to them is on the agenda.

However, I'm discouraged by attempts to manipulate the public with alarmist emails FB postings, and blogs. There's enough knee-jerking at the state and national level that we needn't imitate here in Ferndale.

Remember to check the facts before forwarding an email or trusting the guy asking you to send him money is a Nigerian prince seeking your aid to recover his family's lost $ millions.


  1. There are plans for layoffs Tom. They are just using careful words to hide the facts. 20% cuts in the city's budget is a plan. Everyone does take turns being fools. Brunner is talking out of both sides of his mouth on this one. He has said he wants to cut the city's services by 50% in 3 years. 20% this year and 20% next year. The fact that the Council is approving the funding and expansion of the court and Police Department next month is paramount to tonights meeting and educating the citizens about the future of their city. Get with it!!

  2. There is more than one way to cut a department's budget. I know the police officers have recommended a new schedule that can save the city $500,000. To date, the city hasn't responded positively to the officer's union's idea but there's politics behind that as well.

    And there will be attempts by both sides to manipulate the public--all using careful words to hide facts.

    I wouldn't be surprised, however, if council exploits the public outrage at rumors of layoffs to float a special public safety millage to help balance the budget and save them (temporarily) from harder choices. Already tonight a citizen suggested they would gladly vote in favor of a special millage.

    And in their excitement to demonstrate support for the police, the suggestion was followed with applause from the audience.

    Before we give politicians an easy way out I'd prefer they try to balance the budget without raising taxes. Surely, if the council is willing to entertain a new municipal building they ought to be able to find money for public safety--which is a far more essential government responsibility than others the city indulges.

    Yes, everything is being considered but we're months away from a draft and even further from a motion to approve the budget.

    In the meantime, I'll watch, read, and discuss the issue without agreeing to a tax increase prematurely.

  3. Maybe if there was a clear explanation of where the budget surplus from 2 years ago was spent, the city council might be able to claw back some credibility. The majority of residents watching from the sidelines see the large capital investments going ahead, apparently regardless of where the money is coming from.... it seems a done deal that the millage rates are going to have to go up by double digits, just for City revenues to stand still in the face of declining property values. Looking forward to receiving my property tax assessment... the residents are hurting and playing their part - what is the City Manager doing about it? The City treasurer / assessor (can anyone say "conflict of interest"?) surely knows which way to turn.

  4. Pissed off Taxpayer:
    I gladly pay for my city services in Ferndale. Ok so the state cut into our budget. Why is labor cutting the 1st thought?
    Residents must be prepared to bag their own leaves now. Snow removal service is already at a skeleton crew. These are what Ferndale residents love and expect from the DPW services. You see a noticeable difference driving from Detroit to Royal Oak on worst winter rush hour. It's safer driving in Ferndale.
    The DPW will be hard hit the most because police and fire will always have louder voices over services. We need them all!
    Three Million dollars is not laughable but ask about salaried managers and their performance bonuses. How about Bob Bruner's car allowance and city owned home a block away from city hall.
    Higher officials are not in the wage concessions group? Why not? Who watches over them, not city council! Parks and Recs Center is a privilege here. She out priced her services to for league sports in this town. Many softball teams opted out the high inconsistent prices here. But Brunner gave her the post there. So does that make the program untouchable too?
    Yes Bob Brunner talks out both sides of his mouth because the City's CFO has the real control and power. She's both the CFO and Assistant City Manager.

    Brunner looks more the like 33yr old scape goat for the Assistant city manager and CFO.
    I smell politics afoot!

  5. I heard the CFO has a pile of papers the size of a small mountain strewn about her office and all over her desk. How can anyone make an informed decision on anything when there is that much not known or hidden. I am going to make a special trip to the City Hall to see for myself, I invite others to join me. Mr Gagne, what do you know about this? Maybe we should be informed of this by mr Brunner.

  6. "Studies are piling up that show that messy desks are the vivid signatures of people with creative, limber minds (who reap higher salaries than those with neat “office landscapes”) and that messy closet owners are probably better parents and nicer and cooler than their tidier counterparts. It’s a movement that confirms what you have known, deep down, all along: really neat people are not avatars of the good life; they are humorless and inflexible prigs, and have way too much time on their hands."

    From Saying Yes to Mess - New York Times.

    Ask Tiffani what she thinks of my work area in the basement. You can also Google for "horizontal thinking" or "lateral thinking" for more analysis of cluttered desks.

  7. To the pissed-off taxpayer, the next budget hasn't been drafted yet and preparations don't start until March. Until then I don't believe it's settled whether there is a "concessions" group or who its members may be.

    If there is one, I recommend the city follow Oakland County's example and include everybody.

    True, most city services are valuable, but it's irresponsible to accept all of them are equally valuable. Leaf pick up, as much as I like it, is not as essential as public safety. There's a big difference between picking leaves up half as often and picking criminals up half as often.

  8. Mr Gagne,

    I'm disappointed in your reaction to this as I was a supporter of yours in the past two elections. Lay-offs were discussed by the City Manager well before the end of last year- in fact I believe they were brought to department heads in November. This was all kept very quiet, and most employees in the city did not know the meetings took place. Some departments even went to great lengths to hide it from their workers. Had it not been for the actions of some people to bring it to the forefront the citizens would never have known until it was too late.
    For years, city management has spent money on frivolous items- just look at the Woodward Ave monument at E Cambourne and Woodward. They have spent over $60,000 to consultants to look at a new city hall. The representative from Plante & Moran even questioned why spend the money to renovate instead of moving the buildings off of E 9 mile and redevelop- but did the city listen? No. The survey that the City Manager sent out about city services was done through a consulting firm that had to be paid. Was this not something he could have done himself? I imagine he must have taken some class in college on surveys while on his way to a degree in public management.
    Yes the city is short money, and yes cuts will have to be made but does it make sense to continue to pour money into monuments, the Woodward Dream Cruise, a new city hall when you are being forced to lay off workers? Where are our priorities? I know where they are at: all the new bars in the downtown area. Ferndale has become a town known for it's parties instead of families. Didn't you run on a platform of pushing Ferndale as being a family city?
    Let's see the city dip into the $4 million dollar rainy day fund that they are refusing to touch, and lets put out real retirement offers and trim the employees that way. It costs more to keep long term employees than short term.

  9. Anonymous, a quick browse of this blog will demonstrate I've been against frivolous city spending for years--especially the monument, consultants, and the new city-hall pipe-dream.

    What I won't do is get excited about rumors. There are far too many of them. I especially dislike attempts to stir public opinion with half-truths people won't put their name on. If it means enough to you then I think you should put your name behind it. Unsigned fliers suggesting a vote on laying off police officers is designed to stir passion, not educate or informed debate. Repeating unattributed statements on a provocative topic like laying-off police officers is also something I dislike.

    So if you are disappointed I'm not spreading or repeating rumors, prepare to be disappointed with me A LOT. There's plenty of that available from other politicians, pundits, and activists.

    Yes, the budget is horrible. Yes, there will need to be about 20 people fewer in city hall than there is today. No, they won't all come from public safety. I don't believe public safety should escape budget cuts. Just as city government has both mandatory and discretionary items, I suspect both the police and fire departments have mandatory and discretionary items. Lessen the discretionary, keep the essential.

    The union has repeatedly attempted to get the city to consider 12-hour days, which I'm told by multiple officers would work for them, and with the elimination of a command officer the saving might approach $500,000. That's big. I know some on council know this. They agree its a good idea. But no one on city council, to my understanding, sits in on the negotiations.

    Anyway, I believe it's too important an issue to make decisions based on emmotion and rumors.

    If I spread a rumor at least my name will be on it, you'll know the source, and if I'm wrong I'll take the hit.

  10. Tom,

    You have this blog but add nothing to it. an unsigned flier was factual. The City was and is considering multiple layoffs. Just because someone does not sign it does not make it true. Maybe some people need to be protected by not letting their identity known.

    You posted on your first blog regarding this that the council has no agenda attachments or has any intentions of talking about layoffs and the such atthe last meeting but there was an attachment and they did talk about it. What do you have to say about that?

    The citizens are luck for the people that put that flier out and they should be praised for informing the citizens of yet another potential screw up that was about to be made at the citizens expense.

    And what is with the response to the pile of papers on the CFO's desk. I don't care about the personality that it exudes, I want to know that the job is getting done and the facts are all in before I make an informed decision. You are losing credibility sir.

    Signed Anonymous

  11. Council discussed the issue because the response to the flier was overwhelming.

    I can't find the attachment you wrote about. I've reviewed the agenda and minutes and still don't see police layoffs on it.

    I don't mind folks distributing fliers. I just don't like unsigned fliers. I appreciate that folks sometimes need to protect their identities, but protecting is different from hiding.

    I already responded to the pile-of-papers accusation in an earlier comment.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. PS.

    No, signing a flier doesn't make it true, but if its author isn't willing to put their reputation behind their words why should I? Also, if I wanted more information who would I call? If I wanted more fliers who would I contact? If I were a reporter who would I contact for comments?

  14. Hiding is protecting sir. Believe it or not, some people can be vindictive.

    The agenda was added to prior to the meeting reference the budget and they discussed it later that night when they told the Captain to make a list of employees in order of importance for layoffs. They also discussed other layoff issues previously discussed. Hardly an 11th hour addition due to the fliers in question.

    The fact that the fliers were unsigned is insignificant. They were in line with what was told to the police officers the previous few days. They were told over 10 officers were on the choping block due to information given by Mr Brunner. The police were told 50% of city services were in line to be cut over the next 3 years. This can be confirmed I believe by the Police Union Officers.

    Your head is in the sand sir and your political side is showing. The flier was a great thing and it has kept the Council and Manager honest.

  15. Tom is not "letting his politics show". He is, as is his norm, considering the issue in a realistic manner, even if that means being unpopular with some. Putting your head in the sand is believing that in an economic crisis as the one ALL cities across Michigan are facing, a department that makes up OVER 50% of the total budget of a small city isn't going to be affected. Nobody likes it, nobody wants it, but unfortunately it is going to happen. It's really easy to say "support the police". I love the Ferndale police. I want to keep every single officer we have. But as my grandpa said, you can wish in one hand...

    What upsets me is the accusations, blaming, and disparaging comments being thrown around be people who I do not believe have a very good grasp of how a city's budget works, but find it popular to shout slogans and rhetoric, which are very popular, but not at all helpful.

  16. Anonymous, you'll have to let me know what my "political side" is.

    In the meantime, I will admit when I'm wrong. the 11th-hour item you're referring to would be 8D, Police Department Prioritization Resolution, moved by Galloway and supported by Piana. All but Lennon voted to require the police to list their most-to-least disposable staff positions.

    Like any organization, I believe the police department has both discretionary and non-discretionary items in its budget.

    I've asked both the Chief and Capt. Collins for comments since both the list was due 1/27.

  17. Not a problem. We all agree there is a problem financially. That is across the board and we all agree something needs to be done. That too is across the board. The purpose of the letter was to bring to light that the city was on one hand looking to spend MILLIONS on a new police station while in the other hand threatening to lay off on some counts half of the department.

    A lot of people think they were trying to broom this thing through and then the rest of the city employees, not just the cops, would have to sacrifice their jobs to pay for it. When things like that come to light, a lot us "business as usual" gets put out on the front lines and is shown how faulty it was run.

    Again, kudo's to whoever brought it to light in the letter or otherwise. It enlightened a whole lot of people and maybe things will get done right. I am sure some officers and other city employees may get layed off, but had things been run right in the first place, it might not have come to this.

  18. And reference 8D. That just shows the propensity for them to manipulate the public (I won't say lie). The boldly said to the newspaper NO AGENDA but still put it on. I am sure they didn't draft it at 630PM after the paper went to press.

  19. Regarding 8D... What I took from the meeting was that the request for the prioritization of the department had been made previously, but that the department had not yet complied, which prompted council to pass a resolution making it an official demand. I believe the Captain said that with the Chief out of town they would need more time, which makes sense. Correct me if I'm wrong on this, but I think that is what prompted adding the resolution, not a flier or an attempt to be sneaky.

  20. We've been screaming about the new building for months! I ran for council diametrically opposed to spending ANY money on a new building unless I could write the check myself ($45 or less). Greg Pawlica also ran for council opposed to the new building.

    There were forums, literature, mailings, newspaper articles, and speeches at council meetings intending to dissuade council from persuing a reckless and expensive agenda towards refurbishing city hall. Mayor Craig Covey objects to it and repeats is objections ever chance he gets.

    But alas, by percentage more Detroiters showed up for their fifth? election in 18 months than Ferndale did for there 1st election in twelve, and elected the two council persons I believe are the most likely to approve the spending and all the consulting fees leading up to it.

    Citizens' reaction to the flier supports the claim that sound bites, negative campaigning, and ad populum are the most effective means to motivate voters.

    Regarding 8D, I'll have to watch the meeting again to see how it was added.

  21. The item was added at the meeting during "approval of the agenda." The entire council seemed to know about it, so I'm a tad suspicious of Mayor Covey's repeating on Greg Pawlica's Facebook page that there was no 1/25 agenda item considering police layoffs.

    There was a special meeting immediately preceding the city council meeting, and the item may have been introduced then. If so, I'm curious which of the council persons added it.

  22. Does a request for prioritization of the department equal a discussion of layoffs? Or does it equal a request for information? Was the same request made of other departments? Did they comply without a resolution needing to be passed? It appears to me at the end of the meeting when the item was discussed that this request had already been made as an information gathering exercise, but there was no compliance.

  23. That was my impression as well. I inferred from council's questions that the request had already been made of the Chief and that his absence at the meeting was not going to dissuade them from asking Capt. Collins to produce the list.

    I don't know if other departments were asked to do the same, but I suspect they were and it can easily be confirmed.

  24. What happened was the Captain and other department heads were asked to each find a proposal to cut 20% from their respective budget for this year and another 20% for next year totaling 40%. A proposal only if they had to cut that much. That is where the high number of layoffs initially came from I believe.

    The Captain said he wanted to consult with the Chief so he was ordered to do the second prioritized list in the mean time. That was dropped on him that night.

    It is obvious that there have been NUMEROUS talks of layoffs and budget cuts in every level of the Government, so it was a flagrant lie for them to all sit up in front of the citizens and say they never talked about it. What a joke.

  25. Jason, you can't be serious. Request for information or a discussion??? What is the difference. Symantics. It was discussed through a request for information. Everyone else in the city has been discussing it. Cmon man, that was dumb.

  26. Anonymous, your not protecting your identity anymore. If you're going to call Jason dumb (which I discourage) please do it using your real name.

  27. The comment was dumb. Ok rediculous, silly or any other non offensive word. The comment was. That is the problem with politics Tom, everyone is using symantics to cover their own agenda. It WAS discussed, plain and simple. You can have your blog as I see there can be no controversay. You will make a good Councilman.

  28. Controversy is great. Ad hominem not-so-great.

    Dennis Prager says it best in his article, Internet Anonymity as Destructive as Porn.