Show us the conservatism

Watching what the City Council does on cops’ contract

It’s going to be interesting to see how the city’s negotiations with the Chico Police Officers’ Association play out now that the City Council has a conservative majority.

For years, the right-wing members of the panel have bleated about the liberals spending the city into oblivion. All along, though, throughout the Great Recession, they have approved the city budgets and employee contracts that have led to Chico being the 25th-highest-paying city in the state of California. Those are the decisions—not the plastic-bag ban or the mandated general plan process—that truly led to the city’s recent financial turmoil.

Now the cops’ union is seeking unsustainable salary increases. Since payroll eats up the majority of the city’s general fund, the only way to get control of it is to rein in salaries and benefits. The conservatives know this, but they received endorsements from the CPOA during the election. So how will their loyalties fall? Will they do what’s best for the public or will they cater to the special interests that helped elect them? Time will tell, and we’ll be watching. So will those who voted them in to make financially prudent decisions.

In the meantime, we want to give a hand to the watchdogs in the community who have stood up to the bullies leading the CPOA. Among them is Michael Jones, a local dentist who spends a lot of time researching not only the financials of Chico, but also of other cities. In doing so, he’s learned that Redding, the city the union’s leaders refer to when lamenting how underpaid local cops are, is the highest-paying city of its size in the nation. As a result, Redding’s police department is understaffed by 21 positions. Unsurprisingly, its crime rate greatly exceeds Chico’s (see Jones’ guest comment on this page).

Chico’s police officers received overly generous raises this past decade, including during the worst recession since the Great Depression. City data make this patently clear. These city employees never felt the strain they should have felt years ago had the city been properly managed. City officials must not cave to their unrealistic demands.