Thoughts on the self-serving candidates forum hosted by cops

I can’t be the only one who is wondering why in the hell the City Council candidates would show up at the dog and pony show—I mean, candidates forum—sponsored by the Chico Police Officers’ Association last Monday.

Seriously, so now the special interest groups are putting candidates on the spot? This is a joke, right? The situation seems ripe for an analogy. The one that comes to mind is the mob interviewing business owners they’re going to shake down in exchange for protection. That might seem a little strong, but the questions during this forum were so self-serving (see Newslines, page 13). Here’s one: “In regards to the compensation that members of the CPOA currently receive, do you feel it is adequate in order to retain and recruit quality officers to work for this association knowing that other associations of similar size are receiving as much as 25 percent more?”

Um, that’s crap. (But, thank you, CPOA, for giving me column fodder.)

And the council candidates responded so earnestly, even though I suspect most, if not all, of them believe that the city’s employees are vastly overpaid—mostly because of the benefits packages they receive, profit that in 2012 pegged Chico as the 15th most generous city in the state when it comes to that sort of compensation.

Andrew Coolidge called the police department’s pay “decently average for the state.” He claimed to have done his homework, but if that were true he’d know that Chico ranked 25th in the state for overall compensation—that’s out of 482 incorporated cities and counties. Decently average? More like uber exorbitant. According to our assistant city manager, the average compensation for a Chico police officer is $136,000 a year. That’s more than three times the median household income ($43,000) in this North State town.

I, for one, am tired of hearing how the current council needs to support public safety. How about turning that around? Let’s get real here. The city’s biggest expense is payroll costs and the majority of that compensation—more than 80 percent—is allocated to the police and fire departments alone. In other words, the members of those unions and their inflexibility and greed are the true barriers to the city hiring more personnel.

As far as the candidates go, I didn’t hear anyone with the political will to get our city’s public pay down to sustainable levels. How disappointing.

Speaking of disappointments, in our annual Best of Chico contest, arguably our most-read issue of the year, we caught a number of incidences of ballot-stuffing. I’m not going to divulge the method of the stuffers, but I do want to give the CN&R’s operations department a shout out for spotting the fraudulent votes.

On the plus side, it was great to see many new first-place finishers in this year’s contest. Congratulations to all of the winners and to those who placed, and thank you to everyone who took the time to vote.