The City of San Fernando City Council has reached an agreement and approved a contract with San Fernando Public Employees Association, the bargaining unit representing city workers. That agreement is a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for full-time employees over five years. The agreement also allows current employees to keep full benefits, not the “cafeteria plan,” where beneficiaries pick and choose certain benefits.
Although the agreement comes after a year of negotiations, city officials are not entirely sure it can afford the raises. Instead, they are relying on voters to approve extending Measure A in the November election. When voters first approved Measure A in 2013, it was meant to save the city from bankruptcy. It has since generated $9.9 million and is expected to generate an additional $6 million before it expires in 2020; the half-cent tax is considered vital in what has kept the city going.
Now, more than ever, the city will need voters to extend this tax to secure services and to comply with this agreement with SFPEA.
Councilmember Fajardo had a few concerns with the agreement during the council’s discussion, which was almost skipped had he not reminded Mayor Sylvia Ballin, who was quick to make a motion to approve the agreement. He expressed disappointment with pay discrepancies with the classification and compensation study, which compares San Fernando salaries with other nearby city salaries, saying some positions are overpaid while others underpaid. When pressed by The San Fernando Valley Sun, he was unable to specify which positions.
He also took issue with the current city workers being exempt from the cafeteria plan, which the city was bargaining for so that it may free itself of long-term liabilities and in the long run save money. Fajardo said the council recently agreed to a cafeteria plan themselves hoping other city employees will follow suit.
Another of Fajardo’s concerns was the five-year duration of the agreement.
He said he would have preferred a one or two year agreement, at least until they made sure Measure A was extended before making a long-term commitment.
Fajardo turned to Finance Director Nick Kimball and asked what situation the city would be if Measure A would not pass.
Kimball responded that if the measure does not pass, the city will be running paycheck to paycheck, but can still afford the new SFPEA contract, as long as there is no financial “shock” or “downturn.”
“We basically, if that were to happen,” Kimball said, “would have to go back to the employees and ask for concessions.”
He added, “If measure A isn’t extended, and there is a downturn, then there will be some very serious decisions that need to be made.”
The agreement was approved 2-1, with Councilmember Joel Fajardo being the sole “no.” (Councilmembers Antonio Lopez and Jaime Soto were absent.)
The city council also recognized Victor Martinez from Martinez Income Tax & Accounting and Theale “Stormy” Haupt, Chair of the Planning & Preservation Commission.
Martinez was presented with a certificate for his commitment and fundraising activity for numerous local community based organizations like San Fernando High School Alumni Association, San Fernando Police Advisory Council as well as Relay for Life, Hope of the Valley, True Memories Car Club Charities, Kidney Quest Foundation, and UCLA Library. He most recently helped fundraise $8,000 to send San Fernando Institute of Applied Media students to Washington, D.C.
“We have so many people in the community, business owners that step up. And they just want to do it for the city, just because. That’s the kind of person you are,” said Mayor Ballin.
Remembering Theale “Stormy” Haupt
City staff and community members then took time during the public comment section of the meeting to remember Commissioner Haupt, who died June 15 of cancer.
Councilmember Robert Gonzales, who appointed the commissioner, recounted how Haupt was always respectful despite the councilmember’s young age.
“One of the things that I found out while I was doing that, and after I got elected, is it was kind of difficult to get respect, too, because I looked so young. I looked inexperienced. But Stormy always respected me, and he always helped me out when I needed help.”
Gonzales said Haupt was always present for community clean-up and was completely dedicated to the city. He said that when he told one of his interns of his passing the intern gasped and said, “We just lost one of the good guys.”
“And that’s a hundred percent true, we did just lose one of the good guys,” Gonzales recounted.
Timothy Hou, director of community development, said that in his few months working with Stormy, “what’s most impactful was how quickly we forged a very positive and effective working relationship that went beyond work. It was really a friendship. That can’t be understated.”
He told about the time he delivered an agenda to Stormy’s home and was welcomed inside, where he got to see his wood workshop.
“And just the pride of being a San Fernando resident just shone through, it made you proud to work here,” Hou said choking up.
Dee Akemon said “Stormy did not suffer fools or liars. He didn’t like whiners either. First time I whined around him, he gave me a shot over the bell, I ducked, and I never whined again. If you asked for his opinion, you better brace yourself for his opinion.”
“If you’re going to fight a battle, and it was a battle, he was the man to be on your side,” said Linda Jerome. “I want to thank Stormy, cause I know he can hear me, and tell him that he will be around, as long as we are around, he’ll be around. As long as we remember his name, he will be a part of our community.”
The city council meeting was adjourned in memory of Stormy.