Geraldine “Jeri” Doud Morris passed away Sunday at Santa Paula Memorial Hospital. My condolences go out to Chappy Morris and family upon their tragic and unexpected loss. The Rosary will take place for Jeri at St. Francis Church, Wednesday, June 18, at 7:00 p.m.
Rest in peace, Jeri.
In the continuing controversy over the city government pay scale, the Gazette has published the pay rates for 24 city employee positions (see page 3), from City Manager to the Assistant to the Finance Director. The Gazette published only 8 positions last week. A complete list is included this week. Also, there are mid-management employees well deserving of a raise. We should consider as well the fact that a significant part of these salaries consist of “benefits”. But, I wonder why the benefits differ so much in a group insurance policy? These numbers can be compared to the salaries for 8 federal legislative, executive and judicial positions (as of 2006). Also included are the governors’ statutory salaries, taken from the Council of State Governments. The salaries of 41 governors are at, or below, $150.000 per year.
This sort of comparison seems more logical and fair than simply pointing to four other Ventura County cities (Hueneme, Ojai, Carpinteria, and Santa Paula) to see what they pay their government employees, as has been the practice. Otherwise, how can we know what criteria those four cities use to set their standards? Fillmore, the last time I looked, was the poorest city in Ventura County, and one of the smallest, at 14,000-plus population.
The Fillmore City Council ambushed the tax-paying residents of Fillmore during the late hours of the last regular council meeting. Councilwoman Cecilia Cuevas finally succeeded in subverting the Mayor’s position on the issue of travel and travel compensation.
It has been a long-established Council policy that council members must request permission to travel out of state when the city is footing the bill. Even travel within the state, outside the county, was restricted to League of California Cities, in Sacramento, without specific approval. It was also long-established policy that each council member was provided $1,000 travel money from which to draw, after approval. These rules simply corresponded to common sense protection against abuse of public funds. That is, ask for trip approval (does the city benefit?) and the amount of money needed to take the trip.
Mandated Council approval is prudent to prevent members from using public money for essentially private purposes, which can be made to appear somehow important to the running of Fillmore City business. In other words, it’s protection against sham excuses to cover trips for essentially personal purposes – like traveling to Puerto Rico to attend a NALEO convention, ostensibly to bring back information about the issue of obesity.
At this last meeting, with Councilwoman Hernandez absent, and only Councilman Scott Lee objecting, the Mayor grandly proclaimed his new preference for a new policy – that is, $2000 to each member to spend as he/she sees fit, with no restraints on where or why a member can travel. So, with a big smile, off to Washington D.C. goes our frequent flying Councilwoman Cuevas to another NALEO convention. It’s a hot election year don’t you know. Just imagine all the political connections Ms. Cuevas can make at city expense – especially with her new title of Mayor Pro-Tem. Maybe, just maybe, she will get to meet the great Obama!
I am disgusted with this decision and the three council members who voted for it. It reflects an irresponsible, almost juvenile, devil-may-care attitude towards city expenditures. I don’t fault the $2,000 – some Council members work hard for essentially no money. It’s how the money is spent, and where the travel takes them, for questionable purposes, that bothers me.
I, for one, am fed-up with the increasingly loose attitude, poor judgment, and policies evidenced in our Council these days. The Council has never, in the 20 years I’ve been observing it, been in such shaky condition. I strongly object to most of the dense development approved during the past several years – especially the Shaw monstrosity at the railroad tracks, which Ms. Cuevas shoehorned in with almost no discussion. City government, from the top on down, with several significant top and mid-management exceptions, needs a complete overhaul, and I worry about who might be waiting in the wings for the November election.
I predict that Councilwoman Cuevas will be working for some state or federal politician sometime during the next year or so. If she can just make those important NALEO contacts little Fillmore will quickly become a distant memory. After all, the City of Fillmore is paying for those political encounters, and she hears the call of “her people.” I haven’t heard her say this since being repeatedly reminded that all residents of Fillmore should be “her people.”
It’s not that I don’t admire political ambition. It’s just that Ms. Cuevas should pay her own way, on her own time. And our Mayor? He has to learn to say no!