In response to the March 16 article, "Council approves dept. head bonus plan," and the March 20 editorial, "Politically, or City Council has gone tone-deaf," it's important to note the difference between "policy making" and "pay raises," or bonuses for extraordinary accomplishments, savings and/or leadership.
If the people aren't making an effort to be fully informed, yet form an opinion on selective or partial information, then an injustice will likely result.
The City Council was doing something that basically was mandated by CALPERS, so as to have a policy in place regarding merit performance-based recognition for our department heads (on the record), that was also consistent with policies for our city general staff.
This policy is to be a tool for our city manager to use at his discretion (as deemed appropriate, if and when) for extraordinary department head recognition to those who have served our city and/or made managerial leadership contributions above and beyond normal expectations of their normal responsibilities, which likely greatly contribute to our city's economies and efficiencies. It is absolutely a necessity to have on the books!
This now-defined "bonus plan" will actually in the future save our city money in that the old, antiquated policies did not look out for our city's best economic interest. Keep in mind that the majority of our department heads are on the lower end of the city department heads pay scale (regionally and statewide).
To date, no department head has received a bonus compensation under this new policy and it will only be proposed by our city manager if and when he feels it's appropriate and can be afforded. Mr. Butler will be fully prudent if and when an extraordinary performance by department heads demands such recognition.
The accounting of events by the newspaper needs to represent all of the facts versus selective journalism. Specifically, I discussed and expressed my concerns for our historically challenging economic times, continued deficit situation as a city, county, state, nation and world. The City Council meeting minutes as prepared by the deputy city clerk reflects the real record and facts, as compared to the newspaper's selective "sound bite" journalism; therefore full context of a particular situation is required for citizens to better know the big picture.
I also made it perfectly clear that in addition to the Council being well aware of our current deficit, that our city manager is very cognizant of the current deficit situation, and I'm aware he is currently working on specific creative balanced budget plan options/considerations for our forthcoming fiscal year, 2010-11, which will require several challenging reassessments and tough decisions to be made.
I assure you that this particular City Council, with the exception of one particular rogue member, takes its fiscal, general funds decisions very seriously, along with City Manager Rod Butler and Finance Director Ken McDonald. Individually and collectively, we have the city's best "big picture" financial interest (short and long term) at hand, and I am confident our city will proceed into an unknown future - fiscally sound - excepting the one great unknown variable of the proposed 2007 sewer rollback initiative's success.
It's essential for all of our city to be fully informed and involved in all of the issues - as individually and collectively as your City Council we make policies for the best interest of the majority of our people, based on all of the facts and information available.
Charles Slert is a member of the Crescent City Council.