San Luis Obispo’s Police Officers Association appreciates the opportunity to set the record straight after a recent Tribune editorial criticized our members’ decision not to participate in a longtime San Luis Obispo tradition, the Chamber of Commerce public safety appreciation luncheon (“Unions’ snub is a puerile decision,” Feb. 10).
For years, the annual luncheon has been a community event of which we are proud, an event that highlighted our members’ dedication to our city and demonstrated the close-knit relationship between firefighters, cops and our community that has made San Luis Obispo such a wonderful place to live. But recent actions by a few leaders of the Chamber of Commerce have cast a shadow over this year’s event.
It is our hope to open a broader dialogue with San Luis Obispo’s citizens at large, because we know that the people of San Luis Obispo — and especially the vast majority of the city’s business leaders — aren’t worried about lunch. They want to know that cops are on the streets making sure our families are safe, and they want assurance that when they call 911, a fire truck is at the ready.
While cities across California are struggling to keep the streetlights on, laying off cops and shuttering fire stations, San Luis Obispo has strong reserves. More importantly, we have a community committed to working together to maintain the safety and quality of life our residents count on.
But some have used the economic crash and the resulting dip in city revenues as an excuse to push for a narrower agenda, including changing the city charter to eliminate protections that keep cops and firefighters on the job, even in the absence of a contract, and ensure a fair bargaining process from both sides.
We want to work together to ensure that our business leaders’ investment in our city is protected and that our families continue to have the top-notch public services they deserve. We were encouraged by the city’s development of a Financial Sustainability Task Force, but it quickly became clear that this panel didn’t represent the interests of our entire community.
Our cops and firefighters know that we are not immune from the devastating economic crisis that has rocked our whole country. Recognizing that budgetary challenges require everyone to cut back, we have already come to the table with zero salary or cost of living increases for multiple years and an extended phasing in of retirement benefits.
We continue to work with critical public safety positions unfilled in an effort to help balance the budget. We continue to offer concessions and participate as partners to heal our city finances.
Rather than tearing down the community spirit that has made our city strong, we hope to build on it to continue to be part of the solution to the fiscal issues that San Luis Obispo — and all of California — continues to face.
We look forward to working with the community, the city, the chamber and the local businesses that keep our economy vibrant to find real solutions to the issues we face together.
In the wake of the Chamber of Commerce leadership’s attacks on us, we appreciate the support of so many in our community who have expressed their appreciation for the hard work our members dedicate to the city day in and day out.
The majority of San Luis Obispo residents recognize that the best way to honor our work is to ensure that we can continue to support your families and ours with dedicated, high-quality safety personnel and timely responses to crisis calls. Matt Blackstone is a 16-year veteran police officer for the city of San Luis Obispo and president of the San Luis Obispo Police Officers Association.