I recently read the letter sent out to the members of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce from the leadership of the local firefighters and police unions. The letter was very disappointing to me. I am a longtime resident of San Luis Obispo and not a member of the Chamber of Commerce, though I know several of the people named in the letter.
To portray these people as self-serving profiteers is absurd. Without exception, the people I know among them are very hard-working, honest people who, in addition to running businesses that employ many people, donate considerable time, money and energy to charitable organizations and community-building projects.
Collectively they represent a citizen resource that has both passion for our city and good fiscal sense. Our city is well served by their perspective.
Is it the only perspective we should seek? Of course not. All parties need to be heard on the important issues facing our collective future. I believe most citizens appreciate having as much information and as wide a range of perspectives as possible when making decisions.
Like many other out-of-the-public-eye citizens these days, our dinner table and office conversations are spent discussing the issues of compensation, pension, public safety and community services. I have not heard a single person express any vitriol or resentment toward our police or firefighters.
I have read the recommendations from the Financial Sustainability Task Force. I see nothing that constitutes an “attack” or a “personal agenda against public employees.” I see a presentation that is fiscal in thrust and citizen/taxpayer focused. I don’t agree with everything they propose, but again, I am glad to have the perspective.
Now let’s look at the letter. It reads plainly as an indictment — literally a call to the chamber membership to tell their leadership to butt out and keep silent on these very important citizen issues.
Direct and personal attack language such as “vitriolic rhetoric,” “we face increasing hostility” and “line their own pockets” is unlike any I have seen from any other group to date.
When I came to the part where you name each person that you apparently see as hostile, the hair on the back of my neck twinged. Wow. What is that about?
The letter also uses the words “public safety” and “risk” several times. What are you going for here? Are we supposed to be scared of what may happen if binding arbitration is repealed? I am no prude or paranoid, but can you understand how a letter from the union leadership of our city’s trained and well-equipped protection professionals naming prominent citizens you consider “hostile” could have a chilling effect on open dialog? Really?
In all honesty, this letter is the scariest thing I have read in a while. It prompted me to write this letter and to urge my fellow citizens to get involved. Fellow nonchamber citizens: Get a copy of this letter and read it. Read it and all other information at your disposal regarding the current fiscal and public services issues we face. What kind of a city do you want to live in? Please get involved.
Fellow citizen firefighters and police officers: I think a fair question works both ways. Have you read this letter? Isn’t it time to ask your leadership why they are bringing gasoline to a community bonfire?
Greg A. Notley is an engineer who has lived in San Luis Obispo for more than 20 years.
To read the letter sent out to Chamber of Commerce members by the police and firefighters unions, please visit www.sanluisobispo.com/2011/02/09/1477174/editorial-unions-snub-is-a-puerile.html