My name is Rod Mortensen, and I was recently elected president of the Carlsbad Police Officers Association, or POA. I came to work for this city because I think Carlsbad is an amazing place — you’d be hard-pressed to find friendlier people, nicer parks and safer streets anywhere in San Diego County. These are the things that attract high-quality residents and high caliber city-service employees to Carlsbad.
However, because of my love for this community and because of my current leadership position with the POA, I feel compelled to respond to clarify issues that have recently been reported in the press regarding the current state of affairs between the city and the POA. We believe the time has come to set the record straight because we see the city management losing sight of the key tenets that make Carlsbad uniquely great.
First, to the union label. There have recently been allegations strewn about accusing the POA of being nothing more than an unruly union engaged in typical, strong-armed union tactics. Although I recognize it’s politically convenient to vilify and lambast the concept of unions in general, for a myriad of reasons, characterizing the POA as being engaged in “union-politics-as-usual” is misleading and inaccurate.
For example, the POA is an association, not a union, and it is an association by city mandate for collective bargaining purposes, not desire. As an association, we do collect dues, and we do get group rates on various legal, dental and vision plans. Further, we are a 501(c) charitable organization and, as such, we make charitable contributions to the community in that capacity. As an officer-run association, the underlying spirit of the POA is one of efficiency and community service, not of self-interested, political bullying achieved by throwing around political weight. Ironically, the city is using our association as a scapegoat in their time of political uncertainty.
The POA demonstrates its core values through its actions more than in words. The POA has not campaigned to recall anyone; rather, we concentrated our efforts toward good-faith negotiations with the city. With the “Last, Best and Final Proposal” recently presented to the POA, it is abundantly clear that we are just political fodder to our outgoing mayor and the council member seeking to fill his seat. This letter itself is very reactionary in nature, and if anything, is arriving tardy to the political party.
As such, the POA has always actively sought reasonable solutions through methods of creative, efficient and cost-effective problem solving. For example, as an acknowledgement of the current tough economic climate and as a show of good faith in these current contract negotiations, in September 2009, the POA asked for nothing except to maintain the status quo and to revisit the negotiation table in a more stable economy.
Second, and more specifically, regarding our public safety retirement program; this is something the city voluntarily entered into with open eyes, recognizing the arrangement as being consistent with the standard industry practice in other California cities and counties for sworn peace officers. The city freely opted out of the social security retirement program in order to opt into the Public Employees Retirement System, or PERS. It is only now, with the previous agreement presently up for renewal, with a statewide and nationwide budget crisis, and with a city election on the horizon, the perfect political storm is brewing and a political scapegoat is needed to launch these new candidates into office. Utilizing fear tactics rooted in economic insecurity, mayoral candidates and council members who voluntarily approved this previous deal are now opportunistically tearing their previous work apart.
Instead of doing what it best for Carlsbad’s long-term sustainability, council members and mayoral candidates are mortgaging the city’s long-term prosperity for short-term political gains. The POA’s main goal and focus is, and has always been, serving the citizens of Carlsbad in a manner that improves their quality of life. Instead of recognizing, fostering and fiercely protecting the things that make Carlsbad great, certain shortsighted individuals within the city are more concerned with winning seats in city government.
I thank you for taking the time to hear us on this issue.
Rod Mortensen is the president of the Carlsbad Police Officer’s Association.