City workers, police and residents voice concerns
DJ Becker/The Madera Tribune
About 50 city workers in the MACEA union held their hands up in response to a question whether they were now considering leaving Madera for employment elsewhere, Wednesday night at the city council meeting. The group said they have not even had a cost of living increase in over three years and recently aired their concerns about losing employees and salary ground were not being heard by the city. The standing room only meeting was packed with concerned residents and many members of the Madera police department union, who are also in contract negotiations with the city.
A standing room only crowd of city workers, Madera Police officers and residents filled the council chambers Wednesday night to express their various concerns to the Madera City Council.
John Dalrymple of the City Employee Association (CEA) spoke on behalf of the 120 members of Madera mid level management and general bargaining units.
“We looked around and could not find another city council that is willing to jeopardize the integrity of public services that the community depends on, by enforcing a three year wage freeze. You understood this was bad public policy five years ago, when you did a compensation study and found (Madera) was so far behind (other comparable cities) you made some changes. Now you are going backwards.
“A permanent technician here makes $8,000 less a year on average than comparable cities. What is that going to do to the welfare and integrity of these families? Respecting the dignity of work. Do I pay the rent or provide the tutoring a child needs to have? That’s the choices you are forcing on them.
“Turlock and Delano a four percent raise, average raise in the area is at least a two percent. These cities all have the same challenges you have but somehow they are making the decision to value their workers and you are choosing not to.”
Dalrymple said the members just wanted to get this negotiation settled and were willing to make changes in retirement and health care contribution formulas.
“We’ve made an extraordinary offer. Let’s put together a strategy to do that. Let’s go to good faith bargaining. Let’s not have the conflict ridden bargaining that has been characterized by the city. But no response from the city. You lost one worker today. You are going to lose another one this week. We are asking you to do something different ... change the tone of bargaining. Move to an agreement,” Dalrymple said.
Ongoing complaints about the Mayor
Frequent city critic Ronnie Montoya spoke and noted the recent departures of many senior city department heads as positive steps, but took exception to the praise Mayor Andy Medellin had publicly lavished on former city manager David Tooley, who Montoya said was overpaid.
“Do your jobs, city council... censure this Mayor. We will be counting those votes. You have heard the complaints. Water (and utility) rates. It is your job to stop this. The Grand Jury report validated all this ...” said Montoya, in part.
Residents still struggling with high utility bills
Business owner Kay Rhoads spoke on behalf of a retired couple who wrote to her after seeing her advocating for residents, and for lower utility rates and lower salaries for senior city officials in several different articles in the Madera Tribune.
“These utility bills have gone up so much people are feeling helpless and are writing to me about it, like I can do something about it... It’s not just the water bill, it’s the sewer charges, the trash bills. All of it. And none of us are against paying the city workers. We were against the (previous) administration, which was so top heavy. This council has done a lot to eliminate those (situations), but they still have a long way to go.” Rhoads said.
Rhoads went on to read the letter from the woman, named Patty, to the council which said in part “I have read about what our (former) city council has done to the citizens of our town. We are behind you. Is there anything you can do to help us lower our water (utility) bill? There is just the two of us, we are on a fixed income and every month our (utility) bill goes up and up. I don’t know the steps to (try and) get the water bill reduced. I feel the city council is corrupt and needs to go away.” wrote Patty.
The Madera City Council meets at 6 pm on the first and third Wednesday of each month at city hall at 205 west 4th Street. The public is invited to attend and or speak at public comment should they wish to. Messages for the Mayor or city council can be directed to 661-5405.