This is 911, please hold


The contentious tax breaks given to tech companies in San Francisco are under fire once again, as emergency dispatchers protested crippling budget shortages yesterday (Wed/2) in front of the Department of Emergency Management.

With sweeping budget cuts across all public sectors over the past few years, everyone is clamoring for more money wherever they can get it. But these protesters, organized by SEIU Local 1021, made some pretty compelling arguments for being prioritized.

“When you call 911, there should be enough people working to pick up the phone,” said Ron Davis, who has been an emergency dispatcher in San Francisco for 13 years. “It’s upsetting when you or someone you love is in a life-threatening emergency and you’re put on hold for 30 seconds, 45 seconds, or even a minute and longer.”

The department receives, on average, nearly 3,000 phone calls per day, and the workers who spoke at the rally described long hours and inadequate coverage for the volume of calls that they receive. California law mandates that 90 percent of 911 calls be answered in ten seconds or less, but in San Francisco that number often drops to 60 percent or lower. Davis said that on particularly busy nights, such as New Year’s Eve, there can be up to 20 calls in the queue waiting for an available dispatcher.

“I don’t even go out on holidays,” Davis said. “I’m too afraid that if something happens to me or someone in my family, we won’t get through to 911.”

Protesters directed much of their frustration at the tech companies, especially those which received massive tax breaks as an incentive to remain in San Francisco. The estimated tax break for Twitter alone, estimated to be $56 million, is greater than the entire annual budget for the DEM.

The rally is a part of “Worker Wednesdays,” a series of events created by SEIU Local 1021 in response to Mayor Ed Lee’s Tech Tuesday meetings with local technology leaders. The goal is to draw Lee out to meet with and prioritize city workers. Since the mayor did not attend the rally himself, the protesters chanted and yelled at a seven-foot cardboard cutout of a smiling Lee.

The emergency dispatchers are just a part of the union’s contract negotiations with the city, as SEIU Local 1021 represents over 13,000 employees in San Francisco. Larry Bradshaw, vice president for the San Francisco region of the union, said that so far they had made no progress in their bargaining with city leaders. The contract is set to be written by May 2. After that, union members will decide whether or not they accept the terms.

Workers were willing to make sacrifices during the recession, Bradshaw said. But now that the economy has turned around, “we just want to recoup our losses and make up for lost ground.”

A concurrent meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee at City Hall brought up many of the same points. A report from the City Controller, Ben Rosenfield, confirmed that the economic growth in San Francisco has been among the fastest in the nation and that he expects the progress to continue.

Sup. London Breed specifically asked how emergency services play into this recent boom, and a representative from the Mayor’s Budget Office said that the DEM is currently working with the mayor’s office on a revised budget, which should be released later this month or early May.


There have been all sorts of reforms out there (Adachi, City family, Farrell) on the SF ballot but NONE have proposed cutting anyone's future health or pension "benefit" to be received. None, zero, nada, not a dollar. (See Chuck Reed future ballot measure for that.)

The Adachi and City family reforms were about increasing the employee contribution for pension and or health - all perfectly sensible given how prohibitively expensive those benefits are.

Let's be perfectly clear - nothing has been done or passed that has put a significant dent into the ballooning SF employee benefit debt - nothing.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 9:28 am

Voters do not buy your Pete Peterson Institute hysterical Kool Aid no matter how many billions of dollars they throw at propaganda.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 9:41 am

But when the numbers don't add up, you cannot make that go away just by wishing and hoping.

Cut now or cut more later - it's all the same to me because when the shit hits the fan, I won't be paying taxes here.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 9:49 am

Buh bye!

Posted by marcos on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 4:26 pm

pensions timebomb hits. You'll be stuck here paying for it while I am far, far away in a tax haven.

But meanwhile I'll make bank here, at the expense of folks like you. I win both ways.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

Are you saying that we are at "Peak Pension?"

Posted by marcos on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 7:04 pm

this magnitude disguise how out of control the city;s finances are. The tech boom is masking that right now but, if we have a downturn, the numbers will be horrible.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 6:55 am

We'll see how long Latino California is willing to accept high taxes and poor governmental services, in order to provide bloated pensions to a bunch of rich Anglos.

Posted by Huh? on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 7:23 am
Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 7:42 am

But that's not a crime. And you forgot to mention the Koch brothers...

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 10:04 am

yet. How many more cities have to declare bankruptcy before the message gets across?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 9:45 am

That's just startling to read here that Ron Davies makes only 131K annually.

The average annual compensation for a San Francisco police officer is 191K. They only make this sacrifice because of public duty: Cops in the private sector (security guards, for example) make salaries well above 200K annually.

People, you have to understand that public sector workers are making major sacrifices just to keep you safe and keep our city running so smoothly.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 9:35 am

The savings can come from the rest

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 9:47 am

Have never understood the City parity pay thing between cops and firefighters. Firefighters, who spend most of their time in the firehouse, shopping or responding to false alarms or tending to a fallen down drunks (but please send two trucks), just don't add the same value as cops.

Every time there is a major SFFD response to anything, you can literally count the number of SFFD standing around in circles chatting, doing nothing.

In short, SFFD is overrated. We certainly don't need 45 fully-staffed firehouses, not in this day and age. Hard to believe there is a more wasteful department in City government.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 10:14 am

I'm not OK with that. Cops here usually retire before they are 60 and live high off of defined-benefit pension plans just like rich people.

Cops and firefighters are the most egregious examples of public-sector workers living too high off the public teat.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 10:01 am

Yes, they have gone way over the top and put many cities in financial jeopardy. "Heroes" to the naïve...

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 10:18 am

the one thing they don't mind paying taxes for.

It's all the other crap that voters hate e.g. spending on the homeless, outrageous pensions for all city workers etc

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 6:54 am

This was in a Chron article about pay-to-play politics today. Political contributions to California legislature:

"Some of the biggest contributions, however, came from unions representing public workers whose pay, benefits and pensions are decided by lawmakers. They included:
» $65,000 from firefighter unions.
» $130,000 from engineers.
» $75,000 from school employees.
» $200,000 from state, county and municipal employee unions.
» And $160,000 from the California Highway Patrol officers union.""

Good investments!

Keep those pols well-bribed!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 10:16 am

Most of this comes from the regressive taxation of middle and lower-class taxpayers and families just struggling to make it. Enough already.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 11:00 am

The Chron has a a feature story on this 911 dispatcher today.

Lisa's got a nice $242K salary/compensation deal from the taxpayers. And she deserves to be a one-percenter! She deserves every penny! (though that pension ($35K) looks just like a nice spike right before retirement).

Lisa Hoffman, Dep Director, Emergency Communications
Base salary $194,474Lump sum sick pay $3,486
Employer contribution to pension: $35,464 (WHOA! SWEET PENSION LOOMING)
Non-cash costs of employment: $10,580

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 11:13 am

So, one can readily see that emergency dispatchers are grossly underpaid in San Francisco. As citizens, we should be worried that our dispatchers are struggling to survive on the edge of poverty.


Ronnie Davis: $131,000
Lisa Hofffman: $242,000

I suspect that Ronnie and Lisa will be jumping to better paid jobs in the private sector soon. This is the problem we have for paying public employees so poorly.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 11:18 am

Type a certain speed and a clean record.

I doubt any skills gained as a dispatcher will get a person much money in the private sector.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 11:27 am

Sure enough, Lisa Hoffman is retiring. She's 55:

""On March 21, her 55th birthday, Lisa Hoffmann sat down before five computer screens....Hoffmann, head of 911 dispatchers in San Francisco, was retiring on the day she became eligible for the maximum benefits."""

Wish I could retire on 'maximum benefits' at age 55.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 11:23 am

and begin work on her "second retirement." You'd think public employees couldn't gorge themselves any faster than they do, but many of them begin searching for another public sector job before they retire so they can rake in the moola even quicker!!

There's a police chief in SoCal who's working on his third public-sector retirement - at the end of which he'll be making around $600,000 per year from his pension after serving in three different police departments.

But don't forget people - they're only doing "public service!!"

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 2:08 pm

And yet so called "techies", most of whom earn nowhere near what either of these public employees make, and who have to fund their own retirements, are the greedy ones. But but but they get free bus rides!!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 8:31 pm

It's a perk of the job and paid for by money that could otherwise be used to increase pay.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 6:53 am

Wow. It seems the public takes 911 for granted. You take for granted that every time u have an emergency...need an ambulance...robbed at gunpoint...locked ur keys in the car..that u will be able to call911 and a live person will answer and help you. Let's try an experiment. We will continue to let our numbers dwindle. Until there are only 1 or 2 of us on the phones. The citizens can handle their own themselves to the hospital...etc. I have been a dispatcher for 10+ years. In that time I have been forced to work many hours of mandatory overtime, I have missed birthday parties, weddings, funerals, baby showers, Christmas , thanksgivings etc. I have never had weekends off. My days off are midweek. I have prescription pain meds for my neck and shoulders, I get a cold every 3 months because we get into trouble for calling in sick so we come to work sick and get each other sick. I have to ask permission to use the restroom...and there are times i am told to wait due to staffing. This job is the hardest thing I have ever done and it it toxic. My coworkers husband says every time cider son screams to us for help we swallow a little bit of poison and I believe it. As for this fabulous pension people keep referring to. We pay into our own pension and have had for years. There is no matching from the city. Our pension is so low that we must stay on the job til 60 or 70 years old. Way past the age where we can effectively do this job. This job takes acute hearing, fast reflexs, quick thinking. This job is hard. Ask any police officer and they will say that can't do it. I've heard that only 3% of the population can do this job.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 3:52 am

You now-doubt get a six-figure salary package, too, like Ronnie and Lisa.

Think about this:

Most of us are merely middle-class. The average household income in San Francisco is $81K. We'd love to have your six-figure pay package.

Do you understand that you are very well paid? That you have a very sweet pension deal that none of us will ever see? And that your pension pot is underfunded to the tune of $3 billion? That the huge pay package we give you means services for the poor, for schools, for road construction have to be cut each year?

So here's an idea: Start paying for your own pension. Then we can hire some more dispatchers with the money saved. But until then, throwing more money at you is merely feeding the monster.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 6:49 am

We have paid our own retirement for many years. Or salary is 81k. The only reason we ever make more is when they FORCe us to work overtime to cover for lack of staffing. I don't know why I am bothering. No one understands what this job is unless they do it. I know I didn't .i am telling you, we would be out of a job if the citizens would stop drinking, doing drugs, picking fits, doing stupid things, getting to know their neighbors and talking to them instead of calling the police to deal with a noise complaint..PARENT their own for laws in the city that don't tie the police depts hands so they can actually chase after and catch the bad guys.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 11:59 am

employee paid by the public. We can look up your salaries. Lisa's salary is not 81k and she's retiring with a fat pension at age 55. And to think - we bitch at Greece for allowing public employees to retire at such an early age. I don't have any problem with retirement security but how much is enough? The answer of the retiree is - it's never enough. For public employees, who've long learned how to game the system and double-dip - the answer is the same. More, more, MORE!!

Deferred compensation my ass. You are not entitled to a raise every year or a reduction in employee pension contributions because SEIU negotiators weren't able to strong-arm the city as they're used to doing.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 1:30 pm

And you are NOT paying for your own pension. You have a 'defined-benefit' pension plan with guaranteed, compounded annual returns. You need to be switched to a 401-K plan and pay for your own pension like the rest of us

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 6:52 am

Why do you hate old people and want everyone to risk retirement in a refrigerator box under a freeway ramp eating cat food?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 7:18 am

"Why do you hate old people and want everyone to risk retirement in a refrigerator box under a freeway ramp eating cat food?"

Oink, oink.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 7:31 am

greed of the few, for no reason other than an ideological preference for the wealth-consuming sector over the wealth-generating sector.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 7:44 am

I hate different classes of old people being treated differently for no good reason. That is discrimination.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 7:38 am

"We pay into our own pension and have had for years. There is no matching from the city. Our pension is so low that we must stay on the job til 60 or 70 years old."

That's not true. You are not paying for your own pension.

It's all right there for anybody to see on the SJ Mercury database.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 6:58 am

"I've heard that only 3% of the population can do this job."

Which leaves only 25,000 people in San Francisco capable of doing this job.

Frankly, it's not possible to pay City workers enough!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 7:20 am

Wow. Maybe that is why in part, they are so ungrateful for how well paid they are - and they keep asking for more.

I am beginning to believe that only about 10% of the public understands how expensive public employee benefits are and the future potential impacts of these enormous unfunded liabilities.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 8:21 am

"City employees don't even understand what a defined benefit is."

If you ask a public employee, they will explain that at various points in the past, their pay increases were allegedly reduced to provide for more benefits, and that these reductions in their pay increases "funded" their pensions.

That's why public employees are paid so poorly, because they sacrificed wage increases in order to receive better benefits.


Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 8:52 am

They used to claim they received 'job security' in exchange for lower wages than in the private sector.

But at this point, their salaries are higher than in the private sector, largely because they have been greasing/bribing politicians for a couple of generations.

The 'defined-benefit' plans they have are the worst part. All public-employee retires have pension plans that GUARANTEE 6-8% annual returns no matter what the stock/bond markets do. The pension costs are flying through the roof.

Marin, San Bernardino, Stockton...who's next?

Bankruptcy looms unless real reform measures are passed.

Those of us who have to pay for our own pensions (the 99%) have no sympathy for these people. We are paying for their retirement while trying to fund our own retirement. And the rising pension costs mean that funds have to be cut for other public services year after year.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 9:41 am

Who could argue with pro-cop marcos?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 10:04 am

For instance, a muni operator earns about twice the pay of a private sector bus driver AND gets more job security and better pensions and benefits as well.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 9:45 am
Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 11:11 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 9:46 am
Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 10:18 am

The cops aren't paid to fix stupidity.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 10:33 am

told us how quickly she/he dispatches prompt service when getting those calls!


Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 1:24 pm

as I was trying to get in using a coat hanger as a "slim jim."

Once they ran my license and were satisfied that I was self-burglerizing, one went back to the car and benificently produced a real slim jim with a bunch of tape wrapped over one end to make a "handle."

He proceeded to tried to catch the dealy inside the door for about 5 minutes and I could sense his mounting frustration and imminent impulse to tell me I needed a locksmith when I ever so importuningly asked him if I might take a shot at it myself.

I won't go into the details here but I learned from a somewhat shady tow truck driver* how to do it; I'll only to give the clue "hand is quicker than the eye." The door was open in moments and I was back to getting the hairy eyeball like I was some sort of thief.

*ps--yes there are some shady tow truck drivers, but that probably comes from who is hiring them...the tow company owners... retired cops and sherrif's deputies.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 10:41 am
Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 11:09 am

The city could easily cut its work force and future pensions in half, as well as cut 80% of the calls the 911 dispatcher's must answer. With just one action we could significantly reduce the budgets of the SFFD, PD, dispatch, and all other departments related to emergency and social services. All that and still get an ambulance to that sick child in need of an ambulance. Someday we will have no alternative but until then, the city will remain more concerned with its image then with public safety or fiscal responsibility. We all know the answer but not a single person with any political power has the stones to make it happen. The amount of money spent on the homeless is staggering. At least those collecting pensions provided a service to society. I'm well aware of how harsh an action it would be but it would take care of several problems all at once. Could you imagine what it would be like if the tenderloin didn't smell like feces?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 5:18 am

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