To the San Antonio City Council:
We have been through a tough 18 months. Contract negotiations have challenged our relationships and put us on opposite sides of the table, professionally and politically. We have challenged each other and we are still working towards finding the right answers for the financial challenges facing the City and the San Antonio Police Officers Association (SAPOA).
In July, the City and the SAPOA negotiating teams met three times. While the negotiations were tense, they were not disrespectful or attack oriented. In fact, we would characterize them as productive. The Mayor requested a July 31st completion date and we were unable to produce a contract that met that goal. However, we still made progress. Both sides offered counter proposals and both sides argued the merits of their case. That’s what Collective Bargaining is all about. The process is working albeit slowly.
Unfortunately, City Manager Sheryl Sculley, who did not attend a single Bargaining session in July, lashed out with an attack on SAPOA after completion of the July 17th negotiating meeting. Her approach was full of vitriol and quite frankly, a lie. She communicated false information to the community through the media and then repeated her misleading attacks to each member of the City Council in a recap email. We want to set the record straight.
Sheryl Sculley stated, the “SAPOA proposal attempts to take all of the 66% public safety budget capacity over the next five years, leaving zero for City firefighters.”
The Truth: The City’s own financial projections presented on July 15th showed the maximum SAPOA proposal at 31.2% of the General Fund. The City Negotiating Team’s own cost analysis of the SAPOA proposal disproves Sheryl’s outrageous accusation. The City Manager is attempting to split first responders and pit police officers against firefighters. In doing so, she lied to you and the public.
Sheryl Sculley stated, “The union spent more money during the 2015 election trying to defeat Mayor Taylor and City council members then they are willing to spend on healthcare premiums.”
The Truth: The elections are behind us. We supported candidates as we have every election cycle. Once folks win, we get back to work. SAPOA offered to pay a minimum of $7 million in healthcare premiums. We don’t know what election Sheryl Sculley is referring too, but it wasn’t City elections. Again, this is an attempt to dredge up the past and divide the City Council from police officers. In doing so, she lied to you and the public.
If you followed the coverage of the July 17th negotiating meeting, you will not see either side attacking the other. The meetings were contentious, yes. These are tough negotiations with difficult changes to longstanding business practices. Both sides made concessions and both sides disagreed with the numbers. Both sides are prepared to keep working on it, together.
The only outrageous and personal attack came from City Manager Sheryl Sculley, following the completion of negotiations. That should tell you where the difficulty lies in finding a deal.
We believe it will be next to impossible to negotiate a fair deal with Sheryl Sculley, but we will keep trying. All we ask is that you dig deep and ask questions. Once you do, we believe you will see where the real problem lies.
The City Manager works for you. Let’s not let one person’s personal agenda or political bias take precedence over what is good for all of the people of San Antonio.
Yours in Service,
Michael F. Helle
San Antonio Police Officers Association