Monday, October 20, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Sewer board flushes interests of residents down drain

faison column sig

By
From page A8 | July 28, 2013 |

To members of the Fairfield-Suisun Sewer District governing board I say: Well played.

Whether we like it or not, the cost of doing business tends to rise over time. The trick for local governments is to keep those rising costs in check to the greatest extent possible.

In the case of the sewer district, rate increases are likely justified to bank the millions of dollars it will cost to repair and replace big-ticket items as they age and ultimately fail. Better to pay as much of those costs as possible with available cash, rather than incur greater debt, which in turn would drive up rates. I say this as a Fairfield resident and ratepayer.

Where the sewer board failed the community isn’t with the rate increase that kicked in July 1, but with the board’s unwillingness to take the action its own members suggested within the past year to rein in costs in other areas.

First, some background.

This is a board whose members opted twice in 2012 to forgo rate hikes pitched by staff. Some called for a review of district operations to ensure, among other potential outcomes, that public-sector sewer district employees were not overpaid or the beneficiaries of better benefits than their public-sector counterparts in Fairfield and Suisun City.

Conference travel by sewer district board members became a thorny issue for the board. From 2010 through 2012, nine sewer district board members attended at least some of the conferences in Palm Desert, Napa, San Diego, Sacramento, Newport Beach, Monterey and Washington, D.C., for a total cost of nearly $100,000. Seven board members went to the 2011 Palm Desert conference. Five went to the 2012 Palm Desert conference. Six went to the 2011 San Diego conference.

A move to limit board conference travel to posh California destinations failed to gain traction, in spite of public criticism and a critical assessment by the Solano County grand jury. The board’s final concession, taken Monday and in response to the grand jury? The board agreed to develop a policy to require written conference reports.

That should have been happening already.

Board members and district staff throughout the months-long discussion of conference travel have cited the importance of these regular excursions. They have said board members must remain current on such things as technological and legal developments in the realm of sewer district operations in California. These conferences provide that knowledge, they have said.

So why wasn’t that critical knowledge being shared?

I suspect there’s truth to the argument in favor of conference travel. I also suspect that a requirement that board members pay strict attention and take notes that are sufficient enough to base written reports on may sound too much like work during these working vacations. I use the term “working vacations” because on the one hand our elected city council members are there on our behalf, serving as our representatives to the local sewer district board; while on the other they are drinking in the lifestyle of high-end resort living that many of us could not afford on such a regular basis.

Who wants to take and review notes or pen a report when the poolside lounge or golf course beckons? The trip’s bought and paid for anyway – by ratepayers, I hasten to add – so why not drink it all in?

We need not worry about our elected leaders missing out on this valuable education, even as the grand jury was preparing its critical report and the public was starting to feel the pinch of various tax increases passed in November at both the local and state levels. That’s because our interests were well-represented in January at the California Association of Sanitation Agencies’ three-day conference the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, near Palm Spring in Southern California.

Fairfield Mayor Harry Price, Suisun City Mayor Pete Sanchez and Suisun City Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Hudson broke away from their daily responsibilities to suffer the harsh environs of Indian Wells in winter.

The Renaissance Esmeralda’s website describes a stay there as “a journey, an adventure, a place of magic where a lifetime of memories can be made in a single day.” Wow! That sounds like a nice destination for those who want a break from the East Bay’s winter weather. To Mayors Price and Sanchez, and to Mayor Pro-Tem Hudson, who I’m sure each enjoyed that little vacation, – I mean endured that business trip – I say, you’re welcome – I mean, thank you for your sacrifice.

Sanchez and Hudson were joined in April by Suisun City Councilwoman Lori Wilson for CASA’s three-day spring conference at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa, which according to its website promises “unparalleled beauty and relaxing luxury.” Spring break, anyone?

To their credit, each reported on the conferences during subsequent board meetings.

This board of Suisun City and Fairfield council members is savvy in the ways of the world. How does a board maintain the perks of the job during tough economic times while mitigating pushback from public employees who want more money and better perks? Simple: Give those public employees a raise.

In this case, it was a 2.2 percent raise and only minor tinkering to other benefits. Board members also will keep their supplemental health insurance coverage, paid for as well by ratepayers. All that in spite of the grand show made by board members just last year to get their economic house in order before imposing greater costs on area residents.

Well played. The game of politics and the fleecing of the public is alive and well in Fairfield and Suisun City.

Reach Managing Editor Glen Faison at 427-6925 or gfaison@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlenFaison.

Glen Faison

Glen Faison

Glen Faison joined the Daily Republic as managing editor in September 2009. He has worked as a reporter and editor for daily and weekly newspapers in the San Joaquin Valley for 20-plus years. His experience includes time as editor of the Golden Eagle, a military paper serving the Lemoore Naval Air Station. He graduated from Fresno State University with a bachelor's degree in journalism and bleeds Bulldogs red. He is an avid Washington Redskins fan, and attended the 1988 NFC Championship Game against the Minnesota Vikings at RFK Stadium. He married his wife, Jill, in 2005, and has three children: Courtni, Tyler and Hayli.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 8 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • The MisterJuly 28, 2013 - 9:54 am

    Agenda 21

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensJuly 28, 2013 - 11:47 am

    Thank you Mr. Faison. Those junkets are of little value ans are the tip of the ineficiency government iceberg at the sewer plant.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodJuly 28, 2013 - 12:34 pm

    OK, Glen. But there is one thing missing from your report. Add up all of these costs and tell us what percent of our rates pay for them. It's not zero of course, but it's also not a very big percentage out of a $20+ million per year operation. I like the idea of written reports from conferences, but that obscures the fact that there is no substitute for ATTENDING a conference. I wish all the members would go. They are serving so we don't have to; I want them to be as well-informed as they can be. I'm more interested in the Board having a policy for travel expenses, like no first class air fare, alcoholic beverages, or meals over a certain amount paid by the District. They can do all those things, but have to pay the extra themselves. The DR would do us a service by publishing such policy as exists so we can converse about it. And as for quoting the promotional information from the web sites of the resorts where conferences are held, that's a bit of a cheap shot, don't you think? Of course those spots are going to make the place sound great, but that doesn’t mean conferees go primarily for that reason. The organizations that put on conferences want and need people to attend, so the always pick some place nice. There are only a few locations in California that can accommodate conferences made up of board members and professionals as large as these. Most organizations move them around for geographic equity. But they are always going to be locations that attract attendees. What’s more important is that the organization puts on a good program and uses its negotiating power to get the best deals possible for its members.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mayor SanchezJuly 28, 2013 - 1:46 pm

    Subway in Monterey ,burrito in San Diego, chow mein in Palm Spring , hot dog in Newport. Check out the details of meals I claimed in "vacation trips" . As for pool lounging and golf, I don't do either. Easy to write up essays that sell papers based on googled hotel advertisements. But the world keeps turning....

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • freemanJuly 28, 2013 - 7:02 pm

    These are the same wonderful gang of stalwarts who listened to the public and voted NO to a multi-year rate increase. Then when the public wasn't looking, they poked their fingers in our eyes and voted YES. Don't bother to respond, Rick Wood, we already know what you will say. The rest of us, however, can only shake our heads at the perfidious behavior of our elected representative. If they can't be trusted to keep their solemn words, then what surprise do they have in store for us next? Remember them come time to vote!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rick WoodJuly 29, 2013 - 1:15 am

    f: Don't bother to respond? So you get the floor to yourself? That's exactly what you want when you go to those meetings claiming to represent "the public." You don't. The people elected to office do. I expect them to take in your input, but not to assume it is the "the public's" wishes, only yours and any group you are authorized to represent.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • freemanJuly 29, 2013 - 6:23 am

    OK, Rick, I guess it's just business as usual for you when politicians make a solemn promise then when no one is looking break that promise. You overlooked that part when you jumped to your usual fawning approach to supporting those politicians now running things in Fairfield.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Dan TJuly 28, 2013 - 7:55 pm

    Glen, $100,000 over three years for conferences? Was that an actual figure or published budget numbers? From my experience, trade conferences are usually a pretty good value to the organization. Typically, the fancy hotel facility is partially paid for by the association coordinating the conference (through dues) and the vendors participating. The resulting cost to the agency ends up being lower than the surrounding less expensive facilities. Not attending the conference and falling behind on technology or missing out on some of the latest information on policy could cost magnitudes more in the long run. The one thing that actually made sense to me was the idea of requiring a trip report on what knowledge was gained from the trip.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

Girl Scouts explore sweet side of chemistry

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Time again for my Cheers and Jeers

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2

Senior Center hosts monthly travel presentation

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A3

 
Total Home, Garden & Harvest Festival wraps up

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Pumpkin Patch Festival set for final weekend

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A3

 
Sessions teach about child support process

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A3

 
Arrivederci! Italian Festival

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Red Kettle Program returns for holidays

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A3

 
Holiday Fashion Extravaganza registration deadline looms

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A3

Elder depression and substance abuse topic of discussion

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A3

 
Vacaville library to host composting series

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A3

Napa man jailed for running over ex-girlfriend

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: A4

 
Local governments schedule meetings

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: A4

Weather for Monday, Oct. 20, 2014

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B12

 
.

US / World

Obama switches gears, confronting Ebola head on

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
CDC to revise Ebola protocol, Pentagon preps team

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Expelled Nazis paid millions in Social Security

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
Cruise ship docks with Ebola-watched health worker

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Friends, family of Ebola patient reach milestone

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
California lottery sales top $5B for first time

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Archaeologists seek movie set in California sands

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
The 10 semifinalists for World’s Funniest Person

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

On the road to find the world’s funniest person

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Coroner: 6 fire victims died of smoke inhalation

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

New England raking in millions from leaf peepers

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Police hunt for clues near where Va. remains found

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Super drunk woman arrested, mistook jail for bar

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Robotic device helps paralyzed groom walk aisle

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Pope beatifies Paul VI at remarkable synod’s end

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
S. Korea: 2 Koreas exchange gunfire along border

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Sweden: 3 credible sightings in submarine search

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
5 Things to Know about Pope Paul VI

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

UN says Iraq has executed 60 people this year

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Marine accused in Philippine killing tests US ties

By The Associated Press | From Page: A9

.

Opinion

Pulse poll question

By Daily Republic | From Page: A8

 
Breaking news ‘facts’ worthy of note

By Jack Batson | From Page: A8

Is it truly affordable health care?

By Jim Mccully | From Page: A8

 
Suisun mayor offers his endorsements

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

Which candidates support Alzheimer’s cure?

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8

 
Beware a Trojan horse

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A8, 3 Comments

.

Living

Community Calendar: Oct. 20, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Oct. 20, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

I’m too scared to leave my abusive husband of 15 years

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: B5

 
Horoscopes: Oct. 20, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

 
Horoscopes: Oct. 21, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

.

Entertainment

TVGrid Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10

 
TVGrid Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

Comedians honor Jay Leno with humor prize in DC

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
Report: Nashville songwriter Paul Craft dies at 76

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

Reported ‘Easy Rider’ chopper sells at auction

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
‘New Girl,’ ‘Cosmos’ win Environmental Media Award

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

‘Letterman’ cue card man fired for colleague clash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

 
‘Fury’ blasts ‘Gone Girl’ from top of box office

By The Associated Press | From Page: A11

.

Sports

Manning breaks Favre’s TD mark in 42-17 win over 49ers

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Tim Lincecum waits his turn, still yet to pitch

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Keselowski keeps title hopes alive at Talladega

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Palmer leads Cardinals past Raiders 24-13

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Serena Williams hits back at Russian official

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Kings pick up G Ben McLemore’s option

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Rockets beat Warriors 90-83 in exhibition game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Pacquiao makes professional basketball debut

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Cal receiver Trevor Davis released from hospital

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Sounders rally for 2-2 tie with LA Galaxy

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Rangers net 2 in 4 seconds; Lundqvist stops Sharks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

 
NFL roundup: Jaguars bounce Browns, gets first win

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

SEC is 1st conference to put 4 in top 5 of AP poll

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Ski champ Svindal injured while playing soccer

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

This date in sports history for Monday, Oct. 20, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Royals dependent on 3-headed bullpen monster

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
Ben Martin wins 1st PGA Tour title in Las Vegas

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

Denkinger’s miss revisited as Series returns to KC

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9 | Gallery

 
Hend wins Hong Kong Open in a playoff

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

Baek wins playoff to take LPGA South Korea

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
Ilonen beats Stenson in World Match Play final

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

Jay Haas wins Greater Hickory Kia Classic

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
.

Business

Facebook, Apple pay for egg freezing, sperm donors

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Wizard of Id Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
For Better or Worse Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

B.C. Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Peanuts Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baby Blues Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Rose is Rose Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Dilbert Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Frank and Ernest Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Get Fuzzy Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Pickles Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Garfield October 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Sally Forth Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Baldo Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Beetle Bailey Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Zits Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
Blondie Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

Bridge Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Cryptoquote Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Crossword Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Word Sleuth Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

Sudoku Oct 20

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

 
Zits Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard of Id Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Peanuts Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Dilbert Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Beetle Bailey Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

B.C. Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Frank and Ernest Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Blondie Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Garfield Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Get Fuzzy Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Baldo Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Pickles Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Rose is Rose Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baby Blues Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
For Better or Worse Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Sally Forth Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Bridge Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Sudoku Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Crossword Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Word Sleuth Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Cryptoquote Oct 21

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7