The Star-News

Dedication to public service comes at a price

Sat, Jun 02 2012 12:00 PM Posted By: Tom Basinski

I'm a pretty nice guy, or so I keep telling myself. Every now and then I’ll get irritated at someone, usually a politician or public figure, and write about it. Sometimes I ask for an explanation or response from an elected or appointed official.

In the past I have taken issue with something Mayor Cheryl Cox has done. I have known Cheryl for a couple of decades. I like her personally, and for the most part, professionally. When I wrote something confrontational she called me up and we had a frank discussion. She didn’t back away or hide from me. For this I applaud her. That is what I expect from an elected official.

I also had an ax to grind with Sweetwater Union High School District Superintendent, Ed Brand. I accused him of being a bully. Mr. Brand called me and invited me to his office to meet and talk. I went, after telling my wife if I didn’t come back, to tell the police my last destination. I thought Mr. Brand was personable and open.

Both Mayor Cox and Brand were stand-up people in responding to the issues I raised. That’s what we expect from our officials. Both of my encounters ended cordially.

In the past I’ve taken Assemblyman Ben Hueso to task for his stance on AB 1028 which removed one part-time person from the fire department and three retired part-timers from the police department. I had received conflicting information from the Public Employees Retirement System and the city’s Human Resources Department about the implementation of the bill.

Hueso is an Assemblyman and the mess started in the Assembly, so I wrote a column asking  for an explanation. Why were we getting rid of these employees that actually save us money? I’m still searching for ansers.

In the meantime Hueso has gone after a California Fish and Game official for participating in a mountain lion hunt in Idaho. But as far as I can tell, no explanation about the dismissed public safety people.

Of course I realize Hueso has been occupied. Yes, Hueso was very busy on Assembly Bill 2485. This bill, among other things, regulates vendors at our Interstate rest stops. Thanks to Hueso, if you stop to take a break you can also buy a regulated latte or some other kind of food and drink. Now that’s what I call “looking out for us.”

But what about our retired part-time workers at the police and fire department? The fire department person who was let go is back on the job coordinating the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteer program. He’s doing it for free out of a sense of duty.

At the police department, the cold case homicide guy is working for free on a few cases that he just can’t bring himself to abandon. The shooting Range Master is also donating his time, while the computer guru is working until the end of the fiscal year.

What? Are these people nuts, these oft-described “hogs at the public trough?” No. They’re dedicated. They can’t simply walk away from an important job just because they won’t be receiving money. It’s called “dedication” and I would hope our elected officials would have the same dedication.

The other elected officials knew how to get in touch with me. I don’t think I’m difficult to find. I would even have a cup of coffee with Ben Hueso.  He could get a latte, and we wouldn’t even have to go to a rest stop. Don’t forget to vote Tuesday.


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