Behind the Scenes: City, police, fire at a contentious standstill

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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Marching through the notebook while wondering why every protest by students and faculty always happens during school hours. You’d think with all of the holidays the educational community enjoys, those protesters would choose one of them — or a weekend day — to hit the bricks. ... Speaking of the public sector, the City of Auburn’s contractual efforts with its various employee groups never seems to end. Granted, all appears to be quiet for now, especially after the city’s recent so-called “drop-dead offer,” but the battle apparently never ends. It’s especially contentious with the police officers’ union. There’s an internecine battle, which has caused the small cadre of sergeants to form its own bargaining unit. However, even that didn’t happen peacefully, which makes one wonder if they’re forced to check their weapons at the door before attending any union meetings. Those who thought things would calm down after one officer recently underwent an unpaid vacation were wrong. It just keeps getting worse. Meanwhile, the firefighters have adopted a new tactic. After reluctantly accepting the fact that the status would remain quo, the firefighters have taken to a one-on-one campaign to get their message out to the citizenry. Starting with family and friends first, they quietly — but purposely — pull people aside and politely explain what is demanded of an Auburn firefighter. Next move is to let those same folks know what the city is willing to pay for that service. It’s an understated, but effective campaign and could pay off for them when the next round of bargaining opens this spring. As for the cops, forget it. ... Kirby catering: Not all of the Christmas stories got written in December. While most of us had the luxury of celebrating Christmas Day in the warmth of our own homes, more than a few folks were our working. Among that latter group were several Auburn city employees, most notably those in public works. Seeing that, City Councilman Bill Kirby quietly lined up a hot snack for the gang, replete with some pretty good ribs, then got some other city council member to help deliver the eats to the working class. Councilman Mike Holmes was out of town that day, but Kirby made sure his name was signed on the appreciation cards that accompanied the meals. Last time I can remember an elected official who didn’t give a darn about who got credit just as long as the deed got done was Ronald Reagan. On the other hand; never in my wildest dreams did I ever envision writing Dr. Kirby’s name alongside Reagan’s in the same sentence. By the way, Kirby is also a member of the Los Medicos Voladores (The Flying Doctors), a group of local medicos who use their private planes to fly to some very poor areas of California and Mexico to provide free medical and dental services for folks who otherwise wouldn’t get any. Kirby once told me that some of the patients begin lining up days before the Flying Doctors get there, because it’s the only hope of getting any medical treatment where they live. We note that The Flying Docs are having their seventh annual Mardi Gras fund-raising party on Feb. 27 at Auburn’s Elks Lodge. ... Add Christmas: Interesting note gleaned from the Arbitron (radio rankings) for December. Los Angeles is arguably the most competitive block in the country when it comes to surveying listener numbers, which makes the December winner all the more interesting. The top spot went to KOST/103.5 FM. Why? Well, that station played Christmas music non-stop during the holiday season. Local radio station please copy. ... Seller beware: Very nice e-mail from Brent Smith regarding a regulatory time bomb ticking away for small business. As usual, the metaphorically explosive device was placed by state and federal government. This July, those two entities will begin enforcing laws holding business owners legally responsible for the theft of consumer information.  According to Smith, the fines could run as high as $2,000 per record, meaning if a list of 25 customers gets stolen or appropriated, the business owner could be on the hook for 50-grand. And it’s not just for credit card information, but could be for something as simple as addresses and telephone numbers. Smith says the Sierra Economic Development Corporation will present a class Feb. 17 on how local business owners can protect themselves, especially on securing that information and mitigating risks. The 6 p.m. class will be held at 560 Wall Street, Auburn, and further information can be had by calling (530) 823-4703. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs Sundays in the Journal. Reach him at