By Mary Jo Rossi, Media Consultant to Rains Lucia Stern, PC
Everywhere throughout California this year, police, deputy sheriff and public employee unions have been taking a beating at the negotiations table. If we are looking to place blame, we can always turn to the wretched economy or the success of the “Tea Party” in convincing city officials, the media, and the voters that public employees are too highly paid and their pensions are bankrupting local government.
But there is another culprit in this mix of bad fortune: In most of the jurisdictions where our associations work, we cannot count even one or two city councilmembers or members of county boards of supervisors who are our friends.
In many cities, we are misinterpreting “friendly” elected officials (the ones who SAY “public safety is my top priority,” especially during an election year) for those who are true “friends.” A true friend of law enforcement is an official who understands and shares our values and one who is not afraid to courageously stand up to support us, especially on salary and benefit issues.
Especially at negotiations time, we need to be able to count on a majority of local elected officials who will stand up for our men and women in blue. Unfortunately, most everywhere we now serve, we lack the ability to count to three. This needs to change if we are to stop the bleeding of our members’ pay and benefits.
Here are some steps individual associations can take to begin putting into place a strategy to gain a majority of “friends” on city councils and boards:
1. Make a true assessment of your relationships with your elected officials. Who are the real friends your association can count on? Who are the ones who can sometimes be counted on? Who are the officials who are not your friends and outwardly oppose you on salary and pension issues?
2. Determine which of your elected officials are up for re-election in 2012 and in 2014. Make a plan. Who will you support? Who will you oppose? Get serious about a plan to gain three votes for your members.
3. Start building up your PAC. An association’s ability to contribute is imperative. Convince your members that an added investment for political activitieswill pay off for them in the long run. You will need money in your PAC to implement your plan.
4. Plan to support your friends. Support means more than just an endorsement. Give a campaign donation. Do an independent expenditure from your PAC to pay for signs, voter emails, and recorded calls to voters. Walk precincts, if necessary.
5. Plan to take out your enemies. Make a point of blocking the election of subpar candidates, even if you do this one election at a time. This will also show the other elected officials that your support or opposition means something. Don’t give your endorsement to any elected official who criticizes or has been a thorn in your side. Send emails, a mail piece, and/or recorded phone calls to voters telling them why this elected official should not be elected. What do you have to lose?
6. Start recruiting police-friendly candidates now. Determine if you need to recruit new candidates to run for office – individuals who share your values and who will stand up for your members when it counts. How about police officers or dispatchers in other cities who reside in your city or county? Or retired police officers? Be creative. Begin recruiting now!
The only way we will begin making headway at the negotiations table is to be able to count a majority of friends on our city councils and boards of supervisors. This won’t happen unless you develop a strategic plan.
For more information about how you can begin designing a strategic plan contact Johanna Poschwatta at RLS at 925.609.1699 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.