by Nick Welsh
Negotiators with the Police Officers Association declared an impasse in their contract negotiations with Santa Barbara city administrators late last week, and by Sunday, had unleashed a new “robo-call” campaign designed to generate public support for their cause. City residents, including City Councilmember Roger Horton, received recorded phone messages from police Sergeant Dave Gonzales contending that without a pay increase, turnover of experienced officers would increase and public safety would be compromised. At the end, callers who wanted to express their support for the union were asked to press “1.” The police union is reportedly asking for a 30 percent increase over three years, divvied up between actual wage increases and benefit enhancements. City administrators are offering 19 percent during the same period of time, claiming that the union demands would eat into the city’s emergency reserves. Some city councilmembers expressed regret that the union declared an impasse and walked away from the bargaining table after eight negotiating sessions. They added that their representatives at the bargaining table had sought mediation, but the union refused. Union spokesperson Chris Inglehart, however, denied any offer of mediation had been made. He maintained city police are only seeking to be paid a wage competitive with their peers in comparable departments. But councilmembers expressed frustration that the parties can’t even agree on what constitutes an acceptable list of comparable departments. It’s not likely the impasse will be broken any time soon. Most councilmembers are insisting that the entire council must be present to ratify any new contract, and a full council will not be in town until after Fiesta in early August.