By Council Member Chris Djernaes
The views and opinions expressed herein are strictly my own. I do not speak for the Council or City Management. All information is derived from City and public sources.
The Old Guard-supported sponsored local print and social media continue to attack and bully the Solvang City Council for terminating the Community Resource Deputy (CRD) contract.
It would seem that they’ve never studied – nor understood – who does what and who works for whom. It’s equally apparent they’ve not done their homework, instead of coming up with countless biased opinions.
Let’s be clear – it is and was the right thing to do, especially given today’s COVID19 crisis. Cutting the CRD contract will save the City more than $3 million over the next 5 years.
In February, the Council voted 3-2 to cut the non-essential CRD contract as it pursues its frequently stated policy of “Do More with Less.” The reasons:
- Mr. Uhrig was an assigned, independent contractor – i.e., he was never a City employee;
- Contract cost exploded 36% higher from to $225,000 to $306,056 in 2021;
- 66% of costs were overhead fees – i.e., there was no direct benefit to City:
- Non-essential CRD Services simply do not meet the City’s functional priorities;
- Outsourcing to IDK Events will save the City more than 75% of the cost;
- The COPS grant was never designated to specifically offset the CRD.
Let’s be crystal clear, The City terminated the CRD Contract with the Santa Barbara Sheriff Department. The City did not and could not terminate Mr. Uhrig as he was assigned to Solvang on a rotational basis, as an independent contractor by the Sheriff Department. Solvang paid the Sheriff Department directly and monthly for the CRD contract services. To date, Mr. Uhrig is still a fully employed, Sheriff Deputy with 25 years of service. Only the Sheriff’s Department can direct, fire or hold Mr. Uhrig accountable. Despite his specious comment and actions, Mr. Uhrig does not represent the Sheriff Department or the city of Solvang’s public union employees.
Mr. Uhrig is simply an assigned non-essential contractor and the exploding costs of the non-essential CRD contract itself are no longer justifiable. The CRD contract is a fantastic deal for the County and an absolutely horrible deal for the City on a cost-benefit basis. How long would you keep paying $300,000 for services you didn’t need and could outsource for less than $75,000?
Moreover, at the Feb. 24th Regular meeting, an emotional Mr. Uhrig led a group of old-guard supporters in begging the Council not to cut his job, and attacked the Council saying:
This council has said over and over about wanting transparency and open communication, but no one other than a select few is told what is going on in this city. Please before you consider terminating city positions you also weigh the need and the value of the person behind those activities and those duties. Talk with your employees, not at them. You have great employees here. Don’t lose sight of that just making change for change’s sake.
Mr. Uhrig’s political and spurious accusations were a clear violation of the CRD contract and the Sheriff’s Office protocols. The City cannot and would never discuss public employee or contract issues with Mr. Uhrig, as he is merely an assigned, independent contractor with no standing. In fact, the contract requires the City to discuss all CRD issues exclusively with the Sheriff’s Office – i.e., the Station Lieutenant. In fact, the Sheriff’s Office has since reprimanded Mr. Uhrig for his outrageous behavior toward the Council and the City Manager. What was he thinking?
The COVID19 Crisis has led to a total collapse in tourism and with it the City’s tax revenues. Perhaps 50% of Solvang businesses will close indefinitely. The Council is doing everything it can to help the community to survive and recover from this historic economic shock. For this reason, the Council voted 5-0 at its March 20 Emergency Meeting to focus rapidly declining budget resources only on essential services. Operating without Federal and State bailout aid, the Council has been forced to cut $2-3 million annually from both its 2020 and 2021 Budgets.
Let’s be clear. The City is not a charity for the politically connected and no longer exists to dole out financial gifts for the benefit of the old guard. This Council is committed to prioritizing the health, safety, and welfare of the Community, i.e., improving the quality of life and cost-effectively delivering essential services.
It’s time the old guard and its supporters at the local media and social media wake up to reality. They can scream and rant all they want, but the Community simply can no longer afford what they are selling.