This is 911, please hold


The contentious tax breaks given to tech companies in San Francisco are under fire once again, as emergency dispatchers protested crippling budget shortages yesterday (Wed/2) in front of the Department of Emergency Management.

With sweeping budget cuts across all public sectors over the past few years, everyone is clamoring for more money wherever they can get it. But these protesters, organized by SEIU Local 1021, made some pretty compelling arguments for being prioritized.

“When you call 911, there should be enough people working to pick up the phone,” said Ron Davis, who has been an emergency dispatcher in San Francisco for 13 years. “It’s upsetting when you or someone you love is in a life-threatening emergency and you’re put on hold for 30 seconds, 45 seconds, or even a minute and longer.”

The department receives, on average, nearly 3,000 phone calls per day, and the workers who spoke at the rally described long hours and inadequate coverage for the volume of calls that they receive. California law mandates that 90 percent of 911 calls be answered in ten seconds or less, but in San Francisco that number often drops to 60 percent or lower. Davis said that on particularly busy nights, such as New Year’s Eve, there can be up to 20 calls in the queue waiting for an available dispatcher.

“I don’t even go out on holidays,” Davis said. “I’m too afraid that if something happens to me or someone in my family, we won’t get through to 911.”

Protesters directed much of their frustration at the tech companies, especially those which received massive tax breaks as an incentive to remain in San Francisco. The estimated tax break for Twitter alone, estimated to be $56 million, is greater than the entire annual budget for the DEM.

The rally is a part of “Worker Wednesdays,” a series of events created by SEIU Local 1021 in response to Mayor Ed Lee’s Tech Tuesday meetings with local technology leaders. The goal is to draw Lee out to meet with and prioritize city workers. Since the mayor did not attend the rally himself, the protesters chanted and yelled at a seven-foot cardboard cutout of a smiling Lee.

The emergency dispatchers are just a part of the union’s contract negotiations with the city, as SEIU Local 1021 represents over 13,000 employees in San Francisco. Larry Bradshaw, vice president for the San Francisco region of the union, said that so far they had made no progress in their bargaining with city leaders. The contract is set to be written by May 2. After that, union members will decide whether or not they accept the terms.

Workers were willing to make sacrifices during the recession, Bradshaw said. But now that the economy has turned around, “we just want to recoup our losses and make up for lost ground.”

A concurrent meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee at City Hall brought up many of the same points. A report from the City Controller, Ben Rosenfield, confirmed that the economic growth in San Francisco has been among the fastest in the nation and that he expects the progress to continue.

Sup. London Breed specifically asked how emergency services play into this recent boom, and a representative from the Mayor’s Budget Office said that the DEM is currently working with the mayor’s office on a revised budget, which should be released later this month or early May.


that SEIU has the interests of its members at heart and not the citizenry at-large? They are absolutely no different that a corporation which is only interested in the wishes of its stockholders. Their actions are not altruistic.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2014 @ 8:35 pm

I hope for your sake your never need to call 911.

You could get stabbed before you get to talk to anybody.

That would be such a shame.

Posted by Haystacks on Apr. 08, 2014 @ 8:01 pm

So we're all supposed to be naïve enough to believe that all of these grossly overpaid public employees want even more money because of their concern for us??

Good gawd.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 03, 2014 @ 10:53 pm

Yes, and it's tech's fault!!

And god knows "techies" are the ones consuming most of the emergency service resources in this town, what with their frequent overdoses and street dramas.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 7:42 am

There are two components of the 'massive $56 million tax break', one covers stock options and one covers payroll tax. The stock options effect is much larger. The New York Times estimated that the payroll tax break, for all companies, amounts to only $1.9 million.

San Francisco is the only city in California that taxes stock options. Even Tim Redmond admitted that this should be looked at and progressive hero Ross Mirkarimi wrote an legislation to exempt companies like Twitter from paying the stock options tax:

So it behooves the current SFBG to blame everything on the "massive tax breaks" when previous SFBG editors and progressive leaders most honestly explained the economics and scale behind them.

The current SFBG editor simply prefers to use them to misinform and incite the more vulnerable members of the city who don't read the WSJ every day.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 8:50 am

because stock options represent risk capital and not income or employment at all.

That is why every other city doesn't do that. and of course it deters growing enterprises which is why Twitter was leaving before we slightly reduced their tax burden.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 9:06 am

No the homeless are. Approx 70% of our police fire medical calls are homeless related. If that problem could be solved maybe the police would have time to stop crime before it happens rather than chasing behind the homeless. Maybe the city could afford to fill potholes. Plus in my dept. the dispatchers make a lot of money as we are forced to work lots of over time due to staffing shortages. Yet our management has a couple of dozen people who seem to work only a few days a week and get 3 figures. Management in sf needs to be addresses. We're too top heavy and the budget woes get blamed on the workers.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 3:28 am

lobbies to enrich its members at the expense of the rest of us?

Let's outsource 911 service.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 8:05 am

Where would we outsource it to? Compared to every other dispatching center in calif...we are the lowest paid. Anyone else would charge more money. We're pretty damn good at our job. I'd hate to call sf 911 and get someone in alameda trying to figure out where I was.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 3:21 am

I know that there are a lot of people out there that think that most people get into government jobs for the pay and benefits. Yes, there are some. But when you choose to be a 911 dispatcher, (SF dispatchers work for 911 call taking, fire dispatch and police dispatch simultaneously which is not done in any other major city in the United States), it is a vocation. You work long hours, nights, weekends and holidays. It is incredibly stressful and takes a toll on all of your relationships. But when you save a life by giving CPR instructions, deliver a baby successfully, talk a suicidal person off a ledge or comfort an elderly citizen that is the ultimate reward. So don't be so cynical!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2014 @ 3:04 pm

The city budget is always in a state of disaster. Good times, bad times, average times, = disaster waiting to happen.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 7:13 am

outrageous pension and healthcare benefits that they members have that are screwing over cities across the land, causing many to enter chapter nine bankruptcy.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 7:28 am

Outrageous pensions!?,? I have to work til I am 62 for 2% of my salary. While my newly retired boss worked 7 years for the city and possibly gets 90% of her 3 figure salary.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 3:30 am

collapses, it doesn't affect what you get, because taxes get raised to pay you.

That makes a huge difference. Your DB scheme needs to be changed to a DC scheme.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 6:51 am

The rally was not to beg for more money it's a plea to the city to hire more workers so that the city of SF can provide timely services in emergency cases

Posted by Guest cat on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 7:29 am
Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 7:45 am

ExTRA, ExTRA, techies causing budget shortages!

[Surging employee pension costs= no mention)

The dispatch ladies don't want you to know about that.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 2:11 pm

our tax base is somehow a leech just because they now pay slightly less taxes than they did before.

And yet they never care about all the real leeches that suck at the city's teat without contributing anything

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 2:23 pm


"There are not enough city employees to dig through the citizen's trash and it's techs fault."

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 5:13 pm

To the ignorant person who called us "dispatch ladies": We are human beings of every race, gender and origin. We chose to work in 911 as a vocation. This is not a cake walk. This is hard, stressful work. Our pension is a basic minimalist city employee pension. We are not part of the police department or fire department. We are classified in the soup with the other employees such as janitors, clerks and typists. And I can safely say that the janitor, clerks and typists including those of us on the dispatch floor work very hard. Our department doesn't fool around!!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2014 @ 3:12 pm

The roads in San Francisco are full of potholes...because of The Techies.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 5:52 pm

You idiots... we are not blaming "techies"!! We are just trying to say that the staffing levels of the DEM department do not match the needs of the city. Maybe the poster who suggested we outsource 911 should consider how if he/she would feel if their 6 month old child gasped for their last breath of air while the call was being transferred to Delaware...or worse yet -press one if your loved one is turning blue...

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

We can continue to lard up San Francisco with tens of thousands of new residents while cutting the City budget as measured per capita and relative inflation. This should be correlated with the corrupt city piece.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 8:20 pm

pension and healthcare benefits compatible with those that the rest of us get,

And by cutting the vast welfare and social services budget.

SF spends more per capita than any other US city.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 05, 2014 @ 8:36 am

Why would we want to do any of that when there is plenty of new money coming here in droves that we should tax?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 05, 2014 @ 1:56 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 05, 2014 @ 2:51 pm

I know, the moment you give a tax break that money flees like the wind, tens of millions of it.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 05, 2014 @ 6:20 pm

the money you wish tot ax threatens to leave. At that point, your city realizes that it needs their money more than they need to be in your city. and then you have to bribe them to stay.

All over the world, cities and state offer incentives to attract employers. It's how you collect more taxes.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 6:04 am

Yes, Progressives have officially jumped the shark.

The City budget is LARGER than the COMBINED budgets of the City of San Jose and the County of Santa Clara. I am going to guess - without looking it up - they have more people.

The only other major metropolitan City and County is Philadelphia - again without looking it up - SF spending per capita is FOUR TIMES that of Philly.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 9:17 am

There is quite simply no justification for that.

We should freeze city spending indefinitely if cuts are too politically difficult to do.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 9:26 am

Like a corporation it must grow its revenue base or it will wither. They don't care about serving the public - they care about their benefits and dues. Again - SEIU doesn't operate altruistically.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 8:47 pm

Having been an member of the non government end of SEIU, I went down to a 1390 Market meetings to see what was up.

It was all government employees, and professional union flunkies, they openly talked about more government jobs meaning more members, there had just been a tax windfall in the news and they were talking about how they were "owed some of that money."

There was zero interest in city fiscal responsibility it seemed, it was just about them and their make believe world.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 9:20 pm

OK, sorry. I got the false impression that you were blaming techies from the first line of the article:

"The contentious tax breaks given to tech companies in San Francisco are under fire once again"

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 9:01 pm

Quick! They're not buying the tech rage angle, play the irrational fear card!!

"...6 month old child gasped for their last breath of air while the call was being transferred to Delaware "

Posted by Guest on Apr. 04, 2014 @ 9:27 pm

Amen! I'm sure outsourcing would be a great idea. Your call would get sent to some Asian or Indian country with someone who barely speaks English. I'm sure you'd feel real confident taking CPR instructions from someone like that! Shame on all these people talking crap about 911 dispatchers! They give up their own lives to protect the citizens of San Francisco. The fact that one of the most important departments in this city is understaffed to the point where people are dying is a problem!!!

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 8:56 am

But given that city workers have huge overheads (benefits, unions, complacency) there is argument to outsource what you can.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 9:24 am

"“When you call 911, there should be enough people working to pick up the phone,” said Ron Davis, who has been an emergency dispatcher in San Francisco for 13 years. ""

Ron's compensation is only $131K annually. With those meager wages, he's probably looking for a job in the private sector right now. Private-sector dispatchers are much better paid; they are not exploited like Ron is . The SEIU needs to strike on this one, folks.

Ron Davis, Public safety dispatcher
Base salary $82,519
Overtime: $14,624
Medical and dental coverage : $8,320
Employer contribution to pension: $16,482
Employee pension contribution paid by employer: $8,518


Posted by Guest on Apr. 05, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

tumultuous times. Without that Ron may not answer your call as fast...

Posted by Guest on Apr. 05, 2014 @ 8:29 pm

Ron does indeed deserve a sharp pay raise.

If I only made $131K annually I'd probably be manning the barricades with the man-boy Chris Daly and demanding r-r-r-r-r-revolution.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 05, 2014 @ 10:13 pm

The Controller's reporting on City employee compensation is misleading.

The City doesn't accrue for all health and retiree pension benefit obligations owed to Ron and all other City employees. Instead it accrues these obligations as unfunded liabilities - basically, "we'll figure out how to pay for this later." So in addition to that pay, Ron is also owed part of that current $10 billion in unfunded liabilities (or whatever the insane amount is now) - so we have no idea what Ron is actually being paid. Additionally, the Controller's office even underreports the amount of this liability.

CA public employee compensation is a scam more or less that local governments try to keep as opaque as possible and the tax-paying public is very, very naïve...

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 9:07 am

Yes, absolutely true.

Public-sector workers are on 'defined-benefit' pension plans like the one-percenters, which have GUARANTEED compounded returns of 6-8% annually. So the debt obligations are much higher than officially reported.

Public workers in SF need to be shifted to 'defined-contribution' plans, which is what the rest of have to suffer with.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 9:58 am

New SF public-sector employees should be offered defined-contribution benefits. That's fair. With regard to existing employees, if the City was dumb enough to offer them defined-benefit plans, then that's what the City and its taxpayers have to work with. You can renegotiate terms, but changing the framework of overall compensation to reduce same is unethical at best and contract failure at worst.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 9:44 am

and then all new employees and existing employees contribute to a new DC plan.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 07, 2014 @ 10:07 am

You are incredibly ignorant. Our pension is not a good one. If we don't contribute to deferred comp we will be in food lines. You can disagree or make some other crap up but the truth is the truth.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 15, 2014 @ 3:25 pm

Wow...really? I don't know why I should be surprised by the response of most of the people here on this forum. Why don't you go through the training and become a dispatcher and then say what you've been saying about them being "over paid." How would you feel if when you called 911 you got an automated system as opposed to a live person? An automated system can't understand language barriers, drunken slurred speech or a person yelling and screaming a location. As has been said earlier, the main concern is to have proper staffing, but I guess if those you who think they're overpaid would rather wait on hold then so be it.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 7:15 am

but many of us would rather fund public safety by making cuts elsewhere, than by paying ever higher taxes.

There is plenty of fat to cut before we talk about more taxes, and the voters want to see cuts in the insanely generous healthcare and pension benefits of workers before agreeing to any new taxes

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 7:31 am

The voters rejected massive cuts to employee health care and retirement several years ago. You are drinking too much of Pete Peterson's Kool Ade.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 8:00 am

But even so many cities have already entered bankruptcy because of them.

The demographics turn unfavorable as more of the parasitic boomers retire and expect the younger folks to run themselves into the ground to support them.

Then you'll see voters demand that these unsustainable benefits to be rolled back to what the rest of us have.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 8:34 am

All those young brown people in California need to be taxed through the nose, to pay for the pensions of old rich white people like Marcos!

Posted by Huh? on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 9:06 am
Posted by Guest on Apr. 06, 2014 @ 9:24 am

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