In a message reminiscent of Winston Churchill during World War II, the President of the San Antonio Police Officers Association has released a video vowing to ramp up the first to hold onto its health care benefits, and ripping City Manager Sheryl Sculley for 'trying to make the Police Officers look like a bunch of greedy bastards,' News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
"Starting today, we will be on the offensive, working aggressively, using your investment to rebuild our organization from the ground up," Helle says. "We will take our fight directly to the community."
Helle says Sculley and her negotiators have rejected both of the SAPOA's compromise offers, and says the union will respond with a major media campaign, as well as outreach to the community to preserve their benefits.
The Police and Fire Associations have been in negotiations for two months over health benefits which the associations negotiated back in the 1970s, and which they have maintained by accepting lower wages.
Helle also said an increase in SAPOA dues would be used to influence the upcoming City Council elections, and back only candidates who support the association's position.
Richard Perez, the CEO of the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and a former City Council member, says Helle can huff and puff all he wants, but the bottom line is, the city cannot afford to continue the type of benefits the police and firefighters currently receive.
"The City of San Antonio, me and you, all of your listeners, cannot afford the level of benefits that we have been paying for the last 25 years," Perez said.
He says the benefits are so steep that they are 'crowding out' general budget spending for all other services, from pothole repair to libraries to streetlights.
"They pay zero in premiums for their health care, for themselves, their spouses and their children," Perez said.
Sculley has proposed moving the police and firefighters to the civilian city employees health plan, which is more generous than what most private sector San Antonio employees get. Helle called that 'negotiating with a gun to our head.'
The police and fire associations also site the proposed downtown streetcar as an example of how the city has so much extra money, it can waste it on 'vanity projects' that the people don't want.