Thank you to Raleigh’s Police and Fire Fighters for your continued support

After the September 5, 2017 City Council vote, I realized a serious mistake had been made. For all the anxiety and uncertainty that this caused you and your families, I apologize. I am extremely grateful for your understanding and continued support as we worked together to correct this mistake.

At the last Council meeting there was an item in the consent agenda for policy changes that were there for implementing the pay structure and raises. What I didn’t catch was that there was some language that affected vacations and holidays. This was unexpected because the policy changes were supposed to only address the new pay structure. Benefits were not supposed to change. Indeed, items on a consent agenda are supposed to be non-controversial business items which this was not – and I am quite concerned that the item was presented to us in this manner.

I did receive criticism for failing to see this before voting. I have been very critical of myself for not seeing this because taking away benefits is not what I stand for. I am very grateful to everyone for working with us to correct this situation.

My dad worked both as a telephone lineman and as an installer and was a member of Communications Workers of America and served as vice-president and union representative. A main lesson he taught me was the importance of working people. Growing up I watched as he went on strike to fight for fair wages and benefits. When he passed away two weeks after I filed to run for Council in 2015, I vowed to do the same as a City Councilor.

I also have two brothers-in-law and a nephew who are firefighters. My wife’s uncle was a fire fight as was her grandfather. I know full well the risks that they take to protect us.

Simply put, had I known that these changes were there, I would not have voted for them. And, I will vote on Tuesday to remove them and fix this.

Now, here is how these changes were reviewed before they came to Council. First, the changes were created by the HR department. They were then reviewed by three groups of people.

They were first reviewed by the Department heads including the Police Chief and Fire Chief. They did not say anything about the loss of benefits. This is surprising because the Police Chief and Fire Chief have reputations for speaking their minds and fighting for officers and fire fighters.

They were also reviewed by the Civil Service Commission which includes two employee elected representatives. One of those representatives represents the Police union. The Civil Service Commission did not catch these changes.

Finally an employee advisory group did not catch these changes.

When the changes came to Council, they were packed together in the consent agenda which is supposed to contain non-controversial, business as usual items. Again, the expectation was that these changes were simply meant to implement the new pay structure. And, I am quite annoyed that they did not. Determining why so many people including those most affected by these changes did not notice them is something I want to find out.

When I learned of these changes and their impact, I immediately issued a statement explaining what had happened and that I will seek to rescind them. I also was able to visit 13 fire stations and personally explain this situation.

I am proud of the fact that I led the efforts to raise pay for our first responders for the first time in years. I am proud to have been able to correct years of neglect. Cutting benefits is not what I am about.

Thank you for listening.