Friday, August 19, 2011

Turmoil in Stockton: Police Chief, City Manager Quit

The news coming out of the San Joaquin County city of Stockton continues to be grim. After a disastrous run-up in government spending leading up to the real estate collapse, Stockton struggled to avert bankruptcy this year, closing a $37 million budget hole without reserves through heavy layoffs and steep union concessions. Three weeks ago, its debt rating was slammed by the S&P; agency. And as of Wednesday, it needs to find a new police chief and city manager.

According to the Stockton Record, city manager Bob Deis has announced that he'll be stepping down in mid-March, ending a 20-month tenure that included battles with unions, forcing layoffs on city employees, a purge of department heads, and a pit bull attack. Stockton's mayor, Ann Johnston, even claimed that he'd been targeted for harassment by police, citing the cops' union's purchase of a home next door to Deis' house. We'd recommend he pursue less stressful work in the future: off the tops of our heads, we'd suggest hostage negotiation, trading in European sovereign debt, or becoming a professional gambler. Unsurprisingly, his reasons for leaving are largely personal: "I think any time when the work comes home and impacts people that live in a home, it's difficult. I just decided in talking with my wife and talking with people in the community that it was time." Many observers were caught off guard by the announcement, and are wondering what it means for the city's future.

Deis' announcement was followed, less than two hours later, by the resignation of police chief Blair Ulring, effective at the end of this month. This news was less surprising, and is apparently over money: eight days ago, the Stockton city council rejected Deis' proposal to raise Ulring's salary to protect his retirement. According to Ulring, without the raise he'd be paid less to work than to retire, and would lose $18,000 a year from his pension. Fortunately, there appears to be a smooth succession in the offing: Deputy Chief Eric Jones will assume command next Monday, and is considered the likely candidate to permanently replace Ulring.


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