38 days – The calm before the storm or deafening silence?

Posted on August 9, 2011

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Since the day San Francisco Superior Court (and others) issued layoff notices to employees, we’ve counted down the days until these notices are to take effect. Today marks 38 days left in that countdown. Today also happens to be the deadline for the SEC committee survey and their push questions that assume the AOC must continue to exist but be reorganized to serve you better.

Next Monday, the state legislature goes back into session and there remains an eerie calm of insignificant news  – mostly comprised of a carefully orchestrated effort of the AOC’s office of communications to work with local supporters – judges – to push the CCMS agenda as a way to save money when it won’t and to push back on the state legislature on judicial branch spending cuts, while ignoring the boondoggles and misplaced priorities. To support this endeavor, they’re turning detractors of the AOC into sound bites to promote their own self-preservation agenda.

We don’t believe that the Alliance of California Judges desire to dismantle the Center for Judicial Education & Research and have deep cuts in the Executive Office Programs and Information Services as purely coincidental. These are the three main groups that represent what we all affectionately know as pravda – the AOC media machine that promotes disinformation. 

We’re left to wonder what other individuals and groups are doing and what general direction they’re headed in. Coming as somewhat of a surprise to us was finding out that reserves over at San Francisco Superior Court are actually higher at the start of this fiscal year than they were at the start of last fiscal year. That does not win them brownie points in the public relations department nor the employee relations department. It also doesn’t sit well to discover that these cuts don’t hit management ranks but strongly hit those who serve the public.

Meanwhile, we continue to receive reports about bundling service work orders as to conceal the true costs of doing maintenance projects and to run the maintenance operation, while also continuing to receive reports indicating that preventive maintenance, such as changing filters and decontaminating chiller tower water has fallen by the wayside for over a year now. We’re left wondering – do a bunch of court workers and the public have to be exposed to or die from legionnaires disease before the Facilities Management Unit of the Office of Court Construction & Management re-establishes preventive maintenance in buildings to protect the health and safety of workers and the public?

Also in about 38 days – the previous contractors AGS and Jacobs will be out of a job and there appears almost intentionally, no continuity or coordination between the outgoing contractors and the incoming contractors for building maintenance. There appears to be no formal turnovers, no knowledge transfers, no interviews of current employees that might already know the systems and the buildings. Does this mean that Pride Industries and Enovity, who currently appear to enjoy no continuity of operations from the old contractor to the new contractor, will walk in to court buildings cold turkey with no knowledge base to rely upon? Southern Regional Office won’t experience such a disruption as all current Jacobs workers in the southern regional office courts get their pay checks from ABM. If there is any doubt about this, go ask them. They will just change shirts.

We think a clean formal transfer and the ability of the new operating entities to interview current employees attached to buildings is really important. It is in the courts best interests, it is in the AOC’s best interests, yet we’re not hearing that any of this is happening as of yet. We think it is in the best interests for each court to question the facilities management unit, the old contractors currently in the buildings and the new contractors inheriting the buildings about their planned transitions, formal turnovers and knowledge transfers.

There’s lots of eerie silence out there and even more things to be concerned about on top of the budgetary challenges. Budgetary challenges that nearly everyone expects to get worse – not better.

Yet, unlike other judicial branches across the country, in California the money already exists in the judicial branch to solve most judicial branch problems. At the beginning of the last legislative session, we heard Assemblymember Nathan Fletcher (D) San Diego, indicate that the AOC would be getting extra attention from the committee on accountability and administrative review. We heard Assemblymember Calderon ask for a statewide investigation of AOC spending. We hear of back room discussions, yet we haven’t heard anyone go public with any plans and by now, it should be obvious to all that AB1208, while it is an important step, it does not go far enough in protecting the trial courts from the reckless decisions of the Judicial Council and the AOC.

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