The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

January 13, 2011
Column Extra: State workers talk about cell phones, part 1

With just 400 to 450 words for our Thursday State Worker column, much of what we learn in the ramp-up to writing it never sees print. Column Extras give you some of the notes, the quotes and the observations that don't make the cut.

Gov. Jerry Brown's order Tuesday to cut in half the number of state-issued cell phones has been a big topic of conversation among state workers this week. On Wednesday we solicited e-mails and from state workers and followed them with phone calls. We also talked with employees outside the Capitol about Brown's crackdown. All that correspondence and conversation produced today's State Worker column in The Bee.

Here are some of the comments and e-mails from state workers. We're planning to post more later today and on Friday.

Jon,

This is a good starting point for the new governor. Lets get rid of the cell phones. But in one of our meetings (an executive) already told us that he is asking his legal office to review the Executive Order and find the language to get around it ... He wants the language he needs to use in the justification to keep the cell phones. I can tell you that in most offices we could get rid of 70% of our phones without jeopardizing the work we do and without jeopardizing staff safety. But once again the deputy directors that are here from the last administration are going on the offensive to keep everything they have. These appointees are traveling from Sacramento to Southern CA like it's running out of style.

The question is will the governor consolidate, eliminate and tackle the big ticket items like, boards, commissions, and departments. This governor just like the last governor ONLY has one chance. If he goes in June asking us for tax increase (or to keep them the same) without making any changes to the boards, commissions, and departments his initiative WILL FAIL. The voters in CA are very smart and the Governor should do everything possible before he goes to the voters. That includes eliminating 70% of the boards and commissions, all agency departments etc....

Hello

I have more than a dozen tradespersons that report to me and were issued cell phones automatically when they were hired. First we had problems with high bills for the use of texting. I then had the texting disabled. The next issue was when one employee's cell phone end up being used in Tijuana Mexico before it was reported stolen and shutdown. After these incidents I told my building manager and area manager that the cell phones were not needed and should be taken away as the employees use radios when working in the building. They opted to keep the phones. I am glad that the new governor sees what a waste of money issuing cell phones to stationary employees is.

Many State employees have seen waste in one form or another. If the governor consulted low level supervisors and rank and file working staff many cuts could be made that would not affect necessary State operations. One of these wastes of State funds is the requirement for all purchases of goods and services to be made from "State certified small businesses". The requirement has increased the cost of buying goods and services exponentially inflating the budget. Under this requirement state workers cannot go to home depot and buy drywall and screws, or purchase from the lowest bidder or use the lowest bidding contractor. It has increased the costs and time for purchases and repairs.

Jon

As a current CDCR employee at a prison, I am not issued a cell phone, but know people who are. My old branch has a lot of people who work multiple sites and have take-home phones and vehicles. The oversight is pretty rigid and I believe abuse is minimal.

At a previous job with a different department, the opposite is true. I have aquaintances who still call me on state phones while off-duty and weekends, use state vehicles on personal business, including trips. As you said, it's up to the supervisory and management folks to do their job.

I think it's fine for people that aren't out in the field or aren't on call. Supervisors in the office that have them just because they have attained a certain level should be turning them in. FTB has a policy when you attain a certain level you get a Blackberry. That's wrong. I am with Dept of Industrial Relations and I don't know their policy, but I am a field investigator and I need a phone. I don't think we will be told to turn ours in.

I should also mention that we have strict usage of our phones. Business use only and absolutely no directory assistance calls.

Hi Jon,

I've turned my BlackBerry in. I retired in August ..., but I've been working as a retired annuitant on a special project since then. My work on the project will be completed at the end of January. I've no further need for the BlackBerry. So, I turned it in yesterday. Good riddance is what I say. It felt like a ball and chain tethering me to the office, but I was required to have it so that people could contact me at all hours, even though I had my own personal cell phone that I have all the time. The BlackBerry was convenient to check e-mails while at lunch, on the road, or out of the office. But it wasn't all THAT necessary.

Cheers!

Hi Jon,

A couple points:

1) Most state employees do not need cell phones and frankly I'm surprised so many are allowed to have one on the taxpayer dime. It is not like it speeds the wheels of bureaucracy! I think this is a good first step at cutting fat. Having paid twice as much for computers via state contracts as I would walking into a store, I wouldn't be surprised if the average cell phone bills were $50. (That would be) almost 100,000 phones, that is $5 million per month, $60 million per year.

2) For all the state worker haters with cell phones provided by your company, take a look at yourself.

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.



About The State Worker

Jon Ortiz The Author

Jon Ortiz launched The State Worker blog and a companion column in 2008 to cover state government from the perspective of California government employees. Every day he filters the news through a single question: "What does this mean for state workers?" Join Ortiz for updates and debate on state pay, benefits, pensions, contracts and jobs. Contact him at (916) 321-1043 and at jortiz@sacbee.com.

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