The State Worker

Chronicling civil-service life for California state workers

January 13, 2011
State workers talk about Jerry Brown's cell phone order, part 2

Our State Worker column in today's Bee gauges reaction to Gov. Jerry Brown's order that 48,000 state cell phones be taken out of service. We asked state workers what they thought about it. This is the second post (click here for the first one) on state worker reaction to Brown's crackdown:

I was in a meeting today which had 12 people in it. 6 including myself offered to turn them in. Cell phones are a leash. I have to carry 2 at all times my personal one and my work one. They gave me a Blackberry and now I'm expected to answer calls and emails 24/7. Take them back and eliminate that and other waste.

I think with today's technology we can be linked in so many other ways i.e. email. When state employees go out in the field they are given the ability to check in via email rather than spending money to make calls, and not just to the office but to family members. Most people have cell phones of their own why not use their own. I can hear a lot of my former co-workers complaining after my last statement but a state owned cell phone is a perk and when people have to re-adjust their budgets the things that are not important for everyday living ie food, clothing, roof over the head we usually cut back on. The State is no different we have to cut back to get on track.

Jon,

You've spent time with us at the DMV Broadway Field Office. Did you see any perks? The fridge in the break room has an ice and water dispenser which some may consider a perk. Until they realize that each employee had to kick in $17 to get that fridge from a used appliance store. We don't even have a public payphone in or near our office. Sometimes I allow customers to use my personal cell phone so they can call someone to bring them more money, call a cab, or even call our Vehicle Registration Financial Responsibility program so they can pay their $14, get a confirmation # so they can get their tags. ...

I don't see Governor Brown's action having an adverse effect on those of us at DMV. If he really wants to save money he will do something about legislators that live within commuting distance of the Capitol collecting per diem. They put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us and if they can reasonably commute to the Capitol then per diem is unwarranted.

In my position as a motor vehicle field rep I see thousands of lost dollars every day. Do you have any idea how many $100 cars there are on the road? Or the number of people who registers cars as "gifts". Sometimes I'll ask them the name of the person that gave them the car and they either can't remember the persons name or can't pronounce it.

Finally, I have 2 other money making suggestions but no one will take me seriously. I think they should put cameras on the monitors at DMV and have live streaming video on the web. Sell advertising space for revenue and people will find that quite entertaining. The other idea I have is charge a $1 cover charge for anyone who comes into DMV who is just along for the ride. Sometimes we have 4 or 5 people in line and only hand out 1 number because the rest are just along for the ride. They fill up the seats, leaving standing room only for those who are there to actually do business, they mess with the handbooks and brochures on the counters. And they rip the pens off of the counters. If only we lived in a perfect world!

Have a nice day!

I am a state parole agent who is still currently working under the previous governor's furlough order. I support turning off unnecessary cell phones issued to some state employees. I also hope the governor will "cut back" on state financed cell phones given to parolees. I think that's another expense that could be saved.

I worked for Caltrans for forty years, mostly in the Construction Department. We had a perfectly good communications setup then. It was called two way radio, which was installed in the trucks and all the maintenance stations and field offices. They only needed two frequencies, the local one for use for short distances like on a construction project, and a District wide one which was supported by repeaters. I used the District system only when absolutely necessary.

When the cell phones came around I told them I didn't want one, but they gave me one anyway. The phone was a hassle, I didn't really want to be responsible for another piece of equipment, or have to mess with signing off on bills every month. We still had the radio system which I continued to use. I was told by management I was not using the phone enough, the bills kept showing no use almost every month.

If I had a real emergency I could call in as fast as I could pull the mike off of the dash and have access on the District frequency to the Dispatcher who had all the emergency phone numbers and could send appropriate help or patch me in to whoever I wanted almost instantly. That was her job and she was very good at it. No dialing or taking your eyes off the road.

The radio was on all the time I was on duty and if anyone wanted me for some information or anything else they could call. If it was going to take a bunch of time, I would go to a pay phone.

I am sure there are many people who need a cell phone, but for most employees it is an unnecessary hassle. It is very seldom that someone really needs you immediately. I think it results in unnecessary calls that can be taken care of later and only serves to interrupt your immediate work.

I would bet most employees would be glad to turn in their leash.

Jon:

I'm a state employee.

How about axing the following:

Legislature car perks
Legislature banquets when they can't agree on a budget
Axing their pay when they are in budget denial exercises
Make legislature part time based on value added. Furlough them 3 days for a 1 1/2 years.

We'll that's enough for now.

Based on my history with Caltrans' office of construction in District 4 (Bay Area,) cell phones became the prime method of communication once the State took out the old radios in all of their cars used by construction inspectors. Any communication tool (either cell or the old radios) were critical when calling in a road closure being picked up late (due to whatever emergency that prolonged the approved closure that had the potential to affect commute traffic) and/or other emergent happenstance within the construction zone. Since a majority of construction work is in the evening, the inspector's advanced warning is necessary for the public to determine alternate routes.

Another reason cell phones became critical tools for inspectors was because of the duality of use as a direct-connect (walkie-talkie) especially in far outer zones where any traditional phone or cell phone usage wasn't available.

Either return radios to vehicles prior to taking away cell phones or inspectors will not be able to provide timely notification of the scenarios I present to you. Imagine trying to find a pay phone in the middle of the night, in an area you are totally unfamiliar with, to someone who needs to know what's happening on your contract. Even the phone company has stopped installing pay phones and/or has removed them altogether from the familiar places one used to find a pay phone.

Lastly, the State doesn't provide blanket approval for payment of all cell phone billings. They are scrutinized and any 'suspicious' or over usage will prompt the State to require the assigned user to repay the coffers of personal and/or fraudulent use of State-issued equipment of any kind. Is the public really that naive to think that State employees feel entitlement to being "leashed" by a cell phone?

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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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