Editor's Note: Dave Franklin, who is running unopposed for re-election for Port Washington Police commissioner, sent in this opinion piece as to why he is seeking another term. Learn more about special district elections in Port Washington, and where to vote.
Tomorrow is the special district election, and commissioner positions for the water, garbage and police districts are up for a vote. My term is up and I am running for re-election. I hope that I have served you well, and I hope that I have earned your respect, your trust, and your vote. If re-elected I will continue to work hard for you, which is to say I will work hard for us. The election is 12-9p p.m, at the Polish Hall. Please come out to vote for each position. This is the level at which you have the most say, and the most control.
The state of the district is good, but we are working on making it better. Right now our priority is lowering the budget. I recently calculated the projected salaries through 2020, and the numbers are unsustainable. If we stay the present course we will be out of business sooner than later. In my first term, we successfully negotiated two PBA contracts without arbitration and the associated costs for the first time in many years. One of the items in the contract is an early retirement program for existing officers. At 55 years of age, with 32 years of service, they can retire and move into the state pension system. This move cost us $856,000 to implement, but it gives us the ability to hire new recruits and a lower negotiated salary. As a result of the new pay structure, we will save close to $400,000 in base salary on the new officer we hired over a 10-year period, as opposed to one we would have hired at the existing rate. This will be the case for every officer we replace with a new hire. The board is presently revising the terms of employment for future civilian hires to eliminate many if not all step-raises to further save the district money. The rates will be competitive and in line with other districts, but days of automatic raises must stop if we are to survive economically. We are also negotiating a deal with the PBA that will save the district $1.2 million over the next six years. The board is also looking into generating greater revenue to reduce the tax burden on the community. Contrary to popular belief, we don't see one penny of any summonses we write. All money goes to the county. So if you get a ticket, we're not trying to boost income...you earned it!
On the subject of summonses, I am baffled by the attitude and sense of entitlement of some of the residents of Port. We recently, with the help of the public initiated the first phase of our traffic safety initiative, the 'BE S.M.A.R.T." (Safety Matters. Act Responsibly. Tell your friends. Safe Drivers Make Good Neighbors) to try to stop the percentage of inconsiderate drivers who insist on talking/texting while driving, disobey the speed limits and see stop signs as suggestions rather than the law. I love Port Washington because of the great sense of community that exists. Most people here truly care about their neighbors, with the exception of the careless and selfish drivers we're targeting. I had 50 signs made up, and recently asked the public to send me their "hot spots," where these infractions seem to be routine, and I got requests for 40 different spots! Considering the fact that we have five sector cars on the road at any given time, enforcement is next to impossible. The police in this town are dedicated, caring professionals who are trained to protect and serve, but they can't be in 40 places at once! As such, we are embarking on the next step of the initiative, which is education. We have enlisted the help of the Schreiber High School TV department, and are in the planning stages to have the students create videos instructing their fellow students on the dangers of phoning and texting while driving, and even while walking. The local Girl Scouts are setting up a blog, and making plans on how to keep kids and parents from breaking the law. One thing that really gets to me is the example that some parents are setting for their kids. I see parents running stop signs and talking on hand held phones with kids in the car! What are you telling your kids? There are certain laws you can ignore? Which ones? When your child gets older, is this the attitude you want them to have? When they end in jail, or possibly worse, remember that your actions today might dictate what happens to them later in life. Maybe, with the help of the great kids I listed earlier we can educate the parents. So far, this is my biggest frustration on the job.
As far as personal goals, I would like to see more people involved in the process. It was, and still is, my goal to enlist the help and opinions of the people of Port Washington to better help me do my job. I have made myself available to the public through this paper and other media, and I am thankfully part of a Yahoo Parents Group that is a wonderful group of caring parents who are very interested in the community. Through them and the media I have been able to get a better grasp on what truly affects the people, and how we can better serve them. I feel the communication between the district and the community has greatly improved, and I am thankful to all the caring people who get involved and make it happen, and I continue to ask people to reach out to me.
We have come a long way in improving the district, improving our services and lowering our costs, but we still have work to do . We can and will do better. The Board of Commissioners, the PBA and the better part of the community are all in this together. Together we can get it done.