I am getting sick and tired of these hit and run folks who think they can publish a Letter to the Editor full of false information, start false rumors and not be held accountable for their actions. In the end, the Fire District and East County pay the price for their lies. A difference of opinion is fine, but fibbing is not.
What people need to realize is that by voting no to this parcel tax, you are reducing your own services all in the name of “punishing” the district when in reality you are punishing yourself. This is also akin to telling a specialist, for example a doctor, that he is overpaid when you don’t need him and later realizing in the future that he is the only one that can save your life.
Mr. Silver’s opinion is in bold; my response to each paragraph immediately follows. Let’s get to it shall we?
Fire employees shouldn’t ask for more
I am responding to Kevin Romick’s request for input as requested in the Jan. 13 edition of The Press.
I believe that the Grand Jury report is spot-on as it relates to our fire protection services and required funding that they are asking for from we the people; i.e., the fire protection services’ employer. We the people need to realize that we are their employers. This being said, the following questions need to be asked of our employees:
From the start, Mr. Silver appears delusional by agreeing with a political motivated Grand Jury Report full of contractions and lies in which none of the jurors will fill the effects of their report because none live in East County and under this District services. His assumption that we, the taxpayers are their boss is a fallacy because technically, it’s the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors who appoints the Fire District’s Board—therefor they are the boss. The reality is, until it’s an elected Board, the Supervisors remain in charge since they make the appointments–yes, this is a bit of a grey area.
For argument sake, could you imagine a delusional Mr. Silver approach Kevin Romick one day and tell him what to do with the District—in fact, that’s over 100,000 (East County population) bosses Romick would have to listen to. His head would spin, the reality is Romick would likely laugh at him. That is how stupid this “we are the boss” argument is.
Second of all, being from Discovery Bay, Mr. Silver does not get to degrade my Mayor claiming he is his boss and act like he has the answer that Romick does not. If Mr. Silvers suggestions made sense, and were reality, the Board would have already likely acted on them. Mr. Silver isn’t an employer nor should he philosophically believe he is one and spin this argument about the taxpayers; back in reality, Mr. Silver would be a pretty bright boss based off his letter to the editor which I will prove below.
1. As Kevin’s employer, issue should be taken with his comments in the Jan. 6 Press, and I quote: “These numbers weren’t just pulled out of the sky.” The fact is: two different consulting companies have informed the board at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars to us the employer that anything over $200 per parcel will not pass muster with the employers of the fire district.
This is where the number comes from, and is a matter of public record. If more money is what you want, let’s start being honest about what is really needed, as the Grand Jury has come forward and done.
Okay smarty pants, you stated that two different reports stated nothing over $200 will pass. Well, the proposed parcel tax is not over $200 because its $197 you big dummy. Sure, the board has an option to raise 3% each year, but who says they will? It’s an option and a process for that to occur. As of today, its $197.
Going back a few years, in 2006, when under Board of Supervisors power, they thought about going after a $250 tax. How would you feel about paying that rate since 2006?
The current board originally had a number just under $100, but numbers and studies showed that we would be right back in the same spot two years from now as that would not be sustainable. They would likely have to go back to the taxpayers and ask for more. By going with $197, it provides the District with the ability to not only keep services the way they are now, upgrade services, but the big picture thinking, which should be applauded is they are planning for future growth in East County.
This $197 number allows the District to open an additional fire station, utilize paramedics on rigs, hire additional firefighters—so no, the number wasn’t pulled out of the sky, it’s been discussed for nearly 6 years while this current board has been knee deep in this debate for over two years.
To be put boldly, this is a revenue problem, not a spending problem because this district receives 5% while other Districts receive 12-16% thanks to Prop 13 and the formation of the District.
The truth is, Mr. Silver does not comprehend how the District got in this mess, and therefore, he should stop making assumptions about what they should do. You cannot solve a problem unless one knows the history.
2. Information has been given to our employees (the fire district) as it relates to alternative funding for “the district” that it refuses to explore. There are companies that specialize in privatization of fire districts. There was USDA money available to help subsidize “the district” last year.
Both options fell on deaf ears last year. Our employees remained focused on removing more funding from we the employer instead of alternatives that would have saved the employer money.
With all due respect to Mr. Silver, the District probably knows more about these grant money available than him. There is likely a reason they did not apply for these funds—such as strings attached to it. With that said, the District has looked at FEMA grants in the past; however, it did not apply last year for a staffing/personnel grant. The District was just recently awarded a great worth nearly $500k for radio equipment—part of a county wide grant. I am told the 2012 grants for personnel open soon and we will be applying
I would like to know which USDA money grants Mr. Silver is referring to and when did he suggest these to the Board? If he did raise awareness to the grants, how does he know they fell on deaf ears and they were not looked at? He is simply making an assumption because in Mr. Silvers head, he is the boss and his staff didn’t listen.
3. Our employees continue to spend money recklessly. How much did those brand-new F350 pickups cost us the employer? $60-70-80,000, fully equipped with lights, radios and labeling. Our employees then complain we do not have money to fix equipment.
The cost savings between building the new Oakley fire station and not building it has never been explained. Why would you spend money in Oakley and complain that the Bethel Island station is a disaster?
Mr. Silver seems to believe that updating equipment equates to spending money recklessly. Anyone who is in business knows equipment gets older each year and has to be replaced–hell, anyone who owns a house or vehicle knows this principal. Some common sense goes a long way to see that his only example is vehicles; I’d like to know how else he believes the district is spending money like a drunken sailor.
I asked the Chief about these trucks Mr. Silver brought up and he said the three F250 pickups were purchased in 2007 and placed in service in 2008. These vehicles replaced older vehicles that were 8 years old and had over 100k miles on them. These vehicles are set up to run emergency service and support the fire crews. For the record, I am glad these vehicles are equipped with lights, radios and labeling—are they supposed not be included for fire service?
As for the Oakley station vs. Bethel Island station, let me explain it to him so he understand how it was not a disaster. The City of Oakley built the replacement station with fees collected from new development over the past years. The station then was turned over to the District. Since it was Oakley funds, it could not have been used in Bethel Island.
In fact, the Oakley Press ran an article on August 31, 2011 explaining how it was Oakley who footed the bill through the Fire Facilities Impact Fee Fund, which developers have been paying into for years as part of development fees. . Simply put, the District didn’t pay a dime; developers did through the Fire Facilities Impact Fee Fund.
4. You tell your employer that you need more money but do not want to fully divulge what the funds are for. The case in point: when asked about salary and benefits for rank and file, the comment is: we cannot tell you because we are in negotiations.
Are you serious? You want money but you do not want to tell your employer how it is to be spent, even in general terms. This is not a good business model. By the way, if you are exceeding 50 percent of your operational budget in labor and benefits, you are in trouble. The issue is not to increase costs but to cut them and live within your means.
Does Mr. Silver realize that the people of East County are getting a bargain when it comes to cost of labor and benefits? His statement is false due to the fact the Board has released salary comparisons at each of its outreach meetings. The District has been very clear what the money is going for which include staff, a new station, paramedics, equipment—the truth is, Mr. Silver wants a line item list when he does not deserve one at this point in time.
This is a comparison between ECCFPD and CON FIRE.
ECCFPD Fire Engineer: $4,757
CONFIRE Fire Engineer: $8,149
ECCFPD Fire Fighter: $4,322
CONFIRE Fire Fighter: $7,395
ECCFPD Fire Captain: $5,028
CONFIRE Fire Captain: $9,186
Note: All salary information is the “maximum merit monthly rate.
5. There are other communities in the Bay Area that have adjusted to current economic circumstance and not burden their employers further. The City of Pacifica has decided to reduce the crews of its vehicles from three to two. They have also combined services with Daly City. Why have our employees, “the district,” not looked into what is working for them?
I am getting very annoyed with Mr. Silvers assumption that the District has not looked into other Districts solutions to see if it applies to this county—how does he know they haven’t? I am sure if it makes sense, they would apply another Districts solution and plug it right in. It would save them a lot of effort, time and grief. The truth is, it’s not a solution that one can simply plug in and implement. These fixes are complex and need to be well thought out.
Honestly, I am not very interested in the City of Pacifica and Daly City as each District is different and has different circumstances to deal with. This type of comparison is dangerous because what happens in other Districts does not mean it’s a good idea for East County. The assumption that a private company can handle fire services at a level we currently receive is erroneous.
What Mr. Silver needs to realize is we already have mutual aid from ConFire which will be greatly reduced should the parcel tax fail. Does he even realize the National minimum for an engine is 4-firefighters, while California is 3? Now he wants to go down to two and be below the suggested staffing level? The idea that he is lobbying for two firefighters on an engine should show you how brain damaged he really is.
6. To not have a sunset clause on the increase is insulting. At some point in the future, we all know the market will return in this area. Not only will our employees have the benefit of the parcel tax but will also have the increased revenue once property taxes regain where they once were. Is it fair for our employees to remove every dollar they can from their employer?
Talk about a fear mongering, this sunset clause he is talking about has not been decided on as of the last board meeting—meaning they are still in discussions on this topic. For him to say they are not including one is just a flat out lie.
Jonathan Silver, Discovery Bay