The Contra Costa Taxpayer Association has become somewhat of a menace to residents of East County as they have filed multiple arguments against Measure S while they have also began trolling websites and leaving negative comments against this Measure. A debate is fine, but when your arguments will get people killed, I do not believe this so-called Association has the resident’s best interest at heart.
Debating the specifics of an issue is part of the process, but what is transpiring is unacceptable as the Taxpayer Association is clearly stating half-truths, providing misleading information, and simply lying about the effect their suggestions will have on the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) from a financial standpoint.
For starters, the Association is claiming a no vote still leaves time to resolve the financial troubles that ECCFPD is in. This is probably the biggest myth stated by this group and Ms. Hunt (Association President) should know better. Government does not work quickly, it will take at least a year or more to come up with another solution while we are stuck with sub-par services. To correct Ms. Hunt, if the measure fails, three stations are closed and 24 firefighters are laid off immediately and that’s a fact because there will be no money.
It should also be noted that the only real financial fix that could ever solve the revenue issue is with the re-allocation of Proposition 13 funds which will happen when pigs learn to fly.
But if you truly take a look at with the Contra Costa Taxpayer Association is stating and the arguments put forth (shown below), you would realize they appear to be an unprepared group of “Johnny Come Lately” without a knowledge of the history of ECCFPD or its services—it could also be argued the only people who truly benefit from Ms. Hunt’s argument are the insurance companies who get to raise your rates more than what residents would actually pay in taxes to support fire services.
Voters simply have to remove their emotions about taxes and ask themselves who they would rather pay?
You can pay a little to the ECCFPD to ensure services or you can pay the insurance companies double (at the minimum) what the tax would cost you. Over a 10 year period, the parcel tax will cost around $2,258. Meanwhile, you could pay around $8,000 additionally over 10 years to your insurance company (Supporting Measure S Actually Saves You Money)
Just remember, residents of Morgan Territory Road had a $1,500 to $4,000 insurance increase when the Sunshine Station closed. There is no grey area here, you will pay someone regardless of the outcome of Measure S. Paying the Parcel Tax will save you money in the long run and you might as well get service.
What Ms. Hunt and her Taxpayer Association wont tell you is that the citizens of East County have been getting fire protection for half price since 2002 and they are only asking for a small increase compared to what they could be asking for—Ms. Hunt’s own arguments in an exchange Director Steve Barr provide proof that by her own admission the District should have asked for $250 from the start, not 10 years from now.
She appears confused at just what exactly she is arguing. This is nothing more than someone who is late to the party and trying to make a splash when the reality is all of her so called solutions had discussed many times over the years and have been dismissed due to financial fallacies and reduction in service which is not acceptable.
Just this past week, Ms. Hunt is running her mouth left and right about how she attended a meeting in Brentwood and she claims “what people heard was for the first time at this meeting is that this tax, despite growing to $250, will not solve the district’s problems. The 30% staff expansion and opening another station will mean the district starts spending more money than it takes in four years. These numbers come from the Fire Chief that this tax does not solve the district’s problems.”
I firmly believe Ms. Hunt is delusional and misunderstood the Chief because there is a document that has been around since January 2012 (see document ECCFPD Service Model ) which shows the 10-year plan. More to the point, Ms. Hunt appears unhappy that this tax can grow to $257 by year 10. This is due to inflation. Is she indirectly stating she expect this District to somehow escape those inflationary pressures in overhead costs?
Finally, her argument on what the chief said is misleading because it’s not an approved deployment plan. The District will deliberate and vote on deployments each year moving forward. There is ample time to adjust according to more current fiscal information in years 4/5. The Chief’s model is based on a completely flat property tax revenue assumption—a consistent increase which we all know the reality is home values goes up and down each year.
While it’s true the district will never outgrow its revenue problem with any tax, this tax buys the District 10 years to find an ideal fix while bringing services up to the national standard—currently, for whatever reason people seem to believe our services are “adequate”.
The reality is if people listen to Ms. Hunt and her Association, you can kiss the adequate status goodbye. Voting no makes little sense because it guts our emergency services. People of East County do not need contracted fire services; we need expanded services in order to save lives.
Let’s jump right into her arguments she sent to the County Elections and you will realize how illogical here arguments against the District truly are.
Ms. Hunt states The District has promised such an enormous service expansion that will begin spending more than it takes in starting in 2016. That means you will be hearing the same threats of service cuts and the demand for increased taxes in just four year.
Ms. Hunt is purposely misleading residents and trying to scare voters with her statement. If she had attended the fire board meetings (specifically January) she would know that Directors Anderson, Director Barr, and Director Stonebarger stated the deficit would begin in year 11—not in year 4. What has been relayed to voters over and over is the District will never outgrow its revenue issues due to Prop 13. She would know that due to the way this parcel tax is written, the District cannot legally ask for more money until the sunset expires 10 years from now.
By the way, this enormous service expansion she speaks of, it barely gets us back to services levels we had 2 years ago and still does not get us to the same level of service that she enjoys in Walnut Creek. As you can see, this woman is a hypocrite!
I’d also like to ask Ms. Hunt to define what she considers an enormous expansion because she fails to mention what this expansion is nor compare it to the coverage we currently receive.
Going back further, a 2006 study, performed by Citygate, concluded that East County will eventually need 10 fire stations with three firefighters on each engine. One of the firefighters on each engine should be a trained paramedic. According to the study, it would cost the district about $18 million to achieve that level of service. So there is a reason why expansion has to occur anyway.
Ms. Hunt then provides a series of 5 bullets of suggested fixes for the District that look nice in theory, but they will get people killed. Let’s take a look shall we?
1. Expand the existing contract with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The District has not explored this option in recent years.
The irony of this suggestion is that you have an anti-tax group essentially trying to push local district services onto the state. If that’s not the ultimate in hypocrisy I don’t know what is!
Ms. Hunt continues to ignore the fact that ECCFPD looked into CALFIRE a few years ago (7 or 8 years). It was deemed more expensive and service would be reduced. Fast forward to today’s costs, that quote likely has skyrocketed. In fact, Director Steve Barr explained to Ms. Hunt via the Brentwood Press website, using her own example, that CALFIRE would actually cost residents more money and proved it with numbers.
Director Barr wrote: By using your example (Summerset IV meeting)Morgan Hill CalFire contract at $2.2m per year.
- CalFire 6 stations x 2.2 = $13,484,100.00
- ECCFPD 6 stations (11/12) $11,083,474.00.
- Total savings -2,400,626.00
The reality is Mr. Barr clearly proved Ms. Hunt has no idea what she is talking about. By offering this suggestion, she is essentially costing East County residents $2.5 million more annually. The kicker is anyone who knows something about fire services knows CALFIRE cannot promise the same level of services our current District firefighters could.
Another strike against CALFIRE is If one takes time to examine Morgan Hill proposal from CALFIRE. They are paying for full-time mechanics to manage the fleet and a staff of dispatch people. Today we get dispatch from the County at shared rates which common sense will tell you is cheaper.
In the same thread via the Brentwood Press, Bob Mankin pointed out a very important fact that has been ignored and it’s that CalFire has reserve requirements that extend even further and this District in its current fiscal state is a complete non-starter for them. In fact, the District with the reserves they had when they were formed is a non-starter
See this debate for yourself in the Brentwood Press. By the way, Director Barr gets kudos!
2. Use more paid on-call volunteer firefighters to supplement the full-time staff.
Being a firefighter is not an on-call position. This suggestion is a recipe for disaster and truly reduces services based on quality that East County Residents receive. Ms. Hunts next bullet proves this in terms of 70% are for medical emergencies in which the highest possibly trained firefighters need to be on duty, not volunteers.
This suggestion only comes from folks who will be unaffected by Measure S failure. Whoever suggests this please ask them if they have volunteers in their District.
3. Send fire trucks only to fires. About 70% of dispatches are for medical emergencies which can be handled by ambulance staff rather than firefighters.
This one cracks me up because the argument itself makes the point of why paramedics are needed on rigs. Just look at the numbers. Engines arrive on scene typically 5-10 minutes faster than ambulances which is fact in East County. If paramedics were on rigs it means you get emergency medical services faster as opposed to basic medical services—it’s the difference of driving a Focus compared to a Ferrari based on what can be provided to you and the medicine (pain relief) that can be given.
Using logic, do ambulances have tools to rip open cars? Do they carry ladders? Do they have tools to get into homes in an emergency situation? If firefighters were needed, ambulances would arrive on scene “late”, observe the scene, then call for backup fire services to assist then be able to work—the result is valuable time is wasted when every second counts.
Using Ms. Hunt’s example, let’s take a look at what would occur under her illogical suggestion.
- 911 is called where an ambulance is dispatched (2 minutes)
- 10-minutes later the ambulance arrive on scene and scopes it out (12 minutes gone)
- Determined fire assistance are needed (15 minutes gone)
- 5-7 minutes later a fire engine arrives on scene (20 minutes now gone)
- Fire services get to work (21 minutes later)
We cannot afford a middle man (ambulance companies) in emergency situations. What Ms. Hunt is suggesting is wasting valuable time and will unnecessary put people in danger—bottom line, this suggestion kills people.
What Ms. Hunt is actually suggesting is we pay firefighters to sit in their stations all day and play cards or watch TV. Hint to Ms. Hunt, firefighters are paid per shift, not per call. If they are being paid, they should go to every call they are needed on.
This one simply proves the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association has no clue about fire services or what they are even suggesting because this one kills people.
4. Cut back on generous benefits. Firefighters can retire at the age of 50 with an annual pension at near full salary. Pension costs are projected to increase by 65% in five years based on District projections.
I’d like Ms. Hunt to clarify what these generous benefits are in which she is referring to! I’d then request she perform some due diligence and compare ECCFPD to other Districts in the Bay Area and then see if she comes to the same conclusion before opening her mouth.
If she did her due diligence, she would realize our firefighters have not had a raise in 4+ years, they agreed to pay more into their retirement and medical, while they have also agreed to a tiered retirement system for new hires. East County residents are getting a hell of a deal on our fire service staffing costs.
The truth is, Ms. Hunt is lumping our brave firefighters in with other government entities for emotional appeal, not providing the reality of their not so great retirement benefits. The reality is firefighters should be able to retire by 50 because of the physical demands of the job. Their careers are a lot shorter than someone working at a desk their whole life—it should also be noted that their life expectancy is shorter.
Using logic, do you know of many 20-year old firefighters? Very few actually serve 30 years to receive a full pension which is what Ms. Hunt is talking about—it’s a very low number. Typically, a majority retire with partial pensions because most firefighters fail to reach full status for one reason or another.
When you jump back to her argument of handing ECCFPD off to CALFIRE (essentially leaving Local 1230), there is also a cost to her suggestion of going to a different union. She suggests going to union that is CALPERS pension based and has a lower employee contributions than ECCFPD. That sounds good, but when you do that, the Districts share of pensions will be much larger which is a recipe for stupid!
5. Cancel what remains of the $120,000 contract to convince you to raise taxes through a fear campaign.
This one is somewhat hypocritical considering her Association is a membership club where people have to pay to join. It could be argued her group is a political animal in reverse of the consultant hired by ECCFPD which is essentially convincing you to vote against Measure S due to a fear campaign of her own. I’d like to remind Ms. Hunt that the District has provided 20 plus educational meetings to inform the public about Measure S.
To be honest, I have complained, suggested and even blogged about why ECCFPD needed a fear campaign and some emotional appeal. To the Districts credit, they have remained in education mode and followed the law. They have not even come close to a fear campaign as Ms. Hunt proclaims. This suggestion really is a cheap shot by Ms. Hunt more than anything and has no weight to it.
Why the Contra Costa Taxpayer Association is Suspicious
Now the Contra Costa Taxpayer Association is not all bad, they are just way off base on this issue. They are dead wrong here and it will cost lives. But who is the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association? What is their interest in defeating Measure S?
Nowhere on its website does it mention who is on their Board of Directors. Nowhere does it show who their sponsors are. Nowhere does it state who in East County they represent. If they are going to argue against a tax not in their own backyard, we deserve a right to know about whom and how many people they represent in East County in which will actually be effected by Measure S. Not just sticking their nose in East County business because they have the title “Contra Costa” in their name.
Most importantly, we have a right to know, if any, how many and which insurance companies are a part of this group since it’s an Association run by corporations. If not insurance companies, what about insurance agents are members?
What I am getting at is this could be a direct conflict of interest. Kris Hunt’s benefactors stand to make money off a defeat and her draw as a Director would be funded by those people.
It’s odd that Ms. Hunt, who does not reside in East County (she lives in Walnut Creek) and will not be affected by Measure S is raising a stink about Measure S. Same holds true for Arne Simonsen who acknowledged he was one of the Board Members. As much as Arne Simonsen likes to believe he is in East County, he lives in Antioch and will not be affected by Measure S.
The reality is this is a membership driven Association with fees ranging from $50 to $5,000. It’s a club. It’s a group that actually does not an official representation of any taxpayer group.
This whole idea that they are looking out for the taxpayer is a bunch of baloney.
In the end, listening to them gets you higher insurance costs which is more than the actual tax will cost you, while it reduces your service levels and gets people killed.