Dave Roberts Fibs to Kill Measure S

Dave Roberts put out a disgusting piece in the Contra Costa Times yesterday that attacked safety employees based on false numbers, false situations, and highly unlikely scenarios that were aimed at emotionally hitting voters. This is a slap in the face to all public safety personnel and we should not stand for it as a community.

I’ll be blunt and say that I don’t care if it’s a parcel tax of $197 a year, or $500 a year, we need to stop treating our fire and police personnel like second class citizens. We are talking about public safety; I don’t give a damn about these guys’ pensions or retirement or whatever you want to call it because without public safety, there is chaos in crisis’.

We need firefighters right now more than they need us. We should be supporting them, not given them a public lashing! Unlike other public agencies, these guys are not taking advantage of the pension system so it’s time to knock off the childish behavior of Mr. Roberts and the phony Contra Costa Taxpayer Association.

Our firefighters are model citizens of the community. They enhance the community both on and off duty.  We need to stop slapping them in the face with false information like the ones Mr. Roberts submitted to the Times (apparently the Times does not do fact checking anymore). This rhetoric going around that wants to punish the Fire District and those who put their lives on the line for you and I should stop immediately.

These guys should be applauded, not crucified.

I would urge people to look into the facts and not let jerks like Dave Roberts or Kris Hunt sway your opinion over false numbers and phony arguments. Let’s pass this parcel tax and lets buy 10 years to solve this problem once and for all and stay on top of the District each month to ensure they are working on a solution.

Now back to Mr. Roberts who pretty much works in cahoots with Ms. Kris Hunt.

Mr. Roberts is advocating he does not want to pay $2,200 over a 10 year period but it appears he would rather ultimately  pay double that (in a best case scenario) to the insurance companies—that goes to show you how bright this guy is.

The reality is you are either going to pay a little to ECCFPD, or a lot more to your insurance company.  No matter what anyone says, home insurance premiums never go down! With reduced fire services, premiums go up!

The numbers Mr. Roberts used are wrong, misleading, and a slap in the face to anyone who attended any of the fire boards educational outreach sessions.  If you go back and read Mr. Roberts submission to the Times and this time pay close attention, he played with his words to make it look like fact when really it’s an opinion. As a co-author in the argument against Measure S, I’d expect nothing less from him.

The irony of Dave Roberts is that he is a so called journalist putting out false information to get his way. He stretched truths, his scenarios are hypotheticals at best, and he doesn’t even know how fire services work when he calls the District top heavy.

Let’s take a look at a few of his points shall we?

Mr. Roberts claims: But that’s exactly the situation in the East Contra Costa Fire District, which wants to raise your taxes by $2,200 over the next 10 years (the $197 parcel tax could increase as much as 3 percent annually with inflation). It might be worth it if all of that money actually provided more fire protection. But a good chunk of it will go to retirees who can quit at 50 with nearly full pay — none of whom will show up if your house is on fire.

First off, he is making the smug statement that the parcel tax may be worth it if it all went to provide more fire services shows is ignorance. I don’t know how saving 24-jobs, opening up stations, improving paramedics on rigs does not improve fire services? Explain it to us Dave!

My question for Mr. Roberts is why did he not clarify what he means when he says a good chunk?  He is purposely not giving the actual number because it hurts his argument—it’s actually a small amount.  The reality is using common sense, the majority of Public Safety members does not retire at 50 and would not get “nearly full salary” as Mr. Roberts implies.

Does one really think someone is hired at 20? You have to have training, in many cases a college degree, and in most departments be a paramedic to get your food in the door in most Districts. All of that takes years….then it is a crap shoot to getting hired.  You have to go through many tests which you have to pass them all, and then go to an oral board.  Then a chiefs interview.  Then and only then are you placed on a list-where you might get called.

The average age of entry into the fire department is 26-27 which would mean the employee would work until 56-57. It should also be noted that Firefighters, Police officers and Safety workers are eligible for this enhanced benefit due to the physical challenges of the job and the cumulative exposures that day to day emergencies produce.

To put it bluntly, something not talked about often is we actually want firefighters to retire early because the older they get, the more prone they are to injuries because of the extreme physical demands with extended work hours—meaning we would actually be paying more due to workers compensation related requirements than we would in salary.

Mr. Roberts also states: As a result, a firefighter who puts in 30 years and retires at age 50 might receive $65,000 every year for the rest of his life. A retired fire engineer might get $82,000 annually, a retired fire captain might receive $78,000 per year, a battalion chief might retire on $103,000 per year and the retired chief would have to get by on $124,000 each year for the rest of his retirement. Retiree medical benefits are an added bonus.

First off, the reality is there are in fact over 251 law enforcement agencies in California that use the 3 @ 50 calculation. Second, to make his points, each example uses the word “might” in it which is a worst case scenario which is a very low percentage of it actually happening.

It’s very important for people to understand that Mr. Roberts is giving examples using “fictitious firefighters” but I’d challenge Mr. Roberts to actually prove this example actually exists within ECCFPD.  I’d urge Mr. Roberts to provide a name or two to prove his theory correct.

Equally important, Mr. Robert’s gives examples of salaries, but fails to disclose that his examples factor in overtime and “other earnings” of which are NOT compensable in the calculation for retirement.  That is right-overtime and “other earnings” do not count. So the figures listed are ridiculously inflated.  The reality is ECCFPD are the lowest paid, in the Bay Area!

Finally, his assumption that the District is top heavy clearly shows this guy’s naive views of public safety and how fireworks. My guess is he has never visited any of our stations or met with our amazing crews. Truth is, this is one of the most un-top heavy Districts around.

Funny thing, did anyone catch that he has Engineers making more than Captains?  That is like saying a Stewardess makes more than a pilot!

Please take a look at a post from Robert Ruddick—he stated it beautifully.

Robert Ruddick of ECCFPD provided a nice explanation of the so called top heavy claim by Mr. Roberts. Here is what he said in response to Mr. Roberts’s commentary:

I will have to assume by your belief that the district is “top-heavy” that you do not understand the role of ranks in the fire service. Similar to the military the fire service has long ago adopted ranks as a way of establishing a hierarchy. Could you imagine how General Patton’s army would have performed if Patton were not a General but rather a private? I’ll try my best but here is a brief description of the Ranks and their jobs.

The Fire Chief is really like a General. He is all powerful when it comes to his troops but at the same time he must report to and follow the direction of his elected civilian bosses.

The usual 3 shift battalion chiefs are Fire Chief’s deputies and they are in charge of a battalion (1-7 stations in a close geographic area). The Battalion Chiefs are in charge of day to day fires, accidents etc. inside the battalion.

Next you have the Captain, this person is in charge of the individual engine company and the station they live in.

Then you have the Engineer who is responsible for the driving, pumping and maintenance of all equipment on a fire engine and other apparatus in the station.

Finally you have the Firefighter who is in 95%+ of the bay area also a paramedic. East Contra Costa’s fire fighters fall in the less than 5%. The Firefighter one of the hardest workers on an engine company. They are both the muscle for breaking down doors as well as the compassionate healer who takes a person who is having the worst day of their life and helps them start toward recovery.

I hope I don’t come across like I’m am giving an elementary school lesson on firefighting but I just want to make it as clear as I can so everyone can understand ranks and roles. I’m positive that Mr. Roberts is very well educated but his arguments are flawed on this subject for no other reason than lack of understanding of how the fire service works. East Contra Costa is not top-heavy. They have done their best on a volunteer fire budget to provide full-time fire protection to the states leading region for growth for most of the past decade. I’m sure I would make the same mistakes if I were asked to argue the top-heaviness of the string group of an orchestra versus the other groups since I am not as qualified when it comes to music.

Final Thoughts

This is just another case of bad journalism by the Contra Costa Times by not fact checking submissions from rouge journalist.  Mr. Roberts should be dismissed as nothing more than an angry old man who really needs to find another profession. Everything he writes turns to crap and the same will occur with this piece as his facts are disproved and he is exposed for being a fraud.

Mr. Roberts claim that this is not a revenue problem but rather a spending problem? Funding for the department has been frozen at an apportionment (California Proposition 13) set in 1978.  What other service, business or commodity has remained flat in relationship to costs and inflation?  Gas was under .70 a gallon! Mr. Roberts, you are wrong.

This department does have a revenue problem-not a spending problem. If Measure S fails, citizens of East County will soon have a service problem. It’s as simple as that.


About burkforoakley

I call it like I see it . I love my city, I love my community and I want what is best for the people around me. Do the right thing, I will support you. Do the wrong thing, I will oppose you!
This entry was posted in Around Oakley, Brentwood, Contra Costa County, Discovery Bay, East County, Fire Dept.. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Dave Roberts Fibs to Kill Measure S

  1. jeff b says:

    burkeforoakley you just got spanked…take a look at this compelling document and pay close attention to the expected life span of the various worker categories. http://www.calpers.ca.gov/eip-docs/about/pubs/employer/experience-study.pd There clearly is foundation to what Roberts and others are saying about the outrageous FD pension plans the public is being forced to pay for. ECCFPD is already paid at the national FD avg wage plus they have a generous pension. Overall this county does have a FD spending problem and until that is dealt with more and more taxation is going to be required to feed the beast. This $197 is only a start.

    if you want to support more taxation that is your choice but please in an important matter like this knock off the BS you try to espouse as fact.

    Lets be real here ……I would much rather see an older FD employee still on the job than a fat one at any age. And I saw a fat one handing out glossy Measure S door tags this weekend. I’d like to see the injury and disability rates for the fat ones vs the ones who care enough about their own health and the safety of their coworkers to stay in shape. If working for a FD is so hard and if the health outcomes of fat FD employees follow the health outcomes of the fat segment of the general population then every fat FD employee should be terminated for cause. I don’t want to pay for some firefighter’s early retirement because they ate themselves into a joint replacement or heart disease.

    And YES…fat public employees are my business because I have to pay for their healthcare and their disability.

    and burkeforoakly I once again ask you to join me in seeking the BOS to give up all but one office each and to cut their admin overhead by 50% with all the savings going directly to on-the-street public safety. either join me in this or say why you like bloated county government.

  2. Sandbar Wino says:

    A friend of mine has always said, in regards to on-line debate, that if the premise of your argument is based on a “linked” item and that linked item doesn’t work, your premise is moot.

    You, Sir, are a window licker.

  3. Bob says:

    Jeff, do you know what the number 1 killer of firemen is on the job?

    Heart attacks.

    In the year 2000, more than half of the 112 fatalities nationwide on the job were due to heart attack. Not from other mortal injuries.


    Guess what happens when you force higher retirement ages into a highly stressful profession, both physically and mentally?

    Dave Roberts cited an all inclusive “public safety” classification at CALPERS. Public safety includes fire, police, corrections officers, lawyers, judges, bailiffs and security guards. Among others.

    There are lots of very valid studies and statistical information out there that is SPECIFIC to the fire profession. Where you will find life expectancies are indeed much lower.

    I could point you with any number of links, but I fully expect you to shoot the messenger and be dismissive out of hand. If you did your own research, starting perhaps with FEMA documents, you will see the truth for yourself. Since “espouse as fact” was so strong a concern that you had to state it here..

    If you have issue with Mike’s citations, that’s fine. Come in with a respectful disagreement and challenge. It will come out in the wash. Coming in with a head of steam when you are clearly wrong serves no purpose. Statements such as “you got spanked” are offensively personal and diminish your credibility. Not to mention it shows your real agenda is vindictive and has little to do with the topic at hand.

    Take your anger down a notch or two. People are more likely to listen. Once in awhile you actually throw one out that’s worth considering. But you get dismissed before the conversation even starts because of the way you treat people.

  4. jeff b says:

    The calpers link worked for me, I may have pasted it poorly…my bad. I got it from this post:
    “It’s a myth that firefighters and other public safety employees have a significantly lower than average life expectancy. They’re not dead seven years after retiring, as has been claimed.

    The California Public Employees Retirement System has issued a report comparing life expectancy for miscellaneous state employees compared to public safety employees. Not only do public safety employees not die earlier – they actually live slightly longer.

    A miscellaneous male CalPERS member at age 50 can expect to live to 80.1. 50-year-old firefighters can expect to live to 81.7 and police officers to 82. For the public at large, a 50-year-old male can expect to live to 78.4, according to annuityadvantage.com.

    My guess is that public safety employees live longer because they retire early with a nice pension and premium health benefits. The average taxpayer, on the other hand, must work much longer and retire with little, or probably zero, pension and rely on Medicare.

    Here’s a link to the CalPERS report: http://www.calpers.ca.gov/eip-docs/about/pubs/employer/experience-study.pdf

    The reason the burke guy got spanked by the guy he was talking down is because burke is the biggest offender of making false statements positioned as fact. When one of his falsehoods is clearly debunked he just moves on to the next misleading statement. This calpers document is powerful stuff. I know burke will read it and I know he will know that he should do the right thing and stop the special interest pandering…but will he?

    So if heart attacks are the big FD killers (and I’m sorry they are) who will join me in seeking to weed out these who have a higher self-induced probability of succumbing by this known etiology?

    But why are we going in this direction to pick at fat FD employees who we know stand a higher risk for early retirement, injury or death? The discussion has digressed to this level because of the failure of the politicos to address the real problem…that is both county FD’s function with a non-sustainable cost structure and they both need to be put to rest. A new ground-up county FD/EMS function needs to arise that is sustainable in CCC’s ‘new normal’ economic environment.

    We know that right now both county FD’s meet or exceed the national FD wage profile and we know towns like Antioch and Oakley are not high cost places to live ….so addressing the real and absolute spending problem while building a leveraged, county wide, organization that fully utilizes a range of methods and deployments will improve the stability of FD jobs in CCC while at the same time improve public safety.

    Lets stop this crazy special interest pandering and lets look at the bottom line for improving public safety. It is 400 vs 1,000,000 and the 400 have it pretty darn good (on a national comparative basis), one could easily argue many of the 400 have it over the top.

    It is really too bad that we HAVE TO VOTE NO on this to force the BOS to do the right thing for the 1,000,000 CCC residents and people who in CCC. But that is sad fact. If they have not acted when they had the chance and the time what confidence can we ever have that they will ever act unless forced. Voting NO forces the issue back to the BOS and that is the only way to really reach a sustainable solution.

    And let me make one clarifying statement….I think being a firefighter is very cool and I know several and they are all great folks. But that does not mean they get the keys to the bank (or free access to my wallet). Lets face it most firefighters in this country do the job for FREE (shhh don’t tell the union). We all know that nation wide most people who run into burning buildings don’t get a real pay check or a pension or life time benefits. They do it as volunteers and they do it for great reasons. That fact should not in and by itself take away from those who do it for money but you do have the keep the whole nobility aspect in perspective.

    • Tim says:


      I’ll start by saying that am proud and fortunate to be a professional firefighter here in California. I am also a tax payer here in Contra Costa and understand your frustration. I am only replying because of your last paragraph in which you raise a very valid point, professional vs volonteer fire service.

      I consider myself fortunate to both work as a paid, career firefighter and be served by the same. I can’t argue that professional public safety isn’t expensive, it is. I can however argue it’s benefit. The volonteer firefighter is and should be respected, they are certainly needed across the country. However, the public they serve, although reap the benefit of having a firefighter, do not have 24/7 access to a team of professionals that are constantly ready to respond (right now) to your emergency. This same team, when not responding to your emergency, trains together at least 2 hours daily to be prepaired for whatever your emergency happens to be. Do you actually believe you would get the same from a group of volunteers? People who would also have to report to their jobs daily to earn a living. Then, while at their jobs or at home in bed, get a call to respond to a fire station, get their gear on a rig, wait until they (hopefully) get a reasonable crew together, then and only then come to your cry for help. Have you ever watched a home burn? Have you ever witnessed or been part of any significant traffic accident or medical emergency? Have you ever performed CPR? Have you seen the look in the eye of a young, inexperienced volunteer firefighter when presented with an emergency? I don’t know you at all. I understand that you may have experienced all of the above. If so, I ask you to recall your experience. If not, I ask you to use your imagination for a moment. What then is a professional fire department worth to you? Who do you want or expect to show up? Would you respond? Either for pay or for free? I challange you to spend some time on Youtube watching fire videos. It’s not hard to see the differences between professional and volunteer. That is not to detract from the volunteer, they are significantly disadvantaged. As is our fire department as it stands today.

      I get it, I am part of the special intrest. Although I’ll bet my actual special interest is different than you think. My interest is my wife and daughters. You see, I don’t work in this county. When I am gone for my shifts, miles from here, working for another community, the professional men and women of ECCFPD are here working for me. They’ll also be here for me when I am at home. I help pay their salaries. I am shocked each time I look at my property taxes how little it actually costs me. I am shocked further how this fire district is expected to do so much with so little, while the short sited few moan about a pension. Guess what, when Measure S passes ECCFPD will be looking for some folks to hire. Start working now and who knows, maybe someday there will be a pension in it for you. Our community is a wonderful place full of great people. I believe we deserve a professional fire department and willing to pay for it. We’re talking about 50 cents a day here folks. The proposed return is absolutetly incredible.

      This may just be rhetoric to you, but I work hard for the community that I serve and I know this district does the same for me. Please try, at the very least, to consider that before you assume that all these people want is your money. At the end of the day, they are all just trying to do their jobs, provide you a service, and earn a paycheck (heaven forbid).

  5. Bob says:

    Jeff, trying to have a conversation doesn’t work if you don’t read the material presented.

    Please at least have a cursory look at the Harvard study I linked to earlier. Not all heart attacks are due to obesity, as you seem to suggest here.

    Then look up the fact that Roberts is listing ALL public safety in one group. Fire stats are NOT properly represented in your link or his citation.

    Wouldn’t refusing to look at the important details be a case of “BS you try to espouse as fact”? Isn’t that the concern you expressed earlier?

    Unsustainable costs is because you’re still paying 1970s prices for the service. We can argue all day long about fault on that, but it’s a fact. You haven’t been billed one red dime over and above the models that were set in stone by Prop 13 over 30 years ago. It was a flawed model that was never meaningfully tweaked since. That wasn’t the BoS fault either. Creating scapegoats solves nothing. Only through honest appraisal of the situation, cost analysis of the proposed solutions and honest discussion about what compromise is fair all around will we find meaningful solutions.

    Anything else is someone trying to ram an agenda down someone’s throat.

    This is a basic math problem. On the revenue side you have property values feeding 94% of what the district gets to survive on. On the cost side you have all the regular cost of living pressures, manipulated energy pricies, health care runaway costs that are nearly criminal and all sorts of other pressures that the district has no control over. You don’t get to any serious discussion of solutions until you first recognize these are the variables.

    On the revenue side: property values expected to remain relatively flat for a couple of more years. Then modest 2-3% appreciation.

    Unfortunately on the cost side you have nothing remotely similar. Health care again being the biggest offender.

    When revenue vs. costs is that disconnected, IT WILL NEVER WORK! This doesn’t take a MBA to figure out. Just common sense.

    So any solution that is brought forward and debated with any seriousness must address this fundamental disconnect. You can trash pensions until your opposing thumbs fall out from beating the keyboard. It does NOTHING to address the fundamental problem. Pensions are an issue that have to be dealt with. No question. But simply hatcheting them provides nothing more than temporary satisfaction to some with an either conscious or subconscious punitive angle here.

    I’m sorry, but you have to get someone who’s opinion you respect to explain it to you. A combined EMS/FD is politically and fiscally IMPOSSIBLE. You have 2 fairly stable districts in Richmond and San Ramon Valley. To a lesser extent in Orinda/Moraga. Each of those would have to buy into your plan. As independent districts, neither you nor the BoS gets to go in and dicate terms and certainly not a dissolution. You would be asking them to dilute their now stable districts to subsidize you. That’s why it’s for all intents and purposes impossible in any reasonable amount of time. Could it be done at some point in the future? Sure. Anything’s possible. But you’re talking 10-20 yr timeframe. It took 8 to get this po-dunk district handed off and it’s an order of magnitude simpler task.

    Saying you are going to force that solution on everyone might work in a dictatorship. But we don’t live in one of those. In a democracy all those inconvenient “other opinions” also get to have a voice in the ultimate path taken.

    Not to mention EMS is a far, far more complex agency than one who’s budget you raid to address your engine based EMS needs. Their responsibilities extend much further.

    Ask someone in county you respect. Perhaps Twa. Because hearing it multiple times obviously isn’t registering for whatever reason.

    Forget the soda reference. That program was to address obesity. It falls under the Big 2 of the county’s purview in public health. The County has no extra money in their budget to give to you or ConFire or anyone else. Their discretionary dollars are few and ALL spoken for.

    Your second to the last paragraph is absolutely suicide. A “no” does not force it back to the BoS. The district is run by local governance now. The BoS is out of the picture, like it or not. If you continue to insist otherwise, then you owe it to the readers to dig into the California government code and point directly to the section that provides the authority you insist they have. EVERY action taken by the county is spelled out right there. The “legal mechanism” to take the action you insist they can would have to be spelled out.


    Otherwise you will continue to appear like someone expecting the county to give you a pony or something. It’s simply not going to happen.

    Volunteer fire departments are high risk. HIGH RISK is another way of saying your insurance company will ding you for it. Again, we can argue all day long on how much. Neither you nor I can say with certainty until it’s too late. Do you really want to take that risk?

    There’s no do over when people die and property is lost. EVERY SINGLE WEEK in this country there is an emergency where, no matter how well equipped the department is, the result will be “if we could have just gotten there a minute or two sooner”. That happens in this district too, Jeff. I’ve talked with the front line guys who have experienced it. There will be more of it when service is cut in half.

    That’s really the bottom line here. An unspoken, yet very real calculation that some amount of lives and property will be sacrificed in some poorly thought out attempt to avert the $197.

    It’s putting a price on someone’s(TBD) life. You can sugar coat that all you want. It’s a fact.


    – A 50% reduction in stations is ADDED RISK

    – A shift to largely POC/volunteer is ADDED RISK. See the CCTPA’s own documents. Times have changed. Times have changed drastically in litigation happy America. You don’t get to weekend warrior this deal and skip all the federal and state requirements for training, which have MASSIVELY increased since the days of my growing up in a house with my father who was a 30 year volunteer.

    – With added risk on that scale comes the likelihood of increased losses and claims. Any company who rates simply on claims history will eventually catch up to you. The chicken and egg argument doesn’t work here.

    How can anyone acknowledge these facts and still come to the conclusion you won’t be penalized for it?

  6. Sandbar Wino says:

    Mr. Barber,

    You have been weighed, you have been measured, and you have been found wanting.

  7. Jeff… unlike Mr. Roberts, I do not feel the need to respond but since you want to accuse me of something I did not do, go for it. I simply provided the details that Mr. Roberts stretched the numbers and called him out on it rather aggressive because people like him should be exposed as frauds and jerks. The reality is the Calpers document is a single document–while it may be valid, there are many, many, many others out there stating differently.

    The average police/firefighter lives 7-8 years less than the average citizen regardless of what stupid comments Mr. Roberts makes about early retirement and pensions. It’s been proven time and time again the number is 7-8 years.. If anyone got spanked, its neither you nor I, but Mr. Roberts and believe me, next week when the facts come out, he will be running for the hills for his lies.

    For the record Jeff, this is the only tax I’ve ever supported in my life because Its the responsible thing to do and if it costs a few hundred dollars more a year, so be it.

    By the way, its Burk, not Burke!

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