Vince Wells Responds to CC Times Editorial

The Contra Costa Times put out a misleading editorial (I know, again) this past Sunday slamming Measure S by calling it irresponsible and how it should be rejected. Well, I could say the same thing about the Editorial Board’s opinion as being irresponsible and should be rejected for many reasons, but I shall digress.

Instead, I’ll let Vince Wells who is the President, Local 1230 Contra Costa Professional Firefighters due the talking. Mr. Wells had a nice response that I thought I’d share.

Wells Response Via Facebook

It is unfortunate that the Contra Costa Times Editorial Board decided to take a position against Measure S. Their decision to do so is irresponsible and therefore dangerous to the community of East Contra Costa County. The main reason I say this is because, if there is anyone left that believes in what they read in this section, they have been misled.

Changes in pensions will not make up for the immediate need for revenue sought in Measure “S”.

However, if it fails; fire Stations will close, response times will increase, fires will get bigger, more people will die, and business and home owner’s insurance rates will increase significantly. You cannot protect 105,000 people in 238 square miles, with just 9 fire fighters.

The writer is using this article to force pension reform recklessly and they know it. It will take many years to decrease the cost of pensions regardless of what happens at the negotiation table. The decrease in costs will come from new pension formulas, a healthy economy, and with significant return on investments. New tier retirements and modifications to final compensation calculations have taken place throughout the county and state.  The fruits of these changes will take time before they are realized.

Does the author of this editorial doubt that the fire board will reduce their fire and emergency services July 1 if Measure S fails, or do they suggest that the community can do without them for the next 25 years?

The CCCTIMES left out the fact that the revenue issue in East County pre-dated the housing market crash; it was perpetuated further by it. The average tax collected for fire protection in the East Contra Costa County Fire District is half of what is collected in the rest of the county based on rates set in 1978 under Prop 13.

Yes, pension and healthcare cost have gone up, and so have fuel prices. If you eliminated the pension and healthcare cost entirely from the budget, the district would still need to increase its revenue. They have been underfunded since the creation of the district in 2002. Anyone who has followed this issue is well aware of this fact.

It is irresponsible and self serving to blame the district’s funding problem on pensions. No one from the Times called me to find out why we asked to delay negotiations until after the election, even though they know it would take legislative action to create another pension tier which we have been working on.

The District held over 20 community meetings in order to inform the public of the “state of the fire district” and to get input. Based on these meetings, the need to secure additional revenue and the plan for Measure S was discussed. The article disrespects all of these efforts by making it seem like this Measure was thrown together in one night without due regard.

I personally attended 99% of the meetings.

The community wanted paramedics on their fire engines, like the rest of the county has, they wanted three person engines, like the rest of the county has, and they wanted their closed stations re-opened. It is unrealistic to expect a ten year budget plan to not have holes in it, so basing your yes or no vote on it is ridiculous.

The Fire Board tried to be honest and address the issues raised at the public meetings. How the economy will do over the next ten years, no one knows. Each year, the budget has to be approved by the governing body. If changes are necessary, they can be made then.

The public has the right to show up to each of the meetings over the length of the tax period. Pensions, staffing, and revenue can still be worked on during this time period.

Our investment in the passage of Measure S is not based on maintaining jobs for the 16 fire fighters that will be laid off. Our network will assure that they find new jobs with other fire agencies (most likely paying more than East County does). It is about maintaining fire services to that community.

After July 1, the reserves funds will be gone. Plan “B” has not been established. I am not sure if the author of this article understands that or understands what it would take to create a totally new system.

We have been at it since 2002 and Measure S is the solution. The beauty of blogs and social media is that if Measure S fails because of those who ask you to vote no but offer unrealistic solutions, we will have someone to point to when that “apartment fire” becomes an “apartment complex fire”, or that accident that had “three critical patients” becomes that accident with “three fatalities” due to its failure. I know I have been very clear about that, I am on video and an expert on the subject!

I suggest that you trust your fire board, which has worked long and hard on this issue, and trust the fire fighters, who have broken their backs to keep the communities in East County safe, despite the fact that they have been understaffed and underfunded since the district was formed.

Don’t get caught up in the anti-public employee campaign and make sure we are there in time when you need us! Vote Yes on Measure S!

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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!
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10 Responses to Vince Wells Responds to CC Times Editorial

  1. Bob says:

    It should be noted that the CCTimes is so tight with CoCoTax that some of their editorial pieces are for all intents and purposes, ghost written by CoCoTax representatives.

    In fact, in their public arguments they insist you cannot afford $16/mo to maintain your fire services. But they fully expect that you can spend $25 or $30 monthly for their breakfast or luncheon meetings to hear their message.

    Can any of their representatives explain that contradiction? In the past the defense has been it costs money to put on a spread at a luncheon. Well then why not hold it at a community center and have volunteers bring refreshments? Other social groups do that every given day.

    Seems the cost savings message at CoCotTax comes up a little short on consistency.

    As Vince notes, this just a wedge issues to force pension concessions in the most reckless manner possible. People will die in CoCoTax’s campaign to push that agenda and that is criminal.

  2. Brad gates says:

    I would like to say I was in support 110% of S until I revived the recent mailer that was sent out. I found it to be full of lies and misconceptions . I will admit Im a Paramedic for AMR and currently work in the Brentwood station . I found the information in the recent mailer to be a direct disrespect and a slap in the face to the Job I do and the sacrifice I make to serve the citizens of Contra Costa County. To have people share thier stories about how the Firefighters saved thier life in the back of the ambulance after they coded on the way to the hospital is a flat out lie . Im truly taken back to the stories and how the ” Firefighters ” get all the credit for the hard work I put in . I go to work everyday to do a job and provide for the public and I make a fair amount of money and revive no pention , but the bottom line is I would do it for free if it came down to it . To read what Vice Wells the president of the local IAFF 1230 writes . It sounds like he is demanding the money because he puts his life on the line everyday and he deserves it . At what point do you do your job for the passion of the job or for the money , it’s hard to tell where he stands ?

  3. jeff b says:

    Mr. Wells why do you refuse the address the proposed solution that was brought forward 2+ years ago? You know what I am talking about…..create a NEW county fire/EMS entity with a tired comp scale that is within the means of this county.

    This solution would call for former Con Fire people to take a cut from the high wage they get (based a national scale of cities & metro areas) and for former ECCFPD people to stay about the same. Both groups would need benefit and pension reform to bring them in-line with what this county can afford and with national trends.

    This new county entity would be much like all the other county wide agencies like Sheriff, or Public Works, or EMS, or Conservation and Development, etc. If non con fire or ECCFPD places like Orinda wanted to join in they could as well, but they would not have to.

    We know you are good at reciting union talking points….now let’s focus on a real long-term solution that keeps most of the fire fighters with stable jobs and keeps most of the public reasonably protected without putting more and more tax dollars into what seems like a bottomless pit. As you might know, stability is a huge component of job satisfaction.

    Your union has the opportunity to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Right now you all are con fire all are paid well above the national average in a county that is in real financial trouble. You call people reckless for wanting to be finically responsible…they could just as easily call you all reckless for taking too much of ‘our’ tax dollars for a job most do for a lot less.

    One last comment, you stated… “The average tax collected for fire protection in the East Contra Costa County Fire District is half of what is collected in the rest of the county based on rates set in 1978 under Prop 13.” I have looked at my own tax allocation and it is not too far off from what I have seen posted for people in West county. You made a very bold statement about “rates” saying “half” as much is collected in East county. I think you really need to specifically substantiate that kind of statement as I know for me it not even close to true.

    And once again you talk about “rates” trying to imply somebody else pays more than I do. Please explain how somebody who lives in a con fire neighborhood has a different county tax “rate” than I do.

    I strongly suggest you try to go beyond your tried & true pre-fab talking points and focus on the real issues that people who have looked this situation care about. You can be part of the problem or part of the solution, it is up to you.

    • Bob says:

      Jeff, here’s a simple math problem for your plan.

      – Combined, there are approx 307 fire fighters in ECCFPD and ConFire.
      – Combined, the two districts are facing a $17.9M deficit for the coming year.

      Simple math says you expect an AVERAGE wage concession of $58,306 across all personnel to make it work under this combined grand plan of yours without any new revenue. That is what is required just to maintain services.

      But wait……you said ECCFPD would be allowed to keep what they make now. So you would be expecting ConFire to take hits of $70k-$75k each in wage concessions this year…..and next year…….and the year after.

      That’ a little more than a wage cut, Jeff. You are expecting these people to work for a base salary of zero.

      Just last week the Contra Costa BoS passed their annual budget. In that budget, they only have discretionary control of about $350M. Not by anyone’s surprise, there was no money left over. If you look up the document, you will find 100% was spoken for.

      Needless to say with 100% already spoken for, all these repeated DEMANDS by you that the county “fix it” with no money present a bit of a problem don’t you think? Then there is that whole detail about them not owing you fire service. Ask Pinole or Hercules.

      The County Health division, under which EMS lives and the agency you have proposed raided so you don’t to have to pay more has a budget of about $86M. EMS is but a small subset of that. The responsibilities of EMS and public health are obviously quite broad and encompass the whole county, not just your little corner.

      So you have a rather large math problem. No amount of consolidation and staff overhead reduction is going to knock much out of your $18M crater. And wishful thinking about raiding the EMS budget is just that. It’s unlikely the EMS section related to fire/paramedic services has more than a few million to begin with and that has to be utilized, again, throughout the county over an incredible number of responsibilities that you appear to be blind to.

      Pie in the sky plans that have no basis in reality or even preliminary understanding of the fiscal mountain before them will never receive any serious consideration from politicians. Keep trying to explain it in simple terms, but you just don’t want to invest the 5 minutes of mental analysis to see it will never fly.

      Per the earlier link you were provided, any idea of the BoS simply swinging authority to dissolve existing districts and making them a part of your plan is prohibited by existing state health and fire safety code law.

      There is a reason nobody is listening to you. It’s somewhat easy to identify if you just try.

      • jeff b says:

        my friend if you would read what has been written (the actual words) you would get that there is way more to the plan than what you wrongly stated above. or you could just continue to get torqued off because my name is associated and pick and choose the parts you want to attack.

        this is a hint…you are missing a huge chunk of the way this plan could be a big ‘part’ of the solution. sorry but I have no time to spell it out again. I will save it for an audience that cares.

      • Bob says:

        Well, Jeff, the thing is if I don’t comprehend it what makes you think anybody else in significant numbers does? If you only cater to the “cares” crowd of your friends who accept headlines and expect no details from you, then so be it.

        In two years of comment you copying and pasting this I don’t recall you ever offering up a single figure or even basic dollars and sense analysis. That’s why I term it pie in the sky. That seems to offend you, so I’ll switch to “Jeff’s plan”?

        Unless someone in a position of authority understands your grand plan well enough to see merit and is willing to take action, then it’s just yelling at the moon. But, as you point out, you don’t do details for anyone except the “cares” crowd so we’ll all have to settle for never understanding.

        Big fire in Bethel Island followed by a secondary head-on call on Marsh Cr. this morning. That’s going to be loads of fun to deal with post July 1 with only 3 operating stations, huh? Let’s hope you guys on the east side don’t get out of control this summer and let the Hibachi light up the side of your house. That might not end well.

        Jeff, here’s a parting thought: Every day emergency rooms across this country and certainly in this county are filled with people, many of whom are rescued by fire fighting personnel, who never PLANNED to be there. That’s why they call them accidents. Let’s all hope none of us has one after you take this measure down because the results of calling 911 for that rescue are going to be very different post July 1 in ECCFPD.

      • Jeff B says:

        I’ll say it in this forum one more time in a bit more than summary…..the NEW county fire/EMS entity would be the foundation (key word) for the savings necessary for financial sustainability and job stability going forward. This foundation will include at a minimum:

        A tiered comp plan that does not exceed the national average even at the highest tier.

        Meaningful pension and benefit reform.

        Inclusion of POC/2-hat/reserve or other less than full time programs for strategic use and to supplement 2 person crews on a regular basis and to be the primary source of the 2nd (or 3ed) crew member in select regular station staffing scenarios (byron, knightsen, morgan, BI, DB# 2, BW# 2, and others that I do not have knowledge of). A target should be set that at any given time a certain percent of the staff on duty at stations (say 20%) would be something other than full time.

        leveraging of management and administration including a reduction from current levels.

        All county EMS oversight under one roof and under one administration, the fire chief. Seek starting/joining a regional EMS consortium.

        The BOS membership giving up multiple offices and 50% of their operations overhead $$ (they can make it up with office holder accounts) with the savings going to fire/EMS.

        Use of the most cost effective shift structure like Cal Fire uses.

        Variable deployment/crew size strategies….the population centers get more, rural gets less.

        Maximization of vendor support (such as Cal Fire and AMR) and vendor deployment. Max use of AMR to provide paramedic services (unless the new fire/ems entity can show a profitable business plan for providing additional services such as paramedic and or transport).

        Strategic station brown outs (by time, by day, by season).

        The potential for specific communities such as brentwood that have separate fire funds to ‘juice’ their basic coverage

        absolute commitment to implement P-zone/district like supplemental fire/ems revenue programs for new development in ALL areas served by the NEW county fire/ems entity (Pantages is a perfect example).

        This is the part of my recommendation you all have chosen to ignore…….AFTER all the above is worked out, committed to and when implementation has commenced then and only then if more tax can be justified the voters can be asked. But any new tax should have some form of automatic cut backs if and when other revenue sources increase. The tax now before the voters will fail….a tax as I proposed and as part of an overall plan will have a better chance to be approved by the voters.

        now have at it…

  4. jeff b says:

    hey burk…why do you cut and paste the BS that wells puts out on tax “rates”? you know when he says tax “rate” instead of tax “allocation” it is pure manipulation and misinformation intended to perpetuate the union myth. if you want to pass blame for stations being forced to close look in the mirror. people are smarter than you give them credit for and all this BS is going to come back to hit those who pitched it.

    I suggest starting sooner than later to focus on the real solution and to get beyond all the special interest manipulation.

    cheers….jb

    • because it is my site and I want to.

      • jeff b says:

        burk I give you more credit than that. why don’t you educate him that we all pay the same county “rate”. your answer does not serve you well and his continued use of pure manipulation tarnishes his profesion.

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