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!