Mark Meuser, who is running for State Senate, District 7, took some time out of his schedule to go on a ride along with the ECCFPD last week. This was in response to my challenge to him that he had only heard one side.
I applaud Mr. Meuser for taking the time to truly find out what our firefighters have to deal with on a daily basis, but more importantly, he got to hear their concerns from the guys in the field–not a Taxpayers Association who sits in an office all day crunching numbers.
Mr. Meuser only tripped up on two very big points in his recap.
- “It is too easy to cut the basics because everyone knows that their government is supposed to provide fire services.” Wrong! Government is under no responsibility to provide fire services. He will not find this responsibility in CA govt. code because it doesn’t exist.
- East Contra Costa Firefighters being one of the lowest paid professional fire departments in the bay area.” WRONG! They are the lowest paid (not one of the lowest)-worse yet they are very far below the second lowest.
Aside from these two errors, I tip my hat to him for doing the right thing and rather than listening to people whispering in his ear, he went in search of the truth. Whether or not he will fully agree with Measure S is not the point, the point is he went into this open-minded and willing to see both sides after making premature comments.
Via Meuser For CA State Senate 2012
Today I was allowed to ride along with the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District. This all started last week when I commented on an article in the Contra Costa times and I commented that the Fire Department should not be asking for new taxes until they got their pensions in line. I then cited to some wrong information and stated that the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District had many fire fighters receiving six digit pension benefits. I was very quickly admonished by several of my friends that I had wrong statistics and that there was another side to the story.
I told my friends who live in the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District that I would be glad to hear the Firefighters side of the story. Not only did they arrange a time for me to talk with them, but they also arranged a ride-a-long with the battalion chief.
(I need to take a quick rabbit trail here for a minute). DRIVERS OF CONTRA COSTA COUNTY. WAKE UP WHEN YOU ARE DRIVING. There was a time when I was on the ride along that we had to get to the scene of an accident. However, it was disgusting how many drivers did not have enough common curtsey to pull over and let the fire truck get by. If it was one or two, fine, but I would say that close to half of the drivers refused to yield to a fire truck with its lights going. I can’t figure it out. Do these people not care if they had an emergency whether or not the fire department showed up as quickly as possible.
Now back on point.
In sitting down and talking with the fire fighters, there were several things that really concerned me as resident of Contra Costa county.
First, the fire fighters informed me that when Prop 13 initially passed, they were a volunteer firefighting force and as such, only 6 cents of every property dollar would go to firefighting while in more residential areas like Walnut Creek, 14 cents on every dollar goes to fire. Because the county cannot raise taxes and no politician is willing to cut services, even though East Contra Costa is now a professional fire department, they still have a budget of a volunteer department.
I will give credit that these guys do seem to be doing a lot with limited resources and I know that if I lived in Eastern Contra Costa Fire Protection District, I would be proud of the work that these guys are doing.
What this sounds like is that there have been many politicians who have been very political over the last 15 years and they have kept kicking the can down the road until East Contra Costa Fire Protection District finds itself in the financial problems that it finds itself in.
Another problem that I heard is that the state of California does not care if you are a volunteer fire fighter or a professional fire fighter, you are required to have 240 hours of training a year. How many able body men and women in their prime of their life can donate 240 hours a year just so that they can occasionally go put out a fire for their community. Besides, all these able body men and women probably do not work in the community because most of the jobs will be elsewhere in the county or in the bay area. Part of the problem here clearly seems to be over regulation by Sacramento and probably over zealous plaintiffs attorney (of who I am one sometimes).
Another problem that I heard is the multiple fire protection districts in the county. One of the reasons we have multiple fire protection districts is because different parts of the county charge different amounts in order to protect themselves. It raises an interesting point as to whether a fire department should be a city run or a county run entity. If there are two emergencies going in Walnut Creek, the Fire Department will rely upon neighboring cities to help them. It is a combine effort of multiple firehouses that are used to make sure everyone receives emergency protection when it is needed.
I do not know if I have any answers yet whether Prop S is necessary or not, but I do know that it is time that our local and state politicians start doing what they are paid to do, start making sure that the basic fundamental services are provided for. There seems to be a lot of waste going on in a lot of frill type programs and the people who seem to be suffering are those departments that are essential basic government. It is too easy to cut the basics because everyone knows that their government is supposed to provide fire services.
The people in East Contra Costa Fire Protection District have an important decision to make on June 5th. I look forward to obtaining more information on this issue and hopefully we can all work together to tackle some of the difficult problems that have resulted in the East Contra Costa Firefighters being one of the lowest paid professional fire departments in the bay area.
To find out more about Mark Meuser, you can visit his website.
You can see this post directly on his Facebook Page – you will notice after this post was published, Kris Hunt and Wendy Lack were yapping back in his ear as if they were insecure he spent time with our brave firefighters.