How Measure S Opponents have Lied and Mislead the Public

While the outcome of Measure S has yet to be determined, it really bothers me that the same people who have consistently lied about Measure S have been given free reign by local newspapers to state their lies in print while newspapers have continued to ignore fact checking responsibilities. It’s a shame that should Measure S go down, voters were ultimately duped.

For whatever reason, anti-Measure S folks argued over pensions, not about ensuring public safety.  The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association was able to find an emotional argument that stuck and it became the “drug of choice” by the newspapers and columnist to gain readership.

The pension complaints levied against ECCFPD never stood a chance of being corrected because Dan Borenstein and Kris Hunt of Contra Costa Taxpayers Association are tied at the hip—they are very friendly and co-sponsor events together.

What is good for one is good for the other.

The pension argument is silly because while the papers were quick to use that as the only rebuttal, the papers ignored the single fact that no one within ECCFPD has a $100k pension.  Yet for whatever reason, ECCFPD was lumped into other Contra Costa County retirements over and over again.  It’s like comparing apples to oranges and ECCFPD firefighters were unfairly portrayed—I can now see why they boycott the Contra Costa Times.

The Contra Costa Taxpayer Association never had a solution in mind; they used ECCFPD as a pawn for a bigger fight later which is to use it as one example to fight for pension reform down the road—their next target is CONFIRE come November.

Measure S was never about pensions, it was about public safety and improving service levels to industry standards while ensuring fire stations and staff were not lost as Prop. 13 allocations finally caught up with East County after 30 years as its being funded like a rural district instead of proper urban city funding levels.

But let’s go through a few of the major lies told by the proponents of Measure S and never forget their disgusting behavior.  The lies are in bold followed by corrections.

Many claim the District has a spending problem and not a revenue problem

There are a few items to blame starting with Prop 13, which locked ECCFPD into the funding revenue of a rural community—as opposed to a developed city. Only 6 cents of property dollars go towards firefighting while other areas get 14 cents. Home values have reduced funding greatly (35%).

Combined with the loss of revenue, the cost of doing business has increased which includes gas, electricity, equipment, training, and much more which has been overlooked—you know, inflation.

Dave Roberts likes to Attack Contra Costa County Pensions as ECCFPD
He claims 46% of 600+ people on the list are firefighters. He is correct in that sense, but what he fails to mention is none of the people on that list are from ECCFPD.  Mr. Roberts is using firefighters from other Districts that include San Ramon, Moraga, Walnut Creek and other areas to make his argument against Measure S and attack ECCFPD. Truth is, he is comparing apples to oranges.

Ask him to provide one name on his list that has ECCFPD next to it.

Dave Roberts Claims “we can’t afford $100,000 pensions” blaming the 3@50 Industry Standard
Using Mr. Roberts logic, ECCFPD would need to offer 8@50 to reach his claim. To correct the myth, 3@50 is not retiring at full salary; it simply means the minimum age one can retire. Using simple math, one can retire at 50 and multiply it 3 times your years of service.

It would equate to 8 times (years of service) which would be 25 years of service at 50; so 8 times 25= 200 percent.  Therefore, a firefighter makes 50k in ECCFPD, then 200 percent of that would be $100,000 as Mr. Roberts claims.  Yes I know, the math is confusing to people like Mr. Roberts.

On May 17, Rick Lemyre of the Brentwood Press explained this with an example of his own a week before Mr. Roberts lie.

Therefore, an ECCFPD fire captain earning $5,000 per month and hired at the age 28 (the average age at which public safety employees earning 3@50 are hired, according to a study by CalPERS, the state’s largest public employee retirement organization) and retiring at 50 would receive a pension of $3,300 per month, or $39,600 per year. The benefit also provides a maximum 3-percent annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

By working until age 58, the same captain could retire after 30 years of employment, earning as much as 90 percent of his final year’s salary. According to CalPERS, about 34 percent of all public safety employees, including police and prison guards, reach 30 years of service. One percent reach 30 years of service by age 50.

John Gonzales claims ECCFPD has chiefs retired with $100k pension
Mr. Gonzales is confusing districts and this is what is dangerous when papers print his lies or allow his comments to stand in discussions. Mr. Gonzales is talking about our old chiefs from East Diablo Fire—he is mixing up Districts. They cut their own deals and are not part of the union. Chiefs are like private contracts as they make their own deals. The union does not negotiate for them because they aren’t in the union.

Mike Arnold, Paul Hein and John Clary all make around 100k in pension but again ECCFPD or the union didn’t negotiate that. John Clary and Mike Arnold retired as ECCFPD chiefs but their pension is labeled East Diablo.  Both those guys retired about two years into the merger.

Truth be told, when it comes to $100k pensions, the only one eligible at this time with the ability to retire with $100k pension would be Chief Henderson. Once you promote above captain, you are no longer in the union anymore.

ECCFPD firefighters are overpaid
East Contra Costa County fire personnel salaries are 42% less on average than that of their Contra Costa County counterparts who are doing the same job.


Opponents attack the Industry Standard of 3@50
This does not mean employees can retire at 50 with full benefits, it means those who begin their career at age 20 and serve 30 years can retire with full benefits.   Truth be told the average firefighter starts between 26-28 years of age.  At 50 they would have in 22 to 24 years of service.  Using 3 at 50 this would qualify them for 66 to 72 percent of their base salary (without overtime).  If they are making $60 thousand a year (avg), this would then put them at 39-43k for a retirement pension—not $100k as they claim.

Kris Hunt claims another solution could be implemented quickly
Ms. Hunt is wrong, any solution would be at least a year or two away. For example, should this go to another ballot measure in the future, it wouldn’t go on Novembers, it would be a year from now. The bigger problem is a ballot measure costs money which the District doesn’t have.

By listening to her, East County loses 3-stations plus 50% of its firefighters for 1 year before another ballot is put out there. What is not being stated is if a second ballot measure fails, then what? If it does pass, you still have another year or two of implementation.  Ms. Hunt is lying when she states other solutions could be implemented quickly.

Her favorite target is pension reform, but it’s been proven this does nothing immediately; rather it will take years to realize the savings.

Kris Hunt says there is a better plan
Since Measure S was announced, Kris Hunt has stated there is a better plan for the District to take. Hypocritically, she has never provided a plan of her own. She is simply making a statement without providing a plan that she would find acceptable to her Taxpayer Association.

Ms. Hunt is no expert on fire services so it should be asked why does the opinion of someone who lives out of District and not effected by the outcome of Measure S get to trump our Board and fire professionals who have been working on this solution for year? Everybody has an opinion here and the newspapers are running with her opinion simply because she is tied to the hip of that paper and it makes for the best headlines.

The reality is to go in another direction; it would take 2-3 years to even bring levels back to where they are today. In the meantime, we are stuck with reduced services while Ms. Hunt is unaffected in Walnut Creek with her above average fire services.

Taxpayer Association wants ECCFPD to contract District Services to CALFIRE claiming no quote was taken.

This is nothing more than DOA per CALFIRE and LAFCO. It’s a distraction argument. In fact, the District did get a quote a few years back and it was an incomplete quote because it did not take into account services CONFIRE was providing— they did not realize that CONFIRE was providing everything from training, mechanics, to communication (dispatch).

The incomplete quote was underbid and fast forward to today with inflation, that price has skyrocketed.   It could be argued Ms. Hunt and others who claim CALFIRE can save the day are urging the District to spend more money than the District is already spending—how is that for irony?

The reality is there is no one that could run the department any cheaper since these guys are already working for 40-50 cents on the dollar and are somewhat subsidized by the county (including inspection/prevention).

Jeff Barber has put together a 14-point Proposed Plan the District should follow

Even if the District wanted to do it, they would never get LAFCO approval and more to the point; it’s a 10 year plan at best. In response, he has suggested it could be implemented over time with bits and pieces coming on board—the kicker is he said if more funds are needed then they could put a rate increase to vote.

Essentially, you might as well just vote for Measure S and keep services where they are today rather than recreating the wheel.

Ms. Hunt and her Association say they would support the $96 assessment discussed last year as opposed to the $197 parcel tax.

Ms. Hunt is lying, last year she and her association fought the $96 benefit assessment proposal.  Fast forward to today, she suggests they should go back to it. It could be argued her association is partly to blame for the higher parcel tax but wants to shift blame to the Board and pensions.  Ms. Hunt and her association want to have the best of both worlds apparently.

Ms. Hunt claims that a poll was done and there was voter support for the $96 assessment and there is no support for a $197 tax.

Ms. Hunt is wrong. Voters only supported the $96 assessment by 56%. It would have required a 66.6% in favor vote. It would never have had the supported needed to pass. The other fib is there was never a survey done on the $197 as she proclaims.  The $197 came into play based on the $96 assessment survey which voters wanted increased services such as paramedics on rigs and to fix the problem once and for all.

It should also be noted that her $96 preference gets the District in the red within two years so how is that better than Measure S. it’s illogical and double-talk.

Kris Hunt states Insurance Rates won’t be affected

When you have the state’s insurance commissioner saying insurance rates will skyrocket, you know that is never good.  Truth be told, she is ignoring the Morgan Territory Road real-life example by stating it does not apply. I do not know why that excuse is good enough for the media to not call her out on it,  but Morgan Territory does apply to East County because based on the proposed service models, all ratepayers will be effected—some more than others.

Morgan Territory Road is being discredited as a scenario because opponents claim they are too rural. It’s still in East County and within District.  What is not being admitted to the public is insurance rates jumped 400% to some being uninsurable.

Insurance rate increases are real and any savings by voting no on Measure S will be lost immediately in rate increases.  This is a case of deciding who you want to pay, the fire district or insurance companies.

More to the point, Ms. Hunt has never answered questions on whether or not those she is advocating for benefit from this argument. We know banks are associated with the Taxpayers Association, but it’s unknown if she is lobbying on behalf of insurance companies.

John Gonzales Lies about Mary Piepho claiming he provided solutions that went ignored.
Mr. Gonzales served as commissioner when the 3@50 came into play in East County (2002 specifically). He was serving as a commissioner when some of those chiefs’ salary negations took place. For a guy who attacks salary/pensions, where was he in 2002 in speaking out against this? He was either asleep at the wheel when it occurred or he was a part of the negotiations and wants to keep it quite—maybe he gave silent approval of the 3@50 at the time and he is now against. If Mr. Gonzales objects to this statement, then he should provide the minutes of his objection.

The kicker is Supervisor Mary Piepho was not elected until 2004—two years after the 3@50 was implemented.  Truth is Mr. Gonzales was removed from the board because he quit and later unsuccessfully begged for his position back—that is why he attacks Supervisor Piepho every chance he gets.

Dave Roberts claims the District is top heavy
By making this claim, Mr. Roberts does not understand the roles and ranks of fire service. 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.

There is also a claim that ECCFPD shouldn’t have built a brand new $3.15 million firehouse in Oakley if revenue was a problem.
The district did not pay for this firehouse, the City of Oakley did through its Fire Facilities Impact Fee fund—developers had been paying into it for years as part of development fees. Essentially, Oakley supplied the building, ECCFPD moved in.

Six People Who Should be Held Responsible should Measure S Fail. You can contact them should you lose your home or your family is injured. These folks have twisted facts and lied.

  1. Kris Hunt, Walnut Creek (out of District)
  2. John Gonzales, Knightsen
  3. Dave Roberts, Oakley
  4. Walter MacVittie, Discovery Bay
  5. Jeff Barber, Discovery Bay/Truckee
  6. CC Times Editorial Board (Dan Borenstein & Dan Hatfield neither live in District)

There are others who have spoken out against the Measure, but we must remember it’s their right to disagree. Truth be told, the above list are those who have been blatant in lying and providing false information which is why they should be held responsible should Measure S fail.

(editors note: this does not mean physically harm the names above, but these folks should be held responsible and realize what they have done with each incident that may occur where there is not enough coverage to protect the district)

In closing

It’s a shame Measure S could never have an honest and serious discussion about public safety as the message was changed to discuss pensions. Yes, I understand Vince Wells and Kris Hunt had a debate, but that debate again focused on pensions and not public safety. There was no discussion on the opponent’s side of a serious plan other than pension, pension, and pensions!

Public safety is not about pensions, it’s about saving lives and getting to incidents as quickly as possible with the best tools available. People will soon find this out on July 1 when it’s too late and response times jump from 5 minutes to 15-minutes or longer should voters reject Measure S.

We must remember that the taxpayer association is not here to protect the people they claim to look out for; they are here to live off the people and grow their revenue. People need to better understand what they are about next time and seek out why they chose the positions they choose—simply put, it’s due to special interests that fund their campaigns.

It’s a propagandist group and catering to a certain ideology so they can make more money. Have you ever seen them support a tax in which they didn’t directly benefit?  The answer is “no”.

Finally, should Measure S fail, will Kris Hunt and her Association help guide a solution in the future? I doubt it.  Will they attend meetings and work with the District? Doubt it, they will simply move onto their next Measure to support or fight against in order to make more money for their Association.

The reality is, the only real fix for ECCFPD is by adjusting Proposition 13 and its allocation. Only then can this district become viable without taxpayer assistance.

Unfortunately, newspapers allowed the lies to continue because it made the best story as fact checking was ignored. The newspaper and the Taxpayers Association won’t suffer, East County residents will during their time of need.


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 Brentwood, Contra Costa County, Discovery Bay, East County, Fire Dept. and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How Measure S Opponents have Lied and Mislead the Public

  1. BillWilliams_2 says:

    Scary, I have now switched my vote based on this.

  2. Frank S says:

    If I am a newspaper, say the San Francisco Chronicle or another competing paper. It’s a perfect opportunity to highlight how the Contra Costa Times fails to do its job and fact check based off the information above. Why wouldn’t another paper look into this Taxpayer Association and their interest is what I want to know. Seems like that is the bigger story than pensions.

    Public safety and pensions really are two separate issues and should not be combined.

  3. Rick S says:

    I commented yesterday on an anti-MS article saying these exact things. These individuals are clearly motivated by self-interests. Any prudent “representative of he people(they claim)” , who has done their homework, would not let this happen. Once they get off of their respective grandstands, they’ll be on to the next fight…while leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. This is all talk with no REAL solutions. This scenario is real, people. This will happen if MS fails. Excellent editorial. I hope many see it and it gets the votes needed to pass.

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