Measure S has come and gone and it’s now time to move forward and be productive with our time focusing on solutions rather than fighting. I understand emotions still run high, but it’s time for the fighting to stop. We have big decisions coming up and our focus should be there. The community needs to rally behind a three station model and then work on a long term ECCFPD solution.
One would think Mondays ECCFPD Board Meeting is a slam dunk decision as a three station model is in the best interest of the entire district, but Brentwood is apparently making a last minute effort to ensure they have two stations while the rest of the District is jeopardized.
This is part of the reason why the Board needs to get councilmembers out of there and go to an elected Board. People are more worried about their elections as opposed to separating their council seat from board duties. More importantly, the safety of the community and our firefighters needs to be weighted instead of reelection votes.
On May 7, the District put out the following options depending on the Measure S outcome which lays off either 16 or 19 firefighters come July.
Three-Station Model – consists of stations in Brentwood, Discovery Bay, and Oakley. All three stations would be staffed with three personnel consisting of a Fire Captain, Engineer, and Firefighter. The Three-Station Model has higher staffing costs, but those are offset by a reduction in day-to-day station costs. Operating service out of three stations reduces the wear on tear on the existing equipment and will provide additional capital equipment for rotating in and out of service. A three station model would require 27 fire personnel compared to the current 43 FTE’s.
Four-Station Model – consists of two stations in Brentwood, and one station each in Discovery Bay and Oakley. All four stations would be staffed with two personnel, consisting of a Fire Captain and Engineer. The staffing costs associated with the Four-Station Model are reduced by three personnel from the Three-Station Model. This option requires additional day-to-day expenditures associated with an additional station.A four station model would require 24 fire personnel compared to the current 43 FTE’s.
(Note: a three-station model keeps more firefighters on duty and employed. Also reduces forced layoffs)
STAFF’S RECOMMENDATION: Staff is recommending the Three-Station Model (Brentwood, Discovery Bay, and Oakley), to provide a fully staffed three personnel engine company to respond to emergencies within the District. This model provides the best service model for the District as well as the safety for our District and Firefighters.
Clearly, the three station model best protects the district and does not handicap our firefighters from doing their job. Two man crews would be a disaster for the district because it’s a band aid approach which gives the appearance of better coverage, but ultimately it handicaps our firefighters from doing their job while it also ensures a greater risk of injuries both to them and the folks they try and save.
But more importantly, two man crews cannot effectively fight a fire or enter a building—they have to wait for backup.
Brentwood has four votes (Joel Bryant, Steve Barr, Robert Brockman and Erick Stonebarger) on this board; they only need one more vote to ensure they have two stations while compromising the rest of the District.
This means that the rest of the Board (Kevin Romick, Pat Anderson, Jim Frazier, Robert Kenny, and Cheryl Morgan), which holds the majority needs to stay strong and refuse to give into the nonsense of a four station model.
Should these votes hold as outlined, by way of a 5-4 vote, the District has a three station with three man crews! Personally, I expect a 6-3 vote in favor of a three-station model.
If this Board does decide to go with a four station model, it throws a lot of people under the bus who fought hard for Measure S starting with the firefighters and Local 1230. They will lose my support and I know many others will also walk away from this.
I encourage folks to show up Monday and encourage a three station model. If you can’t show up, contact the Board or your councilmember on the Board and chime in.
Long Term Solution Talks Should Begin Now
With a service model chosen by the Board set to begin July 1, the last thing this District needs is an idle board. The real work must begin in July starting with the move to an elected Board, but more importantly the band aid approach can stop being presented and real solutions can be addressed as it will take years to implement and return to the levels we currently find adequate.
I know Measure S was not a perfect plan and more of a band aid approach, but what I did know is it protected emergency services for 10 years while better plan could be created and implemented—that is why I supported it as I was not willing to play Russian roulette with public safety. For the record, I’d support Measure S again in a heartbeat, however, due to Measure S going down, we no longer have that 10-year luxury.
While many have offered drive by solutions, including starting a brand new district, personally I’d like to see a consolidation of CONFIRE and ECCFPD which should be discussed immediately and see if it’s even financially feasible. The problem is combined, it’s an $18 million debt while CONFIRE pays more into the property tax allocation than does ECCFPD—so its funding needs to be level for it to work. One group of people should not have to pay more into it—again; this gets back to Prop 13 issues which is the problem.
For this to work, a lot of things need to be put in place. But bigger than my preference is the experts who do this for a living need to be involved. It’s bigger than any one board, it’s bigger than elected officials, it will take many people wearing different hats to get on the same page to put a plan in place that protects everyone’s interests.
It will require a lot of give and take and a lot of trust—not to mention open minds.
I would urge such a meeting that involves the ECCFPD Board, a representative Board of Supervisor (preferably Mary Piepho since it’s her district), Vince Wells and union representatives, state officials, firefighters, local residents, and the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association’s Kris Hunt. This diverse group all needs to get on the same page for anything to have success going forward.
If they have to take a book out of our Founding Fathers, lock up the stakeholders in a room for three days until they figure it out, do it!
Whatever plan is chosen, the sooner a plan is in place, the sooner we no longer have three or four stations covering 250 square miles + water. One thing is clear, it will take more than a single Board to get anything moving.
Elections are emotional
Finally, I do want to touch on some of the rhetoric going around which I myself realize I got caught up in. Let me just say that I do not encourage violence, retaliation or any personal harm to anyone who opposed Measure S. We all had to pick a side and battle lines were drawn—that is politics and it is nothing personal. We should be able to argue, yell, scream and fight about the issue all we want, but when it’s done, we should be able to go have a beer or dinner with our opponent and act civil.
I urge people to understand that Kris Hunt was paid to do her job—which was to advocate against Measure S. This is no different than Vince Wells being paid to do his job—which was to advocate for Measure S. Both of them had the same job, they just had different perspectives on the issue. One or the other was simply better liked based on the position each of us believe in.
While I do regret some of the rhetoric used to attack opponents in an attempt to correct their misinformation, I do not wish them any harm and I apologize if I appeared to make it personal, it was never meant to go that far. After having reflected on some of the things I wrote, let me just say I am passionate about Oakley and East County politics and will serve as a reminder that next time I will need to keep my emotions in check as opposed to sticking with the issue before I post something. Measure S taught me something and it will make me a better person next time.
Elections are supposed to be emotional, but we need to remember to keep them from getting personal next time.