Vince Wells: We Showed Us!

What happened last night at the East Contra Costa County Fire District Board meeting was quite sickening to me. It was an example of what seems to be the latest craze in this country. Let’s engage in an all-out war against politicians and labor unions without a plan or any defined leadership. I believe they call it the “mob mentality”.

Those with personal agenda’s put out bogus information to disrupt the normal governmental process. Well as a veteran Captain that I worked for would say after we made a stupid decision based on emotions or lack of education, “We showed us”.

We all stood around last night waiting for the Fire Board to make a decision on how to arrange the chairs on the Titanic.

I don’t want to say I told you so, but… Where are we now?

The District is out of money, fire fighters will be laid off. It was going to be 16, but the death of Willie West, saved one job, so now it will be 15. Stations will be closed, right in the middle of what has already been proven to be a very active fire season. Three days before the 4th of July, East County will be down to 9 fire fighters on duty to cover 240 square miles, 100 miles of recreational waterways, and over 105,000 people.

All that is left now is for the insurance rates to increase. When and if this happens, there will be nothing anyone can do about it for quite some time.

We will begin contract negotiations, create a new tier, and it won’t save any money until 25 years from now when that new tier starts retiring. East County Fire Protection District has taken a significant step backwards.

Many of the voters were not aware of the source of the problem and were misled by angry community activist, the CoCo Tax Payers group, and unfortunately the biggest contributor to the misinformation, the Contra Costa Times.

In a meeting we had with the Times last year, we warned them of this potential outcome of their campaign against public safety. Attacking high speed rail or a water tax is one thing, but jeopardizing public safety is another. If there is not a miracle in the works, they will have plenty to write about.

Those of us, including the Fire Board, the Fire District, the fire fighters, and the community members that were interested, have been working on this for years. The problem is quite simple, but the solution is very complicated. The Fire District is funded 95% by property taxes. 1% of the property taxes you pay are divided amongst the special districts, this includes; schools, water, sanitation, and fire services. In 1978 the amount of the 1% for fire was set at a rural fire department rate. This was an average of 6%.

In most of the other fire districts in the county, the amount averages to be around 14%. The population grew, the housing market brought in people and new businesses. The tax rate could not be changes due to prop 13 rules, so here we are.

In 2007 the District brought in $12 million dollars, which was not enough then. It dropped to $8 million now due to the decrease in property tax revenue! Yes and due to the market crash, pension cost went up, gas prices went up, and so did healthcare and the cost of living. That happened everywhere. But folks, you lost $4 million dollars in revenue in a fire district that was already $4 million short.

This is the main problem, other cost are secondary and are being addressed.

Last point, the parcel tax proposal came with a 10 year plan. It was a plan, a template. With my experience with budgets and how they change, in my opinion, way too much emphasis was placed on this document. None of it was set in stone. The tax itself has the clause that said the Fire Board could choose to collect it all or none of it, each year. All those who were concerned about frivolous spending would have been better served with making sure that it was necessary by showing up to the meetings and keeping everyone honest. That is how the government is supposed to work.

Now it is so easy to call them all crooks, vote against their decisions, and deal with the consequences.

As a fire fighter, I can assure you that our services are vital to a community. Before you vote on a measure that involves your personal safety, and the safety of your children, friends, and family, make it an informed decision. I am not saying you should believe me or anyone else check the facts!

This issue has been being worked on for many years. Measure S was the plan. Now it is back to the drawing board without any money left to begin to solve the problem.

Over 33 community meetings were held prior to Measure S coming to the ballot. All those engaged moved the plan forward. Less than 500 people attended the meetings from what I have been told. There are over 105,000 people in the fire district, but most of them didn’t even come out to vote!

We showed us!

Vince Wells
President, Local 1230
Contra Costa Professional Firefighters


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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5 Responses to Vince Wells: We Showed Us!

  1. Voter8022 says:

    If you told everyone so, then why did your union and the District combined waste a quarter of a million dollars to vote yes? Sounds like another bogus decission. Your continued scare tactics are becoming annoying. You failed to listen to the consultant who advised you on what the public would bare and you ignored it. I don’t want to say I told you so, but … yes we are two hundred thousand dollars more in the hole than we were because of your greed. Great job Vince Wells. You showed yourself. Now start to actually help instead of making things worse. Oh, and by the way, please take down all those signs you bought and spread out on the roads.

    • davepa says:

      Hey if you are going to attmept to slander others then get your numbers right cause in every way shape and form you are wrong and way wrong. at least get solid facts before you try flexing up on others. Not that you will listen or believe anything I say here but here it goes anyway. The department(s) were set up for a volunteer type budget way long ago. There was a boom and things were good and folks swarmed the area, the houseing market was off the hook and shopping centers srung up everywhere then call volumes soared, the POC’s could no longer leave their jobs down the street and run to the fire station thus people needed to be added as at times the rigs DID NOT respond or was very late. A need for around the clock protection was established. Some POC’s hung on but still found it hard to put the time in at no fault of theirs.

      The economy begin to nose dive, then came the houseing market crash and with that homes values went way down inturn the department was looseing money but yet still running on a volunteer budget. The Firefighters being the lowest of ALL bay area departments in pay (all 32) still stuck it out and did so with pride and still will.

      The union or bandits as you must feel simply stated the facts and I will repeat 1)stations will close 2) firefighters will get laid off 3) insurance rates for many will go up or even possibly be cancelled. That IS NOT a scare tactic but a fact. Have you forgotten that Firefighters are paid to protect you and your property and if they did not warn you of these FACTS then they would not be doing their jobs.

      I explained this in layman terms so possibly even you would understand however highly unlikely.

      STOP blaming the union/Firefighters for the economy and houseing market taking a crash.They are NOT bandits and want whats best for the people they are sworn to serve

  2. Jeff B says:

    Contra Costa County civil grand jury: Fiscally troubled fire agencies need innovation, not more taxes

    By Lisa Vorderbrueggen

    Contra Costa Times

    Posted: 06/12/2012 03:29:49 PM PDT

    Contra Costa’s fiscally ailing fire agencies must consolidate, lower labor costs and abandon outdated delivery models rather than rely on tax infusions, said the county civil grand jury.

    While the districts under the biggest financial distress may need extra revenue in the short term, new taxes should sunset and the agencies pushed to live within their means, the Contra Costa civil grand jury concluded in a report released this week.

    “Simply asking the taxpayers for more money to fund old service models and support burdensome labor agreements is not the answer,” the grand jury wrote. “Most fire agencies are trying to solve their problems individually. … (The agencies) should leverage their collective strengths to identify and implement the best way to address their collective weaknesses.”

    The jurists’ recommendations come just days after voters overwhelmingly rejected a parcel tax in the East Contra Costa Fire District, forcing the agency to close half of its six stations and lay off 15 firefighters. The Pinole and Rodeo-Hercules districts are in financial stress, too.

    The more affluent Moraga-Orinda and San Ramon Valley fire districts are in better shape — the vast majority of fire service funding comes from property taxes — but they are burning through their reserves, too, the grand jury concluded.

    The Contra Costa Fire District, which protects 257 square miles and nine cities in the central portion of the county, intends to


    ask voters in November for money. Without funding, it says it will follow in its neighbor’s shoes and cut services.
    Firefighters’ Local 1230 President Vince Wells said he agreed with many of the recommendations, although he said the report failed to acknowledge the impacts of reduced service on public safety. Nine of the county’s 50 fire stations have closed since 2008.

    The grand jury’s suggestions have a “lot of validity,” said Contra Costa fire Chief Daryl Louder. “But consolidation will require an awful lot of political will and the citizens have to want it, too.”

    Fire districts throughout California saw substantial fiscal hits when property values plunged during the recession and failed to fully recover. At the same time, the economic downturn devastated anticipated investment returns in public employee pensions.

    As a result of investment losses coupled with benefit increases granted during good times, public agencies have watched their annual payments into the retirement system skyrocket.

    Four years ago, the Contra Costa Local Agency Formation Commission, which has jurisdiction over local government service boundaries, commissioned a 342-page study of the county’s fire and emergency services, which contained many suggestions similar to those made by the grand jury.

    Very few of those recommendations materialized.

    Most communities are fiercely protective of local control and unwilling to share funds. The wealthier districts fear consolidation will lead to less service at home in order to subsidize the poorer areas.

    East Contra Costa Fire’s loss at the ballot box last week and the Contra Costa Fire District’s planned November parcel tax measure will almost certainly revive the debate over how to pay for fire protection.

    The grand jury has advised fire agencies to jointly hire outside industry experts, explore the use of technology and follow the lead of innovative fellow agencies.

    For example, Los Angeles, Orange, Alameda and Sacramento counties are saving 10 to 20 percent a year in operating expenses through consolidation of administrative tasks such as purchasing, the jury report cited.

    In addition, the jurists note that the percentage of fire incidents has declined in the past decade to about 5 to 6 percent of all calls. The remainder are medical emergencies, of which about half require an ambulance transport.

    While the public still expects firefighters to put out fires, the heavy medical call volume is “a significant shift in the type of equipment and skill set of the responders needed at most incidents,” the grand jury wrote.

  3. Frank S says:

    Nice piece Vince. To Voter, you do not know how things work with those types of statements.

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