While I can appreciate Contra Costa Times columnist Tom Barnidge’s attempt to discuss “What Happens When a Fire District Parcel Tax Goes Down In Flames”, he really did not do such a serious topic any justice as this appeared to be more of a guessing game as to why voters rejected the tax as opposed to the headline of “what happens”.
I honestly do not care about why voters voted no at this point as there is little time for playing “Monday Morning Quarterback” as East County is going to be in a world of pain and are in need of solutions quickly.
I say this because it was clear that the parcel tax was going down once the Times and Contra Costa Taxpayers changed the debate from public safety to a pension discussion. It was also clear this was a losing Measure when lie after lie was printed without corrections issued nor equal space in the paper for support of Measure S.
But what cracks me up within this article is Mr. Barnidge’s guessing game.
Perhaps voters thought the fire department could make do by trimming expenses. Perhaps no one expected such extreme cutbacks as a result of the denied funding. Perhaps this was a symbolic rejection of firefighters’ perceived hefty retirement benefits.
What does he mean by trimming expenses? Could this be code for pension reform and contract negotiations? He knows what he wrote and failed to explain it further. The truth is, the District has already trimmed it’s expenses many times over while firefighters have made concessions time and time again such as pay freezes.
Then he goes onto suggesting no one expected extreme cut backs. What a liar! This was the argument used by his own paper many times which state this was “scare tactics”. He is covering this up as an opinion of what voters thought. The Times printed the stations closing and layoffs scenario was a scare tactic many times and were dead wrong about it—it was reality we faced and now we are stuck with.
Finally, notice his last line above he brings up “hefty retirement benefits” but fails to identify what “hefty” is as this is nothing more than a blanket statement without facts. I’d be curious to know what his definition is and an example to see if it applies to East County. He should not get away with such juvenile wording and should further explain himself.
One man who opposed the tax — officially Measure S — said the outcome might have been different if firefighters had offered to make benefit concessions. Understandable, if slightly flawed logic. According to Vince Wells, president of Local 1230, his union is open to a new benefits tier, but it can’t do anything until state lawmakers approve a new pension formula.
Again, I appreciate the attempt, but the district has already made concessions over the last four years which includes shutting down stations, layoffs, and pay freezes which was conveniently left out of the article. It should also be noted our guys pay more into their retirement and insurance than other districts.
Essentially, it’s the same rhetoric used to compare ECCFPD to San Ramon—it’s apples to oranges. For the record, Mr. Wells is correct and even if it went into play today, it would take 20+ years to have an effect on the budget.
While one man opposed the tax, why was their no quote from someone who supported the tax?
Let’s move on as Mr. Barnidge’s provides a lightweight example that is nothing more than talking points when it’s really a complex problem coming July 1.
Fewer firefighters mean fewer emergency calls can be handled. Fewer firehouses mean response time will be delayed. Diminished fire protection means homeowner insurance policies could be subject to higher premiums.
Well thank you Sherlock for that obvious observation. He missed a perfect time to use an example of what this effect will have on local residents and our firefighters. The reality is, during a single structure fire, all three of the Districts engines will be on scene which leaves the rest of the District uncovered. It’s stunning to me no one at the Times wants to state this in writing. It’s the reality we now face.
One decent sized incident, all of our resources are in one spot. Scary isn’t it? Imagine all three engines fighting a Bethel Island fire and there is a medical emergency in far east Brentwood? Yikes! Only AMR could respond because our firefighters may not be able to leave the scene. Remember, our engines are typically first on scene by many minutes.
Moving on, as for using the statement “could be subject to higher premiums”, it should be “will be subject to higher premiums” as a local business has already informed me the insurance company has called them about a higher rate.
The mention of mutual aid is rather weak and fails to provide any real information. Contra Costa Fire will receive very little aid while East County can only pray the November Measure passes if we ever want assistance from our neighboring district again—that is not a statement that is reality.
The Times is sugar coating the scenario that will soon play out. We are in trouble.
Finally, Oakley resident Dave Roberts has again been quoted for whatever reason. It’s as if the Times has made him a subject matter expert or something. This is a guy who has proven to be a liar, spoken in half-truths, misleads residents with exaggerated facts and figures while his quote has been recycled many times over and is right out of Kris Hunt’s (Contra Costa Taxpayers Association) mouth as she has used the same line in the past.
It’s actually a rather uneducated quote because I’d like to ask Mr. Roberts, as I’ve asked Ms. Hunt, when is it ever a good time to ask people to raise their taxes?
But the bigger question is why Dave Roberts continues to be quoted while Oakley resident Barbara DuMont has actually put skin in the game by speaking at the last fire board meeting about her situation in rural Oakley with car accidents–it was very moving. She could have also provided a nice explanation and example about high weeds in rural areas—specifically a firsthand experience on a fire a few weeks back.
Brentwood resident and city council candidate Gene Claire spoke several times as to why he was thankful for our firefighters and supported Measure S. Many others in Brentwood also spoke in favor of the Measure but they were not provided space for a quote.
If the Times is serious about solutions and discussing the aftermath, Dave Roberts is not the person who should be getting quotes, it’s people who are affected by the results of Measure S.
Mr. Barnidge could have provided the medical example that occurred at Brentwood City Hall a few weeks back where firefighters saved a woman’s life. Instead, Dave Roberts is quoted as the lone resident who heavily advocated against the tax.
Finally, I would hope the Times updates the article to correct a glaring error as Mr. Barnidge says, it’s easy to understand why voters balked at a tax that would have started at $197 per home and spanned 10 years. It’s per parcel, not per home!
Yes, Mr. Barnidges the old saying you close with does apply.
We do get what we pay for and voters get what we decide to not pay for. The same holds true for your paper as this is a very light weight piece which sugar coats the situation which will soon play out in East County.
Again, shame on this newspaper for not doing justice on such a serious topic!