The Nascent Financial Crisis at Coastside Fire

Letter
posted by Vince Williams
Sun, August 21, 2011
16 comments
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On August 16, 2011 the Coastside Fire Protection District(CFPD) Board held a Special Meeting.  It was called on short notice.  Darin Boville was not notified to video record it.  So, citizens won’t get to see what the Board did.  Two citizens were in the audience that day, spoke and saw what happened.  I was one of them.

The Coastside Fire former employee retirement CalPERS debt was thought to be about $5M in 2009.  This year it was estimated to be $9M to $13.2M.  According to the actuarial consultant the Coastside Board hired, John Bartel, the CalPERS’s Board’s August 17, 2011 action raised Coastside’s termination debt to $13.5M to $19.8M.  CalPERS pools are black boxes.  When a CalPERS customer asks what the size of their debt in a pool is, it can take half a year for CalPERS to provide a range like $13.5M to $19.8M. When CalPERS unilaterally moves a customer agency’s contract form one pool to another, the customer can get hit with millions in additional debt.  When the CalPERS Board votes like they did on August 17 to change actuarial assumptions, a contracting agency debt can go up 50%.  The current interest rate CalPERS charges on debt is 7.75%.

Today, the total combined Coastside Fire liability for former employee CalPERS retirement plan and former employee family medical plan is larger than the HMB Beachwood settlement.  Coastside Fire has roughly $8M in annual revenue.  For comparison, the City of HMB has roughly a $10M budget.  Compounding the problem is the City of Vallejo’s experience in Federal Bankruptcy Court.  Even under dire conditions for Vallejo, the CalPERS obligation had seniority.  Four of eight of Vallejo’s Fire Stations have been closed.  As one citizen in Vallejo quipped, “Our Fire Department is a pension plan masquerading as a Fire Department.”  So, bankruptcy or dissolving Coastside Fire District won’t extinguish Coastside’s CalPERS obligation.

Over the past few years, Director Burke has led the effort to terminate the CalPERS debt from former employees, transfer the liability to CalPERS and restructure the final termination payment to CalPERS with a pension obligation bond.  Other Board members sandbagged his efforts culminating in calling the pivotal August 16 Special meeting, once he was safely out of town.  For the past year, other Board members have feigned displeasure with CalPERS and concern over the ballooning of the District’s CalPERS debt.  For over a year, other Board members went through the motions of accepting CalPERS’s excuses for not responding and looking at options with no real sense of urgency. 

At the end of June, CalPERS had formally estimated a $9M to $13.2M range for the debt and the Coastside Board had passed two roll call resolutions to terminate unanimously.  But, at another Special Board meeting on July 13, the Coastside Board majority voted to “reconsider” their previous two CalPERS termination resolutions.  On August 16,  the Coastside Board was informed by Staff that the CalPERS Board intended to change the actuarial assumptions in the termination pools and that CalPERS action would increase Coastside’s cost to terminate by 50%, if no action was taken to move forward with termination at Coastside’s meeting. 

The Coastside Board unanimously voted to stay in CalPERS, effectively locking Coastside Fire into CalPERS forever.  The cover justification the Coastside Board majority used in the meeting was the debt had grown so large, the bond would impact operations in a year or two.  Don’t believe it.  John Bartel said the termination cost would likely be closer to $9M, if executed before August 17 and one of Chief Cole’s scenarios showed servicing a ten year bond at 7% would have resulted in a $50K short fall which could have been easily covered by ERAF rebates.  On August 17, the CalPERS Board voted as expected.

I’m sure many will wonder what was the motivation of the Board to tie the District’s future to a ballooning CalPERS debt? A majority of the Board have clung to their 2007 and 2009 campaign promises of getting rid of CalFire, reconstituting Coastside Fire with its own employees and hiring their cronies again.  The Board majority’s cronies want and expect a CalPERS pension plan.  Despite years of trying and failing to work up the justification to get rid of CalFire and come up with a plan to hire their cronies back into the country club, that hope refuses to die.  Just watch any of Director Riddell’s many tirades on MontaraFog.com and the deference the other Board members show him.  But, more importantly see how the Board members ultimately vote on the major issues.

So, what happens now?  After putting the District irrevocably on the path to financial hardship, what citizen would want to run against the two incumbents up for reelection in November?  It would be a fool’s errand.  The Board majority now have a pension plan ready to go for their cronies, but no revenue to pay their cronies a salary.  Because, if the CalPERS debt continues to balloon as it has in the past four years, it will grow beyond the ability of the Coastside Board to service it.  Ultimately, CalFire is not going away.  The citizens of the Coastside can be reassured, because CalFire has minimum safety standards, that will limit the cuts the Board can make and there are contractual obligations to the the San Mateo County JPA.  For the next year or two, Coastside Fire’s fund balance will probably cover what is essentially interest only payments to CalPERS and current operations at current service levels.  After that, possibly browning out Station 41 in El Granada.  Not cutting service and funding a $2M annual payment to CalPERS would result in a new $200 per parcel tax.  When the unpleasant choices are presented to the citizens of Coastside Fire, ask Michael Alifano, John Draper, Greg Hosfelt, Doug Mackintosh, Ginny McShane and Gary Riddell how they voted on August 16, 2011?

Thanks Vince for alerting the community to the CFPD Board’s Special Meeting this week. One always has to be suspicious when meetings are not televised and the public is not given adequate notice.

After reading in the HMB Review this week about the consolidation of the coastside’s water and sewer districts and the spin that it will make everything better, one needs to ask the question, “What can go wrong”?

And here is an example of the downside. Consolidation only saves the public money and provides better service when it has the right stewardship. The county want to focus on the special districts that seem to be doing a good job and ignore the special districts that seem to be out of control.

I hope we can get enough public concern to get a full accounting of the situation before the election. We don’t want this to become the coastside version of “too big to fail”.

Bill,

You are welcome.

Regional consolidations on the Coastside is a complex subject.

There were mutual benefits to the HMBFPD and PMFPD consolidation into CFPD.  PMFPD couldn’t financially stand on it own for more than a year or two.  HMBFPD did not have the economy of scale.  Having two unsustainable feuding agencies combined into one made the job of local voters to understand the issues easier.  But as it played out, the local fire cronyism morphed and got $60K of IAFF Local 2400 outside political contributions in 2007 an 2009 and that lead to the current Board majority with its crony agenda.  There are just too many local elections for all the voters to be up on all the issues.  On the Fire Board the voters were bought with glossy flyers, phone banks, slick slogans like “keep our fire department local” and just pure name recognition.  The HMB Review gets most of their stories seventy to eight percent right, but they also have a political agenda of their own.  It really is tough for local voters to do their homework and make informed voting decisions.  So, in one sense consolidation can ease the number of decisions the local voters have to make.  But, trying to run a campaign that reaches the whole Coastside is expensive.  But, it’s within the reach of outside interests to win elections on the Coastside.

I agree with you on consolidation of the water and sewer agencies.  That won’t happen soon and for good reason.  The Review Article was just political sniping.  The City of HMB, CCWD, SMC BOS, GSD and MW&SD; all have different agenda’s, sense of mission and plans for serving their constituents.  They have evolved to serve fiercely loyal constituents.  SMC LAFCo is in the SMC BOS’s hip pocket.  So, SMC LAFCo’s recommendations reflect the SMC BOS’s political agenda. They are just recommendations.  They can sit on a shelf for a decade or more and there is no need for any agency to respond to the recommendations.  If one reads the LAFCo statutes, it’s very easy to mount a protest to any shotgun consolidation and kill it before it even get to a popular vote.  If Jim Larimer thinks he can ride into MW&SD; and rescue the constituents from the MW&SD; Board, he’s going to have one rude political awakening.  Ironically that awakening will probably come not from a counterrevolution from the heathen constituents of MW&SD;, but from his own.  The CCWD constituents won’t want to assume the obligations the constituents of MW&SD; took on themselves.  Oh, yes there are ways to handle that with service zones.  But, then there will be Hatfield and McCoy feuds over $10 differentials in service zones.

The way to get to functional regional consolidation is through regional cooperation.  Political sniping is not conducive to regional cooperation.  One lesson to learn from the HMBFPD and PMFPD feuding was like two drunks swings at each other, they eventually became exhausted and then they collapsed into each other arms.

But, for me the key issue is between the small town cronyism and running local agencies in a more equitable uniformly serving manner.  I suspect the failure in the City of HMB was it had aspirations of being a city like San Mateo, but couldn’t get beyond the cronyism stage.  The Beachwood case has been spun all over the place.  When I read the case, I was amazed at the conflicts of interest and the attitude of the locals, oh that’s just the way we do things here.

As far as the CFPD election, only Alifano and Mackintosh registered to run for the two seats.  August 17 was the deadline for candidates to file.  As I wrote in the original piece, when the CFPD Board voted to on August 16, to stay in CalPERS and the CalPERS board voted to increase the termination costs, running for CFPD became a fool’s errand.  Leave it to the fools that created the mess to live with the mess they created. 

As far as too big to fail, in 2006, when the HMBFPD Board was looking at the potential for operation failure Dave Efusia said, “When the bell goes off, we have to be there.”  The Board all stared silently a spot on the floor for a long time.  This Board will likely face a similar moment.

Montara Fog has a video of the fire board’s July 27th meeting.  The meeting includes a panel of experts discussing bonds.  Following that bond discussion there is a discussion of CalPERS.

Comment 4
Mon, August 22, 2011 2:16pm
Carl May
All my comments

Of course, one would expect a major promoter of consolidation of the fire districts to defend it, even though we are now seeing one of the downfalls of such move. Interesting that constituents should be raised as a concern when Point Montara Fire constituents were given no alternatives (such as another parcel tax to cover the nut) and no opportunity to vote on the fire consolidation. Montara and Moss Beach voters have been notably ready to take responsibility for themselves and their communities on other aspects of local control, such as the overwhelming vote to take over the water district, so cutting them out of decisions is calculated and anti-local.

With examples like the fire consolidation and, now, the mashed-up district’s pension mess, we clearly see some of the usually unquestioned rot at the heart of the blind growth ethic and how diseconomies of scale can more than offset economies. It doesn’t work all the time becaused small communities are as subject to political manipulation as big ones when there is enough money to be made from dominating them on one issue or another and because they are limited , but local control through local democracy is currently the only kind of government with the potential to serve citizens directly.

Ginny,

I don’t see how the July 27, Board meeting is relevant.  With the action you and the other Board members took on August 16 and the CalPERS Board took on August 17, a bond is now irrelevant.

The following link has updated information from CalPERS on the action that CalPERS board took on August 17.

http://calpensions.com/2011/08/22/calpers-boosts-cost-of-terminating-pension-plans/

The new official “hypothetical” assumption rate used in actuarial reports for the Termination pools is 3.8% compared to the previous termination rate of 7.75% That is exactly what CFPD’s Board Consultant, John Bartel communicated to the CFPD Board through Legal Counsel on August 16.  The cost to cap and terminate is now 50% higher for Coastside Fire.

The CalPERS Board change effects future terminations.  It was not retroactive. Again, the communication from John Bartel on August 16 was that retroactive was only a proposal of a CalPERS Committee to the CalPERS Board.

The CFPD Board could have moved forward with their termination on August 16,2011 and saved the taxpayers of this District $4M to $6M.

Your attempt to distract is self serving.  You owe the the citizens of the Coastside an explanation for why you voted to stick the taxpayers of the Coastside with more debt for no justifiable reason?

Vince, Chief Cole made a compelling case with his fiscal projection on what areas of the budget would be effected.  His handouts, his comments and the notes I took regarding his answers to board questions were also very thorough.  I followed up after the meeting with both Chiefs Cole and Ferreira to confirm my interpretation of the data.

I encourage interested citizens to attend fire board meetings.  There is one this evening.  The agenda is posted and is also on the CFPD website.

There are also handouts available.  Chief Cole highlighted, at our August 16th meeting, areas of the Coastside Fire Protection District budget that likely would be negatively effected if we were to make the CalPERS termination and go to bonds at this time.  Please feel free to
call the Chief with your questions: 726-5213.

Ginny,

I don’t know if we were both present at the same Special Board meeting on August 16, 2011.

One of the three handout scenarios Chief Cole presented was labeled “10 yr bond @$1,200,000 annual payment ($9M).  In this scenario a $9M Termination debt to CalPERS is financed by a $9M bond financed over ten years at roughly 7% interest for an annual payment of $1.2M.  John Bartel communication to the Board was that, if Coastside terminated on August 16, the Coastside Termination CalPERS debt would likely be close to the low end.  The low end is $9M.    Mr. Bartels calls on everything else have proven right on, now that the CalPERS’s Board action on August 17 has been made public.  The assumption of Chief Cole’s scenario was budget cuts, but no use of District Fund Balance or ERAF Rebates from the State.  This budget scenario showed a shortfall of roughly $53K out of a total budget of roughly $8M.  As you know the ERAF is typically $150K per year and if the ERAF disappeared, the District’s fund balance could have paid the shortfall for years.  this scenario while involving budget cuts was affordable to the District.

The other two scenarios Chief Cole presented were worst case scenarios of worst case CalPERS debt of $13.2M. Mr. Bartels did not say those scenarios were likely.

It’s curious two of the three scenarios Chief Cole presented were of unlikely worst case scenarios?  Why?  To scare the Board into keeping options open for his own retirement?  Or was he directed to do it by Mackinotsh or Hosfelt?  Mackintosh behaved like he had a hand in the scenarios and Hosfelt asked deliberately leading and scary questions of Staff, such as is the worst case scenario possible?  Of course there was deliberately no video of this critical deliberation.

I was there.  What you claim to believe is not supported by the facts presented by Staff at the meeting.

This story and comments are more relevant now, July 2012, in retrospect, than it was then.  Mackintosh, Alifano and Riddell have voted to start accruing even more unfund liabilities. Bthet did this on July 3, 2012!  They do not care how much future debt they are obligating this community to…how do I know?  They did not ask the question before they voted for ‘defined benefits’ for the staff at the go -it -alone, cut the CALFIRE contract , meetings!

sign the petition, then vote to keep a debt free district

Kathryn

People in Montara and Moss Beach were already disenfranchised when we were not given the opportunity to vote on whether or not to consolidate away our local Point Montara Fire Protection District. Now we are stuck with being joined in a south-dominated fire protection/health emergency union with the larger former Half Moon Bay/El Granada District. That former district was, of course, dominated by the dug-in, doltish city politics of Half Moon Bay, “the city that doesn’t know how.” It still is.

So, we in Montara and Moss Beach never voted to be part of the current mess with CalPERS pension obligations and the farmed-out CalFire operation of the district into which we were so rudely consolidated by the votes of a few PMFPD directors of the time and several vocal locals with narrow, wonkish thinking about imagined financial advantages.

Why would we now want to jump into a cesspit not of our making by getting involved in a recall vote for a district in which we are a minor, irrelevant population? Why help with a recall petition over a power squabble when the outcome will leave us an impotent minority in a consolidated district no matter which way it turns out? Are we supposed to believe rearranging the fire district’s chairs will address the overarching long-term financial problems into which every smaller government—be it municipality, county, or special district—is forced because of our state-level financial hell?

When you lose local control in California, you lose your only hope of meaningful influence on government that directly impacts your daily life. Because we still will be stuck with the dictates of outsiders, we might as well sit out the bickering of the Half Moon Bay fire and emergency services department to which we were kludged. Let the people who created the pissing contest play amongst themselves.

Carl, I understand your thinking, but the fact is that we have an enormous amount to lose in safety, peace of mind, property values and everything else if this Board majority gets its way. With CAL FIRE, we have the best trained firefighters out there, in terms of both structure and wildland fires, plus EMS services. No small local department can match them, and you only need to look back on what we had before to realize this. We may be a minority here, but the reality is that HMB pays $35/year and we in Montara and Moss Beach can pay up to $175-250/year in assessments. Pt. Montara Board had started to decrease the amount we were actually assessed, but this Board could, in a heartbeat, bump it right back up again to the maximum level, with no input from us. The tax is on the books already. HMB would have to go back to the polls to get voters to pass a higher rate. Which do you think this Board majority would choose to do? Right now, with CAL FIRE, we are not in danger, because they are far more cost effective and efficient than a standalone department, and there is enough money there to cover.

If their plan gets implemented, there will be no savings with the standalone model they’ve decided to go with, that of the failing San Carlos Fire Department, which is having to brown out engines. With their lower salary and benefit scale, they can’t hire enough firefighters. And when 6 more do become available, they will be rookies, just graduated from academy. They have had to ask CAL FIRE to cover them during their brownouts.

In 2006-2007, we paid over a million dollars extra in overtime costs, because we had a revolving door of personnel who came, looked, tried it, and left. The others worked lots of overtime, and ended up with huge salaries because of it.
http://coastsider.com/site/news/coastside_firefighters_pay_averaged_155000_per_year_in_2007
Dir. Mackintosh keeps mentioning that he thinks overtime is cheaper than full time staff, meaning that his friends stand to gain big time under this new deal they’re setting up for them, with union support. Never mind the hazards of excessive overtime and fatigue in an already hazardous occupation, and the risks to life and property if an overly fatigued firefighter makes a wrong decision.

These are a few of the reasons some of us can’t just sit back and watch while our money goes down the drain and our lives and property are at risk. This isn’t fun, at all, but the alternative is worse.

Crisis politics, getting all lathered up over the momentary casts of opposing forces in what will be an ongoing scene, and throwing partial dollar figures around as if they define the entire situation and are the only relevant ones are part of what got us screwed into this consolidated, undemocratic mess in the first place.

No matter how the present battle works out, no matter which camp of characters prevails, there will be other equally dire fire district crises in a few years, if not months. None of what is happening was supposed to be in the future according to the know-it-all consolidators a relatively few years ago. Obviously their prognoses were superficial and incomplete for what was possible in the real world. The differential in parcel taxes between what was the PMFPD and what was the HMB/EG district only highlights the ongoing screwing Montara and Moss Beach are getting in the consolidated failure and how incompetent and unfair the consolidation was for our communities.

It won’t make a dang bit of difference for us in MMB for the long term if we sit out these squabbles. We were sold out and made impotent in the consolidation, and that situation will remain. Budgetary problems will remain impossible, due partially to Sacramento-centric bludgeoning by the state. Unless fundamental structural corrections are made in the organization of the district in response to the current unworkable setup, citizens are better off concentrating their efforts on aspects of their communities where there is something positive and real to be accomplished.

Old memories… Carl May is only interested in one thing, the principle of local control.  Nothing else matters.

The State and County write the laws and regulations and the “locals” have no choice but to deal with them. That is the history.  The days of a rural single engine department are long gone.  In the late nineties ERAF took funds away form local Special Districts and the County agreed to form the ALS/JPA putting Paramedics on fire engines.  As I pointed out many times before, our previous Point Montara Board was pretty “doltish”, out of control and the “local” electorate was pretty oblivious to that fact.  Many were appalled, when Measure H passed and the Chief and Firefighters all got big raises.  The Point Montara Board retroactively spiked pensions to 3%@50 with no consideration given to the citizens. It was a gift of public funds to business partners, board members and cronies. The Board carped about HMBFPD, cancelled the service contract, bungled the go it alone department and was angrily confronted by citizens.  That forced the merger and consolidation with HMBFPD.

The so called local control Carl May espouses was not evident at Point Montara. Where was Carl? Carping about local control on Coastisder.  He doesn’t do meetings.  He dispenses his opinion from blogs and everyone is supposed to listen to him. 

Today, 83% of the calls are emergency medical calls requiring a Paramedic.  The old Point Montara is almost as antiquated of a concept as Maybury RFD.  In 2007 Point Montara had $1.7M in revenue.  Today in San Mateo County, it takes $2.7M to $3.3M per engine using 56 hour work week L2400 rates.  Take a $1M difference divide it by 2000 households in MMB and it would be costing us a parcel tax today of $500 per household to have stayed independent and stayed with a 56 hour L2400 work week.  Accumulate $500 over the past five years and that’s $2500 every household in MMB saved over the “local control” option.  We’ve had a fully staffed engine at Station 44 and excellent service the last five years from CalFire and the Measure H parcel tax has been reduced year by year.  Point Montara could not have achieved that on their own. Our Point Montara Board in 2007 made the right deal for this community in entering into consolidation with HMBFPD.  I didn’t see Carl May at the LAFCo protest meeting on PMFPD and HMBFPD consolidation into CFPD.

Now, Carl is right, being part of a regional department has governance issues.  Director Riddell is a prime example.  At Point Montara he voted to give his brother and business partner a pension spike, was behind cancelling the service contract with HMBFPD and the go it alone fiasco in 2005.  Despite his reputation he was the top vote getter in the 2009 CFPD election due to name recognition and political contributions from Local 2400.  Do we step up to deal with what in my view is a rather crisp regional governance issue at CFPD or do we carp about some theoretical path not take fifteen years ago that was never really an option?

If Alifano, Mackintosh and Riddell are allowed to build a standalone department it will be a derelict department.  Riddell failed at Point Montara in 2005 already.  Mackintosh and Alifano have proven themselves incompetent.  By my estimates, they will burn through CFPD reserves and only be able to sustain two of the three stations with current revenue.  The alternative would be a parcel tax of about $250 to allow them to fund their crony department with a 56 hour L2400 work week.  I’d observe hitching our wagon to idiots via conosolidation would only be half the cost of Point Montara going alone and our old local out of control.

I’m a pragmatist not an ideologue.  The County and State are not going to go away.  Isolationism (localism) as a tactic only works on certain narrow issues.  Regional issues need to be dealt with.  We also need to be honest about our local failings and political impotence.  I’ve met many reasonable pragmatic people in HMB and elsewhere in the District that I may not agree with on every issue.  They are willing to work on this narrow issue and agree to disagree about other issues.  For me as an individual home owner, the math is pretty easy, $2500 property tax savings in the bank and stable affordable Fire and Emergency service going forward with CalFire for a few minutes of my time to sign three petitions and vote for three candidates that support CalFire.  Most regional elections are won by slim margins.  You can sit on the couch carping with Carl May or take a few simple steps to exert some control over your local political environment.

KEEP CALFIRE Recall Alifano, Mackintosh and Riddell

 

Who is this “Vince Williams”? Is this the guy who blew into Moss Beach a some years back and made friends with an appointed (not elected) director of the PMFPD who was dedicated to getting rid of the district for his own reasons (and no longer lives in our area)? The fellow who advocated abandoning our local district to the scummy hegemony of HMB (due to its much larger voting population) rather than simply fix a corrupted three-person PMFPD board of the moment? The same “Vince Williams” who ran several times for a director position on the PMFPD but could not get himself (and his district-wrecking ideas) elected by the people of Montara and Mos Beach? The “Vince Williams” who, with a very few others, hounded meetings and pushed a consolidation of the PMFPD (through its small three-person board) with HMB/EG without a vote of the citizens of the PMFPD district? The “Vince Williams” whose projections for the newly-consolidated district now in such a mess with its pension obligations and personnel have proven largely erroneous and just as unfair to the citizens of Montara and Moss Beach as one might expect from one willing to dismiss the rights of others in our communities to self-determination due to his self-assumed superiority on abstract matters of interest to him?

I can’t be sure, because few people with such disproven, failed, and locally rejected credentials, few people so out of touch with many in our locally independent communities who have voted time and again to have their own independent districts (such as the MWSD) and who are willing to pay for local control, quality, and independence, would have the nerve to continue to push their inappropriate, wonky, urbanizing, consolidating agenda. I guess part of my confusion also stems from a “Vince Williams” trying to come off as a financial sage at the same time I have been given the impression there is a “Vince Williams” in Moss Beach who can’t figure out how to put siding over Tyvek construction paper on his small house over many years time—hardly the manager of money one would want to heed on the much more pricey and difficult issues of fire protection and emergency services if I have the right guy in mind.

Local fixes to local problems are the way to go. Giving up and throwing oneself into the arms of ever-larger, more consolidated, more urbanizing, more corrupt, more politicized, more wealth-dominated uber-governmental structures dominated by special-interest campaign donors and money masters only assures that your government will be self-serving, more and more non-specific to the actual needs of real people in any given locale, and more freely corrupt because it does not have to be responsible to local, politically insignificant populations. What is pragmatic is making sure your government serves you. This cannot be done if your voice can be ignored and your vote is discounted. It cannot be done if local control is thrown away over nothing more than the siren song of financial babble apropos of nothing in actual communities.

Nothing about a CFPD recall that will not result in a substantially changed and potentially improved situation for the citizens of the former PMFPD requires more than a bemused “What did you expect from an inappropriately contrived, half-assed setup likely to fail from the outset”? It’s fine to sit this one out while the bickering elements of the consolidated CFPD down HMB way engage in their monkey-island scat fights. Look at the arguments of the two sides. In the consolidated setup making the communities of Montara and Moss Beach impotent voting minorities, we are screwed either way on the issues being contested.

Executive summary of Carl’s argument:  we’re getting screwed, so why should I care how bad the screwing is?

I normally agree with Carl, but this fire district fiasco is the one exception.  I certainly am a very strong believer in local control.  The bigger the government, the harder it is for average citizens to keep it in line.  Sacramento is completely out of control.  Don’t even bother asking me what I think of the Federal government.  I was against the consolidation of the two fire districts as pointless.  There was no reason why each district couldn’t contract out to Cal Fire separately without consolidating.  In fact, if it had been done that way, it would be a lot harder for the local yokels to rebuild either one of those old dysfunctional districts as a stand-alone district.  To this day, I still don’t see any benefit of that consolidation.  Savings of literally a few thousand a year by having 1 board instead of 2 is noise—within measurement error.

Well, Carl, you should care how badly you’re getting screwed.  You may have a bone to pick with Vince on the consolidation issue, but I don’t think that anyone except the 3 local yokels on the CFPD board can challenge his math, and you haven’t tried to do so, but rather just attack the messenger.  CalPERS is a disaster, and getting worse with each CalPERS board meeting.  One reason for that is that it’s apparently governed by union people representing the people who are and will be collecting CalPERS pensions.  CalPERS is going to implode within the next few years.  Defined-benefit pensions are no longer sustainable or viable.  Notice that the only defined-benefit pensions left are for government employees and some other unionized private business employees.  I don’t think that any non-government non-union employee has had a defined benefit pension in decades.

Comment 16
Mon, August 27, 2012 10:29pm
Carl May
All my comments

Changing faces while continuing an impossible situation is not going to make it less impossible. Changing faces will not change this situation. The more you struggle in financial quicksand, the deeper you go.

I do care about how bad we in our several coastside communities are getting screwed. Financially, because I have no ax to grind with the level of service we are getting—nor with the level of service we got before the consolidation. We pay tax assessments on our house the same as other property owners. Indeed, we in Montara and Moss Beach (unfairly) pay a larger parcel tax than the rest of the district—an inequity brushed aside and allowed to continue by the district consolidators. But, as the many failed predictions promoting the now-consolidated coastside fire district show, it’s all just small-time political masturbation by a few pushing their agendas unless changes in situations allow problems to be addressed in an improved manner or changes in people produce new people with problem-solving potential.

Yes, hold to the fire the feet of those board members wishing to dump CalFire in favor of an independent operation. Their proposal must clearly be at least as good operationally and financially on a long-term basis as what they wish to replace. Clear to us citizens and not just a few wonks who hound their meetings. But there is no reason to get rid of them before their terms are up unless some clear alternative to what they are working for would solve the underlying problems, including the current unsustainable public employee pension setup in this misled state.

I’d sign a petition for a vote on re-separation of the districts, something we never got to vote on when they were consolidated. No guarantee that would be any better, but it would have the potential to let communities act closer to their own best interest and make their own cooperative deals with other agencies or negotiate with their own employees if they decided to go independent.

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