Coastsider endorses Donovan, Taborski, and Silva for HMB Fire and Williams for Pt Montara

Editorial

Posted by on Tue, October 30, 2007

Contracting of fire services is the only real issue in the 2007 elections for the Coastside fire boards. It is essential for Coastsiders to turn out in this election to vote for the three candidates in Half Moon Bay who support contracting:

     

  • Jerry Donovan
  •  

  • Ron Taborski
  •  

  • Bert Silva

...and the one candidate in Point Montara who supports the contract:

 

     

  • Vince Williams

The Half Moon Bay Fire Protection District and the Point Montara district have merged as of October 1, so this is the last election for separate boards. The new Coastside Fire Protection District board will inherit a department in crisis. The good news is that the combined boards have agreed to the one solution left to us: contracting out services to Cal Fire.

This crisis has been building for years.  Eighteen months ago, interim Fire Chief Peter Bonano wrote a blistering assessment of the state of the department in Half Moon Bay following years of unrest.

I’m very concerned with the Department’s ability to provide a level of service consistent with the Mission of the Fire Service," he says, and goes on to cite problems with the Fire Prevention program and say that the San Mateo City Fire Marshal has provided him with a five-page list of deficiencies.

As if this were not enough, "Morale is low, resulting in a culture of lawsuits, grievances and excessive sick leave use. ... While there are many shining stars in the workforce, we have our share of firefighters who are unmotivated, disgruntled and well versed in throwing up roadblocks."

On July 10, 2006, following Chief Bonano’s evaluation,  The San Mateo County Grand Jury recommended contracting for services. The Montara station has been successfully staffed by Cal Fire since Mid-September, 2007

In the year and a half since Chief Bonano’s report, continued turnover has greatly increased the department’s costs and affected its readiness.

Poor morale in the firehouse has been the heart of the matter for years. It has persisted through multiple boards and fire chiefs and years of turnover among the rank-and-file personnel in the department. In the last year, it has resulted in acts of vandalism and harassment against members of the board and their Fire Chiefs for supporting the contract with Cal Fire.

No one in particular—the boards, their management, or the firefighters—is responsible for the crisis. But it’s time to end it, and both fire boards agreed to a solution: contracting out services to Cal Fire. The union-backed candidates in this election are attempting to derail the only solution we have.

It would be a different matter if the firefighters or their union had offered some solution to the chaos in the department in the last year.  They have offered salary concessions, but they have offered no alternative to contracting other than business-as-usual backed with appeals to our emotions and fears. No firefighters will lose their jobs due to contracting, and they will continue to be represented by a union.

This is not a happy solution.  I strongly support small, local government, but this chaos has gone on too long. This is no endorsement of the boards themselves. The fire boards have pretty much shown they can’t manage the firehouse. They should be able to manage a contract with a professional firefighting organization.

 


Comment 1
Tue, October 30, 2007 2:45pm
Carl May
All my comments

“The new Coastside Fire Protection District board will inherit a department in crisis. The good news is that the combined boards have agreed to the one solution left to us: contracting out services to Cal Fire.”

So, we should vote for the people on the board or a newcomer representing the philosophy that created and prolonged the crisis (actually crises, as there is more amiss to be addressed than the contracting out or services)? Interesting approach—vote for the ones who have been mucking around in the crisis the longest. Experience counts?

Carl May

Barry,

I agree wholeheartedly with your endorsements for fire boards on the Coastside and for many of the same reasons.

Mary

Comment 3
Tue, October 30, 2007 3:33pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

Both slates represent people who created the problems. 

Doug Mackintosh was an HMB director from 1987-2003 and has a son in the department. And the whole slate is representing the interests of the union they’re supposed to manage.

It’s really a question of choosing an outcome and not a slate.  The outcome from the candidates I endorsed is clear. The outcome their opposition represents is not, other than maintaining the status quo.

Comment 4
Tue, October 30, 2007 7:02pm
Carl May
All my comments

If you look at Mackintosh’s record, he took a problem-solving approach to his terms on the board, not an approach where he simply wished to ship out any difficulties he was not competent to handle. The other two alternative candidates running with Mackintosh have not been on the HMB district board; but if you look at their responses during candidate sessions, they, too, do not jump to admit their incompetence and give up on problems by washing their hands of them.

I’d suggest that people look at the videos of the candidate sessions. See how the candidates articulate their positions on issues. People should also dig into Donovan’s longer record as a bumbling city councilperson in HMB, including his ignorant and destructive stances on matters involving the unincorporated midcoast to the north of the city of HMB.

We have been shafted by all fire district board members who took part in consolidation the Point Montara and HMB fire districts, for we now are stuck with a new combined fire district dominated by board members in the city of HMB who, over the years, have proven themselves less than ignorant of the communities of Montara and Moss Beach. In the past we in MMB didn’t need to comment on slogging, old-guard HMB politicians other than to express our relief that we were not under their influence.

Mackintosh, by the way, saw ways for the previous two districts to maintain local control and still get the benefits of cooperation. So what if he has a son working in the district? I have never seen this argument come up when candidates for the school board have children in the schools who will be affected by their decisions.

So there you have it. In HMB, take a chance on candidates who at least want to have a go at solving financial, management, and staffing problems or stick with cement-footed incumbents who have proven their incompetence to manage the district over the past four problem-riddled years. In Point Montara, take a chance on a candidate who has long experience working in fire districts (but not the Point Montara or HMB districts), including at a supervisorial level where budgets and staffing matter, or vote for a candidate who urged abandoning local control to the district to our south without so much as a vote of the people of the communities now subjected to domination by a larger, differently-leaning voting population.

Carl May

Comment 5
Tue, October 30, 2007 7:54pm
Ed Carter
All my comments

What a pleasure to tune in to a civil discussion!

Dear Mr. Parr,
I am extremely disappointed that Coastsider has endorsed the pro CalFire candidates.  I am extremely disappointed that you never met with me or talked to me over the phone even though I asked you to do so as early as August.  After rereading all the above links, it seems to me that as soon as Acting Chief Bonano’s memo came out, your mind was made up about contracting out services.

Chief Bonano was hired as an acting chief to help the board hire a full time chief who would be able to pull the organization together, which was recommended by Renee Mayne’s report.  Chief Bonano failed miserably at his assignment, wrote the damning memo, and promptly resigned.  We on the coast have been paying for his brashness ever since.

For all my dear friends who live in Montara and Moss Beach, I feel a moral obligation to speak out against your use of the word “successfully” when you say that “the Montara station has been successfully staffed by Cal Fire since Mid-September, 2007.” What you need to consider is that CalFire is only able to staff approximately half of its engines with a paramedic and that the paramedics are VERY inexperienced. 

In the year since Chief Bonano’s report, turnover has NOT greatly affected the cost of services.  In fact, by paying overtime and not replacing two chiefs, the district has a $3 million reserve and has paid off the $400,000 loan for the land under the El Granada station.

Furthermore, you have no proof that there have been “acts of vandalism and harassment against members of the board and their Fire Chiefs for supporting the contract with Cal Fire.” Yes, Acting Chief Paul Cole had his car vandalized and someone peed on his sleeping bag, but there was never any proof who did it and certainly no connection one can logically make that it was because of the contract with CalFire.  It is very irresponsible for you to write such.  Local 2400 came out swiftly and strongly condemned the actions.

Finally, Mr. Parr, what about our petitions to take the CalFire contract to the voters?  Am I right to assume that you support the board’s decision to ignore our right to vote on this matter?

Mr. Parr, I believe in our local fire department.  I believe that staying local is the best protection for all of us.  I believe that Doug Macintosh, John Draper, Gregg Hosfeldt, and Christopher Cilia understand the underlying problems in the fire department and that those problems can be fixed.  I do not think that contracting out to CalFire is going to solve any of our problems and is not going to make us safer. Vince Williams himself said on Coastsider, “CDF will cause more problems than it will solve.”

Thank you very much for the chance to offer my differing opinion.

Sincerely,

Mary Kay Jolley

P.S.  Do I need to make a full disclosure?  My husband is a division chief for the fire dept., but this letter is solely my own opinion.

Comment 7
Wed, October 31, 2007 1:29pm
Barry Parr
All my comments

First, I want to Carl and Mary Kay for their excellent comments.  I know there are two sides to this issue and you’ve done a great job of representing yours.

I attended many of the meetings when outsourcing was discussed. I came away with two significant impressions: Peter Bonano was right about the morale in the firehouse and it needs to be addressed. I cited the vandalism and harassment as evidence of poor morale. You’re right that I imputed a motive that might not have been correct, but I found these incidents really disturbing.

My position is that Coastside FPD needs outside help after years of foundering.  This is not intended as a judgment of anyone in particular in the department. I have continually avoided assigning blame to the boards, management, or rank-and-file. I believe everyone in the CFPD is dedicated to its mission.

Having said that, no one has offered any other solution to the problems. The union and its candidates are standing for the status quo.

Mary Kay Jolley,

I do not recall having written on Coastsider what you claim I wrote.  I did an advanced search of what you claim I wrote, “CDF will cause more problems than it will solve.”  That string search only found your post.  Could you please provide a link to what you claim I said on Coastsider?

An anonymous poster on The Half Moon Bay Review Talkabout on September 28,2007 12:05PM posted the following quote attributed to me on Coastsider, “we should not contract out with CDF, it will cause more problems than it will solve.”  Again an advanced string search on Coastsider turned up nothing.  Are you the anonymous poster of that post on Talkabout?

Vince Williams
Moss Beach

Mr. Williams,
I apologize for the quote.  I should have done my own advanced search before I submitted that entry.  I confused your words with Dave Deweys on 7/14/06 on Coastsider. I deeply regret the error.

Sincerely,
Mary Kay Jolley

Comment 10
Wed, October 31, 2007 6:04pm
Ed Carter
All my comments

We need people on the fireboard who are decisive, committed and independent.  Bert Silva, Vince Williams, Jerry Donavan and Ron Taborski are the clear choice.

At the last fireboard meeting half of the board walked out while the remaining board members listened to a presentation from a hired consultant on an item on the agenda concerning funding of retiree medical benefits.  The board members who walked out did the honorable thing and recused themselves.  Regardless, I do not believe it is in the best interest of our community to have former employees or those with other conflicts of interest running our fire district.  This is no slam against anyone sitting on the current board or any past fireboard.

Two years ago the HMB Board tried to hire a new chief after the previous one quit under fire from the firefighters and members of the Point Montara board.  The best estimate was it would take one year to recruit and $350K in incentives to hire a chief.  The HMBFPD board argued for three months with the firefighters about where the firefighter’s representatives where going to sit on the Selection Committee and how many votes they would have.  Around this time we had two acting professional interim Chiefs with no stake in the fight say over their shoulder, while running out the door, “get professional help”. Then we had the San Mateo Civil Grand Jury say consolidate and outsource.

The current situation is that there are 19 firemen left to staff 31 authorized positions. Most of them do not live in the district. The command staff is tied up covering operations.  Who is going to hire and train new staff? 

The real issue in this election is what exactly does local control mean?

Our fireboards, representing our interests, have entered into a contract with Cal Fire.  Mackintosh , Hosfelt, Draper and Cilia speak of local control and “Support Your Firefighters”.  What exactly does that mean?  More of the same - conflicted board members, problem employees and the potential for even more lawsuits.  All this for 19 remaining employees who could quit tomorrow!  Donavon and Silva along with all but two members of the current fireboard have agreed on a solution in contracting with Cal Fire.  Williams and Taborski will help them get this done.

With a staffing emergency, three lawsuits and the State Fire Marshal involved why would the citizens elect Board members with obvious conflicts of interest and an unknown agenda?

If elected the conflicted board members won’t be deliberating much, they will either be recused and sitting in the hallway or creating more legal problems for the District.  Is that “local control” or is it more of the same? I think it is more of the same. Haven’t we had enough of this?

With Williams, Taborski, Donavan and Silva on the board “local control” will mean a board in charge of defining and directing the levels of fire service for the Coastside without the distraction of more employee problems and more lawsuits.

Mary Kay Jolley,

Thank you for clarifying the quote about CDF.  I have some issues with some of your other comments.

Mary Kay Jolley wrote:

“What you need to consider is that CalFire is only able to staff approximately half of its engines with a paramedic and that the paramedics are VERY inexperienced.”

Where, the state of California, San Mateo County or Station 44?  CalFire provides a variety of engine staffing options to agencies that contract with them.  The contract for staffing Station 44 calls for staffing an ALS engine.  That means a San Mateo County(SMC) Accredited Paramedic on the engine on each shift. The CFPD master contract with CalFire calls for ALS engines at all three stations.  To suggest that a Paramedic that is accredited to operate in SMC is “Very inexperienced” speaks poorly of the other SMC Paramedics and the whole accreditation program in SMC.  It’s rather hard to accept that a licensed Paramedic most likely having experience in another jurisdiction, that goes through SMC specific training, followed by 2 to 6 months of field training in San Mateo County under the supervision of an experienced Paramedic is “Very inexperienced”.

This is a public forum.  There is a fine line between the first amendment and undermining the confidence in the public in the EMS system.  To quote Oliver Wendel Holmes, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic.”

Mary Kay Jolley wrote:
“In fact, by paying overtime and not replacing two chiefs, the district has a $3 million reserve and has paid off the $400,000 loan for the land under the El Granada station.”

The largest source of the fund balance this fiscal year came from canceling the contract for HMBFPD to handle AMR’s ambulance responsibility on the Coastside.  Other SMC Districts have taken similar action. The loan for the land for the El Granada station has not been paid off as of the last CFPD Regular meeting.  The capital plan calls for it to be paid off sometime this fiscal year.

Part one of two.

Continued part two of two

Mary Kay Jolley wrote:
“Yes, Acting Chief Paul Cole had his car vandalized and someone peed on his sleeping bag, but there was never any proof who did it and certainly no connection one can logically make that it was because of the contract with CalFire.  It is very irresponsible for you to write such.  Local 2400 came out swiftly and strongly condemned the actions.”

Barry has responded.

The question of who is responsible is just the game that has been played over and over again within HMBFPD.  Absent a responsible party for this cowardly set of acts, one can only speculate on motive.  So, we are all supposed to forget about it?

The issue is both these acts of vandalism occurred at HMBFPD. It is highly unlikely that anyone outside HMBFPD was involved.  The inability of HMBFPD and IAFF Local 2400 to resolve the matter leaves us in this community with a command structure in CFPD with an alleged criminal.  Regardless of who did it, the whole organization and Local 2400 are tainted by it.


Vince Williams
Moss Beach

Comment 13
Thu, November 1, 2007 4:23pm
Carl May
All my comments

So now, every time a car is broken into and trashed on the coastside—an act that happens fairly often in parking lots and neighborhoods—local firefighters and their union are tainted by it? A firefighter who lives in my neighborhood had some items stolen from a vehicle parked outside his house a couple of years ago, and it’s just shocking to now learn his colleagues were somehow involved. So reassuring to know someone is running for our now meaningless Point Montara fire district board who can divine guilt without evidence. For one thing, this capability should make investigation and resolution of future fire-involved crimes much easier.

Carl May

Carl May wrote:

“So now, every time a car is broken into and trashed on the coastside—an act that happens fairly often in parking lots and neighborhoods—local firefighters and their union are tainted by it?”

I wrote “at HMBFPD” not “on the coastside.”  According to press reports the crime locations were Half Moon Bay Main station parking lot and Chief Cole’s locker.  I wrote “the whole organization and Local 2400” not “local firefighters and their union”.  The “whole organization” also includes, the Firefighters employed by the District that don’t reside in the District(a majority of the Firefighters at HMBFPD), Board,  Management, Administrative and Mechanical staff.

Carl May wrote:

“So reassuring to know someone is running for our now meaningless Point Montara fire district board who can divine guilt without evidence.”

I wrote “an alleged criminal” not “guilt”.


Vince Williams
Moss Beach