HMB fire board responds to union critics


Posted by on Wed, October 25, 2006

The board of the Half Moon Bay Fire Protection District has issued a press release designed to respond to criticisms of its outsourcing plan [PDF of release]—particularly from union members attempting to reverse the boards’ decision by petition or referendum.

The press release, originally drafted by board member Jerry Donovan, and reviewed by the board at its last meeting, says: "…the abundance of misinformation is alarming.  These documents are riddled with some erroneous, misleading, and confusing statements that, if the need ever arose, it would be impossible for any citizen to make an informed decision regarding fire protection services for the district."  The release is pretty disorganized and rambling, and you should read it for yourself, but in it the board emphasizes the following points:

     

  • The district already subcontracts services for outside training, custodial, legal, landscaping and accounting. Furthermore the board notes that it contracts out its paramedic ambulance transport to American Medical Response, saying "Medical aid responses account for approximately 75-80 percent of the call volume in the fire service."

  •  

  • Subcontracting would not result in the loss of control, because the contractor would be under the control of the board.

  •  

  • The union’s demand that any contractor be a "municipal fire department" ignores the fact that neither the HMBFPD or its successor would be a municipal fire department under a city’s control.

  •  

  • The union’s insistence that the Half Moon Bay Fire Protection District be preserved is confusing in light of the pending consolidation: " This Board cannot determine, nor can any citizen determine from the referendum as written, what the union is trying to accomplish."

The board insists that "outcry against a service…has little to do with service levels to the district and everything to do with wages and working hours. The salaries earned by many firefighters are staggering, with nearly half the firefighters earning $139,000.00 or more, with some earning as much as $180,000.00-190,000.00 in 2005 - arguably making our fighters some of the highest paid blue collar workers anywhere."

The release concludes by reiterating that there will be no layoffs and no of reduction salaries, the department’s volunteer program will be kept, and retirees will continue to receive the same retirement benefits.


I hope citizens read this press release, so that they understand both sides, before signing any more petitions.  The HMBFPD Board has taken the time and care to respond to the referenda supported by the Firefighters.  It is interesting to note the Boards went on record with much of the financial compensation that had been discussed here earlier on Coastsider.  The Boards have to balance the needs of the community against the requirements of the employees.  It’s easy to lose sight of the goal of providing fire and emergency services in a cost effective manner and get swept up in all the strife.  In my view, the Boards are well ahead of the petitioners in offering a viable long term plan for Coastside fire and emergency service.  I haven’t heard anything from IAFF Local 2400 on their “audit” of HMBFPD or proposal for financing the combined District continuing with its own employees.  The clock is ticking and standing in the way of a contract which puts Management under a stable orginzation, maintains local control of services and provides more Linestaff coverage for less tax dollars, is not in the communities interest.

Thanks for putting the press release on line.  I hope people take the time to read it.

Comment 2
Fri, October 27, 2006 9:45am
ERH
All my comments

Since the fire baord had declared the reason they need to surrender the fire department to state control is a finanical “crisis” Local 2400 has been looking for possible solutions to the “problem”.  To identify the problem we have hird an accounting firm in San Francisco to conduct a full financial review of the accounts. The audit has been delayed by the refusal of the fire department to turn over public records to us. Specifically, the most recent comprehensive audited financial report (CAFR) is necessary to provide the most current information on the state of finances.  So far, the fire department has not provided that final piece of the puzzle.  When they do, the audit will be conmleted and made public. 

As to the petitions and referendums, here is our viewpoint.  For a fire board to give up their responsiblity for running a fire department and hand over that responsibilty to the State of California is an extraodinary event.  Once the state takes over, basic nature of the 117 year old fire department changes pemanently.  It is our belief, and the belief of some of the board members, that there should be broad based public involvement in a decision of that magnitude.  If the taxpayers vote for a state fire department then the deal will be final. 

The fire board is hell-bent to sell out the fire department and stick it to their employees.  They have refused to consider any alternatives we have to offer.  Recently we agreed to massive contract concessions to help Belmont and San Carlos through their financial problems.  The Half Moon Bay firefighters offered concessions here too but for eight months the fire board has refused to meet with firefigther representatives. The Half Moon Bay Fire Board is practicing back room politics at its worst. 

All we say is let the taxpayers decide.
Ed Hawkins, President Local 2400

Comment 3
Fri, October 27, 2006 11:11am
Hal Bogner
All my comments

Mr. Hawkins,

I’ve been reading the papers and following this on Midcoast-L and here, and there is something that perhaps you can explain to me:

For years now, local firefighters have been asserting mistreatment at the hands of management, and have been winning both lawsuits and settlements consistently.  Clearly, there have been and presumably still are management problems.  It appears that the local fire boards have exhausted themselves trying to “fix the management problem” and that outside “temporary” Chiefs have advised them to follow the course of contracting out the management functions of the fire districts.

Now, the fire boards are in the process of implementing this plan of action.  They will continue to have responsibility to enforce the contract with CDF or County (whichever ends up being chosen) - including the rights to terminate if appropriate, or to not renew - and they will continue to be accountable to local voters - the people who pay the taxes and who expect and rely on protection.

Suddenly, firefighters are saying “Stop!  Don’t throw away our current management!” 

My questions are:

Aren’t our local firefighters the ones who have proven to us that there are severe problems in local management - ones which, after years of examination appear to be intractable?

Do local firefighters really think that local voters want to see continued lawsuits and costly settlements in favor of local firefighters?

I understand that “local control” and “local custom” will be diminished for some period of time by outsourcing management to an organization - whether at the county or state level - that can provide the able management that we have given up hoping for from locals at this time. 

It seems to me that the tradeoff selected by the locally elected fire boards requires that we first put out the “bad management” fire, and later, return the to question of how or whether to transition back to independent management or whether to renew the commitment to contracting with larger agencies with the track record of succesfully managing firefighting operations - including the personnel who perform them.

I look forward to your explanation.

Thank you,

Hal M. Bogner
Half Moon Bay

Comment 4
Fri, October 27, 2006 3:39pm
Ed Hawkins
All my comments

I will try, here, to address Mr. Bogner’s questions.

As to the problems with the fire district, I can say that there has been a lack of leadership in Half Moon Bay for some years.  The fire board has only been a small part of the problem but their (and previous boards) lack of ability to recruit and retain a quality fire chief has been a major problem.  A quality fire chief could have avoided many of the claims of management mistreatment in the past. 

No one wants to see continued lawsuits and costly settlements.  In the years before April 2006, the Half Moon Bay Firefighters were represented by the Teamsters Union Local 856.  We are not aware of any assertion, or litigation initiated by Local 856, against the Fire District for mistreatment of employees.  It has been 15 years since our own local initiated litigation against a city.  For us it is a rare occurrence because we enjoy respectful and productive relationships with the 14 agencies we deal with.  We have avoided litigation and worked very closely with city councils in Pacifca, Millbrae, Belmont, and San Carlos to resolve financial issues they faced.  We helped the councils in Burlingame and Hillsborough merge their departments while saving thousands of dollars at the same time.  Our efforts put a paramedic on every fire engine in the county.  We helped put together the life support and alarm response plan that has increase efficiency and safety throughout the county We have an excellent reputation of cooperation around the county so we were very surprised to be immediately despised and disrespected by the Half Moon Bay Fire Board. 

I am, however, aware that certain Half Moon Bay employees have made claims of mistreatment in the past.  The most prolific and successful litigant, who collected the most money in damages from the district, is current board member Lane Lees.  We did not represent Mr. Lees so I am unable to comment on his claims and the litigation that followed.  Now Mr. Lees is the most determined force steering the district to a state takeover. 
As to the local control question I hope people of the district can come to understand what a permanent decision it is to bring in the state fire department.  The state does not let go of contracts very easily so getting rid of them in the future would be very difficult.  In addition to problems getting the state out there are the infrastructure problems of starting up a new department with all new personnel.  The process and the costs will be very intimidating to future fire boards and they will mostly likely take the easy way out by keeping the state fire department even if no one wants them.  So make no mistake about it, this is a permanent and practically irrevocable decision the Half Moon Bay Board is rushing into.  It is irresponsible of the fire board to make such a significant and far reaching decision without allowing the taxpayers of the district to say what they want for their money. 

.

Ed Hawkins,

Thanks for commenting here on Coastsider.

The last audit conducted by the HMBFPD Board is a public document.  The Board packets, have had all the accounting information details up to the last meeting. I don’t see any missing pieces to the puzzle that is not in the public domain.

It’s just not financial.  The “crisis” and “problem” is more like a number of serious problems:

1. HMBFPD Board running operational deficits trying to hold a high level of service together, absorb the cost of litigating employee lawsuits and provide PMFPD a favorable annual cost for services asan incentive to consolidation,
2. PMFPD has a thin revenue stream and has difficulty meeting the current cost of Linestaff for its engine,
3. Inability of HMBFPD Board to keep a Management team in place for the past year,
4. Strife between the Linestaff and HMBFPD Management and Board,
5. Strife between PMFPD and HMBFPD Boards,
6. HMBFPD financial situation causing service cuts this year,
7. The laws and regulations from Sacramento, dealing with personnel issues and all the small details of running a fire district have made a small district not cost effective (three engine district is considered small, now) .

The Boards have really gotten themselves in a jam and the only way out is to contract out for services.  The fact that only two Fire Agencies submitted proposals to the Spring RFP speaks to seriousness of the problems of the Coastside Districts.

This past year has been all about delay and denial.  Nobody on either side of this issue wants to talk about how bad things have gotten at HMBFPD.  In my personal view, it’s gotten so bad, the Boards are now constrained to have to make the “choice” of a contract with CDF.  If one really understands the issues and responsibilities of boards, there really isn’t a “choice” being made here.  A contract with CDF fixes most of the problem areas.

The Boards were looking at options at many of their meetings this Spring.  The Linestaff,  Teamsters and IAFF Local 2400 were conspicuous in their absence from those meetings.  The time for proposals has come and gone.  I can’t really see Local 2400 coming up with solutions to all these problems from the bottom up.  Fire Districts are traditionally run as hierarchies. The “culture of strife” is well documented.  It’s foolish to think that taking care of one set of stakeholders and giving them what they want will fix all the problems at HMBFPD.

(1/2, Continued in following post)

(2/2 continued form previous post)

Ed Hawkins,

Under the laws of this state we elect the Directors of these Special Districts to make decisions like letting service contracts for us.  State laws vest the decision to contract out for services to the Directors, not the citizens by referendum except in the case of incorporated cities.  There are many legal approaches to deferring referenda.  In the first round, the Boards chose an easy argument, they hadn’t really taken any action.  I can’t see any judge wanting to own the HMBFPD situation, while subsequent petitions are being litigated in their court.  This is a public safety issue. In my opinion, the Board’s should not be given the opportunity to punt the issue to the voters.  The Board’s are ultimately responsible and know the situation best.  I have been following this for a number of years.  It’s been spun every way imaginable by the different factions.  The level of detail required to get at the “truth” involves a lot of personnel information, pending and post litigation matters that cannot be made public.  The only ones that can know the truth, legally are the Boards.  So, even if it were legal to put contracting with CDF to public vote, the election would be little more than an ill informed popularity contest.

Vince Williams

Comment 7
Fri, October 27, 2006 4:24pm
Hal Bogner
All my comments

Mr. Hawkins,

Thank you for your response.  You address several difficult issues, but the main one remains unaddressed.

You offer no solution.

It’s good to analyze the long string of events to try to determine what went wrong, but today, we are faced with the question “What can we do right?”

Interim Chief Bonano wrote very clearly on the intractability and the developing urgency of the situation one and a half years ago, as reported here: Interim Fire Chief condemns deficiencies, recommends contracting out fire service.

I believe you that it may well be difficult to ever again organize a fire department whose personnel do not “belong” to a larger entity.

However, no matter how you or anyone else apportions blame across the present board members, management and firefighting staff, I still don’t hear anything other than “Aw..c’mon…let’s get the local boards to try again” from those firefighters opposing the contracting of services and transferance of their employment to an organization that is proven to be capable of operating properly - and on a budget, as well.

Saying “you’ll hate having good firefighting managed by the county or state, instead of what you have now” doesn’t seem to carry any weight.  You have not indicated a path back to safety other than contracting out for at least a period of time.

Today’s fire boards have been elected to make decisions, and the only voices I see raised in opposition to this plan are those of local firefighters.  The local boards have certainly held numerous open and well-publicized meetings, and have heard much public input.  I hardly believe that waiting will change where we are headed, and I was wondering if you had an alternative to offer.  The closest I think you have said is “Try hiring a Chief who can fix things.”  Or am I missing something?

Comment 8
Fri, October 27, 2006 6:29pm
Ed Hawkins
All my comments

This is a great forum and I really do appreciate the thoughtful exchange. 

I have been in the emergency services business for 27 years and the labor relations business for 25 years.  I have read the grand jury report on the district.  As a fire service professional and labor leader, I do not see anything in that report that cannot be resolved if the parties agree to try. 

The firefighters brought us back in last April so our activity did not begin until then.  As to solutions, we are attempting to discern the nature of the problems the board thinks a sellout to CDF will resolve.  Since the board will no engage us on the issues, we must do that on our own and via outside auditors we hire because the fire board does not want to engage in any attempt to look at other alternatives than the one they have chosen. 

We have worked with councils in other cities to implemented a wide variety of solutions to specific problems.  Yes, we have even agreed to massive contract concessions to help departments through their financial sqeezes.  The firefighters here have tried that but the board refused to meet with them for the past 8 months.

We don’t have the solutions in our pocket but we do have the expertise, experience, and leadership to help if the board lets us.  Unfortunately they are not interested. Rather than accept any of their own responsibilty for problems, the board had defined the employees as the problem and shut them out of this process.  When our auditor finishes his report, we will offer to pay him to discuss his findings, whatever they are, with the fire board ar a public session.  I am confident the board will refuse our offer. 

As to referendums, the attorneys representing both fire boards have agreed that a fire boad decision to contract with CDF is subject to the referendum process.  So that issue is no longer in dispute. 

Keep those comments and questions coming, we are honored to engage interested parties on this issue.
E Hawkins.

Here’s another interesting clash:  The firefighters have taken the position “we don’t want it contracted out but if it’s going to be contracted out, it has to be with the City of San Mateo Fire Department and not with CDF”.  Ed Hawkins then tosses an opinion as if it were fact—that CDF would fight termination of the contract.  It must be noted that SMFD will only do the contract if they get an 8-10 year contract term.  CDF will do it on a one year renewable contract.

So here’s what I want to know:  How could CDF possibly force HMBFPD or CFPD to renew a contract?  Now, I didn’t go to law school, but anyone walking down the street knows that if either party to a contract doesn’t want to do it, a contract can’t exist.  If the local boards don’t want to continue part the expiration date of the contract, the agreement ends.

So I ask Ed Hawkins to explain how CDF could possibly force/coerce/whatever an extension of the contract if the local boards change their minds and decide not to renew?

One more thing.  Let’s not forget the other elephant in the living room mentioned in Bonano’s memo:  it’s not exclusively management which is a problem.  The firefighters aren’t willing to deal with this at all.

Ed Hawkins also says that it’s impossible to start up a new in-house operation after contracting it out.  Could someone please tell that to Point Montara’s Director Gary Riddell?  That’s exactly what he wants to do.

For full disclosure, Ed Hawkins is the a representative of the union local currently representing the HMB firefighters.  His is the union that will loose union dues if we contract with CDF. 

Kathryn

Comment 11
Fri, October 27, 2006 9:34pm
Ed Carter
All my comments

It is good to see the Half Moon Bay Fire Protection District (HMBFPD) board issue a press release explaining their rationale for pursuing a contract for fire services with The California Division of Forestry.  I hope the Point Montara Fire Protection District (PMFPD) board will issue a statement in support of the HMBFPD action.

For those of us who have followed the coastside fire service soap opera over the past decade, contracting out for services is the only viable option.  It is all about money for the firefighters and to a lesser extent local control (read cronyism) of a vital service for our community.  For years a small group of local firefighters has rewarded their friends and punished their opponents in matters involving fire department requirements for building permits and other matters. These are the people leading the opposition to the CDF contract.

CDF provides services under contract to some 160 local fire service entities in California.  They are a professional organization, which will clean up the local mess and provide fire protection without the strife our local boards have had to endure for years.  We will receive better service and the support of a large organization for less money than it is now costing us.

There will be more scare tactics and misinformation spread by firefighters opposed to the CDF contract as time for the final decision by the two boards approaches.  I believe it will get very ugly and hope the citizens of the coastside will take the time to attend the public meetings and study the facts before supporting any referendum against the decision of the local elected fire boards to contract with CDF.

Ed Hawkins wrote:

“I have read the grand jury report on the district.  As a fire service professional and labor leader, I do not see anything in that report that cannot be resolved if the parties agree to try.”

Trying was not the recommendation of the Civil Grand Jury.  It was to consolidate and contract out services.  We have had two professional Interim Fire Chief’s with decades of experience and no dog in the fight come in and say the Department was dysfunctional and recommend contracting out for services.

Ed Hawkins wrote:
“As to solutions, we are attempting to discern the nature of the problems the board thinks a sellout to CDF will resolve. Since the board will no engage us on the issues… We don’t have the solutions in our pocket but we do have the expertise, experience, and leadership to help if the board lets us.  Unfortunately they are not interested. “

So, you don’t know and the people you need to sell your solution to, when you finally get around to having one, won’t meet and confer with you.  Why should the citizens treat this as a credible proposal and not another stalling tactic?

The Boards have listened to your comments in public meetings along with mine, other citizens, Linestaff, former Linestaff, Volunteers and their families.  You represent one set of stake holders.  You have the same access we all do.  Welcome to the two minute speaking limit club.

Kathryn Slater Carter wrote:

“For full disclosure, Ed Hawkins is the a representative of the union local currently representing the HMB firefighters.  His is the union that will loose union dues if we contract with CDF.”

Ed Hawkins should also disclose who his current employer is and what Union and Local represents the CDF Linestaff.

Wow so many issues raised at once.  I hope I can resolve them.  I recognize that a discussion with people whose minds are made up may not have a desired effect but since I am the spokesman for this local union I will try anyway. 

If, after an honest and open debate of the issues, the taxpayers in Half Moon Bay are asked and they indicate via majority rule they want to give up a local department and allow a state takeover we have absolute respect for that.  That is not a decision the Grand Jury should make. 

But for anyone who thinks other ideas should be considered we have stepped up with an offer to look at other solutions.  During the past 24 months we have worked closely with 5 city governments who were haveing financial problems and were interested in alternatives to a state take over.  Our joint efforts with those councils have been very productive.  The solutions took honest self-evaluation, work and cooperation on both sides.  Neither side simply pulled the best idea out of their pocket.  Our disappointment with the Half Moon Bay Board is they do not want to look at other alternatives. It could be they are so overwhelmed with issues they simply want to grab at the easiest way out.  We can end the labor stife and offer financial ideas, yes, including contract concessions. We can help work with other departments for shared management systems that save thousands.  To be fair, I cannot say any of these ideas be a silver bullet that saves HMB.  The answers come from a cooperative look at all ideas.  We really can help, but it is unlikely we will get a meaningful chance. 

No one from this union has said it would be “impossible” to restart a shut down HMBFPD from scratch should a future board be interested in that.  It is, however, very difficult.  That difficulty combined with the intensive political lobbying that CDF does to cajole governing bodies to stay with them makes a change back to a local department in the future very unlikely

I have noticed from recent posts that the discussion has shifted from issues to me.  “Full disclosure” is requested.  I am a fire service professional with 21 years experience.  I am a Captain on an engine company in San Mateo.  I was also a police officer for over 5 years.  I am a volunteer who was elected to the position I hold. I have been doing labor relations work for 25 years.  I am a volunteer who was elected to the position I hold.  I have never hidden these facts so for anyone who believes they are relevant to anything, here you are. 

Our international union that represents 300,000 firefighters, in two countries, including the HMB firefighters is, the same union that will represent the state firefighters.  So the IAFF is here to stay.  Representation is not an issue and never has been. Anyone who thinks our viewpoints are driven by a concern over a few dollars of union dues is not well informed.

Ed Hawkins wrote:

“If, after an honest and open debate of the issues, the taxpayers in Half Moon Bay are asked and they indicate via majority rule they want to give up a local department and allow a state takeover we have absolute respect for that.  That is not a decision the Grand Jury should make.”

How can there be an “honest and open” public debate when most of the issues involve personnel matters, past litigation and potential litigation?  I asked that earlier, you haven’t answered.

At the September 14, 2006 Joint Board meetings in HMBFPD, Mr. Alan Davis gave the case you recently won on appeal in the State Supreme Court as an example of your Local 2400’s intent to litigate, if necessary.  That case was over termination procedures for a Captain in San Carlos accused of exposing himself to a subordinate amounting to sexual harrasment.  The HMBFPD Board had been embroiled in its own employee tiffs turning into lawsuits with amazing speed.  With the transition of the Linestaff from HMBFPD to some other agency the potential for employee grievances and lawsuits is very real. The HMBFPD Board and the citizens know the costs of being played trying to be “fair” and “reasonable.”  Your representative has already made an and open and honest public debate impossible.

You seem to infer that the citizens of El Granada and PMFPD are along for the ride on what the taxpayers in HMB decide. The HMBFPD and PMFPD constituents already elected Board members to represent them.  The majority is speaking thought their elected representatives.  Many in the community have withdrawn in disgust from the soap opera of self interest in HMBFPD and PMFPD.  Now, you ride into town and characterize the Boards deliberations on contracting out for fire services as “give up” and “state takeover” and demand a public debate and the Fire District taxpayers foot the bill for an election.  If you then lose the election, at some future date (May 2007 or later), you will “have absolute respect for that.”

The Civil Grand Jury did not make a decision, they made a recommendation. The recommendation was to outsource by the end of the year. The decision is for the PMFPD and HMBFPD Boards to make.  HMBFPD is being held together by acting Chief’s prioritizing and making hard choices with limited resources.  The longer that goes on the greater the risk to the Linestaff and the community.  The Boards have held public meetings and taken input from the public on the options.  The fact that Local 2400 hasn’t been granted a seat at the table and doesn’t like the way the deliberations are going, doesn’t justify a delay, increased public safety risk and the cost of an election.


(1/3 continues)

(2/3 continued form previous post)

Ed Hawkins wrote:

“But for anyone who thinks other ideas should be considered we have stepped up with an offer to look at other solutions…”

Coming late and requesting to be brought up to speed on your terms and suggesting a process that will most likely take over a year doesn’t sound like competence to me.  It demonstrates a lack of understanding of the seriousness of the current situation in HMBFPD.

Ed Hawkins wrote:
“I have noticed from recent posts that the discussion has shifted from issues to me.  “Full disclosure” is requested.  I am a fire service professional with 21 years experience.  I am a Captain on an engine company in San Mateo…”

You keep repeating the same over the top rhetoric, selectively not responding to issues raised by others and pleading for reasonableness on your terms.  That leaves us with, why should we trust what you or Local 2400 says?

At the August 17, 2006 Joint Board meetings in HMBFPD, speaking as the Local 2400 President, you advised the Boards, that if they chose to outsource, they should choose San Mateo City Fire Department.  It would have been appropriate to disclose your affiliation and rank with San Mateo City Fire Department, at that time.  You didn’t.

At the September 14, 2006 Joint Board meetings in HMBFPD, Mr. Alan Davis characterized CDF as the Walmart of Fire Services.  Did he by inference mean that your fellow members of AFL/CIO IAFF Local 2881 were little more than Walmart employees and their dedication and competence was any less than AFL/CIO IAFF Local 2400’s?  As an aside, I was very impressed with Chief Ferreira’s grace under pressure in responding to this slur.

I suspect you are being somewhat evasive about Local 2400’s intent on the Coastside.  You have lobbied in San Carlos to keep CDF out and restructure the JPA with Local 2400. That will involve a new fire assessment that may or may not get approved.  You advocated in San Bruno for mergers in San Mateo County with your Department. I’m not sure the citizens of the Coastside want the additional burden of Bayside issues and San Mateo City Fire Department’s merger ambitions with all our current problems.

(2/3 continued in next post)

(3/3 continued from previous post)

I have heard from people that were accosted in the post office in Montara by petition gatherers for your referenda. Who wants to say no to someone who may very well be in a position to save their life in the future?  As Ed Carter alluded to, some people associated with the Fire Districts have used their position for questionable purposes.  Who wants to cross them?  To many in the community that are disgusted with the Fire District mess this was an unwelcome intrusion.  The petitions were not targeted at any specific Board action. With Mr. Alan Davis threating litigation, I’d have assumed the referenda would pass legal muster.  Now those petitions having been rejected by the two Boards.  The Boards continue their deliberations and there is no great public controversy about the petitions being deferred on.

After threatening the Board the citizens elected with lawsuits, disparaging other Firefighters, being rather circumspect about your agenda and badgering citizens to sign you stillborn referenda, you turn around and appeal to the citizens that you are reasonable, should be given a seat at the table and all the parties should wait for your wisdom.  I can see good reason for the Boards keeping you in the audience with the rest of the name callers and gadflys like myself.

(3/3 end)

Comment 17
Sun, October 29, 2006 10:29am
Ed Carter
All my comments

The HMBFPD board has over the past several years tried its best to reach out and accommodate the firefighters complaints about department management practices by having a management consultant do an assessment of management practices.  During this period the community has elected new directors to the board.  The board has recently engaged outside consultants to implement the suggested management practices and provide new management leadership. Board sub-committees have met with firefighters to discuss labor issues.  Firefighters have been included in consolidation meetings and management hiring panels, etc, etc.

There is an agenda item at every regular board meeting for labor to address the board.  I have never seen labor take this opportunity, yet there are always the closed sessions where the board has to discuss lawsuits brought by firefighters.

A responsible union would encourage its membership to work with management and the fireboard to solve issues and reserve litigation as a last resort.  This has not happened.

Apparently the HMBFPD board and the Point Montara board have finally been convinced by the series of lawsuits brought by firefighters and by labor’s failure to participate in finding solutions that it is time to seek new management through a contract with CDF.  Considering that the fourth fire Chief in the past 11 months now leads the organization and that firefighters continue to pursue lawsuits against the district, it should be no surprise to anyone that the boards are considering this course of action.  In fact this is the only responsible action the boards can take.

The firefighters have not taken advantage of the many previous opportunities they had to work with management and the HMBFPD board to resolve lobor issues.  This opportunity has been lost and the blame rests squarely with the firefighters who chose to litigate rather than to work to resolve issues. This situation has gone on for years and it is too late to now seriously consider any attempts by the firefighters to negotiate.  With the CDF contract we will still have a local fire department including local volunteer firefighters, community ownership of the firehouse and equipment and a local board(s) in control.

The firefighters will get the professional management they have been complaining for years we didn’t have at our coastside fire departments.  This is a win-win deal.

Comment 18
Sun, October 29, 2006 10:31am
Ed Hawkins
All my comments

Here is a undisputed fact:  we were not involved in Half Moon Bay until April 2006.  We “rode into town” because the firefighters asked us to.  The Teamsters did not have the expertise in fire department matters to continue their representation during these difficult times.  We have enjoyed very successful relationships with all of our cities so the Half Moon Bay Firefighters asked us to represent them here.  I repeat, we have not sued any agency for 15 years.  Past litigation involving Half Moon Bay that occurred prior to April 2006 is not something we can comment on because we had absolutely nothing do to with it, we were not here.  For comments on that, we suggest you ask Director Lees why he sued his own employer.  As I understand it there are currently NO legal issues pending against the fire district.  So the bogeyman of litigation has long gone.  Shutting down a 117 year old fire department because of a loss in court is silly. 

I speak as the elected president of my local and the what department I work for is absolutely irrelevant.  My suggestion that San Mateo is a better department to do business with was not my own suggestion.  LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) recommended San Mateo County Fire Departments merger with each other 30 years ago.  Several studies done since then, including a study done last year by the city managers, recommend the same thing.  As a fire service professional with almost 30 years experience in emergency service in this county I say that local mergers make sense, handing off to the state does not.  Disagree with that if you will but our viewpoints are based on years of professional experience.  Anyone takes a position that our viewpoints are incorrect because of where I work is using the dodging the real issues.  The ad hominem arguments I have read from Mr. Williams are, by definition, invalid.

I am proud of my profession and I am proud to speak for the great firefighters in Half Moon Bay.  We know that brining in the state is a bad idea for many reasons.  We continue to stand ready, willing, and able to work hard with the fire board to find other solutions.  We accept the possibility that other solutions may not work but we believe it is irresponsible for the board to simply give up.  They owe more than that to the taxpayers of the district. 

We are pleased to answer questions about ideas and solutions.  I hope we can continue to look at ideas like management mergers, department reorganization, department mergers with another department, labor contract concessions, modifications to the CALPERS contract, operational changes, fee structure changes, and many other ways that a fire department can resolve financial issues they perceive.  Out of respect for the posters here and to continue a productive debate I have provided the “full disclosure” demanded.  I will not longer respond to accusations about my motives. 

As to Mr. Davis’s comments, I suggest you talk to him about that.

Ed Hawkins wrote:

” I repeat, we have not sued any agency for 15 years.”

Please be more specific about who “we” is?  You, you and IAFF local 2400 staff, you and IAFF local staff and any attorneys you may have retained, AFL/CIO members staff or attorneys under retainer. 

Here is a link to a news article with your name and quotes attributed to you, that could use some explanation:

http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20060629/ai_n16519674

As I understand it the Teamsters were never named parties to any of the filed litigation in HMBFPD, either.  It still cost the taxpayers.

Ed Hawkins wrote:
“As I understand it there are currently NO legal issues pending against the fire district. So the bogeyman of litigation has long gone.”

You did not take issue with what I claimed Mr. Alan Davis said at the September 14,2006 joint PMFPD and HMBFPD meeting.  Mr. Davis’s statement was a treat of litigation.  If a suit had been filed it would be “pending” litigation.  I said “potential” litigation.  A board has a fiduciary obligation to protect its district from potential litigation.  You are being disingenuous in this discussion.

Ed Hawkins wrote:
“I speak as the elected president of my local and the what department I work for is absolutely irrelevant.”

It is relevant.  When you are speaking in a public meeting and you identify yourself as a representative of Local 2400, fail to mention you rank and affiliation with San Mateo City Fire Department and recommend your employer for contact, that is a potential misrepresentation by omission and a potential conflict of interest.  You left the impression you worked somewhere in San Mateo County and there are potentially more opportunities for promotion for you, if San Mateo combines or merges or takes on service contracts with other districts.

Ed Hawkins wrote:
“As to Mr. Davis’s comments, I suggest you talk to him about that.”

What is Mr. Alan Davis’s relationship with you, Local 2400, IAFF and the AFL/CIO?

Comment 20
Sun, October 29, 2006 12:50pm
Ed Hawkins
All my comments

I suggest the department I work for is only relevant to one person whose mind is already made up and who is grasping at anything he can find to avoid an open debate of the real issues. My career ends with retirement on April 25, 2007 so the idea there are big time promotions or sweetheart deals ahead for me is just plain silly.  Should I have disclosed my retirement plans as well?  How about the name of my cat? 

But for those who like to dig out scandalous promotions consider this.  Acting Half Moon Bay Cole now makes more than the chief of San Francisco.  If the state takes over Half Moon Bay, they will “red circle” Chief Cole at his current salary and he will then make more than all of his bosses.  Where is the indignation about that little sweetheart deal.

In the case referenced by the link, we were a defendant agaisnt an action INITIATED and doggedly pursued, in spite of our non-stop plea to settle it, by South County fire.  Try to get the facts right.  Would anyone deny us the right to defend ourselves against litigation?  I hope not. But, show show you dedicated we are to cooperation the absolute undisputable fact is that during the heat of that issue we remained focused on the cooperative effort that fire board and us were working on.  I am very proud of our work in South County and proud of the efforts both city councils have been making. 

Does anyone have anything to add or ask that is actually on the topic of the fire board press release or Half Moon Bay Fire?  If not, I am through with Mr. Williams.

Comment 21
Sun, October 29, 2006 2:01pm
Ed Carter
All my comments

The press release does mention firefighter salaries.  Since you raise the issue of Chief Coles’ salary Mr. Hawkins, would you care to post the 2005 earnings of all HMBFPD employees by name here for all to see?  How much does the San Francisco Fire Chief make?  How much do you make?

You call the promotion of Paul Cole to acting Fire Chief scandalous.  Does that mean you are calling for his replacement? Do we need a fifth fire chief within the past year? 

How can you pretend to be able to negotiate with our fireboard when you obviously have no respect for their decisions?  Governance by referendum is what you are promoting, not negotiation with the elected HMBFPD board.

Mr. Hawkins and all who have written here:

Thanks for the information and opinions you have all been presenting here.  While there is plenty of potential for this discussion to become heated, it is at this point the most civil and the most comprehensively on-topic discussion of a serious civic matter I have seen in these forums.

I’d like to summarize what I have heard on the main topic, and to make a few suggestions and offer a conclusion, too.

Mr. Hawkins: you have stated quite clearly when your union arrived on the scene.  Messrs. Williams and Carter have summarized the main issues and timeline, and it is clear that you are “late to the party” and I do not see how you will influence the immdiate decision to contract with CDF - a decision which Mr. Woren describes as imminent, and which is proposed as a series of one-year contracts - and which is not permanent and irrevocable in the long term.

You do, however, make a good case for continuing to maintain a dialog on “where do we go from here” after the presumably “done deal” of a contract with CDF is executed.  And your “outing” of further issues that ought to be surfaced and addressed is a valuable service - indeed, anyone who has information about undesirable or unintended outcomes - such as a manager who earns more than the SF Fire Chief - would serve the public interest well by bringing it forward (though it should be done in a proper way, of course).

If you are correct that San Mateo County may well be heading toward a consolidation of fire districts (as you decribe is recommended by LAFCO), and if Mr. Carter is correct about how things would be owned and run under the presumably forthcoming contract, then it seems to me that the Coastside will have an opportunity to join in such a consolidation in the future, as an alternative to renewing with CDF, or to engineering a return to completely independent management and operations.

I ask all parties to continue this discussion as the model of decorum and effective discourse that it has been so far, and to address both the correctness of what I have written and the wisdom of the course which I have described based upon it.

Thanks to all.

(In two parts due to length)

The inflammatory terminology that Ed Hawkins persists in using is really irritating, in addition to being just plain wrong (all italicized text is quotations from Mr. Hawkins):
- “surrender the fire department to state control”
- “give up their responsiblity [sic] for running a fire department and hand over that responsibilty [sic] to the State of California”
- “The fire board is hell-bent to sell out the fire department and stick it to their employees.”
- “a sellout to CDF”
- “Shutting down a 117 year old fire department”

What’s clear is that Ed Hawkins is running a campaign based on emotion instead of facts/logic.  He hopes to appeal to the emotions of the voters, when he knows that he doesn’t have facts on his side.

“It is our belief, and the belief of some of the board members, that there should be broad based public involvement in a decision of that magnitude.  If the taxpayers vote for a state fire department then the deal will be final.”

All local agencies on the Coastside contract for outside legal counsel.  Is that a “selling out” or a “shutting down” of the agency?  No, it’s simply the most cost-effective method of getting good service.  Contracting with CDF is <u>no different</u>.  GSD, HMB, and MWSD save money by contracting with SAM for services.  (More on this below, in part 2.)

Few voters are interested in following the machinations of special districts.  That’s why we elect governing boards.  In a well-planned smear campaign, the whole HMBFPD board was replaced in the elections of 2003 and 2005, and yet the union still isn’t happy.

Putting the question to the voters might be reasonable if the voters could make the decision based on complete information.  But this is a complex situation and few voters can spend the time to get complete information on this, which gives the advantage to an appeal to emotion.  Other than firefighters and their families and close friends, how many citizens have spoken at meetings or otherwise made their feelings known?  I believe most of the ones who aren’t family and friends have supported contracting out to CDF.  A reasonable theory is that the voters elected a new fire board to clean up the mess, and they want that board to do so, not come back and ask the voters what to do.

(continued)

(part 2 of 2) (As in part 1, italics are quotations from Ed Hawkins.)

“The Half Moon Bay Fire Board is practicing back room politics at its worst.”
What exactly was done in the “back room”?

“LAFCO (Local Agency Formation Commission) recommended San Mateo County Fire Departments merger [sic] with each other 30 years ago.”
Why is that relevant?  Q: What did they recommend this year?  A: contracting out to CDF.

Ed Hawkins also says that doing this “is an extraodinary [sic] event”.  It can’t be that “extraordinary” because CDF has hundreds of contracts just like this one.

“We know that brining [sic] in the state is a bad idea for many reasons.
Enumerate those reasons, please.

“It is irresponsible of the fire board to make such a significant and far reaching decision without allowing the taxpayers of the district to say what they want for their money.
Again, we elect governing boards to make these decisions.  If we don’t like their decisions, we elect different people to the board.

A quarter of a century ago, the City of Half Moon Bay, the Granada Sanitary District, and the Montara Sanitary District (now the Montara Water and Sanitary District) turned over sewer plant operations and collection system maintenance operations to the Sewer Authority Mid-Coastside (SAM) Joint Powers Authority (JPA).  HMB, GSD, and MWSD are still alive and well, and in complete control of the functions which are performed for them by SAM under contract.  This was not a “shutting down” of the agencies.  It did not give up local control.  And by the way, it wasn’t put to a vote of the ratepayers, and I’m not aware that there was any uproar over the decision.

BTW, who cares that the union hasn’t “sued any agency for 15 years.”?  It’s firefighter lawsuits which are the problem.

Mr. Hawkins seems to have forgotten to respond to a couple of important issues I raised in a previous post, so I’ll ask again:
1. If contracting out to CDF is “selling out” or “shutting down the department” and is so bad, why is it ok to contract out with SMFD?  How is that different?
2. What about the line-staff problems described in Bonano’s memo?

I’m a little offended with Mr. Hawkins comparing Chief Cole’s salary to San Francisco’s Chief Hayes-White. Why not compare his own salary to the San Francisco Chief?

The San Francisco Fire Chiefs’ base salary is $8990.00 per month. As a comparison, in this county the City of San Mateo Fire Chiefs’ base salary is $12,967.00 per month.

Oh, and just for the record, a San Mateo Captain’s base salary is $8049.00 per month.

Jeanne- This does not hide the fact that we have the highest paid chief in the county and the lowest paid firefighters. Also the HMBFPD just gave their chief a brand new car to take home. Home is only probably 100 miles round trip. (Gas card?)

Leonard-Bonano was at HMBFPD for 3 months. During that 3 months the fire department was missing 1/3 of its work force. He came in a a tough time and was unable or unwillng to work to fix the problems. These problems are nothing that cant be fixed by a strong chief.

Comment 27
Mon, October 30, 2006 8:26am
Ed Carter
All my comments

Thank you for the facts on salaries Jeanne.  I posted the following comment on Coastsider last July 21st in response to Barry Parr’s Editorial calling for a clean-up of the fire department mess:

“This past year $6.886 million dollars or 87% of all (HMBFPD) expenditures were spent for salaries and benefits.  This was $207,627 over budget.  If we take out $1,000,000 for Chief officer and administrative salaries and benefits and use the number of firefighter positions authorized in the department, the average firefighter received $173,117 in salary and benefits last fiscal year.  I think we are supporting our firefighters very well.”

The fireboard press release supports my analysis of the budget.  I used authorized firefighter positions in my analysis.  Depending on how many positions were open in 2005 the actual compensation received by firefighters may have been higher.  Firefighter compensation should not be an issue given the above numbers.  It is pretty amzing that anyone supporting the firefighter’s position would even bring it up.

The big problem so clearly illustrated by Mr Heckman’s comments is that those opposed to the CDF contract are never satisfied with whichever Fire Chief the HMBFPD board hires, there have been 3 of them since Chief Asche retired last December.  We need a new way of looking at how to solve the labor problems at HMBFPD, not just another chief for the firefighters to complain about.  The CDF contract provides this solution while preserving local control of the District by its elected board of directors.

Dave, I’m sure you know this, but ALL of the Fire Chief’s in the County have nice a car to take home, some new and some not-so-new. In fact, most of the Deputy Chiefs and Fire Marshals do too and yes, they come with gas.

But these trivial issues and arguments put forth to the public, brought up by the firefighters and union don’t carry much weight; they’re smoke-screens hiding the real concerns the line staff has with CDF over taking over the Department.

What I see very clearly is an angry line-staff with regards to salaries being redlined, working conditions changing and strong management taking over in a Para-military type organization. It’s obvious that it’s going to be very difficult for this organization to start following the “chain-of-command.”

Ed Hawkins wrote:

“I suggest the department I work for is only relevant to one person whose mind is already made up and who is grasping at anything he can find to avoid an open debate of the real issues…”

You have made your judgment and transparency an issue by claiming numerous times on this forum that you are qualified to solve the problems in HMBFPD like you have in the other San Mateo Fire Districts. Based on your statements, the HMBFPD Board hasn’t indicated any interest in meeting and conferring with you.  Now, you have brought your appeals to this forum.  There are expectations that public representatives should avoid even the hint of a conflict. For you to make the determination that there is not a potential conflict, when you identified yourself only as the Local 2400 Representative to the PMFPD and HMBFPD joint meeting was poor judgment.  It took three posts on this forum to get your employer and the details about the consequences of a contract with San Mateo.  A lot has been known to happen in Fire Districts, before retirement to lock in higher retirement benefits based on final salary.  Even after your last post, there is still the appearance of a potential personal gain. The issue is not whether you actually stood to benefit from a contract with San Mateo, but your judgment and transparency.  I am not really interested in your relationship with your cat.

Ed Hawkins wrote:

“In the case referenced by the link, we were a defendant against an action INITIATED and doggedly pursued, in spite of our non-stop plea to settle it, by South County fire.  Try to get the facts right.”

I guess we are splitting legal hairs here.  OK, your Local 2400 was a party to litigation.  Who ran into the courthouse with the first petition a few year ago is not all that relevant.  Your record as far as “initiating” litigation in court is the same as the Teamsters in HMBFPD.

Ed Hawkins wrote:
“But for those who like to dig out scandalous promotions consider this.  Acting Half Moon Bay Cole now makes more than the chief of San Francisco.  If the state takes over Half Moon Bay, they will “red circle” Chief Cole at his current salary and he will then make more than all of his bosses”

Dave Heckman wrote:
“This does not hide the fact that we have the highest paid chief in the county and the lowest paid firefighters. Also the HMBFPD just gave their chief a brand new car to take home. Home is only probably 100 miles round trip. (Gas card?)”

Well the red herring that the press release predicted has been thrown out. You claim you have a good working relationship with all the Bayside Districts and have worked successfully with them.  You propose to offer that same relationship to HMBFPD and want to rebuild the Department with a new Chief.  Nitpicking Chiefs has been a staple of the strife in HMBFPD over the years.  I suspect this red herring is just an appetizer of the strife that would ensue, if the Boards agree to work with Local 2400 to rebuild HMBFPD.  How does bringing this up make recruiting the Chief you say you want any easier?  What professional Fire Chief would want to relocate to HMBFPD and take on this terminal strife?  Two professional interim Chiefs have already tried.  You are so desperate to fight your way to the negotiating table, you would work against your own stated interests by bringing this up.

Chief Cole has stepped into the breach a second time this year to try to hold operations together, until a solution to the problems can be put in place.  The risk to his professional career is incredible, if anyone on the staff gets distracted by this strife and there is an operational failure, it happened on his watch.  If he manages to hold operations together he will have accomplished a great feat in his career.  I ran into President Donovan at Safeway and had a chat with him.  President Donovan told me Chief Cole has been working 120 hours per week. 

The “red circle” salary values that go into effect on the proposed transition date of January 1, 2007 are negotiated on an individual basis between HMBFPD and CDF.  I haven’t heard that Chief Cole’s “red circle” or any of the other staff has been done yet.


HMBFPD Firefighters are not the lowest paid Firefighters in the county.

Hal Bolger wrote:

“If you are correct that San Mateo County may well be heading toward a consolidation…”

A thirty year old LAFCo report is probably obsolete.  A lot has changed both in the Districts and the way fire and emergency services are delivered.  LAFCo did a Municipal Service Review for the Coastside last year which is available online.

What I have heard in summary is that SM County is headed toward a County wide Fire Department.  The hegemony of Local 2400 in the Bayside Districts and cities in San Mateo County keeps Linestaff costs up. The folks at the top need to be taken care of also. So as wages and benefits ratchet up, ways to save costs and share resources become more attractive.  With the Bayside Districts density climbing and them butted up against each other, the boundry drops and County wide dispatch and communications were non-controversial resource sharing changes.  Then there are regional resource sharing JPA’s like North County Fire Authority (NCFA) and mergers like Hillsborough and Burlingame.  But, its not without some pain and adjustment. There are JPA’s like South County Fire Authority that ran into cost allocation problems.  There is also the issue of all the Chiefs and Admin. and how they all merge into one organization.  These are not small issues, it takes time to resolve them.  Who pays for what and peoples employment can be very contentious.  It may take 10 years to get to a County Wide Department.

Then look at the western territories and small single engine Distircts in the County. That would include HMBFPD and PMFPD, Skylonda, San Mateo Hills and The County providing service to the unincorporated areas without special districts.  They have different sets of issues and revenue structures than the Bayside Districts and Cities.  In my opinion, CDF is a good fit for them.  The Western Boards and the County Board of Supervisors with CDF would be able to challenge any Bayside JPA or Department that wants to merge with them with, beat CDF’s price and the level of service.  I suspect that is what Ed Hawkins is really concerned about.  If the Coastside goes CDF, the Bayside won’t be able to compete on a cost basis.  Each year, year after year, CDF will most likely prove to be the better deal.  Under CDF with CDF’s resource we will only pay for what we use.  To restart Coastside on its own will have pretty steep startup costs recruiting and hiring staff to do functions that may not wind up being fulltime jobs or finding the staff with the right mix of skills.  With just three engines, the scale is not there to be cost effective, anymore.  But, each year CDF has to perform for us or we can pay more to get service from the Bayside that meets our requirements. Having two sets of suppliers and a knowledgable Board on the Coastside offers a great deal of local control.  When it’s time to negotiate with the County wide department our Boards will have the option of staying with CDF.

Jeanne- The union very much wants strong management. Every union in the world would be upset facing working longer hours without compensation.
My point about the car is that it is a new expense for the district that is claiming a financial crisis. This along with giving the chief a raise is hypotcritical.
Start following the chain of command? Please elaborate

OK, good questions have come up so we can move on.  Thanks to those of you who came in with them.

Let’s see, the earnings of Half Moon Bay Firefighters.  Base pay or actual earnings?  A fire captain makes about $32 per hour.  His normal work week is 56 hours.  Is that a lot for a highly trained supervisor with so much responsibility?  We think so but opinions vary.  Why the discrepency between that and these massive amounts being attributed to them?  The answer is two reasons that are beyond the control of the firefighters.  The first are benefits.  The fire board contracts with CALPERS for the pensions.  Those costs vary but can also be affected by the type of contracts the board chose and the length of those contracts.  Cost vary widely.  From about 1993-2001 most agencies paid nothing to CALPERS while the employees paid 9% of their pay.  The economy has changed and CALPERS costs to the district have gone higher.  The higher cost is partly because the firefighters and the board agreed to a new benefit where the firefighters can retire at 55.  But, the biggest reason for higher CAPERS costs are due to the economic changes.  I don’t say this, CALPERS themselves do.

The second variable on salaries the firefighters do not control is overtime.  A firefighter job is one where if an employee is missing they must be replaced so there are people to respond to emergencies.  Half Moon Bay appears to have a history of an employee retention problem.  The vacancies lead to overtime because the district does not staff additional personnel to cover vacations and sick leave.  It has been fairly bad there and many employees end up working 96 to 120 hours per week.  If the numbers come out over $100,000 annually I would not be surprised.  Anyone working that much overtime would have numbers like that.  The IAFF position on overtime is that it should be avoided, proper staffing is better.  Most agencies, including Half Moon Bay, do not share that viewpoint so there is a lot of overtime that the firefighters do not control. 

Oh, while we are on the salary questions, if that same captain becomes a CDF employee his salary will drop to $24 per hour.  Here is the math on that.  Johnny works 56 hours for a base weekly pay.  Then the CDF comes and makes Johnny work 72 hours but gives him the same weekly pay.  Is that a pay cut? We think so but opinions vary. 

Some may call questioning the acting fire chief salary a red herring. If a part time chief making $235,000 per year is OK, I guess we simply have a different opinion about that.  It just seems strange for a fire board who thinks they have a financial crisis to keep firefighter pay frozen for two year while handing out those kinds of paychecks to part time workers and buying new cars.

Thanks to Mr. Carter for bringing up this topic.

Can a three station department run itself and be cost effective?  Yes.  Can Pacifica do it with two? Yes.  How about Brisbane? Yep.  Hillsborough with two stations?  Doing great. What about Burlingame with three stations?  Doing fantastic. How is Millbrae doing with two stations? Fine.  How about that Woodside district with three stations?  Doing great. Well they must have sold out to the state to be doing so well huh?  No. Then they must have cut their employees pay by 1/3 just like a state takeover would huh?  Nope.  Then they must have poor pay and benefits?  Nope. Then they must cut corners on infastructure and equipment to run a two or three station department?  No. They must have really high taxes huh?  Nope.

Then how did they do it? Magic?  Nope.  First they decided they wanted to keep a local department.  Then they looked at where they are and found creative ways to control costs or increase revenue. That sounds like a lot of talk what did they really do?

OK here are some of the ideas that really worked that no one on the coast fire boards seems to want to consider.

Woodside, shares EMS chiefs with Redwood and Menlo Park.
Redwood City shares a training chief with Belmont-San Carlos and Woodside.
Belmont and San Carlos merged.
South County makes money with a HAZMAT team.
Millbrae, shares BC services with San Bruno.
Burlingame fixes fire engines for their neighbors.
Brisbane and Pacifica share mangagment services with Daly City.
Hillsborough merged with Burlingame.

Folks, there are hundreds of solutions out there, we don’t have to revinvent a wheel. We just have to want to fix the finances.

The main point that should matter is delivery of quality fire and life safety service to the communities based on those communities being the revenue source for that service. In Mr Hawkin’s 8 posts he has been all over the board with both questions and replies. And what is not addressed is the simple fact that the community will get and maintain control of excellent fire and life safety service from CDF exactly as it is now receiving.

Mr Hawkins said he would present better workable alternatives, yet non have been presented because he now claims he can’t get public records. Strange, everyone else in the public is able to review public records. Rhetoric doesn’t carry any value. Solid data that can be used for comparisons does. Until there is a valid comparison, Mr Hawkins is just guilty of his own accusation “having already made up his mind for a solution without facts”

Mr. Hawkins: If you are so confident of your solutions, please put together a budget for operation of the Coastside fire districts.  For each shared service, which is where you seem to think all the savings will come from, show your estimate of those costs and some suggestions regarding who would provide each service.  I’m sure that you can arrange with the editor of Coastsider.com to put it up as a file, since it may not be practical to include it in a text post.

Or, to make it easier on you and us, go through the current year HMBFPD budget and show just the lines where money can be saved, and clearly explain the method of savings and amount of savings for each such line item.

By the way, I’m still waiting for you to answer these questions:

1. If contracting out to CDF is “selling out” or “shutting down the department” and is so bad, why is it ok to contract out with SMFD?  How is that different?
2. What about the line-staff problems described in Bonano’s memo?

Ed Hawkins wrote:
“Can a three station department run itself and be cost effective? ...”

I asked Robert Olsen of Robert Olsen and Associates at an MCC meeting what an optimal size was.  He said five engine stations.

Comparing incorporated cities to special districts is comparing apples to oranges. Incorporated cities have more flexibility in how they allocate resources.  Unincorporated special districts have a tax resource disadvantage since Proposition 13.  I doubt any of the cities mentioned pay $800 per household on average for fire and emergency services?  That is what the residents of PMFPD are paying, right now.

Despite Ed Hawkins claims, all the Departments he mentioned are struggling to meet the Linestaff costs that are 70 to 80% of their budgets.  Mr. Hawkins “ideas that really work” are really fiscal bandaids.  A fiscal baindaid can’t turn a special district’s revenue stream into a city’s.  He fails to mention the new parcel taxes and fire assessments on the Bayside.  Here is one of the examples of Local 2400’s success stories mentioned earlier in Belmont and San Carlos, but curiously absent from his latest post:

http://www.ci.san-carlos.ca.us/gov/depts/fire/fire_service_options_for_san_carlos/resolutions_for_proposed_fire_assessment_election_(july_24_2006).asp

How do the citizens feel about it:

http://www.sanmateodailynews.com/article/2006-9-27-sc-fire-assesment


PMFPD approached Chief Myers of NCFA for a service contract in 2004.  He looked at the numbers and said it wouldn’t work. NCFA no bid on the joint RFP from PMFPD and HMBFPD.  San Mateo was the only one that bid and their costs were higher than HMBFPD current costs.  PMFPD would have had to add another $200 or so parcel tax to afford San Mateo’s service.  Look at any of the cities budgets you mentioned and tell me they spend less that $1.8M per station.  That’s what PMFPD can afford, right now and as a service zone in Coastside Fire.

Local 2400 has been in place since April in HMBFPD.  There have quite a few meeting to discuss options that Local 2400 and the Linestaff no showed.  Local 2400 hasn’t offered a solution.  When the options for the Coastside narrowed down to two, Local 2400 woke up in a frenzy of self interest and postured about meeting and conferring, threatened litigation, then circulated referenda.  Now, Ed Hawkins appears on this forum with all kinds of disingenuous statements and demands to be given the chance to come up with some creative solution that may or may not work at some future date.

I have found Fire District to be fairly complex.  The devil is in the details.  It’s easy to take one statistic or find one example somewhere and make all kinds of wild claims.  Running this forum thread into the ground policing Ed Hawkins disengenous statements is really a waste of everybodies time.  Have a look back, see who is more credible.  I think the major points have been made already.

Since the fire board has opened meetings with us to discuss all these issues (we hope) it would not be proper for us to post anything else on this topic while the discussions go on. So I will leave you it at that and post a quote I read on this forum last August.

“Clarity, objectivity, and consistency are not strong suits in midcoast politics—and the citizens of the several communities (disenfranchised citizens in the case of Montara and Moss Beach, who are seeing a unit of local government dissolved without having a chance to vote on it) are the losers in the games played.”

Carl May

Well said Mr. May. 


Thanks to all who showed an interest in this topic.

Ed Hawkins,
Volunteer and elected president
IAFF Local 2400

Comment 39
Wed, November 1, 2006 6:58pm
Carl May
All my comments

Gee, if it takes five engine stations for fire protection and emergency services, I guess all the little one-horse towns and rural areas beyond throughout the West should just throw in the towel and let their communities burn. (And, no, not all of these turn operations over to CDF in California.)

Carl May