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


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.