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Crowd hears civil debate over fire services

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Posted: Friday, March 15, 2013 3:10 pm | Updated: 5:01 pm, Fri Mar 15, 2013.

The Ted Adcock Community / Senior Center was nearly filled Thursday night for the first of two gatherings called to inform the electorate about the April 9 recall election involving three Coastside Fire Protection District directors and their four challengers.

Candidates and the 80 or so people in attendance were mostly civil and reiterated their long held positions on the Cal Fire vs. stand-alone department debate.

“It’s better to have an informed public voting on issues than the other way around,” said Half Moon Bay Coastside Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau CEO Charise McHugh. The chamber sponsored the forum, and members of the League of Women Voters moderated.

Incumbents Mike Alifano, Doug Mackintosh and Gary Riddell are up for recall. Karen K. Anderson, J.B. Cockrell, Harvey Rarback and Lee McKusick hope to replace one or all of them. Rarback, who was out of town, was not in attendance Thursday.

Moderator Jacqueline Jacobberger read many questions for the candidates, but the big question boiled down to whether candidates thought that the district should pursue a contract with state agency Cal Fire, which has served the Coastside the last several years, or establish a new independent department.

Jacobberger invited candidates to share opening statements before taking turns to answer questions within a minute or less. Audience members wrote their questions on slips of paper, which Jacobberger read aloud. Each was invited to conclude with a two-minute closing statement.

As Cal Fire’s current contract is set to expire June 30, pressure is building to plan the district’s protective services.

The board majority argued that Cal Fire had failed to live up to all of the terms of its contract.

“Unfortunately, it’s a ‘take it or leave it’ contract,” said Macintosh, adding that the relationship between the district and the state agency left the district with little power to enforce the contract.

They also said that their goal is to have a more local staff. Currently, Cal Fire employees regularly transfer to different locations.

“The turnover is tremendous,” said Alifano. The three men said that this makes it difficult for firefighters to achieve target levels for training.

“It does matter who these people are and how long they’ve been here,” said Riddell.

Their opponents look back to a former independent department that served the Coastside prior to Cal Fire. It was riddled with lawsuits and complaints about lack of professionalism. For the most part, Coastsiders have been satisfied with fire services since Cal Fire’s arrival, they said.

“Cal Fire is not the only option. It is the only sane option,” said Anderson, adding that the money to be spent on starting a new department could be better used for station and equipment upgrades.

McKusick said that the current board was focusing on the wrong issues. Rather than focusing on solutions that respond to incidents after they happen, the board needs to anticipate disasters before they happen and take more preventative measures – and to do so in a fiscally responsible way, he said.

“(What I want) is superior service at a responsible, not cheap, cost,” said Cockrell. According to Cockrell, Cal Fire has that.

A majority vote for each of the board members is required in order to recall him. Voters than indicate whether a listed candidate should replace them. If not, there is a space to write in a candidate.

To learn more about the election and the candidates, visit or

Welcome to the discussion.


  • John Charles Ullom posted at 3:37 pm on Thu, Mar 21, 2013.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1034

    Wait a minute. Max De Vos received help from local 2400 and yet he claims we are owned by Cal Fire? Riddell did too?

    Efusia told me that I and anybody who is against Alifano has been paid for by a Union. Yet he took money form an over the hill organization that has no business in our affairs?

    Is their no end to their hypocrisy? Do any of them have any shame?

  • Kathryn Slater-Carter posted at 10:52 pm on Tue, Mar 19, 2013.

    Kathryn Slater-Carter Posts: 16

    Does 'local control' mean "for sale"? In 2009 Local 2400 gave Devos, Riddell and Eufusia $14,192.69 in 'printing and mailing of flyers, mailers and signs". This year they gave $15,000 in cash. And their friends, other out of area firefighter unions, have given $11,000.

    What is missing from the current FPPC filing is the current cost of the printing and mailing of flyers, mailers and signs. As prices have gone up, especially postage, let's just for simplicity use $16,000.

    A whopping huge total of $56,192.69 that Riddell has been beneficiary of. Alifano and Mackintosh have been beneficiary of $42,000. That sure is a lot of dimes or dime equivalents.

  • John Charles Ullom posted at 4:32 pm on Mon, Mar 18, 2013.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1034

    The reason that they voted 6-0 to stay with CapPers after twice voting 7-0 to dump it is that those who want to dump Cal Fire found out that doing so would prevent them form being able to satisfy Local 2400's demands in their new Stand Alone Department.

    If they had dropped out of CalPers, they would not have been able to get back in for three years. No CalPers, no Local 2400 Firefighters. Here is proof. Listen and watch Mike Alifano confirm all of this: --

    Somebody got a call and realized the implications of what paying off CalPers meant to their plans. They got this call when Gary Burke, the primary proponent of paying off the CalPers debt was out of town. An emergency meeting was called, one that is not documented anywhere, and everybody switched their votes. Here is more confirmation of what I am saying from Gary Riddell: --

    There should be a video tape of every meeting. There isn't one of this one. Here is proof of what I am saying: --

    Here is proof that the meeting was called so fast that no video was made of it: --

    And now you know the rest of the story.

  • Zack B posted at 6:22 am on Mon, Mar 18, 2013.

    Zack B Posts: 153

    This election is about the pension and benefit fund and control over it.

    From the September 2011 issue of the Review:

    The Coastside Fire Protection District is sticking with its state pension contract, despite recent efforts to cancel the agreement. The district board reversed direction after CalPERS announced earlier this month that it's increasing the cost of terminating pension plans.

    The new cancellation charge would have tacked an additional $6 million on the district's expected $13 million pension liability.

    The local board does not care about the pension unfunded liability. They are interested in having control over the pension and benefit programs. This will allow granting all manner of cushy benefits for current retirees as well as those nearing retirement. The cost will be changed to the unfunded liability just as one might run up a balance on a credit card. And the residents of the fire district will bear the cost.

  • pae posted at 3:56 pm on Sun, Mar 17, 2013.

    pae Posts: 139

    hmblocal knows this election has nothing to do with growth, neither pro nor con. He's just trying to throw up a smokescreen to hide the real issues and smear someone for his personal reasons. Neither are fitting nor appropriate.

    Info on the real issues can be found in the comments below and at these links:

  • Tyler Durden posted at 10:07 am on Sun, Mar 17, 2013.

    Tyler Durden Posts: 410

    Alifano & Co. Plan = City of Vallejo path to bankruptcy due to greedy local fire union.

  • Kathryn Slater-Carter posted at 9:37 am on Sun, Mar 17, 2013.

    Kathryn Slater-Carter Posts: 16

    hmblocal, why not post under your own name?
    Can you document what you allege about the Recall Alifano, Mackintosh, and Riddell committee? Show me the reports.
    I can document that Alifano, Mackintosh and Riddell have receive $26,000 from Local 2400 and their associated local unions. And that does not count the very expensive signs, not yet reported on the FPPC forms. What else is not reported?

  • John Charles Ullom posted at 1:00 am on Sun, Mar 17, 2013.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1034

    hmblocal mentions a 7-0 vote. Think about that to start with.

    Then consider the loco assertion that TriData wasn't paid. That is just not true.

    Finally, hmblocal resorts to calling successful and educated folks crazy. This is what such as Macintosh or Alifano call a fact based argument.

  • pae posted at 11:57 pm on Sat, Mar 16, 2013.

    pae Posts: 139

    The recallees still have not produced a budget document that includes all the costs of this venture, nor have they produced the required actuarial analysis showing district taxpayers what their long term costs will be above and beyond current costs. They don't want us to know, especially before the election. We do have some math skills, however, and we know that it will be millions more than we currently pay. They are saying that there will be "zero additional costs." All three are on record publicly saying that.

    There are some partial budget documents, but none are finalized and approved, and all are missing key items. Those documents are "bare bones" estimates, with 5 fewer personnel working one third fewer days at much higher salaries. Missing are items for overtime, personnel administration, a fire inspector, a training officer, three firefighters staffing engines, legal costs for the inevitable grievances and lawsuits, benefits and the benefit incentive package for lateral transfers which will be up to $4 million beyond other new employees, startup costs for CAL PERS, separately listed costs for the special fire academy the district has to pay for, and long term liability for pension benefits. We have none of these "missing" costs now with a CAL FIRE contract. We have no long term costs of any kind beyond the term of the contract.

    If anyone can calculate how all these budget items that we do not pay now and for which we have no long term liability, add up and equate to "zero additional costs" for this standalone proposal, please weigh in and explain. I can't make those numbers come out at all.

  • hmblocal posted at 11:49 pm on Sat, Mar 16, 2013.

    hmblocal Posts: 5

    I can't wait to see the video of the debate. I heard the local boys smoked the Cal FIRE owned challengers. Face it Slater-Carter you want these boys out so you can control another local board to push your "no growth" agenda of more building and water moratoriums like your Montara Water and Sanitary Board. Cal FIRE funneled their union money through your PAC to start and finance the recall. People have your number, just dont know who is crazier, Virgina McShane or you. Go open another MacDonalds and make Virgina the token manager. Hopefully she won't walk out half way through her shift like she does fire board meetings.

  • hmblocal posted at 11:46 pm on Sat, Mar 16, 2013.

    hmblocal Posts: 5

    Kathryn Slater-Carter, did you mean the grossly inaccurate TriData Division report that the entire board voted 7-0, including CFPD Directors Virgina McShane and Gary Burke? They also refused to accept the report and subsequently refused to pay the invoice. It was about as useful as the politically charged "CIVIL" grand jury report.

  • Kathryn Slater-Carter posted at 10:20 pm on Sat, Mar 16, 2013.

    Kathryn Slater-Carter Posts: 16

    The Tri Data Report, one of the independent consultants the Recallees mentioned, noted that the Back-from-the-Dead, Resurrected, Zombie Fire Department will cost $1,700,000 per year more than current costs. Just to ooperate! This on top of the $2,220,799 start up costs in the budget for just this year. Just this year! Monies that can today, otherwise, could be used to fix the in-need-of-repair fire stations and/or to purchase up-to-date rescue equipment. The Zombie Dept will burn through the reserves accumulated from the savings due to the Cal Fire contracts in just a few years. Once the reserves from the Cal Fire contract are spent where will the extra money for these costs come from?

    This does not account for the long term liabilities we, the tax payers, must pay for due to the defined benefit retirement package with life time health care, adopted by the board. The Recallees want to tie us to the City of Vallejo financial disaster model.

    To summarize: Vote Yes on the Recall OR we will be permanently spending uncounted millions more per year on wages, personnel costs, legal costs, training costs, continuing recruitment costs, etc to resurrect the Zombie Fire Department

  • pae posted at 7:52 pm on Sat, Mar 16, 2013.

    pae Posts: 139

    First off, the CAL FIRE contract is not set to expire this coming June 30; it already expired last June 30, leaving all our personnel in limbo as to where they'll be July 1, and in limbo as to who will answer 911 here on July 1. The 3 irresponsible recallees have no finalized plan in place, nor any finalized budget, structure nor staff of fully qualified firefighters and paramedics to be operational on July 1. That's only 3 months from now. Last summer, CAL FIRE unilaterally decided to stay on an extra year, since our recallees had absolutely no plan for service in place then. they still don't. but CAL FIRE made it clear that if the board majority still made no moves to renew their contract by December, they would have to start reassigning personnel to permanent assignments elsewhere. The recallees refused again and again, so our long time firefighters are being moved elsewhere now.

    There was a 2003 Review article which summarized the situation then, and the familiar players in that game. Read it here

    Read the comments from the present day mess, and see if a couple names pop out again, Mackintosh and Riddell. Alifano has been brought into the fold to make them a majority rule, imposing their will on everyone who lives here in the District. This is not a trio of independent thinkers, who analyze issues for themselves. They have a predetermined agenda supported by their handlers in Local 2400 who financed their elections and their recall defense in the amounts of tens of thousands of dollars. Local 2400 has gone to the San Mateo Labor Council requesting more financial support, which is now coming in from as far away as the East Bay and North Bay. They have been sending their members over here from the Bay side to walk our precincts and man their phone banks and robocalling computers. You may have gotten some of these calls or seen some of these men from over the hill in your neighborhood. I have.

    Firefighters are mostly nice guys, but they're not here to help you decide what's best for the Coastside. They're here to make sure you think that their union is the way to go. Their union, IAFF Local 2400, used to control the Coastside back when we had that old dysfunctional standalone department whose staff kept filing one grievance and lawsuit after another, costing us taxpayers millions. You see, they're poaching, they're trying to get our district back from their brother union, IAFF 2881, which represents our CAL FIRE personnel. Now we're the only district in the county they don't control, and they want us back in the worst way. They don't control the county's fire service, though, either, which has been with CAL FIRE for fifty (50!) years.

    It makes sense to share resources these days, which is easy over the hill, since they're all next to each other. Here, though, we're isolated. We know how quickly our access roads can close with accidents, mudslides, etc. Logically, depending on resources from over the hill if we're short staffed puts us in jeopardy. Besides, how many cliffs and tunnels are there in San Mateo or Menlo Park? CAL FIRE serves all the areas south of us, east of us, and immediately to the north of us. They will also serve the new tunnel, since that takes special skills. We're in the middle of CAL FIRE's service areas. CAL FIRE serves them as professionally and expertly as they have served us here. Keeping them here would not only save us taxpayers millions of dollars of additional costs we don't have now, regardless of the lie being told by the recallees of "zero additional costs," but it would keep the resources we need right here, especially the closest station to the tunnel, our Moss Beach station.

    You've probably seen the full color, full page ad or the flyers the recallees and their union are circulating. for the other side of that story, and there is always another side, check this link:

    The real facts are there, with the documentation of those facts, something missing from all the recallee's arguments. There is a lot more documentation for why this recall has been organized, and why we feel that the best choice for a fire and emergency service for the Coastside is CAL FIRE. It can be found at

    There you will see why CAL FIRE is such a unique resource, who they are and what they do all over the state in local fire districts like ours, why they are here, the issues we are facing here now, and the reports of four Grand Juries who looked at our fire services here to see how well we were, or were not, being served. The most recent one in 2011-12 found unequivocally that we are being very well served, that the allegations of the recallees are groundless and erroneous, and that we would definitely not be as well served trying to reinvent the old standalone wheel with the millions of dollars in higher costs.

    You will also hear more allegations by the recallees against the recall and the recall supporters. There are facts and documentation to refute every one of them, and they are available online. You can follow the current discussions on Patch, Montara Fog and Talkabout, choosing to sort the TA threads by "most recent comment" to see the latest. Here's another useful thread with a lot of information:

    The listing of threads can be seen here:

    To learn more about the candidates we support, visit
    They also welcome questions and phone contacts from Coastside residents at
    Please call with your questions and concerns. we know these issues can be confusing, and we can give you documentation of the facts we present, not just personal opinions.

  • Tyler Durden posted at 2:10 pm on Sat, Mar 16, 2013.

    Tyler Durden Posts: 410

    "...These jobs come complete with pay and fringe benefits that most workers with only high school diplomas can only dream about, not to mention very generous pensions..."
    All true which is why places like Vallejo California were forced into bankruptcy due to super over generous fire department salaries and benefits. That is the future of HMB if Alifano & Co get their way.

  • Sabrina Brennan posted at 9:57 am on Sat, Mar 16, 2013.

    Sabrina Brennan Posts: 58

    The following letter to the editor of the Daily Journal was written by Jerry Terstiege of Foster City.


    Often the true reasons behind actions by politicians can be determined by the very old, but still valid rule, “follow the money.”

    Why would some politicians want to do away with a provider of good service, replacing it with one that is much more expensive and will probably provide poorer service?

    Could it be that these politicians have no control over the hiring and firing of staff at the existing service provider, while they will control a number of very highly paid jobs at their new stand-alone department. These jobs come complete with pay and fringe benefits that most workers with only high school diplomas can only dream about, not to mention very generous pensions. The large amounts of pay and benefits and the huge pension obligation will have to be paid by coastside residents.

    There will, of course, likely be a chief, as well as captains and lieutenants galore in this new organization. Is it possible that family and friends of these politicians could end up in some of these plush new jobs that would be controlled by the politicians?

    According to “Fire recall election under way,” in the March 12 edition of the Daily Journal, the San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury, a non-partisan body that looks out for the welfare of all county residents, “praised Cal Fire’s service and stated that the effort to re-establish a fire department to serve the coast was ill-advised.”

    The choice seems clear to someone who has watched Bay Area local politics for more than 30 years — Recall the politicians who want to do away with an efficient, well-run department that is providing good service at a reasonable cost. Or, vote to keep them and pay much more for a less good service.

    Jerry Terstiege
    Foster City

    Link to Jerry's Letter to the Editor:

  • Cid Young posted at 3:54 pm on Fri, Mar 15, 2013.

    Cid Young Posts: 114

    I thought the mderator did a poor job if combinging the questions and did not re-phrase them well. This left too much latitude for the panelists to ramble and get off topic completely. Only a few answers actually pertained to her re-stated questions. The vaguely rewording lead one director to say "What was the question?" which she re-phrased it differently again, than the first time she tried combining them.SHEEZE!


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