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Putting out those fire recall questions

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Posted: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 12:46 pm | Updated: 12:49 pm, Wed Mar 13, 2013.

What is a recall?

A recall is a process in which citizens may remove an elected official from office before his or her term ends. It can be a tool to hold officials accountable once they’ve been elected, and they are typically the result of turmoil and intense disagreement.

It is a very unusual turn of events around here. The Coastside Fire Protection District is holding the first recall election in memory for San Mateo County Deputy Elections Officer David Tom.

Who faces recall?

Three of the five members of the Coastside Fire Protection District board: President Doug Mackintosh, Director Mike Alifano and Director Gary Riddell.

What sparked recall efforts?

The board majority came under fire when it moved to end the district’s contract with Cal Fire, which is a state agency that has protected the Coastside since 2008. Cal Fire replaced a former stand-alone department that had been fraught with lawsuits and complaints about cronyism and a lack of professionalism.

During its service, Cal Fire faced no lawsuits, nor major complaints from the Coastside. It’s also one of the least expensive models available.

Since last summer, Mackintosh, Alifano and Riddell have worked to establish an independent department and voted to sever ties with Cal Fire. They maintain Cal Fire has failed to live up to its contract in a number of ways, including with respect to business inspections. The board majority is adamant that a local department will give local people more control over operations and keep residents safer.

Not everyone agrees, however. Critics said that the majority was not transparent in its reasoning and has not listened to concerns of the community.

Some of them organized a campaign to keep Cal Fire and collected thousands of signatures to force the recall.

Why is the board majority in favor of an independent department?

The board said that its goal is to improve service.

Cal Fire has not fulfilled all of its contractual obligations. According to the board majority, under an independent department, a fire chief could answer directly to the board, which could give them more leverage to enforce follow-through of the contract.

Loyalty to local talent has also been a pervasive theme. Mackintosh, Alifano and Riddell said that focusing on the district’s own employees could improve safety because local people would be more invested in protecting the community. They theorize that locally hired employees would stay longer and become more familiar with the neighborhoods here. That, then, would cut down on response time and improve safety, they have said.

Who can vote in the recall election?

People who are registered to vote in the Coastside Fire Protection District are eligible.

How do I vote?

For each of the three members, you will be asked to vote whether he should be recalled. If you vote that he should, you will then vote on a candidate to replace him.

Who are the new candidates?

Karen K. Anderson seeks Alifano’s seat if he is recalled. J.B. Cockrell seeks Mackintosh’s position. Lee McKusick and Harvey Rarback are vying for Riddell’s seat. In each instance, voters will be asked to indicate “yes” or “no” as to whether he or she should be elected.

An alternative candidate may be written in.

Where do I vote in the recall election?

Voters may request to vote by mail through April 2. Registration forms are included with the Voter Information Pamphlet that has already been mailed to voters. They also are available at the county elections website,

The ballots themselves must be received by 8 p.m. on April 9, the day of the election. Verify that they have been sent or received on the elections website with the “Track and Confirm” tool.

Registered voters may also vote in person.

There are two locations for both the mail and delivery options:

•Elections Division

40 Tower Road

San Mateo, CA 94402

•Half Moon Bay City Hall

501 Main St.

Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

On the day of the election, ballots may be delivered to any of the district’s polling places until 8 p.m., or to City Hall until 5 p.m.

When does Cal Fire leave?

Cal Fire will leave the Coastside by June 30, by which point the board plans to have an independent department in place.

Is the Cal Fire exit date negotiable?

No. The district would have to work on a new contract with Cal Fire, which could take months, said Cal Fire officials.

Who will protect the Coastside if the independent department isn’t ready?

Should the independent department not be operational by the time Cal Fire leaves, both Cal Fire and the district board have indicated that the Coastside will be protected in the interim. The board has suggested that other agencies in the region could help, though no specifics have been given.

Have more questions

Contact the Elections Division at (650) 312-5222. Help is available in English, Spanish and Chinese.

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Sabrina Brennan posted at 10:00 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:

  • Randy Kelly posted at 6:40 pm on Fri, Mar 15, 2013.

    Randy Kelly Posts: 2

    The best thing that will come out of this election will be the removal of election signs and the guy with the stupid hat will stop picketing out in front of the grocery store and the post office.

    The recall symbolizes a giant waste of money in the form of a special election. I find it ironic that the San Mateo Co. taxpayers are footing the bill for a special election while Mr. Cockerell's billboard asserts that we will save millions. Will we be seeing a refund of some of our property taxes?


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