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Recall supporters fight fire with ink

Petitions in, elections officers count, validate signatures

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Posted: Friday, November 2, 2012 2:50 pm | Updated: 2:51 pm, Fri Nov 2, 2012.

With just one day to spare before Thursday’s deadline and nearly 10,000 signatures in tow, supporters of an effort to recall three embattled Coastside Fire Protection District directors turned in their petitions to the San Mateo County Elections Office last week.

If signatures representing 20 percent of the district’s voters are validated, an election would take place to determine whether President Doug Mackintosh, Director Mike Alifano and Director Gary Riddell will be recalled.

Now, the recall supporters must wait for what comes next. Elections officers have up to 30 days from the date of filing to complete the validation process.

Once elections officials confirm at least 2,714 valid signatures on each petition, they will present the petitions to the elections governing board for approval.

If approved, a notice will be issued saying that an election will be held to determine whether any or all of the board members will be recalled.

“We need to do an assessment. Part of that is counting the signatures before we can verify them,” said David Tom, elections deputy. “We’re going to do the best we can, but we also have an election we’re running.”

Tom estimated that a special stand-alone recall election will cost the district $120,000.

Marshall Ketchum, who wrote the petitions that were first approved by county elections officials on June 28, reported that 3,290 signatures were collected to recall Alifano, 3,366 signatures were collected for Riddell and 3,327 were collected for Mackintosh.

“This is just one more step in the process. It isn’t over until they have a new contract with Cal Fire,” said Ketchum.

He referred to the recall supporters’ desire to stick with the state agency that has now provided fire protection services to the district for more than four years. Over the last year, Mackintosh, Alifano and Riddell have sought to end the contract, saying taxpayers deserve better service.

Their work to establish a stand-alone department comes despite a San Mateo County civil grand jury report that recommended keeping Cal Fire, and previous letters of support from fire chiefs.

Recall supporters drummed up awareness about their effort by starting informational websites and displaying signs. Some individuals and organizations donated money to help the cause, including the Cal Fire Small Contributor PAC. It contributed $6,000.

“The community has supported us so strongly … and I made a promise to support them in any way I could,” said Justin Sheaff, a union representative of Local 2881, which serves Cal Fire firefighters. He supported the PAC expenditure.

He also hopes to protect Cal Fire employees who have come to love the community and want to keep working on the Coastside.

“The people have involved themselves in the community and have really given a lot of themselves to be there,” he said.

Cal Fire officials have requested that they receive a letter of intent as to whether the district will establish a new contract with them by December so that they can have ample time to place employees.

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