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Complaints ignore truth about funding for fire district

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Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2012 11:20 am

It continues to be the opinion of the Coastside Fire Protection District board majority that the Coastside has the potential to significantly increase the level of fire service to the community while not increasing taxes.

In looking at the long-term debt obligation in the areas of retirement, health care and other employee benefits, the board majority thinks that the only way to control those costs is to establish them through negotiated memoranda of understanding, limited by the district’s available funds, and not take the roll of the dice with state-imposed contracts. Local control is not a state contractor who supplies services on its timetable but a staff that is directly accountable to the board and the local community.

In response to a recent article and Matter of Opinion (Review, Sept. 26) concerning this year’s fire district budget, I wish to re-emphasize one important detail. The amount set aside for transition costs is a placeholder describing the funds that are available without impacting the taxpayers. The actual transition budget is due to be considered Thursday, Oct. 18, in open public session and will be available on the district’s website.

In his Matter of Opinion, Marshall Ketchum is apparently unaware of several very important facts concerning the matters under consideration.

First, the budget does not place any additional cost on the taxpayer. He ascertains that this budget will cost every household $378, which seems meant to suggest that this will be a tax increase per household. This is not true.

Second, this board chose to daylight the costs of transition by assigning it a budget line item and by taking the specific action in the board meeting that required expenditures from this fund be made only with board approval. In contrast, the transition to Cal Fire cost the district well over $2 million and that was buried as loans from CalPERS and Cal Fire rather than showing up in the budget. The decision to transition to Cal Fire was made in about four months, with the only record of the board’s action and deliberations being fragile cassette tapes. Contrast that to the current process, which has taken more than two years, and been recorded in the district’s written minutes and with videotapes of the meetings that are posted on the Web.

Third, Ketchem alleges that “Mackintosh wouldn’t even listen to Fire Chief John Ferreira’s annual report.” If he had been at the meeting or checked the minutes of that meeting, he would have discovered that a motion was made to table the Schedule E Report (which is actually given quarterly) until the following meeting at which the report was heard. There also seems to be a disconnect in understanding the difference between “cronyism” and a contractual and ethical responsibility to current employees.

It was saddening to read the letter from a fellow board member (Ginny McShane, Sept. 26) in which she states that there is a $1.4 million difference between the stand-alone budget and the Cal Fire contract budget. Since no stand-alone budget yet exists, one can only wonder where her number comes from. Her estimate of the increased hours worked and salary differentials are unfortunately equally inaccurate. Her opinion that we would not have been able to purchase the current fire engines without the assistance of Cal Fire overlooks the fact that the contribution to the capital equipment replacement fund follows a formula established more than 15 years ago and was the source of revenue for these purchases. She decries the money spent on consultants while at the same time asking for data that only they can provide.

Lastly, I must note the interesting tactic in last week’s advertisement in the Review of comparing last year’s actual expenditures to next year’s proposed budget, which includes the carryover of this year’s unspent revenue. Interesting also is the inclusion of the engine staffing that has been in place on Coastside engines for more than 10 years, long before Cal Fire ever arrived.

Doug Mackintosh is the president of the Coastside Fire Protection District board of directors.

Welcome to the discussion.

6 comments:

  • Moss Beach Mom posted at 7:56 pm on Sat, Oct 20, 2012.

    Moss Beach Mom Posts: 40

    Perhaps G. McShane should be recalled...

     
  • fgoel posted at 6:42 pm on Wed, Oct 17, 2012.

    fgoel Posts: 1

    to L Mck -- to your point regarding the fact that the need for round the clock firemen is decreasing due to, "the fire alarm requirement for every sleeping room of every house and apartment. Fire alarms reduce fire deaths greatly. Other factors reducing the need for fire stations and so forth are sprinklers are required in new homes" -- this is so sad. so when your loved ones are home without you and there is a fire you feel safe knowing that your alarms and sprinklers will save them if their house is burning down? are you kidding me?? what will you do when they malfunction, or aren't enough. these are the times when we pray to God a hero will help us. these firemen/women put their lives on the line for your loved ones because they care. they are the ones you will turn to. not your alarm, not your sprinkler, these men and women who have dedicated their lives to helping you and yours. they deserve to be treated with the utmost respect for they are the ones we call when we have no one to help us. the sad truth is that you won't ever understand this until you need them. until the sound of their sirens are a blessing. when you have no one else but these men and women. it happens. not to all of us. but it happens. and where will you be then when all you have a is a sprinkler and an alarm that broke. really??

     
  • Lee_Mk posted at 10:06 pm on Sun, Oct 14, 2012.

    Lee_Mk Posts: 5


    Fire Protection District Board chairman Doug Mackintosh is making a grave error when he presents the purpose of the Board as “... to significantly increase the level of fire service to the community...”

    He proposes to increase “the level of fire service” by hiring firemen and fire chiefs. The estimated increase in the Fire District budget is $ 2,316,529.

    The correct purpose of the Fire Protection District Board is to allocate money collected from tax payers in the most effective manner to reduce the amount and number of destructive fires, loss of life in vehicle and structural fires, and death and injury resulting from sudden medical emergencies.

    For at least the last 40 years, the need for fire stations, fire trucks and round the clock labour costs for firemen has been decreasing. One big reason is the fire alarm requirement for every sleeping room of every house and apartment.
    Fire alarms reduce fire deaths greatly. Other factors reducing the need for fire stations and so forth are sprinklers are required in new homes, medical emergency alarm pendants that can be worn by elderly persons, and better materials required for the connectors to gas appliances.

    You can look at the history of the coast-side fire department as management struggling with the erratic, intermittent and severe ups and downs of staffing fire fighting tasks. Over the last 40 years there have been fewer easy fires and relatively more scary events like the trailer full of toxic solvents that was ignited in Pillar Point a few years ago. The management response has been less regular work and more hours of “on call work”. It is like downsizing with uncertainty mixed in.

    Over these years of declining need for physical fire staff one can see the harassment stories and lawsuits associated with the closed coastside fire department as a story of demoralization, desperation, and uncertainty. The firemen have been trying to reduce their own ranks and increase their own hours of overtime by behaving in awful ways toward other firemen.

    It seems to me that the switch to Cal Fire was simply a cost effective choice. The overall pattern of serving the public need for fire protection has switched away from fire trucks and staff. The public need is far better and more effectively served by the growing capability of smoke detectors and other early warning safety equipment.

    For example, the $2.3 million dollar budget increase could buy 35,000 $59.95 brand new smoke alarm + carbon monoxide fire alarms. How many buildings are there on the coastside? Which allocation of tax money would save more lives and property? The proper purpose of the Fire Board is to allocate resources, not build a new labour force.

    Now back to “what is the proper purpose of the Fire Board?” The purpose of the fire board is to allocate the tax money between several different programs to accomplish the public purpose.

    If the Directors of the Fire Protection District do not understand that their highest obligation is fiscal responsibility to the state, they are in violation of their oath of office. On the face of it, a factual act to waste substantial public funds on establishing a new coastside fire staff and management is failure to understand the biggest operations and management challenge that has faced every semi-rural fire protection board of directors in America for the last 40 years.

    Much as the Fire Protection District voting majority of Directors would like to be nice guys and rehire a bunch of local people, that act will be an unmistakable failure to observe their obligation as elected officials.

    The Coastside Fire Protection District voting majority efforts at cancelling the CalFire contract and re-establishing a local fire department are an exercise in skating up to but not crossing a line of fiscal responsibility.

    If the Directors of the Fire Protection District do not understand that their highest obligation is fiscal responsibility they are in violation of their oath of office. On the face of it, a factual act to waste substantial public funds on establishing a new coastside fire staff and management is failure to understand the biggest operations and management challenge that has faced every semi-rural fire protection board of directors in America for the last 40 years.

    In the event the “voting majority” of the Fire Protection District engage in this act of misallocation of public funds, what are the applicable California State laws that need to be invoked?

    The bad news is, the punishment for malfeasance is pretty small.

    California Government Code

    87100. No public official at any level of state or local government
    shall make, participate in making or in any way attempt to use his
    official position to influence a governmental decision in which he
    knows or has reason to know he has a financial interest.

    There is a “vote required to break a tie” escape clause:

    87101. Section 87100 does not prevent any public official from
    making or participating in the making of a governmental decision to
    the extent his participation is legally required for the action or
    decision to be made. The fact that an official's vote is needed to
    break a tie does not make his participation legally required for
    purposes of this section.

    And finally, the conflict of interest law is further tightened as follows:

    87103. A public official has a financial interest in a decision
    within the meaning of Section 87100 if it is reasonably foreseeable
    that the decision will have a material financial effect,
    distinguishable from its effect on the public generally, on the
    official, a member of his or her immediate family, or on any of the
    following:
    (a) Any business entity in which the public official has a direct
    or indirect investment worth two thousand dollars ($2,000) or more.
    (b) Any real property in which the public official has a direct or
    indirect interest worth two thousand dollars ($2,000) or more.
    (c) Any source of income, except gifts or loans by a commercial
    lending institution made in the regular course of business on terms
    available to the public without regard to official status,
    aggregating five hundred dollars ($500) or more in value provided or
    promised to, received by, the public official within 12 months prior
    to the time when the decision is made.
    (d) Any business entity in which the public official is a
    director, officer, partner, trustee, employee, or holds any position
    of management.
    (e) Any donor of, or any intermediary or agent for a donor of, a
    gift or gifts aggregating two hundred fifty dollars ($250) or more in
    value provided to, received by, or promised to the public official
    within 12 months prior to the time when the decision is made. The
    amount of the value of gifts specified by this subdivision shall be
    adjusted biennially by the commission to equal the same amount
    determined by the commission pursuant to subdivision (f) of Section
    89503.
    For purposes of this section, indirect investment or interest
    means any investment or interest owned by the spouse or dependent
    child of a public official, by an agent on behalf of a public
    official, or by a business entity or trust in which the official, the
    official's agents, spouse, and dependent children own directly,
    indirectly, or beneficially a 10-percent interest or greater.

     
  • George posted at 11:25 am on Sun, Oct 14, 2012.

    George Posts: 621

    Isn't it interesting when everyone else is wrong?

    Back in the day, we had a word for comments like the one we see here from Mr Mackintosh:

    We simply called it Denial.

    The solution was almost always the same - look in the mirror for the starting point.

     
  • John Charles Ullom posted at 10:52 am on Fri, Oct 12, 2012.

    John Charles Ullom Posts: 1186

    Why does Director Mackintosh insult his friends and neighbors with this kind of bogus babble?

    Since no stand-alone budget yet exists, one can only wonder where her number comes from.

    Then why does Director Alifano continue to assert that it will cost us only 32,000 more for a standalone department? Why does Susan George, the lady we have paid thousands to to come up with a standalone budget, assert that it will cost 464,000 more to have a standalone department?

    Yet Director Mackintosh has the nerve to take on Director McShane by stating that there is no budget. Less than 12 weeks until we have to decide between the known quantity we have with Cal Fire and the plan that Directors Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh are desperately trying to cobble together, there is no budget or plan.

    They have no transition plan or budget. They have no budget for their standalone department . They have spent tens of thousands on what? They know nothing and think that pointing it out reflects well on them.

    In looking at the long-term debt obligation in the areas of retirement, health care and other employee benefits, the board majority thinks that the only way to control those costs is to establish them through negotiated memoranda of understanding, limited by the district’s available funds, and not take the roll of the dice with state-imposed contracts.

    If the Board Majority gets it's way, on June 30th 2013, Cal Fire will leave and we will have not one penny in unfunded liability. Directors Mackintosh, Alifano, and Riddell could have voted to pay off the unfunded liability that we have from the old standalone department but in August of 2011, they unanimously changed their minds and voted to stay in CalPers.

    Guess what. We are signing up with CalPers again. Not one bit of cost control will be achieved other than we will spend more to get less.

    Then this shameful distortion of the truth from Director Mackintosh:

    Third, Ketchem alleges that “Mackintosh wouldn’t even listen to Fire Chief John Ferreira’s annual report.” If he had been at the meeting or checked the minutes of that meeting, he would have discovered that a motion was made to table the Schedule E Report (which is actually given quarterly) until the following meeting at which the report was heard.

    Folks, here is a link to the shameful display of disrespect that Directors Mackintosh, Alifano, and Riddell orchestrated towards Chief Ferreira and the people of the Coastside: -- http://www.skygizmo.com/Contempt-Of-Citizens.htm

    Is Director that so desperate to score points that he thinks this despicable episode reflects well on the Board Majority? Weird.

    I just don't understand these three men. They are smart yet they pretend to be daft. They are known to be good people but they will say anything to get their way on this one. They offer innuendo and call it fact. The speak of examples and then offer tales of ugly knots and a lack of business inspections.

    But this assertion of there being no budget is pretty damn obnoxious after Director Alifano has stated multiple times that the Budget that Chief Cole has prepared shows only an additional 32,000 in expense: -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfCs2pscplE

    Finally, this bit of choice babble from Director Mackintosh:

    Lastly, I must note the interesting tactic in last week’s advertisement in the Review of comparing last year’s actual expenditures to next year’s proposed budget, which includes the carryover of this year’s unspent revenue. Interesting also is the inclusion of the engine staffing that has been in place on Coastside engines for more than 10 years, long before Cal Fire ever arrived.

    Notice that using actual expenditures to compare to the proposed budget is called an interesting tactic. Notice that the engine staffing thing means absolutely nothing but is supposed to be some sort of profound observation meant to bamboozle the rubes.

    Nobody has been bamboozled Director Mackintosh. Your friends and neighbors don't need Cal Fire, or me, or you, to think for themselves.

    Stop insulting us with babble.

     
  • Tyler Durden posted at 11:05 pm on Thu, Oct 11, 2012.

    Tyler Durden Posts: 447

    McIntosh says:
    "...Since no stand-alone budget yet exists, one can only wonder where her [McShane} number comes from."

    But if there is no stand-alone budget, how can Mcintosh claim a stand-alone department will be more cost effective than CalFire? He can't. This is like agreeing to buy a house without knowing the interest rate on the mortgage loan.

     

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