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Stand-alone department will cost us 46 percent more this year

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Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2012 2:01 pm

The suspense is over. Five long months after Directors Mike Alifano, Gary Riddell, and Doug Mackintosh voted to effectively end our contract with CalFire, we’ve finally learned how much this ill-conceived effort will cost us. And it’s absolutely staggering. Would you believe nearly $10 million for just this one year of fire service?

That’s right. The fire district is proposing operating expenses for its stand-alone department of $9.99 million for the fiscal year that started July 1, 2012. Compared to last fiscal year’s actual costs of $6.81 million, that’s a one-year jump of $3.18 million, a stunning 46 percent increase. The fire district is proposing that each and every Coastside household pay $378 more for fire protection than last year.

The proposed budget includes a highly questionable line item for $2.07 million in proposed costs for a “transitional Organization.” Incredibly, there are no details explaining what exactly we are getting for this $2 million. None. While the budget includes details for relatively mundane items such as $1,500 for custodial services and $5,500 for postage, this enormous, extremely controversial $2 million expense has no details whatsoever.

In case you haven’t been following the shenanigans on our fire board too closely, here are some recent “highlights,” as it were, from Directors Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh:

Alifano is still under criminal investigation by the San Mateo County district attorney for his conduct over the weekend of July 14, when he and a handful of supporters allegedly harassed recall supporters who were collecting signatures for his ouster. Regarding these incidents, Alifano is quoted in the July 20 San Mateo County Times as saying “I made a mistake. I should have never went out there. … They wanted me to stoop to their level.” So this is how a public official acts? Alifano blames his opponents for his own conduct.

In the July 18 Review, Mackintosh said, “We could solve all kinds of problems if we could hear each other… Whether people agree or disagree, if we listen, we can develop something better for everyone.” One short week later, these words rang hollow, when Mackintosh wouldn’t even listen to Fire Chief John Ferreira’s annual report during the July 25 Fire Board meeting. The Aug. 1 Review said, “Director Mike Alifano lamented that he was done arguing over the future of CalFire here and didn’t intend to let Ferreira address his report” during the July 25 fire board meeting. It appears, at the very least, the directors grossly misled the public and our fire department when they released a public agenda they now admit they had no intention of following. This pathetic action was also a huge slap in the face to each of the firefighters in our department.

In the July 18 Review, Riddell said that the fire chief’s position will be advertised. How quickly things changed. In the Aug. 22 Review, when discussing the fire chief’s position, Mackintosh said, “If you have very specific people in mind, nothing says you have to go outside.” One has to wonder if Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh have ever looked up the definition of “cronyism.”

To see the proposed budget for yourself, go to Click on Board of Directors, then Agenda, Minutes & Video, then View the Board Packet for the Sept. 26 Regular Meeting, then Tab 4 for the Sept. 26 meeting.

Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh will be voting on this budget with its $2 million blank check for a “Transitional Organization” at the fire board meeting at the Half Moon Bay Fire Station at 7 tonight. Please be there, fill out a speaker’s slip, then let the board majority know what you think of their performance, their governance, and this proposed budget with $2 million in unexplained transitional costs. But before you do, please visit, and be sure to sign the recall petitions to take back control of your fire department.

El Granada resident Marshall Ketchum is among several local residents collecting signatures in hopes of recalling three members of the CFPD board of directors.

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Cid Young posted at 12:32 pm on Sun, Sep 30, 2012.

    Cid Young Posts: 114

    As a reply to J C Cervantes who said: "I am concerned, as well, by the apparent secrecy of the Recall Committee. Where does the recall stand? Why is there no progress reports available? Are we trading on secretive organization with hidden motives for a different one?"

    I am on the Committee and there is a meeting on Monday night when we shall decide our announcement plans. I personally would like to wait until after the next Fire Board meeting (one held on Thursday October 18 - a "Special Meeting" or the one a week later which is their regularly scheduled Monthly meeting on Wednesday, October 24th).

    That will give our group the Pumpkin Festival weekend (October 13-14th) to gather an ample cushion against the likely possibility that the Elections Department may disallow or disqualify some signatures for verification purposes AND to see what the Board Majority (Alifano, Riddell and Mackintosh) come up with as far as the Dan Bellville illusory plan that they did not wheel out when they voted to "Sweep" the surplus carry-forward funds ($2 million dollars?) from fiscal year 2011-2012 into a "Place-holder" category to Allocate them for 2012-2013 Transition Costs, rather than fund Reserves as a prudent Board might have done.

    In addition, it was announced that Clare Frank, Assistant Deputy Director, Cooperative Fire, Training and Safety Program for CalFire will be in attendance at the October Meeting. I'd like to hear her input before we announce any outcomes. She was the person who saved our butts by extending the CAL FIRE Contract for one year without the Gang of Three's signed approval.

    I am just one vote, so there may be an announcement forthcoming sooner, but I'm not sure of an advantage of announcing prematurely.

  • George posted at 7:50 pm on Sat, Sep 29, 2012.

    George Posts: 620

    This matter continues to go from bad to worse and I can't help but feel nervous, concerned (very concerned) and frankly dumbfounded to the endless confusion and apparent complete disfunction of our Fire Board.

    Paying no attention to studies, consultants, the Civil Grand Jury admonishment - and not publicly vetting that report, not extending the CalFire contract (even for just one year to have that safety net of time) and now this...a who's on first approach all contribute to my concerns. It would appear that IF there is anything even resembling a plan, the Three Musketeers ain't showing it. Not a confidence builder.

    Egos have replaced simple logic and any semblance of working together, all possible options have been eliminated rather than expanded, and we are almost at the pinnacle of complete disfunction at just about the most critical time. Don't worry though - the pinnacle of complete disfunction will come once the reality of a ballot with 3 names on it being recalled is done. From that moment until the actual recall vote day hits and the results are in, I would expect things to get worse.

    Millions of dollars are at stake. Our safety and the safety of our property is on the line. The safety of our visitors, the life-blood of our existence (revs) is at stake and there is no plan?

    do expect it to go to ballot. If the recall is successful, non of the three will ever "serve" in any elected or appointed position on the coast again; yet they continue at our risk and theirs.

    No options / no plan / and nine months from Monday (10/01/12) to July 1st, 2013. Oh, yeah, this ought to work out just peachy.

    I have repeatedly stated that I don't like recalls - and for good reason. In this case, however, I think I may have hit my tipping point.

    Good piece Marshall. Thanks for keeping us up and aware of what's happening and how it's happening.

  • J C Cervantes posted at 11:42 am on Fri, Sep 28, 2012.

    J C Cervantes Posts: 186

    The fact that the Board is going the wrong direction is obvious.

    The Fact that openness is not part of their agenda.

    I am concerned, as well, by the apparent secrecy of the Recall Committee.

    Where does the recall stand? Why is there no progress reports available?

    Are we trading on secretive organization with hidden motives for a different one?


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