This is part-two of my two-part series from last Tuesdays Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Board of Directors meeting. This piece focuses on the exchange between the County Board of Supervisors and Kris Hunt of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association (CoCo Tax) which was entertaining to say the least.
This exchange which begins at the 57:00 minute mark lasts about 20-minutes where it clearly shows that CoCo Tax is not interested in finding a solution nor working with CCCFPD, but rather they have become the organization of “no” to a parcel tax at any cost.
Listening (in this case reading) to the transcript, CoCo Tax is actually advocating for an entirely new service model which ironically would be a lot more expensive to the taxpayer which shows how illogical they really are—and Ms. Hunt calls herself an a trained cost analyst?
This was the same tone the “gang of six” as I call them in East County behaved. This group includes Kris Hunt, Dave Roberts, Dan Borenstein (Times Editorial), John Gonzales, Walter MacVittie and Jeff Barber who fought hardest against East County’s parcel tax using silly rhetoric.
This would be like spending a dollar to save a penny, it’s not very bright.
I give major kudos to Supervisor Piepho, Supervisor Gioia, and Supervisor Glover for putting Ms. Hunt in her place and making her out to be a hypocrite and trying to have her argument both ways. They proved this woman is a disaster for not only firefighters, but to residents of Contra Costa County as she is jeopardizing public safety with her nonsense.
I also give Federal Glover kudos for bringing up the fact he gave her “homework” at the last meeting and she failed to follow up. That portion of the dialogue is priceless. The woman is full of excuses and complains she needs the entire package—which she has!
In fact, while I typed out the exchange below, it really doesn’t do Ms. Hunt much justice because I removed her many “ums” and starting of sentences which she cuts off and starts over like a blabbering fool—I made her sound better than she really did. I think I should get a thank you!
It’s a shame no one in the media reported how contradictory the CoCo Tax Association sounds when comparing East County’s parcel tax to this one. Or the fact Ms. Hunt for a minute there was actually making the argument for a higher parcel tax.
Here is the transcript I’ve typed out. It may be long, but it really does provide details of just how the CoCo Tax is delaying, making excuses, and complaining about arguments that do not apply to this parcel tax as they did in East County. Don’t take my word for it, it’s all on tape!
D.1 Receiving report, tiered tax rate structure for a proposed special tax measure
Kris Hunt, Executive Director of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association: After the presentation by Chief Louder, the CoCo Tax met with several members of the union as well as their rep and we ask what were we looking for in a tax in terms of CoCo Tax and we said something that made sense. Something that makes this entity sustainable because that is where you need to go in the long run and as it stands now based on the numbers we saw previously this simply doesn’t work. Even using the numbers from the fire chief presentation, if you take them at face value, by year 17 or 18, you are $2 million in the hole. You don’t have a reserve and you are $2 million in the hole.
Secondly, we even disagree as I printed out last time with the numbers these pension numbers are to low and are going to go high and I believe Supervisor Gioia pointed that out that it was realistic. And it was mentioned before there is a real concern inadequate monies in place for those million dollar rolling stock, those trucks that wear out after 15-years and for buildings which 12 of them are 50 years old. In one of them just had to close because of mold and rodent. There is obviously a maintenance problem is how I would introduce it.
A third issue was brought to my attention as I believe it was to the board and I haven’t had a chance to look at the legalities, but apparently when the pension obligation bonds were established there is a component in there that said they had to have a reserve policy provision that had 10% of the General Fund for budgeted expenditures. That has not been maintained so the question is what is going to happen with that? And it’s certainly there is no provision for that if these numbers hold. So that’s another concern.
When we met with Vince Wells and several of the others, a subset of the board of who was available yesterday and their consultant. What they admitted was, because when they pointed this out, what they admitted was, that when I pointed this out they admitted this wasn’t enough. The $75 rate which would now be $72. But this is what the people are willing to vote for, that does not make something sustainable. That does not create a credible argument for going forward with this. So it’s time to be realistic. I can’t count something that isn’t realistic. So we need to take a good look with what’s going on here and we need to have a realistic budget and realistic numbers or be realistic about what services can be provided. Thank you.
Supervisor Piepho: Kris, I have a couple of questions for you. The Contra Costa Taxpayers Association opposed the East County Fire Protection Measure. Can you define what your reasoning’s were for opposing that were?
Kris Hunt: (laughing) There were many. One of the largest concerns was they were expanding services and doubling the amount the poll showed people would vote for. That was a real concern. They had not dealt with their pension problem and in fact they put off the negotiations until after the election. And that was a real concern in terms of viability. I was personally shocked and I have mentioned to others when I went out to Trilogy and Summerset and I assumed it was going to be people that really want this tax cause of you know, the adding, the emergency techs and all that. They did not.
Supervisor Piepho: Well Kris, I am asking what the Taxpayers opposed.
They both proceeded to talk over one another before Piepho shut her off.
Supervisor PIepho: Expanded Services (Kris Hunt cuts off Piepho)
Kris Hunt: (expanded services) that couldn’t be paid for and within 5-years they were going to be in the negative situation. Again, this meant this did not solve the financial problem. So those are the basic arguments against this tax and they are in fact on our website and all the backup material.
Supervisor Piepho: okay that’s fine, but I am talking about here so the public can hear and understand. Now with this measure you are saying the same thing. The number we are looking at doesn’t provide sustainability. You are saying it’s an inadequate amount but that it meets the needs of the polling that has been done that the public has expressed their tolerance of.
So I am asking you not a rhetorical question, a question to help dig deeper so that we can have a constructive effort that between these two recent proposals. The one before us today and the one that just failed in East County, as I said to you at the last meeting two weeks ago, I am having a hard time seeing as what I would call a conflict.
As the tolerance in East County, let me try and state my case here, the tolerance in East County in the poll was much lower than the ultimate measure was put out to be because the measure the polling amount was not enough to sustain the district or provide the levels of service needed to just maintain current operations. The public said they wanted a paramedic service so that was built into the Measure and it did not create sustainability. So everybody knew that, maybe property values would increase over the couple of years, the economy may improve, redevelopment dollars may come back to the District, that future is uncertain.
But in the meantime today, to keep doors open and people safe that is what they determined was needed and necessary and yet the taxpayer association opposed it because it doubled what the public poll would suggest. But your suggestion here today that this is an inadequate amount measure that we are only going for because it’s what the poll suggest they would tolerate. So I am confused.
Kris Hunt: Alright, I’d be happy to clarify. The problem was that they increased staffing which is what drove up the cost. They didn’t listen to the public. If people were told you could have all these things free and then the cost came out it was very different. But we can’t count what was being told to the people. So they could have stayed were they were. Originally I went out to meet with the Chief, Chief Henderson to look at supporting a measure that they were gonna have. We knew they had problems. You and I have talked about this in the past they have a weird little financing glitch because of what they were. But they decided to go their own way and to increase staff by 30% and in a few years and they were going to be out of money.
Supervisor Piepho: Oaky, but that is what the public had asked for so I am not hear to defend that measure that is what the public had asked for and that is what the governing board listened to. But what you are saying hear today on this measure is that it’s not sustainable. It’s an inadequate amount of money and it’s not enough short term and long term.
So are you suggesting Kris, or that the taxpayer association, suggesting that we go out for a higher amount? Is that what would get the taxpayer association on board? That is what I am asking, how do we get you on board?
Kris Hunt: I can’t tell you without looking at the whole package
Supervisor Piepho: You have it; you just looked at the numbers.
Kris Hunt: We would suggest that maybe you look at a different delivery model because there are other ways to deal with this. You have an ongoing pension problem that is in mends. You apparently haven’t met the requirement that’s in the pension obligation model. You can’t tell without looking at the whole package. What I am raising are the concerns we see here to tell, maybe your numbers will change when we get the report from what you are charging at different levels. I was going on what was in the presentation, the previous presentation. But if you look at it, it doesn’t meet, it doesn’t balance and sending that out to the public seems inordinately unfair
Supervisor Gioia: In a way I see this tax, not unlike the measure the taxpayer association was neutral on the Contra Costa Healthcare District tax which got 74% of the vote and passed. That there was a lot of work done to identify what the gap was today and then there was a measure put on the ballot that didn’t close the whole gap, but this was, how do I say this, to lessen the gap knowing that we were going to close the gap the rest of the way through internal steps taken which would take time to implement and in that case there was a sunset that the tax would go away if the hospital closes. Here we have a sunset by number of years so that the idea was there was a shared responsibility. We were going to take responsibility as an agency, in that case the healthcare district, here would be the fire district and then the public would chip in to close the gap part of the way. So I see this very similar to that. It’s a two-step process. Internal work which is being done and will continue to get done and then shared responsibility by working with the taxpayers because I think under your comment your just saying it’s not enough.
It’s only not enough If we don’t go the rest of the way and close the gap which is what we are fully intended to do so we would close the gap again through our internal work as well as through the additional tax measure. Interestingly that was the same philosophy the taxpayers association used to be neutral on the healthcare tax.
Kris Hunt: I believe this is different and we are looking at long term systemic failures to replace trucks and things like that and waiting to the last minute then trying to do negotiations and seeing what can be fixed. There are a lot more problems here that we would liked fixed.
Supervisor Gioia: Uh Kris, actually that’s the same situation we were at with the hospital. Let me finish. There was a lot of internal, systemic, structural issues that are being addressed. I am headed to a meeting actually about that in an hour from now regarding the hospital. It’s exactly the same situation. How do we look at the structure? How do we look at the system? How do we close the gap? How do we have shared responsibility with residents ? It’s exactly the same.
Supervisor Anderson spoke for a few minutes about how voters want to vote for something that won’t fail in a few years and when it sunsets we are back in the same problem.
Supervisor Piepho (69:14): Director Anderson brings up some valid questions and I think having lived through the experience in East County, the reality is the public is not paying attention to the short term impacts. Long term sustainability is a very important question but come December 1st, if this measure fails , a number neighborhood fire stations will be closed and the public will be put more at risk. That is sustainability. It’s sustainability in the short term. I am happy to acknowledge that. It’s not sustainable in the long term. In the short term, it keeps people safer, the properties protected and it is an economic savings to the residents and business owners of this district because it mitigates the financial impact from not having the stations.
The Brentwood Press has a front page article from last week, business owner from Bethel Island who lost a fire station from a week ago, says I should have gotten more involved in the effort to pass Measure S said Donna Simon, owner of Island Joes Restaurant on Bethel Island after she was informed her policy was jumping from $200 to $489 per month. I don’t know what I am going to do next now.
That is the reality that the taxpayers in this District are going to have to face. Sustainability is very important, but it also relates to short term solutions and long term and has John (Gioia) said, this board, these employees, this chief and his staff, we all have a responsibility to that.
But this is emergency, this is triage, this is how we get over this hump and hopefully the economy does improve. And pension and wages and all those other important components of the cost of the District do improve, but this is a level of insurance that we pay for everyday in public safety.
It is an integrated system and if you investigate it thoroughly you will understand it’s a very efficient and cost effective system. Firefighters need to be there no matter what. If they are out making medical calls it’s because they are there first. That saves lives. That is an important component to what they do. It improves maintenance on engines because they are running an operating an engine, they are not parked in a firehouse and firefighters sitting around twiddling their thumbs. They are out doing something. The public likes to see their public servants working. Making medical calls they are out working, not just waiting for that fire because they are going to be there no matter what. Sorry!
Supervisor Glover: You know, on two occasions at our last hearing I requested that the Taxpayers Association would come back with what would it take for you to support this and I am hearing nothing. I am hearing nothing,
Supervisor Piepho: Kris, not from the audience.
Supervisor Glover: She can come back up, but I would like a response.
Supervisor Piepho: You are invited back up Kris to make a brief response to Director Glover’s question.
Kris Hunt: We would have to see a whole workable package. You can’t just have one thing. That is part of it. You have to see what is long-term, you have to see a budget with what you are going to do in terms of replacing those vehicles. I am a trained cost analyst. We want to see the whole picture. It can’t be just one tiny thing because they are moving parts. But it needs to be sustainable.
Supervisor Glover: And my request was that you do that analysis. That if you are going to say its something that you can’t support , then do the analysis and tells us what you can support, and that is not what you have done and you have had the time to do it. It’s not enough to say that we are being responsible and telling the taxpayers not to support an item that is so very important, but to say that we cannot support it and will not support it and put people’s lives at risk.
Kris Hunt: But first of all, we haven’t had time. We didn’t even know what the ultimate proposal was going to be because they were going to come back and answer questions.
Supervisor Glover: You understood what was before you at the last meeting. You understood what the issues were that you were concerned about and you had plenty of time to do the analysis in terms of coming back and saying these are the things that we can and cannot support.
Kris Hunt: We told you we couldn’t support a senior exemption, we are glad that’s gone, but we are working on it. I am putting it together white paper now. This is a complicated issue and we will have some suggestions on other things. We have talked with Vince and the other group on the things we are concerned about and we will come back with something.
Supervisor Glover: You know, you said that the fact that they did not listen to the voters and the poll results for East County and hear clearly shows we are listening to what the poll results are and yet you are saying we can’t support it.
Kris Hunt: The problem is you are staying with the same model and that may not be serviceable with this as it stands. If you are talking about fixing things, they haven’t fixed the pension problem. Even if you do another tier that’s years away from solving that. We haven’t seen a long term plan for fixing buildings, there is a lot of stuff that isn’t there and if people say they can’t support it, maybe you guys need to look at alternative delivery systems
Note: Rollie Katz, public employees local 1, made some very nice comments following this exchange at the 74:30 minute mark . If you have time I urge you to go watch his comments as he started off by stating , “First, I have to say I am utterly confused a few minutes ago. I thought for a moment that the Executive Director of the So Called Taxpayer Association was actually going to endorse a higher parcel tax than what you are suggesting and I think we could have had a first where labor and the taxpayer association could have agreed on that.”
You can watch the video by going to the Board of Supervisors page on the County Website http://www.pbtech.org/clients/CCBOS/agenda/cccfpd07102012.html