The Measure Q debate is in full swing since the Contra Costa Times recklessly put out an editorial on August 9 calling on voters to reject the tax while ignoring many facts they had in their possession. In response, Vince Wells had to issue a rebuttal correcting much of the misinformation.
In fact, when the Times editorial came out, I proved on August 10 just how reckless the Times was and how Chief Louder provided Dan Borenstein with a document of what had been done to reign in retirement costs. On August 13, I go a step further and completely reject Mr. Borensteins views by providing his original “political agenda” request to Chief Louder, while going through the article and showing why it was wrong. There was also many documents provided that was ignored by Borenstein.
Since the Times Editorial Board recklessly puts out the editorial, people like Ken Hambrick got brave and want to continue to spit out the same talking points (as he typically does on Halfway to Concord) over and over again.
Kudos to Vince Wells for educating Mr. Hambrick and providing more information to the public of just how reckless the Times was while showing how much information they had that they chose to ignore. Mr. Wells response to Mr. Hambrick is a wonderful read.
Firefighters’ view is irresponsible
Just who is irresponsible?
Vince Wells, Contra Costa County firefighters union president, had a commentary published recently chastising the Times’ Editorial Board for recommending a no vote on a proposed parcel tax. He says the board is irresponsible.
Talk about irresponsible. He and the union refuse to consider any alternative other than more tax money. The real problem is the obscene salaries and pensions. Wells conveniently ignores this.
He further says, “The fire district has put forward a fiscally responsible plan … .” This is a total falsehood. The district has no plan except to tax us more. It refuses to develop a plan that considers all alternatives.
His and Chief Daryl Louder’s comments always carry the threat of your house burning down if we don’t give them more money. Yes, the firefighters go on more than 41,000 calls a year. But he fails to tell you that only 486 calls (1.1 percent) in 2011 were for structure fires and 70 percent were medical calls that AMR can handle nicely without firefighters’ help.
The $100,000 salaries plus 100 percent pension equals no more tax money.
Now onto Vince Wells who issued a response of his own to Mr. Hambrick that was well written, provided good details, and educational on the background as to why the Times was irresponsible by ignoring facts.
Thanks for reading my commentary. Allow me to explain what I meant by irresponsible. The Times newspaper is a great way to reach people and get accurate information to its readers. It’s the “newspaper” for god sakes.
Based on those facts, I believe they have a responsibility to print facts, especially when it comes to issues that affect Public Safety. What I mean by irresponsible, is that the Editorial Board is urging a “No vote” on Measure Q based on misinformation, which is the same as not printing the facts. What makes this more egregious is that they know the facts but they just choose not to report them.
A “No” vote reduces the number of fire fighters on duty which will significantly impact the response times and our abilities to mitigate both low level and high level emergencies. The paper continues to cover all the major calls that we respond to in the county including fires, vehicle accidents, refinery explosions, chemical spills, etc…
They also report on how we are stretched thin at times. They report on how firefighters stopped a grass fire that threaten homes, or kept an apartment fire to a single apartment. They have a frontline view of the value of having adequate fire and emergency medical protection.
As, I wrote earlier, I think any recommendation from the paper regarding important issues, should be properly researched and that one’s own political agenda should not prevent a “newspaper” from writing the facts. They have done the research, but fail to present their findings objectively.
Were you aware that Mr.Borenstein spent several hours with the fire chief for two days just prior to his Editorial? He has spoken to me and others regarding the legality issues associated with pension changes and vested rights. He was given a very thorough report on service delivery model changes that were implemented and researched over the past few years. He was given a list of cost cutting measures that have been put in place and was informed of the many concessions made by the various employee groups that make up the fire district. Yet he makes it seem like nothing has been done, when a lot has.
He continues to brush over the significant loss in revenue that the fire district has been hit with since the decrease in assessed value and focuses on the pension issues only. We are 90% funded by property taxes. Did yours go down?
I say the Times is irresponsible because they have many of you believing that the majority of the firefighters retire making over $100,000.00.
Mr. Borenstein has taken a few Fire Chiefs (non union) salaries and retirements and has exploited them allowing many of you to believe that we, the line fire fighters, who are the ones affected along with the community, by Measure S’s failure and Measure Q’s success or failure, are recipients of these pensions.
Neither of his signature news articles involved any chief from East Contra Costa Fire or Contra Costa County Fire and certainly not line firefighters. He knows that in order for a firefighter to retire with over $100,000.00 this day and age he/she would have to be hired at twenty and work over thirty-four years.
In East Contra Costa County which is where Measure S was defeated, you would have to work over 40 years to reach that amount. The average age of hire is around 27. Yet he has people believing the majority of us retire at 50 with pensions that are over the $100,000.00. He also realizes that the majority of the firefighters on the top $100,000 list are Battalion Chiefs (not represented by Local 1230) and above.
When Measure S failed, 15 firefighters were laid off, not one Battalion Chief or above. There are 265 firefighters in Con Fire and 11 Battalion Chiefs, 2 Assistant Chiefs, and 1 Fire Chief. Exploiting the pay and benefits of 1% of our work force is irresponsible.
The firefighters of Con Fire and Moraga Orinda Fire pay up to 25% per pay check toward our retirement. This is the most in the state. He knows this, but brushes over it. Again it is irresponsible to lump us all into the same pot. There are 11 different fire agencies in Contra Costa County alone, all with different pay, benefits, and retirement formulas.
Many of the components that allowed for any of the exuberant pension pay outs have been addressed.
The Times is aware of this fact as well, they just don’t report it. We have addressed retirement ages, reduced pay, eliminated components that have allowed for spiking, and have increased the amount that an employee pays versus the employer. It will take some time to get the true value out of some of these changes just as it took time to build up the unfunded liabilities. Let’s also not forget the fact that this country took a significant hit with the market crash and crash of the housing market due to loan manipulations by banks and lenders. It wasn’t caused by your police officers, teachers, nurses, or firefighters.
Please view the Fire Board meeting last week to get an understanding of why fire engines respond to medical calls and the value it brings to the EMS system. This is expressed clearly by the EMS Director, The EMS Medical Director, Dr Barger, the Fire Chief, and has been clearly stated by the Director of Operations of AMR on many occasions. You can view this by going to the County Board of Supervisors website and looking for the Fire Board meeting dated August 14, 2012.This has been explained at nauseam to the Times. They just continue to throw the same question out there, without any alternatives. I’m not sure what people mean when they bring up the number of calls for fire versus medical calls. What difference does it make? Our primary purpose is fire and emergency medical services. If we don’t go to medicals, we will still be there for fires, why not go to both? How would not going to medicals save money? Is gas money worth having the resources necessary to have a positive outcome?
As far as the Chief or myself saying that if we close fire stations and reduce the number of fire fighters on duty, “people will die or your house will burn down”, I’ll stop saying it. I have always looked at it as if you call 911 and say your house is on fire or you are having a heart attack and it takes us too long to get there………??? What should we say instead?
If the movie ticket sellers are going to be cut in half, would it be a scare tactic for one of them to say, “if they lay some of us off, your going to have longer lines to purchase your ticket”? Or how about the airport bag inspectors saying “if they cut our services, it is more likely for a bomb or weapon to end up on the airplane”? I’m just saying! Again, I won’t say it anymore, but can you also ask Borenstein to stop saying that pension cost are going to be paid for by my kids and my grandkids and that we are all going to go bankrupt. Stop saying the system is unsustainable based on what happened in 2008.
Interesting how his “guesstimations” are facts and ours are “scare tactics”.
Adjustments to the cost of pensions, pay, and benefits for public employees are being negotiated all across the state and country. Encourage it instead of bad mouthing those who are working realistically and responsibly to find a solution. Review public employee contracts and contract changes between 2007 and now. You will see changes are occurring. There are some financial burdens caused by the economic downturn that need to be shared in order to keep certain critical services in place. We feel fire and emergency services are some them.
That is why we are asking for your help and support for Measure Q! Measure Q is a $75.00 a year parcel tax, which is equal to $6.21 a day month.
You can find out more about Measure Q by visiting Protect Contra Costa Fire and Emergency Services