Kudos go out to Vince Wells who again is taking on those rabble rousers from the Contra Costa County Taxpayers Association in response to Contra Costa Times Columnist Tom Barnidge who actually had a pretty solid piece over the weekend.
I won’t post the entire article, you can read it by clicking here. It can be summed up in a single line as it tries to explain the consequences of a “not vote”.
People wonder why the district can’t live within its means. One answer is that its means aren’t nearly what they were. When property tax bills shriveled like a plum in a sauna — you’ve noticed you’re paying less, right? — so did the amount we paid for fire protection.
But we still expected the same service. Try getting that deal from PG&E.
In response, you have Kris Hunt and her spelling errors issuing the following response:
Mr. Barnidge, your answer is that no matter how badly the district is run, no matter that the board saw this coming but continued to run down reserves, no matter that the distrtict quit replacing fire engines, no matter that the tax will not solve the district’s financial problems, and no matter that instead of diealing with the problems of pay and benefits the board gave a letter to the union A YEAR AGO saying they would work to put a pacecl tax on the November ballot, you are ok with this way of managing a government entity? This is giving a license to bad governance.
And before you fall for the shrinking revenue story, you might also check that pension costs that were four and a half million are now up to $26 million when you include the cost paying the money the district borrowed to reduce the unfunded pension liability.
This is a simple math problem and the numbers are not adding up.
Then you have Wendy Lack chime in who should probably remain silent as she admitted she is not in the Times pension database even though she had 20+ years as a Walnut Creek employee.
Your column misses the point. The District offers the public two choices: Pay more or receive reduced services. And yet there are an infinite number of alternative choices. It’s the being-backed-into-the-corner aspect that doesn’t fly with the public. We know there are other choices the District chooses to reject because it prefers to continue doing business as usual.
After all, public officials made the choices that led the District to its near-bankrupt state. Should Measure Q pass, what will be different? The District will continue on its steady path to insolvency, only with a slight delay.
Historically county supervisors have demonstrated their inability to affect change or manage responsibly. This is illustrated by the fact that the District was deficit spending in the year (2007/8) that its income from property
taxes was the HIGHEST in recent history! So they cannot claim that the 2008 financial downturn is the sole cause of its problems — it ain’t so.
Should Measure Q fail District officials will be compelled to face reality and examine available alternatives because they have a duty to provide emergency services within the budget available.
Importantly, failure of Measure Q will require District officials to consider ways to conduct its business at a lesser cost – while also meeting its fundamental obligation to provide essential services. While revision of the county’s emergency response plan may be necessary to reorganize services, there is no doubt that the District can achieve greater economies in service delivery.
Oh, and please be advised: Many taxpayers have NOT seen reductions in property tax bills. And among those who have, many are in acute financial distress. This tired sales pitch – often heard from county supes – is as nonsensical as it is insensitive to struggling families.
Vote NO on Measure Q.
Then we have Local 1230 President Vince Wells who is a man of reason, someone who is willing to debate, but simply sticks to the facts and principal. Notice his response compared to the fibbers over there at CoCo Tax.
It seems that every time an article comes out regarding the potential impacts of lack of fire protection, you and Wendy chime in and get upset with the author. You prefer them aid in your financial “scare tactics”, and would have them shy away from reporting on the impacts of an unanswered 911 call. As a fire fighter and a citizen, I believe that closing fire stations and not having an adequate 911 response system is critical to a community.
The first thing we teach the preschoolers that come to our station for tours during “fire prevention week” is what number to call if there is an emergency. Most of them know it well, even at that age. Everyone may not feel that closing fire stations is the solution. There are more ways to solve problems rather than put the community at risk with the hopes of a solution that would satisfy you.
I have wondered if you or your organization would recommend shutting down the baggage check points in an airport because you disagreed with their pay and benefits or how they managed their budget. If their services were removed from a certain airport, would you support or recommend that? I may be biased, but if fire and emergency services are cut back to the levels that they will be if Measure Q is not successful, the community is at risk.
You make it seem that the fire district or the fire fighters, or the Board of Supervisors need to be punished for the situation we are in. Who wins here? On behalf of the firefighters, of who most of them have less than eight years on the department, and who just found out who you are, they weren’t here when the retirement benefits changed. They come to work and work their tails off for this community. They get out to an emergency as quickly as possible, train and work hard, and lay their lives on the line for the citizens of Contra Costa County. Our fire chief has only been here two years!
Your attitude of “teaching someone a lesson” is not appropriate when it comes to emergency services. Put your efforts into solving the problems you see over the next 7 years that the tax is in place.
After this article and reading your post, I have thought a lot about $6.25 a month. I have worked for Con Fire now for 15 years and have never seen a rate hike for the services we provide. The property owners within the district pay property taxes. Out of those taxes, a portion of it goes to the various district agencies. Since 1978, that amount has been frozen. Since 1978 there has not been any rate increases to the fire district. In fact, since 2008 the revenue allocated to the fire district has shrunk by over 32 million. We are asking for $75.00 a year of it back. To those who bring up the long list of school bonds and other initiatives that are on their tax bill, note there is none for the fire district. The services we provide and our efficiencies have changed significantly since 1978. I can attest to that just within my 18 years of fire service. We provide way more services then we did in the past. As I look at my cell phone, PG&E, cable, water, and amount paid for gas since 1978, all of them are way more than an increase of $6.25 a month!
Since Measure S failed in the East Contra Costa County Fire District the citizens are paying the same tax to the district that they paid before the measure was placed on the ballot. Now they just have half the fire fighters on duty. From 16 to 9. The unfunded liability and pension costs were not affected by voting no on that Measure.
In fact, since the Measure failed, I haven’t seen you out there with any follow up. The response times have doubled, fires get much bigger, and many savable lives have been lost.
Barnidge makes a point in his article about those that just have it out for firefighters but ignore the impact of lack of fire services. You are obviously not concerned about the fire or emergency service levels in the county.
As a veteran, I am a strong supporter of the right to vote. I encourage those who read this to please do your homework regarding this issue. Jumping on the bandwagon of those who have a personal agenda, could have a significant impact on the public safety level provided to you and your family in Contra Costa County!
Yes on Q!
You can find out more about Protecting our emergency services by visiting http://www.protectccfire.com/