Instead, at the request of Mayor Bob Taylor, the council agreed to send Assemblyman Frazier a “generic letter” thanking him for his efforts in trying to find additional funds for the fire district
Assembly Bill 898, if approved by the state legislator or by votes via AB 899, would re-allocate $10.5 million from the East Bay Regional Park District to the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District.
The East Bay Regional Park District has come out in opposition of the bill. (click here for Op Ed Letter)
Councilman Joel Bryant, who brought the request forward, explained he wanted the letter of support to be submitted on behalf of the city.
“A park district would be losing $10.5 million, how that effects their $190 million budget is entirely up to them for the most part,” said Bryant. “But personally, I don’t think you can look at this as any other way than trading potential lives for park visits.”
Bryant said they had to be open to any additional income or re-allocation to help the fire district that is brought to them.
“On the city side, I can’t see any negative aspects of supporting this idea. I think it’s a win-win,” said Bryant, explaining it could add 2-3 fire stations to save lives. “I think our support will give this a greater possibility, perhaps, of finding approval at the state level. I am asking for us support this as a council and city.”
Vice Mayor Steve Barr highlighted how his understanding of both Assembly Bill 898 and 899 was limited.
“I am wondering timing wise, does it suite the City of Brentwood better to get a little more information and when this bill is actually getting to a point where our support would count for more, would that be the appropriate time,” said Barr. I am looking at a timing issue as the devils are in the details. We hear $10.5 million lost from the Park District, but we don’t know how that all works. I would like to know a little more before I committed that letter of support and have it be more impactful.”
Councilwoman Karen Rarey stated she agreed and they needed to look at the bill more.
“There are a lot of questions out there before we can give our support to it,” said Rarey. “Once they are answered, we may move forward with support.
Councilwoman Claudette Staton called the bill “interesting” and wanted more information.
“I applaud Assemblyman Frazier for even wanting to step out to try and do something to help East Contra Costa County. I think we need more information and see what East Bay Regional Parks issues are,” said Staton. “I hear $190 million, are they using that every day? Is that money sitting on the side line? These are things we need to look at before jumping at it.”
Bryant further highlighted his concerns if the council did not take action.
“If the cities and the districts that are directly and most affected by this and do not support this effort or idea, then there is absolutely no motive for anyone else that aren’t directly affected by this to support this idea, so what I might ask then is that we draft a letter that we support the idea of this at the same time we are waiting for more information because frankly, the voters were very clear in asking us to go for re-allocation at the state level,” explained Bryant. “Now for the firs time, we have someone doing that and if we can’t get enough passion behind our city and our fire district, why should anyone else. I think this is a very vital moment in time. If the representatives at the state see that we are behind this idea, they may be willing to stick their neck out.”
Bryant admitted this was a “political hot potato” and questioned if they could not get behind it, why would anyone else.
Barr suggested they write a letter saying they supported him and the effort for re-allocation to the District and what they could do to help. He wanted to submit a letter when it would have a bigger impact.
“We could follow up with more broad support when there is actually a bill and we need to make that impact,” said Barr.
Staton wanted to ensure the letter included a “thank you” because no one other Assembly person or Senator stepped up.
“We have an issue here, it’s about safety and the lives in the community,” said Staton. “A nice letter to him would be nice to say thank you for putting this bill out and we want to hear more about it. That would be very good.”
Mayor Taylor warned the council they had to be careful in their actions.
“The more you peal the union back; I am not quite sure where the park district is because they have commitments, they have things going on, their budget, turns out when you delve into Alameda County, I am not sure the logistics and legal ramifications,” explained Taylor. “I would say, personally, I would like a very generic letter stating we appreciate anything the assemblyman comes, goes; however it is, but not specifically take the money from one agency. I don’t want to be agency specific; I would like a very generic letter thanking the assemblyman for his purpose. But there is a whole lot of unknown factors out there. I can tell you right now the park district is not going to hand the fire district $10.5 million.”
During public comments, there was both support and opposition to the bill.
Colin Coffey, Director at East Bay Regional Park District, stated he encouraged the council to write a letter, however, reminded the council the park district was actively opposing Assemblyman Frazier’s measure.
“The key problem with this, and it has to do with the issue the councilmember brought up, making sure a fire house is within the boundaries of the city or you devote your resources of taxpayers as you are doing. So the concept of taxes and boundaries going to provide services within the jurisdiction is key,” said Coffey. “What this legislation does is it goes to everyone else in the county, Richmond, Concord, walnut Creek, Antioch, Pittsburg and asks them to set forth a percentage of their property taxes, currently supporting their parks, their trails, their fire, their police they use of the park district and shift it to the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District who provide them with no services. There is something that just doesn’t make rational sense.”
Stephen Smith, a Brentwood resident, stated a letter of support was extremely premature because there were so many questions with the bill.
“We don’t even know what amount of their revenue stream is even available for redistribution. I think we also have to ask where Assemblywomen Catharine Baker is on this. Where Senator Steve Glazer is on this,” said Smith. “This is going nowhere without the unanimous support of the legislators in the East Bay. I find it amazing that we could even consider redirecting money from a multi-county park district to a fire district in one corner of one county and get away with it.”
Smith encouraged the council to seek more information and explanation from Assemblyman Frazier while starting he did not see how the people of Alameda County or Central Contra Costa County could support such a bill.
Byron Scott, of Brentwood, stated that he spoke with Assemblyman Frazier’s office and that he was writing a letter of support for upcoming hearings.
“I think the timing on the bill, which is included in your packet, should give you enough information to understand the fundamentals of the bill and what it’s trying to accomplish,” said Scott. “It’s to save lives.”
Bob Mankin, a Discovery Bay resident, called this a details matter situation where he explained how Discovery Bay put together a letter of support for East County Voters for Equal Protection and their tax re-allocation plan, however, once details came out, last week they withdrew their support.
“They thought it was a good idea without doing their homework and come to find out it wasn’t a good idea. Last week, they withdrew that letter of support because they had done some homework and realized maybe they didn’t have all the information when they put together the first letter,” said Mankin. “So I think you have the same situation here because if you go look at the bill right now as it sits, the language has you reallocating money from East Contra Costa Fire to East Bay Regional Parks. Don’t take my word for it, look it up. So if you are going to offer support of AB898, you are actually doing the exact opposite of what you intended.”
Barr stated that they should support Assemblyman Frazier’s efforts to support the fire district and request more information—possibly a more thorough presentation. He also asked in the letter to highlight Brentwood’s efforts of funding a fire station at $1 million each year for 3-years.
Rarey shared she read the bill and confirmed Mr. Mankin’s statement on how it reads that the fire district would be giving the East Bay Regional Park District $10.5 million.
Bryant stated Assemblyman Jim Frazier’s office was aware of the typo and it was in the process of being corrected.
Taylor again stated his preference to send Assemblyman Frazier a generic letter thanking him for his efforts.
The council agreed to send a generic letter which will be drafted by City Manager Gus Vina.