ECCFPD Votes to Move to Elected Board, Punts on Representation Model

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East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board

On Monday, the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District voted 8-1 to move towards an elected board should the voters approve the plan in November. It’s anticipated to cost the District $112,648.

The action was the first step in potentially allowing voters in November to decide if they want to be represented by an elected five-member board or to continue with an appointed board.

Meanwhile the Board failed to make a decision on whether or not the District Directors will be elected “at large” across the entire district or by “Wards” within the District. The board pondered asking the voters to decide which would add to their election cost in November. The representation model will be brought back at a future meeting.

Currently, the Board is made up of four appointed seats from the City of Brentwood, three appointed seats from the City of Oakley and two appointed seats from the County Board of Supervisors.

The move comes after a November 2, 2015, action where the Board approved recommendations of the self-appointed multi-jurisdictional task force created to address emergency fire and medical response needs in the District. On December 7, 2015, the Board approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Contra Costa County and the Cities of Brentwood and Oakley to pursue the Task Force recommendations.

The MOU includes exploration of a ballot initiative in 2016, which exploration would consider:

  1. transitioning the District to an independent district with an elected board
  2. changing the District’s name to clarify that it is not a “county” agency,
  3. establishing a citizen’s oversight committee to oversee implementation of changes as a result of a successful revenue measure.

According to Chief Hugh Henderson, the board has the ability to decide if the future board should be a 3-member board or as many as 11-members or if the representation model should be “at large” or by District/Ward.

“In the initial LAFCO documentation, it said the Board should do this. It’s never gone to the public and I don’t know if there is ever a good time to do it but it seems with the work of the Task Force, the request by the Board of Supervisors, it appears to be the right time to move forward with this,” said Henderson. “The discussion has always been that at some point this board needs to move forward and be out on its own feet as an elected board. I believe this is the right time to get this going because it’s a two-step process.”

During Board Discussion, it was highlighted that if the Board decided to go for “wards” vs. “at-large” that each ward would have to have the same number of residents and each area of the District would have to be included in one of the wards.

erick stonebargerDirector Erick Stonebarger explained the type of model didn’t matter because every would have an opportunity to be represented.

“Everyone would be included and we would just have a bunch of weird lines and we would adjust every 10-years based on the census,” stated Erick Stonebarger. “There is equal representation from across the District. One of the arguments would be if you went that route then the City of Oakley and City of Brentwood would be able to participate in multiple wards if those lines were drawn according. You could have a Brentwood resident representing Oakley in certain wards”

Director Joe Young stated that because of perception, they had to go forward with an elected board.

“I do think we should look at a ward based approach because we have a district that has varied service needs. Because of the draft study, we are soon going to be providing different levels of service to different parts of the District. That becomes problematic when some of those areas who have lower levels of service, feel they have no representation on the board because the people with high service elected all the board members,” explained Young. “I would like to see both options put to the public and see the issues debated as to we should have an elected board and if it should be at large or elected.”

RandyPopeDirector Randy Pope stated he has always been a huge advocate of an elected board and has been saying it for a long time and the desire of the Oakley city Council.

“I feel very strongly it should be by ward and if we pay careful attention to how the lines are drawn to make sure that every type of area has representation because it would be very easy to have Brentwood and Oakley having the ability to steamroll the rest of the lower density population areas,” explained Pope. “Yes we need an elected board. I think five is a good number and by Districts or wards.”

Director Cheryl Morgan called on history of the Board and people need to remember how the District was formed and how it was asked to take over Byron’s District. She was not in favor of the move.

“I think this issue, whether we have five from different wards or at large, the majority of the voters are from Brentwood and Oakley, they are buying the District,” stated Morgan. “They want to control the Board, I get it, they are the majority. I think my area is not the majority and we are no longer going to have representation…. I have no illusions that once this board has no representation from any of the unincorporated areas, they will no problem cancelling the Amador contract and closing our station. From my position, I’d much rather be a rabble-rouser than sitting on a board, but I don’t think this is going to end up good for the District.”

Director Ron Johansen stated he always wanted this to be an elected board but saw both benefits and challenges with either decision.

“We should allow the voters to decide if it should be wards or at large. But I caution that if we do a district wide election, we watch carefully how these lines are drawn,” said Johanson. “I think it’s the public’s decision to make, not ours.”

Director Meghan Bell stated she was in full support of becoming an elected board calling it critical but was torn on a voters choice. She noted it was important that they have wards that ensured every area of the District was represented.

“There needs to be a way for the unincorporated to be heard and that one city does not have dominance over another, especially with the decisions going forward. I would like to see a number larger than five; I understand when you increase the number you are making it more difficult for decisions to be made. I know it’s difficult for all 9 of us to gather at times due to commitments. That leaves the number 7,” said Bell. “I am in strong support of an elected board.”

Director Young added that they have 115,000 people, with 5 wards you have about 23,000 per ward which means 1 ½ in Oakley, 2 ¼ in Brentwood and the rest spread out.

“Going above 5 directors on an elected board is very difficult and you will run into situations where those offices are not filled,” said Young. “It takes time and money to run for office and to come up with 7 or 9 is very difficult. All the other districts are using 5 as their model and that is the direction we are going I think.”

Director Stonebarger stated he gets the concern about the unincorporated not getting representation but called it unfounded highlighting if they really wanted the Amador contract gone they would have already done it.

“I think an at large is the best way to represent the District,” said Stonebarger. “If you go with a ward, that is great, I am not going to fight a big fight about it but I want us to understand the math that with 114,000 people on that’s 22,800 people per ward. Therefore, an example would be Brentwood would have three opportunities, that is a majority. Oakley would have 2 opportunities. If you change it to 7-wards, the math doesn’t change,” said Stonebarger. “I would make the argument that if you go by ward, the cities have more of an opportunity to control the district.”

Director Morgan argued no matter how you design the wards, the cities control the vote over the unincorporated areas.

Director Johansen stated that whoever is elected to the board has a responsibility to represent the District as a whole and if they don’t do that, the voters can vote them out.

joel bryantBoard President Joel Bryant stated that whoever is elected will represent the District as a whole, whatever the District looks like, whatever it may be called in the future.

“I understand the concerns, but not a chance because the reality is this district is responsible for its residents regardless its one resident in a rural location or an area of 10, 000,” said Bryant. “This is why it’s called a fire protection district. Whether its ward or at-large, the responsibility of this board remains the same.”

The District discussed the idea of asking the public two questions at the next election with the first being do you want to go to an elected board—needing 50%+1. The second question would potentially be does the public want an “at-large” representation or by “District”.

Director Erick Stonebarger made a motion to move forward with a 5-person elected board and to come back to options of whether its “at large” or by “district”.

The motion passed in an 8-1 vote with Morgan voting no.

Chief Henderson stated their plan is to bring back the information at a special June 20, 2016 board meeting where the Board will discuss further language and costs.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. From where I sit. Cheryl Morgan looks like the only Director not looking at serving this district as a whole. She is stuck on Morgan Territory and is a terrible representative. Erick Stonebarger is correct, it really doesn’t matter because Brentwood and Oakley still get the same seats for the most part. The fact they punted a decision on the model shows why this board should be elected. They cannot make a decision to save their life.

  2. From where I sat, the Board over complicated (yet again) a very simple discussion and decision and went into the weeds. I do not have to agree with a board decision, but just make the decisions instead of consistent punting. These guys are appointed to make these decisions, not go to the public every time a difficult decision comes up.

    Do you want an elected board – Yes
    How many seats – 5
    At-large or Districts – pick one or the other.

    I have a preference of Wards, however, I will not loose any sleep over an “at large” elected board either.

  3. At least they are finally going to an elected board. Can’t beleive its that big of deal for at large or districts.

  4. Wards would be equitable and fair to equal representation. Its done in many places and is a common practice. Also a max of five members will be much more productive for the district. Most important is to move the district forward to a true independent district before either city creates its own department. A revenue enhancement will be received by the public much easier when an elected board is in place.

  5. I’m thinking that it might be better for the citizens served by the district if Brentwood and Oakley removed their sitting council members from the ECCFPD board immediately and replace them with regular citizens who hopefully won’t have pre-existing agendas.

    That said, a Ward or district approach is the only way to keep Brentwood from running the whole thing in the future.

  6. The move to elected officials will eliminate the City appointed dual seat politicians. This is why ECCFPD has never really been a real by law independent district. This is a very positive move for the district.

    • I get that the election of a board will adjust the representation and guarantee non-dual officials, but if the existing council members put it on the ballot, Brentwood would be in control almost by default using the at large model.

      I just think it would be cleaner if they clear out now.

    • @Unome, stop trying to comment above your pay grade. Elected vs. appointed has nothing to do with whether a special district is independent or not. They can be either.

      • I don’t think there is a pay grade for Unome. (Maybe somewhere between a slurpee vendor and a goat milker).

        Suited better to Farmers only.com. City folks just don’t get him…..

        *this comment entirely funded by those wishing to stomp out stupid!

  7. To Anon, minions, and Aliases,
    Why do you follow me around like a puppy looking for attention? If you can’t handle the truth you just resort to attack. No need to respond with gibberish I I love all my followers even you.

    • Unome, can’t you see the obvious? It’s your narcissistic behavior.

      Posting stupid comments and expecting anything other than verbal embrace is naive, but there you are once again. Isn’t that special?

      You remind me of a street corner fool who wears a sign around his neck that reads; “kick me in the nuts $5.00” and then complains about the pain.

      No gibberish, just reality. Only one person here has a problem with the truth and is too dim witted to see that everyone else knows it. I only push back on you because you attack others, many of which do good things for our east county communities. I only push back because you can’t keep your story straight from one post to the next. I only push back because you use tiny thoughts and tiny words like “minions” and puppies.

      I only push back because best of all, You make it way too easy.

  8. Anon, thank you for sharing your personal issues. Anything and everything I comment on I can back up by document. My opinions are my own and my right. Your attacks on anyone who disagrees with you reveal you have nothing productive to add to a blog article. Go back and read your attacks on people. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. I see by your post at 4:05pm and then talking back to yourself at midnight really proves you have some personal issues. I suggest you go back to your promise and not respond to any of my comments. It just shows your personal problems are real and need to be cared for. Quite frankly you scare me.

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