Op Ed: EBRPD is Not the Answer for East County Fire District’s Funding Challenges

Written by Robert Doyle

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This is a Local Problem in need of a Local Solution

For 80+ years, East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) has been well known for its transparency in managing public funds by listening astutely to its taxpaying constituents in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. This has allowed EBRPD to successfully obtain the two-thirds votes needed for several park funding measures; we work hard to earn the voters’ trust.

Conversely, the East County Voters for Equal Protection (ECV), an anti-tax payer committee, and Assembly member Jim Frazier, (D-Discovery Bay) haven’t engaged well in East County to lead an effective campaign to raise funds within their community for their beleaguered fire protection district. Instead, they are asking communities outside their boundaries to fund their fire protection district that their own communities have voted against three times!

AB 898 authored by Assembly member Frazier suggests the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) should be funded by EBRPD from tax revenues received outside of the Fire District’s jurisdiction. They call it “reallocating” resources. We call it “theft” since EBRPD’s primary source of revenue in East Contra Costa County is a Landscape and Lighting District, and Measure WW bonds for acquisition and development of parks.  Given the services EBRPD provides to East County, no proportional funding comes from ECCFPD residents. Frazier is proposing other East Bay cities like Concord, Martinez, Richmond and Antioch pay for ECCFPD’s operations instead of their Regional Parks.

Frazier’s bill is a distraction tactic to avoid telling his anti-taxpayer supporters that in fact, it is fair and appropriate to fund their own important services in East Contra Costa County, the fastest growing region in the East Bay.  The arguments supporting this bill are false.  Here’s how they compare to the facts:

Argument:      Fire service is more important than parks.

EBRPD Fact:    Pitting fire safety vs regional parks is not relevant as EBRPD funds approximately $5 million annually for fire services delivered by unionized firefighters trained as first responders to fire and medical emergencies, and to protect communities from wildfires in parklands and open spaces.   As a first responder to the 1991 Oakland Hills wildland/urban interface fire, EBRPD firefighters assisted in the preservation of lives and properties.   Saving lives and property is equally important to EBRPD as it is to ECCFPD. 

Argument:      EBRPD can do with less of its property tax growth.

EBRPD Fact:    This argument is perpetuated by ECV, the same anti-taxpayer group that opposes local tax increases for essential services, but evidentially feel it is fine to raid the taxes paid by other county property owners.  Their misplaced argument doesn’t consider the growing operational expenses needed to maintain the Park District’s existing parks/trails or repair over $8 million in recent flood and storm damage to our parks, lakes and 55 miles of shoreline.  

This tax transfer scheme would cut 1/5 of the Park District’s budget in Contra Costa County.  Should EBRPD lose funding through this Bill, services and operational impacts to parks and trails would occur including:  Big Break Regional Shoreline and Visitor Center at the Delta, Contra Loma Regional Park, Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Round Valley Regional Preserve, Martinez Regional Shoreline, Briones Regional Park, and the Delta DeAnza, Iron Horse and Marsh Creek Regional Trails, to name a few.  Additional reduction in funding may negatively impact the District’s ability to support planning for public access at the Concord Naval Weapons Station or new parklands in Brentwood and Oakley – including proposed new access to the Delta near Discovery Bay.

Argument:      EBRPD wasn’t negatively impacted like other government agencies by a property tax shift requirement when the State needed help during fiscal crisis’ 25 years ago.

EBRPD Fact:    At the time, EBRPD was one of many agencies, including police and fire districts, justly recognized by lawmakers for its responsibility and significant funding of public safety services and thus, retained local tax dollars during a State-wide budget deficit.  In addition, State lawmakers also recognized EBRPD was a first responder for and funder of fire suppression in East Bay State Responsibility Areas (SRAs) where the State of California has primary responsibility for prevention and suppression of wildfires. Lawmakers also recognized EBRPD’s lead in solely funding the operations and maintenance of three State Parks.  All of these services remain funded by the East Bay Regional Park District today.

Argument:      EBRPD has plenty of money, $210 million annually.

EBRPD Fact:    EBRPD’s annual operating budget is $127 million (2016), which includes $5 million allocation to fund three State Parks with no reimbursement.  All additional funds transparently reported in our Annual Budget are voter-approved Measure WW bonds and designated grant funds for acquisition and capital development.  None of these additional funds are legally transferrable.

A recent economic study found EBRPD provides $500 million annually in benefits which include the values of recreation, healthcare, property values and ecosystem services. Instead of penalizing EBRPD by stealing from its tax revenues and unfairly impacting other community’s park services, we suggest that Mr. Frazier and ECV learn from EBRPD’s prudent good governance model and adapt similar best practices within ECCFPD. We applaud Brentwood’s recent proposal to look internally to fund an ECCFPD fire station within their city limits, and we hope others follow their lead to help develop a local solution to a local problem.

The Park District’s successful funding measures show the public’s significant support for our parks. The best way to ask the public for financial help is to engage them in an open and collaborative process to build credibility and trust, then ask for money … not take it from other popular services.

Share your views and support maintaining your Contra Costa County regional parks and trails at their current funding level.  Join us by contacting your local elected officials and saying no to AB 898.

Robert Doyle
General Manager of East Bay Regional Park District

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10 COMMENTS

  1. C’mon folks this isn’t rocket science. We all have to pay our own share which we currently don’t do. And taking from others isn’t how we solve problems. Maybe our leaders should ask EBRPD for advice instead of stealing their money. They seem to know how to leverage resources and get public support pretty good.

    • Carol is right. It’s a sad day when you have people such as JFrazier and that ECV group that want to steal money from other agencies. That’s illegal and trying to make it legal,is wrong. Common sense people! It’s criminal that elected officials such as JFrazier don’t get the concept.

    • Carol, you say, “taking from others isn’t the concecpt”. This is exactly what our elected just did, including Jimmy Frazier, when they voted to again F us with more taxes at the pump & DMV instead of being responsible and accountable for how they waste our taxes that they already take. Our politicians are the most corrupt people on earth!!!

      • No, Jim Frazier is the most corrupt politician on earth. Other than that we agree. Jimmy F just F’d us again.

  2. What a riot reading the Facebook comments above. 3 of them are from the ECV group members and supporter, including the @asshat Jack Weir. If Jacko were really qualified he would know as an anti tax zealot, that EBRP only collects a fraction of property taxes in east county. 700 thousand dollars to be exact, and yet Jim Frazier wants to rob them of 10.5 million? Someone can’t do math. So how is it that we have Jack Weir who is ok with taking money from taxpayers earmarked for parks and giving it to East County citizens that refuse to pay for fire services? Who exactly are you looking out for Jack? Not the citizens of Contra Costa or Alameda counties. Bad message Jacko and you are obviously in over your head. Must be why the voters rejected you on the city council in Pleasant Hill. A club such as CCTax is a much safer place for you to hide your ignorance.

    Mr. Rob Broocker also has a similar impediment. Everyone on this site knows the publisher
    of this blog reigns from Oakley. Oakley is in the district.

    Mr. Robert Bay also a ECV fan doesn’t make a lick of sense. Wouldn’t know where to start first at taking apart his foolish comment. It’s full of holes and screams ignorance

    These are just three minor examples of why no one can get behind these fools. They live in fantasyland and are not very bright.

  3. Great Op-ed!!! Mr. Doyle hit the nail on the head. Too bad Jim Frazier doesn’t get this concept. It’s very easy. You shouldn’t steal from people or well run organizations like EBRPD. They don’t deserve this Mr. Frazier. Why don’t you work on fixing the fire department locally instead of spreading the problem to everyone else.

  4. I’m a life long resident of Oakley and have seen all the changes in East County when it comes to fire protection. The County Board of Supervisors and the current Board of directors are JV when it comes to asking for tax dollars and educating the community about fire protection needs. I agree with Carol, Frazier, local 1230 and the ECC Fire Board should ask the leaders of EBRPD for advice on how to get a tax measure passed instead of stealing their money. The Park District seems to know how to leverage resources and get public support.

    Redistributing funds across county lines is so egregious that such a broad concept cannot be allowed to take hold. Otherwise the citizens in communities who have adequately paid for the levels of service that they desired will be constantly defending their revenue streams from being stripped by communities that didn’t want to appropriately generate and allocate funds, or worse, that gave wholesale tax exemptions while their fire services were failing.

    From what the Park District is saying, they don’t receive any property tax from residents in this fire district. Frazier’s $10.5 million reallocation plan would require taxes diverted be paid by other parts of the Park District’s constituents. BTW Park District’s budget last year was actually $127m in general fund including $30 million for police and fire costs to ensure safety in the parklands. Anything beyond that number is restricted funds from bonds approved by tax payers for capital projects. EBRP doesn’t pay for local city services. This bill seems directed at hurting EBRP rather than helping the Fire District.

    Jim Frazier helped create the problem and is now looking for the Park District to fix it??

    Did you know that Jim Frazier SUSPENDED FUNDS for the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District that was supposed to be used to protect East County Citizens?

    In 2011 the Oakley City Council, led by then-mayor Jim Frazier, voted to eliminate the Fire Impact Fee through the City’s Fee Incentive Program. The Fee Incentive Program eliminated the Fire Impact Fee for single family, multi-family, commercial, and industrial properties. Frazier continued to eliminate the Fire Impact Fees through 2017.

    Clearly Frazier and is backers are not interested in solutions. They are only interested in money. To make matters worse, they aren’t (at least Assemblyman Frazier isn’t) even interested in appropriate adjustments to get more money. If the news article is correct, his target is simply the deepest pockets. That concept poses a terrible precedent. Of course Frazier’s action is only targeting funds that you, I and other prosperous communities pour into your regional parks and for the fire protection that the park district provides for your open spaces and threat zones. Who will Frazier bully next?

    Some folks like Jack Weir need to understand the entire history of East County Fire Protection before popping off. If you knew the history then you would want the ECCFPD, East County Cities and it’s board to learn what it takes to get a measure passed. They should all approach the EBRPD asking for guidance.

  5. Trish, some history about Jack Weir (Facebook comments above). He is an angry close-mined, anti tax, anti fact kinda guy. He doesn’t live in East County and in fact, He resides in Pleasant Hill. He is such a zealot, that the voters in his own community gave him the boot off of the city council. He is the president of the private, Contra Costa Taxpayers assoc. He is not liked in his own back yard and yet now he is trying to tell us what to do in ours. He doesn’t live here and doesn’t rely on the services of our fire district. What you really need to know is that he is in bed with the two antagonists from ECV, Hal Bray and Bryan Scott.

    The irony is the latest Facebook commenter, who is trashing this plan (and ECV) is none other than Kris Hunt. The same Kris Hunt that was the executive director for the Contra Costa Taxpayer assoc. for years and for all intents and purposes she and Jack are now contradicting and opposing each other! Kris Hunt also is formerly from Pleasant Hill and no longer resides in the State of California.

    The truth is much, much stranger than fiction and this group- ECV, Jack Weir and Kris Hunt take the cake.

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