On Tuesday, the Brentwood City Council voted unanimously in a 4-0 vote to appoint City Council members Steve Barr and Erick Stonebarger to the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board.
The two city council members previously came off the fire Board in 2012 when it was decided to appoint members of the community to the seats. Brentwood, who holds four of the nine seats, appointed three members of the community which included Greg Cooper, Stephen Smith and Joe Young. Vice Mayor Joel Bryant stated he would stay on for a year through transition, but has never left his seat.
On Tuesday, the Council’s action allow Barr and Stonebarger to retake their seats and replace community appointees Cooper and Smith.
According to the staff report, the ad-hoc committee met and decided that with the recent approvals of the recommendation from the multi-jurisdictional task force and Brentwood’s commitment to providing $666,000 to the fire District over 18-months, the city’s appointments should be the current elected members of the city council.
During Tuesday’s Meeting Councilman Stonebarger highlighted that because of the investment of city general funds going into the fire district, they wanted to make sure that Brentwood’s city council is in sync with the fire district with so many moving parts coming before the fire district and fire board over the next several months.
“We want to recognize the work and dedication the two appointees did, its no reflection on the job that they did, we just think it gives us a better cohesion and sync of the decisions as we move forward,” said Stonebarger.
Councilmember Barr stated they truly believe the next 18-months will be fairly busy which will effect Brentwood and the future course of the District. They also wished to keep those decisions close to where the City Council thinks the fire district should go.
The decision by Brentwood to replace two members of the fire board with city council members did not sit well with Oakley resident and Vice President of the ECCFPD Ron Johansen who accused Brentwood of creating a possible power struggle between cities and the county.
“I am here to give support to the two appointed members of the fire board, I am proud to say I’ve been giving full autonomy by the City of Oakley and I think that’s very important. We have had some direction given to us by Gus (Vina), with the District with the directors of the county to seek out an election and a change of name and more importantly become an independent district. I think that’s very important to remember as we continue,” explained Johansen. “We have representation by the Brentwood City Council by our President Joel Bryant. I think that should be remembered and I am concerned as a member of the Board that we will start a process by the City of Oakley wanting to have control and City of Brentwood wanting to have control and the County have control that we forget what is happening here in the long run which is bringing about stability for the district beyond 18-months.”
Johansen closed by thanking Director’s Cooper and Smith for serving.
“They are honorable men who have served with integrity and have truly put the best interest of Brentwood and this city council,” said Johansen. “I think it would be a mistake [to replace them], it would start a power race between two cities eliminating the appointees of our two cities.”
Joe Young, a fire board member and Brentwood appointee, thanked Gus Vina for the task force and herding all parties together.
“I am a little disappointed in the decision to move away from the appointed board to having the city council members fill the positions. I think Director Smith and Cooper have done an excellent job and committed a significant amount of time to the fire district, especially Director Smith who was instrumental in solving the GIS issues developed during the benefit assessment, chaired the finance committee,” explained Young. “There is a potential for the fire board becoming very parochial and it’s important to understand the change in going from Brentwood City Council to the fire board which has a much wider sphere of influence that it has to govern over and make decisions for. So when you are sitting at that chair, it’s important to remember you are looking at the entire district and Brentwood is a part of it. We must have the District always working together, we can’t have Brentwood engine sitting over here and an Oakley engine sitting over there and neither of them wanting to go to Bethel Island to fight the fire. It’s important that the continuity of the fire board continue.”
Stephen Smith, who was being replaced, stated he was proud to serve the fire district and applied for another term noting he had been involved with 2006. He noted his first action item was the creation of ad-hoc committees which have helped the fire board move forward.
“I feel the board as it has been constituted with a single board member from each city has been a well-balanced board with a variety of backgrounds and experiences brought to the table. A big factor has been the availability of time to focus on district matters; this is true for those board members who are not elected officials,” stated Smith. “It has been reported by the press that one reason was to ensure support for the task force recommendations. However, Director Cooper and I have consistently spoken and voted to support the task force recommendations. In addition, I’ve worked behind the scenes to deal with potential difficulties as they arose. As I understand it the other reason for replacing director Cooper and I is increased accountability, this raises the question of accountability to who? Director Cooper and I have sworn once only to serve the District, Councilmembers have divided loyalties which complicate the issues. However, irrespective of the decision made tonight, I will remain a strong supporter of the district and will do all I can to help the District.”
Gil Guerrero, East Contra Costa Fire Protection District and Local 1230, thanked Directors Cooper and Smith for their efforts who have been fantastic highlighting the Director Smith has been a neutral guy after meeting him 6-years ago. He explained how Mr. Smith was a concerned citizen about the fire district in Brentwood and it grew to the entire district, however, he remained neutral rather than placing his heart into one area of the district over another.
Mr. Cooper was the same way as a fireman in Mountain View.
“He brought perspective as a firefighter and was able to explain why firefighters are short handed or felt the way they did. He would push for things that maybe the Board was not familiar with so they were both great appointees and proud servants of the City of Brentwood,” said Guererro. “Brentwood was blessed to have these two serve on the Board.”
Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor, without any discussion, nominated Council members Barr and Stonebarger to the fire board.
Before a vote could be taken, Councilman Stonebarger highlighted that the idea of bringing this to the council was not to get Councilman Barr and he back on the fire board, but get the city council back engaged in the district.
The vote was then taken which was 4-0. After the vote, Vice Mayor Joel Bryant thanked Mr. Smith and Greg Cooper for being a vital part of the fire board.
The current Fire District Board consists of nine members: four from the City of Brentwood, three from the City of Oakley and two from the unincorporated County area, each residing within the District and the respective City limits being represented.
Councilmembers Barr and Stonebarger will be sworn in at the January 2016 meeting.