Kudos go out to Daniel M. Jimenez and Natalie Neysa Alund for doing some real reporting for a change over there at the Contra Costa Times over the weekend. They reported Saturday on a two-alarm Concord blaze that spread from one home to another early Saturday morning had a slower firefighter response due to staffing reductions at one of Contra Costa’s busiest stations.
Unfortunately, the naysayers over there at the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association are out complaining to whoever will listen that the news story apparently had some editorializing within the article. The reality is the effects of a reduction in staffing levels are very real and have now been exposed in a real life situation as opposed to scare tactics that have been claimed by CoCo Tax. The truth comes out in an article, now CoCo Tax members are attacked attacking the Times for a solid article because it disputes their message!
Keep in mind this is the same newspaper that’s trashed firefighters and public safety for the last few years by repeating Ms. Hunts rhetoric through her buddy Dan Borenstein in the editorial department. This is the same paper that rejected Measure S and now doing the same with Measure Q.
I would encourage CoCo Tax members, specifically Kris Hunt and Wendy Lack to spend less time worrying about the Times and spend more time questioning your President Michael McGill as news came out last week that as a Board Member on the Central Contra Costa County Sanitary District, his District serves as the poster child for pension abuse in Contra Costa County. One did not hear a peep out of either Ms. Hunt or Ms. Lack, instead, it was back to attacking firefighters.
Note, this is the same Wendy Lack who likely received a nice retirement (pension or 401k) from her time as Human Resources Director for the City of Walnut Creek from 1983 to 2006. For the record, I think its great she receives a nice retirement for her service, she just shouldn’t be attacking others in the process.
But lets be honest, Ms. Hunt and Ms. Lack may want to question their president for calling Measure S “Stupid” during a meeting before getting educated immediately after. What is more interesting is the apparently conflict of interest of Mr. McGill serving as a district member of LAFCO while serving as President of CoCo Tax which each have conflicting views of one another–he should be asked to step down from LAFCO.
Instead of attacking firefighters and now apparently the Times, why doesn’t Kris Hunt and Wendy Lack speak with him about his apparent multiple conflicts of interests? They either are playing stupid or trying to protect him and his special district while bringing attention to another special district. Ladies this is what you call a clear double-standard.
As for CoCo Tax, they are also subsidized by one of their members on rent. I have documents that show they are paying far less than market value in Downtown Martinez where the landlord is non-other than Lippow Development Co. In 2009, the document highlights how they paid just $4,600 in 2009 for rent, utilities, and maintenance—or, just $389 per month via their 990 form. In 2008, it was listed as $4,330. To put this in perspective, their 2004 form shows this same line as just $4,376. In a five year period, their rent went up just $300?
Where was Ms. Hunt and Wendy Lack defending their pension club lists that the Contra Costa Times ran with for months from their database–this was their “go-to” argument that has now been ruled a fraud. Now they are silent.
The Times only came out with their updated list and slant after I brought attention to how incorrect their pension club rhetoric was because it wasn’t the rank and file who were on the list, but non-union folks! Now Mr. Peele and Mr. Borenstein have to change their tune and from what I hear, they are unhappy. This of course, was a long battle over many months by many people.
Now back to the article at hand, before I get into the many comments, here is a portion article that CoCo Tax is now attacking which was actually pretty solid.
According to the article
CONCORD — A two-alarm Concord blaze that spread from one home to another early Saturday morning had a slower firefighter response due to staffing reductions at one of Contra Costa’s busiest stations, a fire union official said.
No one was injured in the Concord fire, but flames did spread to a neighboring home, causing moderate damage as it took eight minutes for the first units to arrive, according to dispatch records. The engine closest to the fire had already been dispatched on a medical call.
Firefighters were called at 3:02 a.m. to 1775 Margo Dr., a Contra Costa fire district dispatcher said, and first arrived on scene at 3:10 a.m. Two adults who live in the home that first caught fire managed to escape unharmed.
Ordinarily, the first call would have been sent to Station 6 in downtown Concord. Until recently, that station housed two crews of three people each, but it was reduced to one crew on July 1, said Capt. Vince Wells, president of United Professional Firefighters Local 1230.
With the Station 6 crew out on a medical call, the call went to the next nearest station in North Concord, he said. The domino effect of calls going to stations farther away can increase response times and put crews and residents at risk, Wells said.
“Whenever you take one crew out of the loop, regardless of where it is, it has an impact,” Wells said. “If somebody has a heart attack or a breathing problem … a two- to three-minute delay could be significant.”
While the first units called to the scene may be delayed only a few minutes, the response time can increase much more, depending on how far they are from the incident, Wells said. The station in North Concord would normally be the second engine called to the scene; instead, that call went to a Pleasant Hill station.
Wells noted that larger cuts could be required if voters reject Measure Q, a $75-per-parcel property tax on the November ballot. The funding would keep staffing at current levels, he said; without it, as many as seven of the county’s 28 stations could be closed.
As you can see, this article provided a fair assessment of what transpired because of a change in staffing and service levels. To put this in perspective, when a fire like this occurs in East County, all three of our engines are on one scene meaning the rest of the District is uncovered.
Now onto the fun part, comments from the peanut gallery with myself included.
Wendy McKeever Lack
It’s disappointing when the Times does editorializing in its news stories. Reporting a fire is news. Giving the firefighters’ union a soap box during a heated campaign amounts to an in-kind contribution of free advertising.
Shame on the Times for allowing themselves to be used as tools to advance Local 1230’s pension tax campaign. Next time, try sticking to the news.
Vote NO on Q!
For some reason the union does not mention that this tax is needed to pay for their pension mess and that within a couple of years the district will be broke even with this tax.
Wendy, what don’t you get about news??? The other engine was on a call somewhere else, reduced services mean another engine was not available. The Times was truthful in what happened so stop complaining that it didn’t give it the slant you and your CoCO Tax cronies have enjoyed for the past year while the paper bad mouthed Measure S and now Measure Q with your rhetoric.
Wendy, I am disappointed you have not come to the reality this Measure is not about pensions or changing service models at a ballot box. It’s about keeping stations open to protect lives.
Wendy and Kris
As far as the Times article, it is very interesting that you chastise them now, but praised them during Measure S in East County. I agree that they should be non-opinionated and report the facts. In this case, a Fire Captain that was the first on scene of this incident commented to the news reporter about our budget cuts and the fact that one of the two crews from the busiest fire station in our district was de-staffed due to budget cuts on July 1. They contacted me for comments and reported what I said, I do concur that my quotes are accurate in this article. That is a change, maybe, that is why you have a problem with this particular article.
Kris, the article above was about budget cuts, no questions were asked about pension cost.
On pensions, yes our fire district budget consists of pension cost. We have never disputed that. Due to the market crash and depooling, the cost went up significantly. So have our fuel cost and cost for services and supplies. As with any public service organization, the personnel cost make up most of the budget. We have 265 fire fighters, 15 dispatchers, and 11 fire inspectors, and 3 fire investigators that are represented by Local 1230. This is the majority of the fire district, thus we make up the largest portion of the budget. What has had the most significant impact is the loss of property tax revenue. You refuse to acknowledge this fact on your site and on your blogs. So, with that said, there are multiple causes to the budget woes of the district. The district has reduced spending significantly in response to the “many” factors that have caused their revenue problem. They cut back on programs, supplies, reduced staff, and have reduced many other expenditures as well.
The district is made up of multiple employee groups that make up the over 320 plus employees. We have members of Local 1, Local 21, ASCME 2700, Local 1230, and the United Chief Officers Association, as well as unrepresented employees like the Fire Chief and his two Assistant Chiefs. All of these labor groups have made concessions in medical benefits, pension contributions, furloughs, and pay cuts.
We realize that these concessions are not enough for you. You would rather recommend reducing the service level than recommend the tax to help replace some of the loss revenue, even though many efforts have been done to cut costs.
As far as the fire fighters being the ones who created the pension issue, please blame the fire fighter position and not the fire fighters themselves. 80% of the current force were hired after 2002 and the implementation of the benefit. I hear their complaints all the time about paying 25% of their pay check toward it.
As you may or may not be aware, when you are hired, you don’t have an option as to whether you take the pension plan or not. So as for who is responsible for the unfunded liabilities created by the benefit, its implementation, and, how it was managed in the past, we can point fingers all day. The reality is, it is here and will take time to address.
You are well aware of the legal, IRS rules, and constitutional issues associated with addressing these cost.
A yes or no vote on Measure Q does not address the pension cost, it just assures that fire protection will remain at the level it is or not, while it is worked on. Voting down Measure Q does not lower anyone’s taxes, and it doesn’t eliminate the debt. Taxpayers’ will be paying the same amount of taxes toward the fire district and will be getting a decreased and inadequate service level if Measure Q fails.
Obviously this is acceptable to the Tax Payers Association because you lead based on principal and not community needs. Reform measures have been enacted and will take time.
The Governor’s pension reform plan will have a significant impact on the future of the pension system. It increases our retirement age of eligibility from 50 to 57. It changes the formula from 3%@50 to 2.7% at 57. It places a cap on the amount a person can retire with, and changes to employee employer contribution rate. (For us, we have been doing that). So please allow the bill to get into place, and allow for the actuaries to be done to assess the amount this will reduce pension costs. Avoid future incidents like the one above, and stop blaming fire fighters for filling out their applications, getting hired, and doing their job!
Go after the real cause of this problem and real tax reform rather than going after the public employees that protect the community.
Then we have a post from a fabulous paramedic who is responsible for saving many lives in the District which provides another side to it.
Kristin Morgan Bianco, Paramedic at American Medical Response
We all with together on these types of calls. We need the fire department just like they need the paramedics from the ambulance. The public needs to be educated on how important it is for the fire department to respond to help those of us who are paramedics on the ambulances. Those who do not support the fire department, obviously have never needed them in in a emergency situation.
Vince Wells also provided the following comment prior to any of the silliness going on which is a nice overview of what is transpiring.
Let’s say a person goes into cardiac arrest at a local park. An ambulance arrives (two people), the patient weighs 250 lbs, and is in full arrest (this means he has no pulse and is not breathing, so CPR is necessary. Then what?
Now you have one of the medics doing chest compressions and the other is breathing for the patient. Who is setting up the heart monitor and IV, who is holding the IV bag, who is starting the IV, who is getting information from family or witnesses, who is getting the equipment together. Who is setting up the necessary cardiac drugs that need to be administered?
Meanwhile, the fire station is across the street and the firefighters are in the back washing their engine, and by the way, they are two minutes away and the ambulance took 8 minutes to get there? Who is going to lift the 250lb patient on to the gurney? Do they have to stop CPR? If so, then this is detrimental to a positive outcome. Who will clean up the scene; gather up all the equipment so that the patient can be transported to the hospital in a timely manner? Once the patient is in the back of the ambulance, one of the two ambulance personnel will have to drive to the hospital and the other will be in the back with this critical patient by their self. A patient in this condition requires multiple hands.
I believe that most people who bring this topic up repeatedly are unaware of the capabilities of the fire and ambulance personnel. We no longer just pick patients up and throw them in the back of the ambulance and drive fast to the hospital. We have the ability to bring the Emergency Room to your driveway, to the park, or to your living room floor.Two people are no where near enough for that.
Secondly, the fire fighters that are not directly involved in patient care, are providing scene safety, patient extrication, gathering information, mitigating hazards (vehicle accidents), assisting with clean up, and are performing other miscellaneous duties (locking the patients door and turning out their lights if necessary).
When they say fire fighters go to multiple medicals, remember this includes vehicle accidents, falls, shootings, stabbings, industrial accidents, fire with smoke or burn injuries, heart attacks, diabetics, asthma attacks, etc… They are not all “grandma sitting on the front porch with her purse waiting to go to the hospital”.
Sometimes they are unconscious, upstairs on the bathroom floor. Many of these medical scenes require much more then medical personnel. We are an “all hazard” organization and service.
As with any kind of emergency service, sometimes it is overkill. The purpose of the 911 system is to get the necessary resources to the scene in a timely manner, in order to be able to have a positive outcome.
Going to the scene and then deciding that more is necessary is detrimental to a positive outcome. Time is of the essence in any emergency situation.
We are prepared for the worse.