Home CONFIRE CONFIRE Parcel Tax: No Promise or “Fix Is In”

CONFIRE Parcel Tax: No Promise or “Fix Is In”

by ECT

Halfway to Concord took a bizarre position today on a letter that has been in the public for over a year.   The website claims that “the fix is in” as the Board of Supervisors promised firefighters a parcel tax in July 2011 which this is a silly claim and yellow journalism at its best while distorting reality.

Using common sense, the letter was dated July 28, 2011. Today is July 30, 2012. This letter they claim they just obtained has been available for over a year as a matter of public record.  The truth is, Mr. Gram-Reefer was asleep at the wheel and chose the day before the vote to release it as some sort of conspiracy theory.

Going a step further, this document was dated right around the time when CONFIRE took their pay cut and agreed to a pension re-opener. Here is a copy that he claims he just obtained.

In looking at this letter,  if I am reading it as a firefighter or union person, I look at it as a way for the BOS wiggle out of an agreement and could easily reject a parcel tax because all it says is they will make a “best effort” which is like me saying I will make a “best effort” to become a professional baseball player but it doesn’t mean it will happen.  It’s so open-ended that it would never hold up in court no matter which side one takes.

Just because Mr. Twa stated “the Board will make its best efforts to place a parcel tax on the ballot prior to December 2012,” doesn’t mean much because “best efforts” is not a promise as Mr. Bill Gram-Reefer suggests.

The article goes a step further as it states:

The Fire Board which is comprised of the members of the Board of Supervisors has the ultimate power to place this tax on the November ballot. So without any public hearing or transparency (the letter was buried as Attachment F) from a board hearing over a year ago) the Supervisors sold out taxpayers by promising union officials clear sailing for its effort to place an egregious parcel tax before voters.

If there has not been any public meetings or transparency, what were the last few Board of Supervisor (BOS) meetings? I believe that is what we call an open dialogue where Kris Hunt and Wendy Lack of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association (CoCO Tax) spoke out against the proposed parcel tax. During these meetings, Supervisors Piepho and Glover were kind enough to remind both of them of their hypocrisy and failing to offer a solution.

Even Mr. Bill Gram-Reefer stated within his article the document was buried in “attachment F” from a year ago. This means the letter was made available in a BOS packet somewhere so there cannot possibly be a “fix” or claims of a “lack of transparency” when the Board had it included in their packet from a meeting.  Am I missing something here? Just what is the problem?

If this “fix” is the case, then the Board of Supervisor, CONFIRE, and the public do not have to  meet tomorrow since the decision has apparently already been made while Chief Louder has been wasting his time going around to different council meetings to state their case.

More proof this lack of transparency claim is silly is it’s been known since the economy fizzled out revenue was going to become an issue with property tax revenue going down. The BOS and those paying attention knew for over two-years the District was going to run out of money so of course there would be talk of a parcel tax.

Realistically, Mr. Twa would be in the loop of any possibility a parcel tax could hit the ballot in order to keep stations open. This is called dealing with reality and good planning on the County’s part.  Instead, the Halfway to Concord and its CoCo Tax commentators are out to make Mr. Wells, Mr. Twa, and the Board of Supervisors out to be the enemy when it’s been public knowledge from the get-go. This is the games these folks like to play in order to push their agenda.

But what is mind boggling about the piece is it switched from “the fix” to becoming about pension reform which is two separate topics in itself. The article reads:

Even if we use the phony pension numbers proposed by Chief Louder, pension costs are slated to rise even further, in addition to million dollar expenses looming for replacement of aging fire engines and costly building replacements and rehab. With the proposed budget AND the parcel tax revenues, the County Fire System will STILL be spending more than it will bring in by 2015-16 budget year.

Despite the feints and public pronouncement made by Supervisors over the past year, budgets and expenses, and pension reform were never really seriously considered as Supervisors and union leaders joined forces to make mince meat of taxpayers, with intimidation, cries of calamity if the parcel tax is not passed, and the full force of the County machinery invested in the passage of the tax.

We get it, just as CoCo Tax and Mr. Gram-Reefer were upset about pensions in East County, they are on that issue again. The facts don’t change because even if you fix pensions today, it won’t have an effect on the budget until decades from now when these folks retire.  Pension reform  doesn’t fix the problem today as the problem is revenue, not pensions!

The other issue that these folks will soon be arguing is changing the service model which Ms. Hunt slipped in there at the last meeting. She believes not responding to medical calls will save money—wrong! It’s an insignificant amount of money on gas and wear and tear on vehicles but you are already paying the firefighters to respond so would she rather pay them to sit in stations?  I could write a 10-page article on pension reform and service models, but there will be time for that as we approach November.

For now, my goal is to focus on the “fix” for now since that was the point of Mr. Gram-Reefers post.  The ultimate reality is the BOS can either choose to let the District crash while letting the money run out, or they can move forward with a parcel tax and let the voters decide.

What Mr. Gram-Reefer and his buddies at the CoCo Tax do not apparently grasp is promise or not, the BOS are not taking any actions without the public. The only thing the BOS can do is have the ultimate say whether or not this ballot measure moves forward—it’s ultimately the public who get the final say to approve or reject it.

Again, nothing is being sneaked in as suggested by Mr. Gram-Reefer and its nothing more than conspiracy talk to push an agenda. For starters, the  CONFIRES measure was already being discussed over a year ago and in the back of peoples minds when East Contra Costa County Fire attempted their Measure S parcel tax—there is no big secret as being suggested.

This is nothing more than an attempt to get the BOS to keep the parcel tax off the ballot by using dirty tricks and bad rhetoric. Ultimatly, this tone removes the democratic process by letting voters decide how much they value public safety by a select few saying no–the voters should decide, not a anti-tax group.  The insecurity of a select few is now showing as it appears they are afraid the voters may actually vote against their “group of no” and support firefighters and public safety.

Now, we are forced into reading about bizarre conspiracy theories based off cherry picked letters with no background information behind it.  Where Mr. Gram-Refeer failed in his attempt was he did not include Attachments A-F nor did he include the Agenda Item while also not providing any links.

Steve Barr said it best during the last BOS meeting which is from his experience, you will never get the support of the CoCo Tax so do what is best for the District. He is right, no matter how much negotiating is agreed upon, it will never be enough for these folks. If I am the Board of Supervisors, I move forward with putting the parcel tax on the ballot and ignore CoCo Tax in the process.

After all, everything CoCo Tax claimed was a scare tactic or a fib has actually become true while East County is left with paying consequences based off faulty CoCo Tax claims.

These folks were wrong in East County and they are wrong with CONFIRE. They need to be ignored!

You can read Mr. Gram-Reefers article by clicking here.

Editors Note (9:28pm): It was brought to my attention this same “letter” was posted on the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association website at 7:52 which could be the source for Mr. Gram-Reefer.

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JimSimmons42 Jul 30, 2012 - 7:30 pm

This Reefer guy must be smoking some good stuff. How he came to that conclusion based off the letter is beyond me. They really are drawing for straws aren’t they?

By the way Mike, I see you are giving Steve Barr some props, based off your last article on Brentwood, I thought you were out to get the guy. What gives?

burkforoakley Jul 30, 2012 - 7:38 pm

I give credit when it is due and I question when needed. It’s two different situations.

BenSmith Jul 30, 2012 - 7:33 pm

You really did pick apart this Gram-Reefer nicely. I agree with Jim, this is a situatino of throwing something on the wall and seeing if it sticks. I don’t want to be on opposites sides of you and make me look silly. I have to ask, are you affiliated with ECCFPD or CONFIRE in any way? You know to much.

BobB Jul 30, 2012 - 7:37 pm

This was a great read, thank you for providing facts instead of false statements to appear as facts such as Halfway to Concord. Much appreciated.

Bob Jul 30, 2012 - 9:22 pm

Somebody is folding the tinfoil hats too tight over there.

The most important point Mike mentions: the voters ultimately get to decide.

They will have the final say on whether more revenue is secured and stations remain open or if the measure goes down to defeat and stations will close.

It would be a crime if the BoS did anything but give the voters that opportunity!!

The sick and twisted side of this is the CCTPA doesn’t want the voters to have that chance. They would rather play a game of political chicken with public safety in the balance. All to further this irrational pursuit of pension reform they are after. What they fail to tell people, probably because they don’t want it known:


Simple mathematical fact.

Once again the CCTPA crowd steps forward to complain without providing any meaningful answers or solutions. The best they can ever muster is a broad bush, but never qualified comment of “fix the pensions”.

It’s intellectually lacking.

The boo-hoo fest will play itself out before the BoS at tomorrow’s meeting when the final vote is take on whether or not to move to a ballot measure. Even money on whether one of the CCTPA tries to play this letter like some smoking gun. I predict they won’t like the response.

Vincent Wells Jul 30, 2012 - 10:30 pm

It amazes me the spin that people will put on a subject that could have significant impact to lives and property. If the fire department doesn’t show up on time to one apartment fire or convelesant home, it could be catastrophic. Why would anyone go on record advocating that? Especially when you are putting out partial information to sell your side. Watch the news for god sakes! We had two homes on fire in Pittsburg today, last week two people were killed in an apartment fire in Pleassant Hill, grass fires that nearly reach homes, vehicle accidents with people trapped, and traffic stopped until we get there and clear the scene. On, incident after incident! Do these people think that these incidents will go away if there is no fire department.
It kills me how they devalue public safety providers. When the cops dont get there on time, or we don’t, then we are the enemy.
I hope the “real” public does not buy into these irresponsible blog experts.
When that letter was generated, it came with a 10% pay cut, another letter stating that if we gave up the money, they woud keep fire stations open, a pension re-openner (our contract expires 2014), the re-opener was for this July 2012. Everyone knew and openly discussed that the district was going to have to do a tax measure way back in 2010. Pay attention for god sakes, and quit with this b… sh..!

JimSimmons42 Jul 31, 2012 - 9:59 am

Well said Vince. If people listen to Halfway to Concord baloney, the world will be a lot more dangerous.

B-wood Jul 31, 2012 - 8:12 pm

Well put! Halfway to Concord is a joke in contra costa county. The only thing that is more of a joke is Bill Gram-Reefer. If you don’t drink his personal batch of “kook”- aid he will delete your post and/or ban you from the site. The guy is a tool.

It’s no wonder Kris Hunt and Wendy Lack are regulars there. Those two are nuttier than a Payday candybar. Watching the Board of Supervisors/Con Fire board meeting today was a real eye opener. I almost felt sorry for Kris Hunt and Wendy Lack-they both come across as having various mental challenges. I think at one point Hunt was making up words as she stammered through her obscure comments.

Dawn Phlynt Aug 1, 2012 - 1:28 am

It looks like my compadres are really mucking things up on this issue over on another website. Don’t they know the fella that runs that joint (and thinks a lot of himself) is actually an epic failure when it comes to any journalistic or political accomplishments? He wants to believe he is a player, but he is only fooling himself. Don’t they know that place is reserved for whiners and complainers? Don’t they know that they are laughed at by posting there? Don’t they know that posting like crybabies ruins any shred of credibility? It makes me so mad I can’t see straight.

For example;
“John” posted that “Mary Piepho sold out to the public”. Wait a minute, isn’t that what a Supervisor is supposed to do? After all as a Supervisor, the public is who she is representing. I think he is just a little mixed up-big words often confuse “John”.
Then he wrote; “It is another sad day for the public to watch our Supervisors continue to procrastinate on issues such as this.” But wait another gosh darned minute…. Today the Board of Supervisors moved this fire tax issue forward so the voters can decide on the level of service they want to pay for. Looks like “John” is fumbling over his own commentary again-Dang!.
Finally “John” states; “Eventually the voters will smarten up like they have in East County…” Well I’m not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, but even I think voters here in East County are realizing that the threat of closing fire stations was real and not a very bright move. I guess we showed us!

Next up is someone named “Claire Voyance”. This person hates everything, is an known internet troll and is no friend of mine! Claire felt the need to ask a battery of the same ridiculous (not rhetorical) questions twice. “Claire” demanded answers! “THESE QUESTIONS MUST BE ANSWERED”:
Does that prior action invalidate the subsequent vote to place the proposed tax on the ballot?
Does that prior action violate the Brown Act?
Does that prior action violate any federal civil law(s)?
Does that prior action violate any federal criminal law(s)?
Does that prior action violate any state civil law(s)?
Does that prior action violate any state criminal law(s)?

Then “Claire” suggested that “a response from state/federal regulators and/or state/federal law enforcement is warranted.” Let me get this correct, Claire believes that a state or federal regulator might just be “surfing the net” and would drop in and weigh in on Claire’s “honest” questions?
Well the answer to all of them is no. But then again, I just pretend to know about these things.

Then there is “Ron”, “Paul” and “Barbara” who are making all sorts of political threats like;
“Now who’s a fine T.E.A. party patriot to run against these slobs for the next election?!” or “This is unacceptable; it’s time to elect responsible people to represent this County…I will work to unseat you!”
… but apparently “Paul” and “Barbara” are either so engaged in their own misconceptions or someone forgot to tell them that not a single County Supervisor is up for election for at least 2 more years! The fact is, 3 of them were just (re) elected this year! Makes me wonder if “Ron”, “Paul” or “Babs” even votes?

Speaking of threats, my friends at the silly factory really need to tone it down. They should try to stay between the lines of reality and loosen up those aluminum fedoras.

“Fix it first” actually is suggesting that the county violate federal and state laws on pensions before bringing forward a tax measure and goes as far as to submit; “Instead they will ask for what they think they can get by threatening us with reduced services and continuing on with the completely unrealistic investment returns that will be paid out by our children and grandchildren.”

News Flash for “Fix it First”: This is a ballot measure-not a personal Monday morning opportunity to re write how emergency services are delivered in the county! It aint broken, you just aren’t paying for the fire services that you have been enjoying! Remember that property tax thingy that got reduced for the LAST THREE YEARS?

I imagine most voters in East county are now painfully aware the threats of reduced service are very real and that neither the firefighters, union, nor Board of Supervisors have any say in what the “investment returns” are in any given period.

Then there is “Wendy”! What a gem. So predictable, such rhetoric, such a canned speech. (Classic Stepford wife rendition at the Fire board meeting-It made me ponder, did she hear a single word of what was being discussed?) Then she posts; “The people of San Jose and San Diego found a way to circumvent entrenched political and labor interests.” I think not!
The truth of the matter is now San Jose and San Diego will end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars defending themselves in court in cases they cannot possibly win. I guess someone forgot to tell “Wendy” that judges rule on law-not votes. It is widely predicted that both cities will go down in flames (no pun intended). That is why the agencies such as police and fire didn’t even bother waiting for the vote to file their litigation.

Oh what a tangled web we weave… … when first we practice to deceive. It worked in East County….maybe it will work in Central County. Remember, ignorance is bliss!

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