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!
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.