Home CONFIRE Measure Q: “Fix Pensions First” Campaign Lacks Definition

Measure Q: “Fix Pensions First” Campaign Lacks Definition

by ECT


The Measure Q debate is officially now in full swing as opponents of the Measure put out a graphic which is misleading and off-topic as pensions have nothing to do with Measure Q. Instead, Measure Q is about ensuring public safety by keeping fire stations open.

As with Measure S, the Contra Costa Times Editorial Board, Contra Costa Taxpayers Association (CoCo tax), and Halfway to Concord have tweaked the message from a public safety debate to pensions. It’s a silly tactic that unfortunately is very effective.

For example, Kris Hunt who is the executive director of CoCo, likes to mumble her demand at Board of Supervisor Meetings and to anyone who will listen that they “would like to see meaningful pension reform implemented”.  Others have spit out that very same talking point.

Okay great, what does that mean?  It sounds clever, but it really says nothing of substance.

For the past year, a plan has been requested from Kris Hunt and the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association but to no avail. Vince Wells, President of Contra Costa Professional Firefighters Local 1230, has requested a plan on multiple occasions and has been snubbed by Kris Hunt. Supervisor Mary Piepho has requested a plan in a public meeting only to have Kris Hunt remain silent. Finally, in early July, Supervisor Federal Glover had an entertaining exchange with Kris Hunt about her not doing her homework of providing a plan per his request—she had no answer.

While opponents have been brazen with turning Measure Q into a pension debate, the County and firefighters union has been too polite in dealing with the naysayers–its time to hold them accountable for the lies and request a plan.  If the media was playing fair, they would report no plan has been provided for the past year which began with Measure S.

After all, isn’t the media questioning Democrats “Are we better off today than we were four years ago”? This is similar.

Three simple questions is all that need to be asked:

  1. Define what “meaningful” pension reform is and the timeline it must occur in.
  2. What “fix” to pensions is acceptable to you?
  3. What plan would you accept to get behind Measure Q?

No longer should the Times Editorial Board, Contra Costa Taxpayers Association and Halfway to Concord be allowed to get away with such blanket statements that are destructive to public safety.

These three groups  act as if the County, Chief Louder, and Local 1230 have done nothing to reign in retirement costs while kicking the can down the road—that is untrue and they are ignoring a document that shows changes have been made. Unfortunately, it takes time because of the state and IRS laws while the results are even longer as it will be decades before its benefits are seen. But they are working hard on it.

If the naysayers want attention, then I say give it to them by providing a platform so they can provide their plan and answer some questions. After all,  people are not mind readers and will never know a starting point without a formal alternative plan being submitted.

To some, it could mean simply tweaking the [email protected] which is an industry standard. Others may believe it means cutting pensions in half. Others believe a third tier is needed. To some, they want all pensions eliminated.  Does it mean going retroactive to those already retired who has been receiving a check?

You see, this is the problem that occurs when you let a bully control the message by making vague statements that are undefined. Instead of reaching voters, your time is now wasted explaining a non-issue on a ballot measure that you can never win.

Ultimately, even with negotiations with these anti-tax groups, it will never be enough as their next complaint will be service models.

The truth is, pension reform is the  low hanging fruit of this debate so they run with it because they can get away with it thanks to pension envy. It’s the emotional trigger that gets people upset and will ultimately kill Measure Q for all the wrong reasons.

Look, I am all for a group being fiscal conservatives and anti-tax, I get it and understand it. But this is way beyond conservative behavior because these people have become the group of “no” at all cost which makes them “kook-like”. What I don’t speak is kook and its unfortunate Google doesn’t have a translator for it.

Just to prove a point, I say we give these reckless groups what they want and “Fix Pensions First”. Any pension reform they want on public safety.  It can even begin tomorrow.  They can have free reign. Congratulations, they have saved the day on paper as unfunded liability is now eliminated.

Now what?

Reality kicks in because they have focused on the wrong problem. While on paper it looks nice, residents are stuck with 7-10 station closures as firefighters are laid off because there is still a revenue problem within the District. The ultimate result is reduced service and longer response times. That is reality, not numbers on paper that fluctuate with any economy!

Not being told by these rabble rousers is every study in the last ten years has said the District has a revenue problem which I am sure Vince Wells can provide you with a copy. Even the not so very Grand Jury has acknowledged the revenue problem

Remember, the elephant in the room is we are only in this mess because the economy tanked and revenue has decreased–you are actually paying less for the same service thanks to Prop 13. In good times, this so called “pension crisis” would be a non-issue and the opponents know this which is why Governor Browns pension reform plan is a knee-jerk reaction which will ultimately be detrimental in the future.

The time has come for the opponents to stop speaking in “kook” and let’s get some actual definitions on the table.

Let’s get Dan Borenstein to actually attend a meeting instead of writing from afar, let’s invite Kris Hunt, Billy Gram-Reefer, Wendy Lack and a dozen others and  simple questions of them.  They can all even have a turn providing their own answers!

Since they seek attention as the “party of no”, they can even invite the news media, talk radio, whatever they want! At least we can finally get a plan out of them because little does the public know that these people who talk a big game, but have no plan of their own.

Using logic,  how can one proclaim they seek “meaningful pension reform” without the definition outlined in a plan? It’s illogical but Ms. Hunt and others have gotten away with this line for far too long that its never been questioned, but rather accepted by the media.

Fixing pensions first does nothing to solve the revenue problem we face today. It’s time for the opponents to come clean with their plan or be quiet and  go away.

You may also like


Ben Smith Sep 6, 2012 - 9:35 am

Thank you Burk, glad someone somewhere is pointing out no plan has ever been provided even when ask. That has been left off the CC Times articles since Measure S. I think your use of the word “kook” is perfect to describe these people. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Another well done piece using common sense logic that support our public safety people.

JimSimmons42 Sep 6, 2012 - 9:40 am

You had me laughing on the Google Translator for “kooks”, what a great line.

In all seriousness, you raised valid points that the opponents have never even provided a starting line as to what they want or in this case demand. They simply say fix pensions. Okay, what does that mean? That is a legitimate question which has gone unanswered for a while now. Hopefully the Times can piggy back off this article and actually seek out some answers instead of continuing to give their editorial board, coco tax and others the cover of night to continue sabotaging firefighters.

Jill Thompson 55 Sep 6, 2012 - 9:45 am

Burke, I expect this type of article from you. Fixing pensions first means exactly what it says, fixing pensions before any revenue enhancement can begin. You calling people kooks is childish and I hope they sue you over that. We don’t need to provide a plan because we have told them all along we want the unfunded liability reduced and they have failed to make the change.

JigsUp Sep 6, 2012 - 10:40 am

Jill, thanks for highlighting the ignorance factor with coocootax with this comment. The point of the piece is defining the term. You expect other people to make changes, but you can’t even verbalize what those changes should be to make you happy. Typical of the coocootax bunch.

Unfunded liability reduced to what? They haven’t failed in making changes. There have been wage and benefits concessions made for years. All of those impact the pension formulas too. So you are either ignorant of the facts or intentionally lying. If you are asking for something that will take 20 years to achieve, then that needs to be out on the table. It’s not too much to ask for.

burkforoakley Sep 6, 2012 - 10:44 am

Let’s also not forget that in 2002, their was an agreement of 4-pay raises to Local 1230. Since then, only 2 of the 4 have been issued while 2 that were promised never occurred.

Dolph Sep 6, 2012 - 1:55 pm

Mr. Burkholder, I see you are so much buxy. you make many article every day. Maybe you did not see. I ask before, you say you were a reporter for 6 years, were can we find you’re articles? I can not find one. Please share about your articles

Jana A. Sep 6, 2012 - 11:29 am


Specifically what is your plan? What specific plan do you or any others at Coco Tax have? S-P-E-C-I-F-I-C-A-L-L-Y (I am spelling it slowly, because I am tired of asking the same question) Measure Q is out there to help the REVENUE problem in Coco County – I don’t know about you, but my last property tax bill was over $2000 lower then when we first purchased our house. Seems to me that’s what helped create part of the revenue problem.

So specifically, what further measures do you want to see CONFIRE take? The guys in Local 1230 voted to take a 10% reduction in their salary in order to help the budget with the knowledge that they will never see that again. So other than just saying fixing unfunded liability, which is not in local hands – what else do you recommend?

Closing fire stations does not help the unfunded liability.

So, I am willing to share my own personal math, so you can see where I stand:

Hubby’s Salary (Includes 14 hrs of OT) – $9889.16
Medical Deduction – $227.37
Retirement Deduction – $2306.34
Taxes – $1174.34
5% Pay Reduction based on Agreement (5% January/5% July) – $600

Total Take Home Monthly Pay – $5581.11 (Annual take home – $66,973.32)

And yes, hubby can supplement with overtime – but that means taking time away from our daughters soccer games, their school events, time for us to be together, time for him to be a part of our family. OT is not a free gig – it’s due to staffing shortages or filling a need that is not being met.

So please let me know – what is your plan – and tell me how the guys at Confire have failed to not do their part?

Hell – I only put 3% into my retirement.

BGR Sep 6, 2012 - 9:13 pm

Looks like Hubby needs a better paying job and work with CoCoTax to help lower taxes and a sensible pension plan. Or, hold you nose and take the OT per usual. Life’s tough. Everyone is working hard and making sacrifices, so please stop with the “we’re Special and Entitled”

Is that specific enough?

No On Q

Jana A. Sep 7, 2012 - 8:03 am

BGR – Did I ever say once that we are special and entitled – and no that isn’t specific enough. Again, I love your tactics, you are absolutely classic. You, yet again, redirect the conversation to being rude and divisive yet offer no plan, no specific measures to take, no specifics plans to implement. How special life must be over there at your throne Halfway to Nowhere. I’ve read some of your comments to posters on your site – you are rude, mean and offer no real commentary other than telling people what asshats they are and how you know it all. So again (insert s-l-o-w-c-l-a-p-p-i-n-g so you can sound it out) What is your plan?

Bobby Lott Sep 6, 2012 - 9:51 am

Sure doesn’t help your campaign much to call people “kooks” Mike. Good luck with that! As far as this article goes, its the same pro-firefighter agenda you continue to promote on this site which I am sure they are paying you for. I agree with Jill, no plan has to be provided because they have failed to act on their own.

Rob Saw Sep 6, 2012 - 10:06 am

@ Bobby & Jill,

Nice cherry pick and taking it out of context. If you can read, Burk said he had no problem with anti-tax conservatives, but when you go beyond that to just saying no to anything and everything, that is what you call a “kook”. I think its a perfect word that fits the situation in Contra Costa County.

Another great read Burk. I appreciate the link to Louders document on what has been done.

EastCountyReader Sep 6, 2012 - 10:51 am

Well put Rob Saw. You are correct in calling out both Jill and Bobby with their typical canned responses. (Notice neither steps up with a “plan”, just more innuendo and lackluster commentary).

@ Jill, how many times to you need to be told, pension reform is taking place but doesn’t happen overnight. How many times must you be told that this Measure is not about reform or modification of a working service model? How many times must you be told that voting NO will not do a damn thing about pensions but WILL close stations and reduce services to the community? It is very simple-if you cannot accept that, then you definitely have a comprehension problem and nothing short of remedial education will help you.

@ Bobby, this is not a “pro firefighter agenda” ….as we can all see the firefighters have already made concessions by giving up 10 percent of their pay. By any calculation that means the firefighters are already contributing thousands of dollars to do their part (and apparently contribute 25 percent of their pay to fund their pensions)….and you want more? That is kooky. It is the Management, Local Fireboards and BOS that is requesting a 75 dollar TEMPORARY tax from the public to do their part in keeping services operating until revenues are restored to their former levels. It is simple, but you either don’t get it or you don’t want to get it. Is it time for you to admit you don’t want to do your part? Maybe it is time for you to pull out your property taxes from the last 3 years and prove to all of us that you have NOT had a decrease in your local taxes that fund these emergency services. My guess is that you will do neither.

@Burk, I personally think calling them “Kooks” is soft peddling. There are far worse names that fit them. Disagreeing is fine, but these individuals take it to another level, especially when public safety is put at risk. Their behavior and careless commentary become reckless in nature as they are desperate to sway uneducated voters.
The unfortunate thing is Measure Q will most likely fail because of ignorance, an extremely polluted message and tax intolerance. What is sad is that while Federal taxes have gone up, local ones (property taxes) which are collected specifically to fund local services (ie; Fire Service) have gone DOWN. This simple fact is lost on 90 percent of voters which is what will most likely doom this tax to bridge the lost revenue. Personally I don’t think most voters want to acknowledge that they have been paying LESS for the same services they have grown accustomed to.

I believe most Contra Costa citizens will have to go through the painful experience of losing emergency services and experiencing INCREASED homeowners insurance costs, loss of life and property before they figure out this was never really tied to pension reform.
So Jill and Bobby, the ball is in your court. Come clean with how much you have been saving in reduced local taxes over the last three years. If neither of you can manage that, then feel free to exercise your voting rights and vote no to reduce services provided to you. Just know that if you vote no, you won’t be sending any other message than saying you a willing to have a reduction in service. Your no vote does NOTHING about pension reform or triggers a (yet to be identified) plan from the kooks. Burk had it right; verbally shooting yourself in the foot over and over makes you look kooky.

Vote Yes or No….”You will get what you pay for” which comes directly from the folks that run the county and emergency services. You better start listening.

JigsUp Sep 6, 2012 - 10:47 am

Bobby, are you saying you’re anti-fire fighter? Because that is what your reply implies. The theme is always the same with you people. Put saving a buck before safety.

You got in the same line for stupid that Jill did. The documents are linked right there in the article which disproves your claim that nothing has been done. Are you having trouble reading them?

EastCountyReader Sep 6, 2012 - 11:00 am

Would “childish” or “ignorant” work for you Bobby? You come across as a person fitting of several adjectives.

Burk and others have spent countless hours in an attempt to educate you. But just like a 5 year old you keep repeating your ignorant statements. I am not trying to be an ass, I am just calling it like it is.

If you are willing to say no or disagree with something, then your argument only has merit if you back it up…with something like a “plan”. To date you, Jill, and the rest of the naysayers have failed to do so.

By your shallow response I’ll bet you fall way below the grid when it comes to common sense and problem solving.

Samual Sep 6, 2012 - 11:02 am

This whole article could have been sumed up in one paragraph explaining that CoCo Tax refuses to release their own plan and the Times protects this fact from its readers. Great work Burk!

Manny Oliver Sep 6, 2012 - 2:09 pm

I’d like to point out Wendy Lack recently admitted to working for the City of Walnut Creek on the CC Times while bragging she was not on the Times pension list. Someone should look into her story and have her explain herself. She is another one not being honest while running her mouth. Does anyone know how to check with Walnut Creek on her pension or maybe she took a payout or did a 401k instead?

This site is a very nice contrast to the crap over at the Times. Glad someone sent me the link.

Type2OK Sep 6, 2012 - 9:40 pm

The plan has been suggested over and over. The County needs to reorganize it’s fire services. There is a new economy now after the big reccession. The debt is unsustqinable for any new tax, Re-organize, Merge, Combine, Renegotiate. That is the only choice left. My union does not care about my personal situation. I am just a pawn in their game of politics.

JigsUp Sep 6, 2012 - 11:27 pm

I don’t think you’re a union member. I say that with about 95% certainty. You don’t make the statements about the 103% of base pay like you did if you’re a member. Because you would know who to ask to get answers to those questions.

I smell a rat.

You have to be second grade math challenged to think you can combine two horribly underfunded fire districts and end up with one properly funded one. There isn’t potential savings in combining overhead, because any fat in that overhead is already long gone.

burkforoakley Sep 6, 2012 - 11:38 pm

Type2ok… these are all generalizations, where is the actual plan. Explain Re-organize, Merge, Combine, Renegotiate. It’s easy to say, now put it in a formal plan!

planner Sep 7, 2012 - 11:54 am

I don’t support the tax because it will put us farther from realizing the long term solution, whatever that may end up being .

If the County BOS wants to continue to have ConFire support EMS then the County should bring more money to the table and not expect ConFire to fund all of the EMS service they provide. ConFire is a fire district, and the amount of money coming in from property taxes is intended to be spent with a higher priority for fire protection than EMS. The opposite is taking place now.

I have seen people come forward with plans only to be ridiculed for the audacity of believing anyone in the Government care about their plan. They have been told that just isn’t how government works. Ok, then I see people saying if you don’t have a plan to present then you can’t be against the tax . That’s not any more logical than it is true.

The plan should come from the BOS and the fire district’s boards, and I hope that with Candace Andersen involved at both levels we just may see some progress. That’s why I supported her! The voters will not, imho support new taxes that don’t solve structural financial problems. Those days are over – we just can’t afford it any longer .

But here’s my plan:

Every future benefit dollar should accounted for in the year of employment it is earned and the district should set aside money invested at a reasonable but conservative rate to ensure the funds are available when needed – at least actuarially.

A Sarbanes-Oxley type pledge should be signed by the head of the Union and the entire board of directors that would hold them joint and severally liable both criminally and civilly for any misstatements put forth in the budget process so they will not all wink and nod while the entire budget is based on a forecast of 8% return on pension fund investments in a 3% return world.

And of course the County (not the fire districts) should begin paying the actual cost of the EMS being provided by local fire districts .

—Hope this note is respectful enough that it will not be met with name calling, but I doubt it .

I’ll say this: If I lose necessary emergency medical services my complaint will be filed with the responsible governing board: The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, and not the local fire district.

JigsUp Sep 7, 2012 - 3:24 pm

The actual cost of responding to EMS is $30-$40k per station and that money is already being paid to the districts. Do you people not read the reports being released on this measure?

Your complaint? Really? Would you be better served by ranting at the mailman? If you vote down the measure, it’s not the job of the Supervisors to provide you with free services. You are fully informed in advance that if the measure fails stations will have to close. If you can’t read simple English I’m not sure you should be visiting a polling booth. Fire stations don’t run on coupons. They require real dollars to keep them staffed and operational. If you are that concerned with medical response, maybe you should direct your displeasure at Kris Hunt. She’s the one suggesting leaving fire trucks in stations to save a dollar.

Where did you get the 3% return world line? Is that the selective amnesia of the coocootax group again looking at 4 year investment windows? What has the S&P returned over the last 50 years?

EastCountyReader Sep 12, 2012 - 3:05 pm


I will put this as respectfully as I can, given the nature of your post and your well known persona.

Thank goodness you are not in a position nor have the background to put forth your “plan”. Obviously you did not spend a lot of time developing it. Based on your post, your ideas are un-researched, counter intuitive and oversimplified (It’s no wonder you like Candace Andersen). You lost all credibility when you wandered into criminal and civil liability.

Good luck filing a complaint with the “responsible board” if you feel the need. I am sure they have expert legal counsel who is comfortable dismissing frivolous complaints such as yours. You probably get that a lot.

No need to call you any names, because you pretty much just labeled yourself via your own remarks.

Comments are closed.