Oakley’s Vice Mayor Expresses “Disappointment” in ECCFPD Board Actions

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Doug Hardcastle

Oakley Vice Mayor Doug Hardcastle shared his concerns and disappointment during the Oakley City Council meeting Tuesday night about how the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Board chose not to move forward with a $98 June parcel tax in a 4-yes to 5-no vote.

Here are Hardcastle’s comments from Tuesdays meeting.

“I was rather disappointed that they voted to put off the parcel tax until November thinking it would have more of a chance of passing. But by waiting until November, they are going to have at least one station closing and maybe more. I was really disappointed.

At that point, if they had put it on the June Ballot, it would have been $89 per parcel, I don’t want to pay more taxes, but I do want my family to be safe, I want my property to be safe and by them putting it off until November, there is going to be reduced response time and reduced coverage.

I don’t know if the people who are representing us from Oakley are to answer to us at a City Council level but anything like that comes up before a vote is taken, I would like to have their input from us and then for us to give them our input how we see it because by putting it off until November, it’s going to be a minimum of $135.  I don’t know how by putting if off for 4-months more people are going to be apt to spend more money than less money.

Before there was a threat of closing the fire stations until they got the funding from the federal government to re-open the stations. They proved the stations are going to close, it wasn’t a threat, it was an actual reality and by then putting it on November for property taxes, it’s going to be more money and stations are going to close. So like I said, I am just highly disappointed in the actions they took,” said Hardcastle.

City Manager Bryan Montgomery cut off Doug Hardcastle explaining how at the next meeting, the Fire Chief and the three appointed Board Members (Ronald Johansen, Kevin Bouillon, Jonathan Michaelson) will be in attendance to discuss the fire district. Montgomery also shared the two-voted against it and 1-for it.

“When I was listening to all the facts I didn’t speak up until public section because I thought it was common approach to put it on the June Ballot. Why close stations if you don’t have to and leave it to the people to decide whether to give the $98 per parcel tax. I mean my family is very important; I can throw out $98 a year for my family to be safe, my property to be safe. I think the people have to know it wasn’t a threat and it’s a real possibility. I mean you only have so much money and you have to run the stations. Like I said I am extremely disappointed in the actions that they took,” said Hardcastle.

Editors Note:
Hardcastle has joined Mayor Randy Pope and Councilwoman Diane Burgis in questioning the ECCFPD and seeking more communication since Oakley appointed them to represent the City. In the year since being appointed, none of the Board Members appointed have been back to the City Council to share ECCFPD information or provide an update. Councilmembers Kevin Romick and Carol Rios have remained silent on ECCFPD activities.


28 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for stating what most of us are thinking. It’s a shame none of the leadership from Brentwood, Discovery Bay, and Oakley stepped up prior to the vote. Pathetic communication! Now us residents in Discovery Bay are screwed because of the stacked board from Brentwood and Oakley.

  2. I do not agree with Hardcastles stance, but I do think this fire board is horrible. Tax tax tax is their only strategy. Find better solutions or merge with confire.

  3. Seems hypocritical for Oakley City Council to pass judgment on another Board when Oakley themselves appointed the three fire board members. Can you say asleep at the wheel? How many articles were written on this website, the press or the times? A TON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Shame on them for not paying closer attention or voicing their opinions before a vote. As far as I am concerned, Brentwood, Oakley and Supervisor Piepho are to blame because they all appointed this Board who apparently Mr. Hardcastle is disappointed in. This is nothing more than someone being a Monday morning quarterback.

    So Hardcastle wanted a tax to save stations. We have been down that road, how about some solutions?

  4. Mr Hardcastle….while I do agree there needs to be better communication between all parties. The Fireboard, ECCFPD and the cities of East Contra Costa, however the challenge ahead for my fire district is not a challenge that has just manifested it’s self in the last few months. ECCFPD is past life support, we are toe tagged and getting ready for the wake. The current board decision to not go forward with a June tax to possibly save money on a wasted effort is at this point a good decision. Their efforts as well as the City Counsel members efforts need to be focused on a merge between departments, to bring stability to the fire service of East Contra Costa. Because all the families of this district are just as important as the next.
    As for Disco Bay….you have a very influential person in your area. Start talking to that person, the Fireboard isn’t stacked against anyone area or town or group of people. It is in place for all of the citizens who reside out here.
    No one wants another Tax! Spot on peeps, but at what point does the safety of your family actually register in your selfish minds? We were asked two years ago to help put a Fire Department that is a direct reflection of what we were asked we want!!! Medics on Engines stations to remain open and in the future open more if the need warranted them. We said NO! But yet we all waste the 26 cents a day it will cost to keep your family safe on frivolous crap! The $8.16 a month is a really small price to make sure my family, your families are safe 24 hours a day. The lame excuse of people being on a fixed income or I can’t afford to pay a tax. Just remember that when your in line for that Starbucks Coffee or waiting in line to pay for your Whopper with cheese! You choose to not protect your family but are more than willing to spend that coin on garbage.
    Off soap box… No tax, ok. Merge the departments, we gain fire service in the form of medics on the Engines. How bout a JPA like Livermore Pleasanton Fire Departmemt. Who knows? But the blame game needs to stop and solutions (merger) need to be pushed harder than ever…

    • Mr Hardcastle,
      As a current board member and a 15 year firefighter I can truly say the ECCFPD board has taken numerous actions to help us in making the best possible decision from our standpoint. There were meetings held in each community, with incredibly low turnout. Information on these meetings were posted in local media, on the ECCFPD website as well as through social media. Local 1230 then paid for a consulting firm to gather polling data to see where the voters of the district sat with regard to supporting the tax. Unfortunately there was essentially no change from the last election (2 different polling agencies were used). An identified 40% of the constituents were solidly against any tax of any kind. Given we need 66% in order to pass the tax you can see we are already at a deficit of 6%. After weighing all of this information the board opted to send out a district wide mailer informing the communities of the district of the current financial status of ECCFPD, what actions were on the table and what would be needed to move forward. Once again the response was dismal. It became clear to the majority of the board this district was not going to pass a tax. Spending 6 figures on a ballot measure just so we could see that in reality makes no financial sense.

      I agree $98 for a public safety tax is a no brainer and for the safety of my family too I wouldn’t have thought twice about voting in favor, yet the reality is we needed 2/3rds and those numbers simply weren’t there. If you have complaint or concern I would be more than happy to address those issues with you, either at an Oakley council meeting or during a fire board meeting. The reality is we have not seen much interaction from local governments with the exception of Oakley council member Burgis who has been an ardent and appreciated supporter of the district.

      I will add I have been very impressed with the current board as well as our district staff of two people. Much of the board turned over after the last failed election and within the current board are passionate individuals with the diversity of experience needed to make difficult decisions such as this. District staff has been overworked since I was appointed to the board yet I never hear them complain and they always accomplish the tasks passed on to them. Even you would have to admit running a $10 million dollar district with two people would be a daunting task to say the least. I have heard a few of times now it was the districts responsibility to keep everyone informed. Somehow the responsibility of staying informed by community members has been misplaced. This is just as frustrating for the board as is the general apathy regarding support for the tax. It just doesn’t make sense to me but it is the reality unfortunately.

      The focus now needs to be the objective moving forward. Whether it is investigating merger, planning for a ballot measure further down the road, or if the voters hold firm, working within the system we currently have, I can assure you all options are on the table. I would look for collaboration though instead of applying blame. Now is the time for community leaders to come together, display true leadership and decide on an approach that will best support the communities of ECCFPD in the future.

  5. Hardcastle has not been engaged with anything in fire and now he comes out with an opinion? What rock did he come out from because it’s easy to take shots from the cheap seats. Not sure what his issue is but he doesn’t seem to understand that the public does not want a tax. The poll said the one in June would fail by more than 10% and the one in November will likely also fail. Just because he may want a vote, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

  6. I am curious if Hardcastle or any of the Oakley Council members have been to any of the ECCFPD board meetings.

  7. Oh yea, I forgot, Hardcastle is demonstrating typical government ignorance by wanting the board to spend money on a ballot measure that has no hope of winning. I commend the board for not moving forward and needlessly spending our money for something that is pointless. I would be more concerned with his attitude at seeing what the Oakley City Council is spending money on.

  8. Where does the rest of East County elected officials stand. Hardcastle is entitled to his opinion but he is a week late to an opinion. Where was he prior to the vote? I like that he is speaking up, but sounds like he has no one to blame but himself for showing up late to the party.

  9. Vice Mayor Hardcastle comments speak to the main issue here. There has been apathy towards fire for many years. The city counsels have allowed development time and time again with no regards to the impact. Why has everyone had their heads buried in the sand. The Carol lane project is a perfect example. The district received nothing for that project. Those buildings are the size of the one that just burned in S.F. The population is the size of a small city, yet the the district is expected just to absorb the impact. Growth has been booming out here for years. How can the governance been so clueless for so long. Come on people wake up.

    • The District received nothing?

      Why does this lie get perpetuated again and again? New construction comes with new property tax revenue into the fire district. In fact, new construction many times brings with it more contribution to the fire district than the older existing lots. Do you really think that development doesn’t supply revenue far above that of a 50 year old lot in Knightsen, for example?

      Why don’t we keep the discussion on this issue fact based for a change?

      New construction brings new revenue. They carry their fair share no different than older lots. There is no evidence that they tap into services anymore than older lots. In fact, the newer construction is more likely to put LESS burden due to the reduced risk of fire. Statistical fact.

  10. Hey clue it is low income and assisted housing provided for the county. This huge development brings in no additional income for the district. Why don’t you do some leg work here before you pop off. Why I bring this up again is because it represents one of the many challenges the district faces. The large fire that just happened in S.F required many ladder trucks to extinguish. You would think the developer would been required to purchase one, but that’s not the case. Carol lane is a huge target hazard for the district and more buildings are slated to be built.

  11. Let’s try a little pop quiz. I’ll bet the answers will shock a lot of people. Maybe we could even get our CocoTax proponents to chime in.

    Let’s, for a round example, use a parcel that pays $5k/yr in property taxes. That’s probably a reasonable average number for this District.

    So how much of that money goes to the fire District from that parcel?

    By contrast, how much of that do you think goes to the schools?

  12. Buy A Clue the buildings at Carol Lane are county subsidized by the county. They are low income and senior housing. There are over two thousand people living there and it’s growing. How does that not impact the district. Your missing the point which was that many new development has been approved and the leadership has been asleep at the wheel for many years. How can projects of that size and growth of the magnitude that has been seen out here not grant improvement to public safety. And to answer your little math problem 5000.00 in tax bill would mean 500000 in property value. The district receives six percent of the one percent. Answer is 300 dollars.

    • You’re missing the point, as have several before you.

      New construction pays just the same as old lots. They don’t come in free. The idea that you could have taxed those lots into the ground to keep the fire department adequately funded is pure ignorance.

      You and I are paying inadequate percentages of our tax dollar at an average of 6% district wide. That inequity MUST be addressed in any real solution.

      Turfing the problem off to “the new people” is just a lazy intellectual argument and it solves nothing. NIMBY mentality rarely does.

      Answer the second part of the quiz. How much do you pay into schools of that same $5? Do you even know?

      • The issue specifically as it applies to Carol Lane is that the city allowed the plans to be approved and the permit to be issued without any reasonable accommodation to help us serve/protect that target hazard. For example we don’t have ladders that can reach the roof let alone the upper stories (not without having an aerial respond from neighboring districts). Half the time they can’t even provide us a working set of keys or a door code to gain access after hours. And if you think that place is a specimen of fire safety in new construction you’re just wrong. It passed the minimum standard required by law but I’m sorry that place is a nightmare. It’s got sprinklers but based on the rest of the building I wouldn’t put too much faith in that system operating as intended or the standpipes. Besides that what good is a sprinkler system after an earthquake when the municipal water supply is compromised? I could go on and on.

        When they build stuff like that they need to at least help us by providing the tools that we need in order to protect it and more importantly the people that live there.

      • Buy a Clue,

        Interesting that no one wants look behind the property tax curtain.

        I went ahead and pulled up my property tax bill. What I found was disturbing. Perhaps this is why no one has answered your question.

        On my tax bill, (I was able to unlock where my taxes go via the ccc auditor-controller’s web site) I pay 60 PERCENT towards schools and only 6 PERCENT to the fire district.

        But wait, it gets worse…… While the 60 percent is hidden within the 1 percent of assessed property value, there are 6 school bonds which are not. These school bonds are in ADDITION to the 60 PERCENT tax burden already on my assessed property value. I’m thinking if the average voter was aware of this, they would NEVER vote another school bond. (Hear that college district????)

        A property tax bill of 5,000.00 using these percentages would generate: .

        300.00 a year to the fire district.

        3,000.00 to the school districts. That is TEN times the amount!!!! This is before adding the individual school bonds and other assessments which take the percentage to approximately 70 percent!!!! It’s no wonder there is no money left for other services.

        Houston, we have a problem.

  13. It is kind of hurtful to the cause and subject when people are on here for the purpose of attempting to divide and conquer. The subject matter seems to always resort to division instead of consensus. This is just another reason east county is always having drama within itself. There never is a perfect solution siting and waiting for it to fall from the sky. The fire district is doomed.

    • Chuck, that’s another way of saying you just want to throw crap against the wall and see what sticks.

      You’ll get much more sympathetic ears and respect if you bring stuff to the table that has had at least some sort of vetting. That is the foundation of building consensus and it’s not a whole lot to ask.

      For example, the “reinvent the fire department” line comes up often. So you expect 100,000 people to be social experiment guinea pigs for an untested and pretty miserably defined “solution”? Then when the inevitable follow up questions start, you all pull a disappearing act.

      Private industry, as in AMR, have repeatedly said they are not a cheaper solution. But I’d bet you dollars to donuts you’ll find one of your buddies has posted within the last week in some forum that’s the path we should take. Tone freakin’ deaf.

      Perhaps the problem is you expect a bit much with the pie in the sky stuff?

      Self analyzing your methods goes a lot farther than you think.

      I’ll give you the common denominator in all of the anti-tax “solutions”, half-baked or otherwise, that have been floated here.

      For each and every one of them the goal or the outcome was to shift the bulk of the financial burden off the person who proposed it onto someone elses back.

      Go ahead, cite me an example that was otherwise.

      • Buy a Clue,

        *Repost

        I was able to unlock where my taxes go via the ccc auditor-controller’s web site. I pay 60 PERCENT towards schools and only 6 PERCENT to the fire district.

        But wait, it gets worse…… While the 60 percent is hidden within the 1 percent of assessed property value, there are 6 school bonds which are not. These school bonds are in ADDITION to the 60 PERCENT tax burden already on my assessed property value.

        A property tax bill of 5,000.00 using these percentages would generate:

        300.00 a year to the fire district.

        3,000.00 to the school districts. PLUS add the individual school bonds and other assessments which take the percentage to approximately 70 percent!!!!

        So the schools get OVER 10x the amount that our fire district receives.

  14. Blowing smoke and throwing a tantrum is far short of a solution Clue. Don’t have a heart attack now. You may not get your help in time so calm down. Stan has revealed what so many people need to look at and that exactly what is on their tax bill and where it goes before they choose to pass more taxes on their property. In all fairness to schools they require far more revenue to run than fire districts. If you count the number of teachers and staff versus the number of firefighters and staff to complete their job successfully it is not that far out of balance. The point that Stan makes is great because that 60% percent should be enough yet school districts get away with bond after bond. People need to relate that a bond with an added tax on top of the 60% seems overkill.

    • In other words, Chuck, you’ve got nothing.

      Basic follow up questions are asked about these radical, expensive and potentially dangerous “solutions” you want and the best you can do is change the subject or engage in ad hominem attack.

      And you wonder why the lot of you can’t be taken seriously.

      The only organized opposition to the parcel tax to support fire has come from CoCo Taxpayers Association. They are funded by and their Executive Board is a who’s who of corporate in Contra Costa. Your buddy Pete from the other blog holds or held the title of VP overseeing excise tax issues for Chevron. Shell, Comast, AT&T, et al also have representatives on the Executive Board. They give the marching orders for that group and their spokes people to include Kris Hunt.

      So let’s think for a second? What’s their angle? That would be substantial land holdings in the county and potentially a hit to their bottom line.

      So while they insist that we cannot have a parcel tax that would be the first increase in revenue support for our fire district since the passage of Proposition 13, what has been the cost trend for their own products?

      Chevron gasoline? Shell? Comcast? AT&T? How have the costs of those services trended since the passage of Prop 13 or even just the last 10 years?

      Since it is those people who are telling the citizens and lobbying extensively through CCTPA insisting we can’t justify another nickel for public safety. While the cost of their products and services has climbed by several multiples.

      The circles you hang in are populated almost exclusively by hypocrites and liars, Chuck. Don’t get any on ya.

      The point about the schools was the 10x factor that Stan mentioned. But instead of going after inefficiencies in the 60%, the screwballs think they are going to fix the world’s problems and local budget deficits by attacking the 6%. It’s no different than the 1% and the proxy attacks they wage on the poor. It’s dishonest.

      Your credibility gap is about to be exposed, Chuckster.

  15. This is not about me Clue and certainly not about you. My concern about the 60% was leading me in the direction that if a tax or bond was asked of me my support would be the fire districts more so than the schools, parks, or transportation that consumes most of out local taxes. At this point the sales tax or the merger are the only things left. I would pay a sales tax instead of a merger because the merger would hurt my district and the sales tax would help it. So Clue, what do you have other than less than nothing?

    • My preference is a parcel tax.

      1)Because it is less regressive 2)Because it is a more reliable stream of revenue.

      You forget that part of the reason we are in this pickle is because funding of a vital service is tied to a volatile source that is the cyclical nature of property values. Sales tax revenue is equally volatile. I give us a 50/50 chance of another major economic downturn in the nex 3-5 years because we didn’t fix the bad habits of our financial institutions which put us here with this one. They are quite busy cooking up their next scam.

      You have stated previously that the problem is rooted in salaries and pensions and that the Union is the problem. That alone tells me you don’t know what you’re talking about. This District has the lowest compensated fire fighters in an expensive area to live that is the Bay Area. You and your friends at CCTPA have only offered solutions which put the entirety of the financial hit on the fire fighters. You shoulder nothing in a solution. Just like you have given nothing more to this fire district since the passage of Prop 13.

      So let’s stop with your meandering from talking about taxes or bond measures in general to talking about the fire district specifically. That is another disingenuous tactic.

      We are coming off of a 50 year low in effective tax revenue going to the government(2011). This myth of just more, more, more is a talking point with no basis in fact. Which further supports my belief that most of the anti-tax spokes people are liars and hypocrites.

      Stop acting like one.

      I know you discussed the merger when your buddy Harold tried to present his cherry picked version of his story. Why not educate yourself before he posts Lie #4 in his series? You can start by reading the MSR to learn the facts he left out.

      http://www.firedepartment.org/about/SAM/references/Category%202%20-%20Assessment%20and%20Planning/2A.1/Fire%20and%20Emergency%20Medical%20Services%20MSR.pdf

      Start on page 195 under “Financing”. There you can learn about things like Development Impact Fees. It’s the magical funding that our resident clowns claim doesn’t exist because developers built all this housing and supposedly never contributed. If you are not aware, the new fire station in Oakley was built with these funds. Station 59 in Discovery Bay was build in lieu of these funds, which is a perfectly normal process with development in all parts of the country.

      Backing up to page 188 of the report you can see why going back to volunteers isn’t going to happen. It explains some of the problems with the last time it was tried.

      Starting near the bottom of pag 206 you can read about consolidation and the disparity of per capita between ConFire and ECCFPD. Harold left out this little tidbit, didn’t he? Why is that? How is it that one can post a 3 and soon 4 part series and leave out major sticking points in consolidation such as that?

      So here on page 207 is the paragraph that all of the consolidation pom-pom wavers just don’t want to hear. Read it carefully, Chuck. In fact, read it twice.

      “Clearly, the two cities are not financially compatible with ConFire unless the cities were to
      directly subsidize the discrepancy in revenues or approve an appropriate assessment. Voter approval would be required for the cities to adopt an assessment. If the financial incompatibility is not addressed, this option is infeasible because
      the law empowers ConFire to oppose annexation and because existing ConFire areas would have incentives to oppose an annexation that would likely have negative impacts on existing ConFire service levels. ”

      When it says “the law empowers ConFire to oppose…..” it means the residents of ConFire. A merger would mean the residents weighing in.

      So as I have asked you and your Howard Jarvis mentality buddies dozens of times now, how are you going to get the people served by ConFire to sign up for subsidizing ECCFPD? Short of just living with and locking in the inadequate 3 stations in our area that we can afford with the revenues we now give, I don’t see that happening.

      I would rather put our big boy pants on, stop repeating baseless CCTPA talking points about taxes and funding and start talking about putting adequate revenue into a District that sorely needs it.

      Your move, Chuck.

  16. First of all Clue, don’t put words in my mouth. You lose credibility by doing so. I have a concern about pensions although I have not spoke about a salary concern. When you talk a parcel tax that has failed as a solution, you are wasting everyone’s time. The comments about developers loses me as everyone that builds pays a one time fee.On the merger point, it may not be in my best interest but the decision would be made at the county level since that is where the political buck stops. I can say that your comments and those who company you contribute to a the division of the public. This brings me right back to my previous comment.It appears the future of this issue is in your court by your gangs continued resistance to a palatable solution. No more moves left, checkmate.The fire district is doomed.

  17. Just shut the stations down for heavens sake. ECCFPD live within your revenue stream and that’s it. Game over. That is what the solution was in the first place but the unfortunate funding from FEMA was just another methadone fix.
    Close the stations and move on so we don’t have to listen to all these self important experts spouting their biased opinions.

    • Let’s hope Lewis house doesn’t catch on fire so he won’t have to live on the street within his means

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