Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 27, 2010

Lawsuit filed over 'misleading' fire ballot

Dena Mossar calls union's statement about Measure R 'blatantly false'

by Gennady Sheyner

Former Palo Alto Mayor Dena Mossar has filed a lawsuit challenging "blatantly false" language used by the local firefighters' union in the official ballot argument to support its November petition, Measure R.

Mossar, who leads a growing coalition of former elected officials who oppose Measure R, specifically targets in her lawsuit a statement by union supporters claiming that staffing of the city's public-safety departments could be changed by just one or two individuals.

If voters pass Measure R on Nov. 2, Palo Alto would need to hold an election any time the City Council wants to reduce staff in the Fire Department or close a fire station. Mossar's group, which also includes former mayors Vic Ojakian, Bern Beecham and Liz Kniss, argues the measure would make it "nearly impossible for the Fire Department's budget to ever be reduced."

The union is currently negotiating with the city over a new contract, and union officials have persistently maintained that the department's staffing level has already reached a bare-minimum level.

The union wrote in its rebuttal to Mossar's argument that the measure would give citizens a greater say in public-safety decisions.

"Such a decision should not be made solely by one or two individuals on the City Council or in the city administration," the rebuttal stated.

In her lawsuit, which is directed against rebuttal authors James McLaughlin, Alan Davis, John Garcia and Robert Paugh, Mossar calls this statement "blatantly false" and "misleading." City Clerk Donna Grider, the city's designated elections official, is also listed as a responder in the suit.

"The final sentence of the pertinent paragraph states that one or two individuals in the city administration are capable of enacting changes in the level of available emergency and medical services," Mossar wrote. "This statement is blatantly false as city administrators are not capable of making such changes: Such power rests solely with the Palo Alto City Council."

Mossar also said in the suit that the nine-member City Council would require a majority-vote approval before it could change the level of available emergency or medical services.

Mossar said the union's rebuttal should more accurately read: "Such a decision should not be made by the city council."

If Measure R were to pass, the council would have to hold two public hearings on any proposed staffing reductions, vote to approve these reductions and hold an election in which voters also approve the reductions.

The current council has already passed a resolution opposing the measure and calling it "bad government" and a waste of money.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be e-mailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Disappointed, a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2010 at 11:02 am

The firefighters union reps misrepresented the truth to me when they requested my signature on their petition outside grocery stores (multiple different times). They told me that Council planned to close a fire station. I checked the city budget. This proposal was NOWHERE in any existing budget or proposed cuts.

It infuriated me...and made me really glad that I didn't sign their petition.


Posted by Anciana, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2010 at 11:20 am

Good for you, Dena! I hope you can get rid of that language, and while you are at it, make as big a fuss as possible so that people become aware of what is happening.


Posted by Vote NO on Measure R, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2010 at 11:27 am

I want to add that I think the firefighters union proposal is very BAD policy. City Council is responsible for managing the city budget. The average voter really doesn't have the detailed information necessary to make decisions about firefighter staffing or facilities. Council does. That's why we elect representatives to make these decisions.

The responsibility for the budget and, therefore, the authority to make these decisions resides (presently) with Council...and requires a public review process and a MAJORITY vote of our nine-member Council. Mossar is right when she says the union's language is very misleading. We can't say the buck stops with Council if we take away their authority to balance the budget.

This is a horrible precedent. The firefighters union wants budget decisions controlled by public vote because they know that it will be almost impossible for Council to ever reduce their bloated budget if voters (who don't have adequate information access or time to fully study relevant data) have control of the decision.

Vote NO Measure R.


Posted by Go, Dena!!!, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 25, 2010 at 11:37 am


Great!! Best of luck with this - firefighters are wonderful - their union? Not so much...


Posted by jerryl, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 25, 2010 at 12:16 pm

Mossar's lawsuit seems without merit to me in that, indeed, one or two council members changing their vote very frequently results in annoying policy changes that affect our city.


Posted by Timothy Gray, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 25, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Go Dena.

The proposed law has nothing to with public safety, and everything to do with greed.

The law is bad policy and must be defeated, and now the deceptive manipulation is being exposed. I just wish we had this level of straight talk from our current Council Members.

Thank you very much Dena for standing up for the truth.

Tim Gray


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 25, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I greatly appreciate folks like Dena are standing up to the union. The attempt by the union to make their over staffing permanent is a terrible precedent for any city.

I find it interesting that one poster thinks the ff's are wonderful, but the union, "Not so much". To me they are one and the same. It is a group of over paid, underworked, union militants. They are paid 2-3 times the national average for their line of work, and they spend most of their time sleeping & shopping. Every night in PA there are 30 union ff's sleeping away while we have 6-7 cops out working. It is absolutely ludicrous to allow this to continue and the unionized ff's know that the the recent budget struggle put the spotlight on their ridiculous compensation and over staffing. This is an attempt by the ff's to stave off the long overdue staffing downsizing. Judging by the Palo Alto Online poll, the union initiative will be crushed at the polls.


Posted by No-Fan-Of-Dena, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 25, 2010 at 12:28 pm

> I greatly appreciate folks like Dena are standing up to the union

Dena Mossar, when she was on the Council, had plenty of opportunity to stand up to the Union, by voting down the never-ending pay raises that these clowns demanded, and received, like clockwork.

While Ms. Mossar's role in opposing this measure is not clear, given that she is one of the 20 (or so) individuals that caused the problem (current and former City Council members), it is the correct position to take at this time.

Having listened to the "pitch" of the "firefighters" harassing people at the local shopping areas--they were lying through their teeth about what would happen if they were not able to become more powerful than the City Council. Trying to get the truth out about the future of fire response in Palo Alto, and other aspects of the so-called Fire Department's operations will be difficult. Hopefully, the voters will see through this Union intimidation, and vote down this ballot item.


Posted by Judith, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 25, 2010 at 12:32 pm

You keep forgetting to mention that it would have to be a TWO-THIRDS vote to change fire staffing levels. Not only would this be next to impossible, it is undemocratic in that the minority (1/3 + 1) would rule over the majority (2/3 -1).


Posted by Jim, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Dena has no excuse for having signed that petition. Maybe she, as a woman, was just too intimidated by the male firefighter who put it in her face. Or maybe she just has a hard time saying "no" to union guys.

I got approached several times, and every time I told them to get out of my face. It was easy for me to say "no".


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Did I have a vote on giving the school district 9 million each year?
Did I have a vote on giving the Childern's theater 1 million each year?
Did I have a vote on funding the Opportunnity (homeless) Center?


I want a vote on closing a fire station or reducing staffing in my cities fire department. I'm voting YES on R in November.


Posted by no more increases, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I also want a vote on any future salary or pension increases for the fire department. Any additional spending should require a 2/3 voter approval.


Posted by Drink Beer With a Tear in My Eye, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I drink PBR(Pabst Blue Ribbon) and only PBR. I think that if firefighters considered switching to drinking PBR, not only would they save a lot of money, but they would look considerably better drinking PBR than any other beer. When it comes down to my vote, i'm going to vote for whichever side likes PBR...


Posted by Paul, a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 25, 2010 at 1:47 pm

You would never get to vote on salary or pensions, because that would effect the city manager and below, not just fire or police.


Posted by John, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 25, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Since people are unlikely to support this once they understand, I figure there will be a lot of confusion thrown out there over time. And we have to look no further than this thread to see evidence of that already. It's pretty simple. This proposal would PREVENT the City from CUTTING costs. VOTE "NO"


Posted by Wally, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 25, 2010 at 2:17 pm

We all love our firefighters but enough is enough. Their pay and compensation pacakge is out of control. When I was approached to sign the petition I was told that a station would be closed and since it was right after the University Ave fire, I was told the fire would have been a disaster and would have burned a full block if any cut was made.

Firefighters....no scare tactics....just the truth and let the people of PA make a decision


Posted by Sad but True, a resident of Meadow Park
on Aug 25, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Hurrah for Dena!!!

Vote No says: "The average voter really doesn't have the detailed information necessary to make decisions"

I attempted to explain the firefighters' petition to two elderly ladies at Safeway; they didn't even understand that the Petition was about changing the City Charter. In fact, they didn't even know what the City Charter was and if it really existed.

After I tried to explain to them what the firefighter were doing, they simply didn't believe me because they didn't understand what I was saying. They trusted the firefighters and went ahead and signed the Petition.

That is the problem signers didn't understand what they were signing nor do they understand that Palo Alto has a City Charter or what that is.


Posted by Marlene Prendergast, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Go Dena!


Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 25, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I'm with Tim on this one. We don't have a true democracy unless we the people vote on the issues. Electing folks to the city council to make policy and decisions is taking power from the people. We need to weigh in on the issues and make sure the right choices are made. A few examples follow:

1.) how often the grass is mowed at Mitchell Park (I'm backing 5 times a week so we can re-hire those poor guys who were laid off)

2.) height of the chain link fence at the utility yard (I'm demanding it be increased to twenty feet so we can hire more fence installers)

3.) the salary of the PA firesleepers. I'm pushing for a 50% derease overall but I want to review each individual and make a per person decision

4.) the age at which the fire sleepers can retire. I'm holding out for 72 cause they already sleep most if their "work" day, so their retirement age should be pushed out

5.) the max annual retirement pension the fire sleepers are allowed should be $50K. i'm suggesting $50K, but only after 40 yrs of service

Finally, once the votes are held on these issues (they will take a 50% majority tp make them law), I'm going to add a clause that says it will take a 95% vote, plus three city wide meetings, plus a visit by Sarah Palin before the policy can be undone.

Seems fair to me. What do you think Spitaleri?


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 25, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Bravo "Resident"

It is asinine that we reduce the city to individual votes for every budget line item on the budget.

Why not do the same with Congress? I think I should have a vote on how much each National Park Ranger gets paid --- they sleep on the job too!!!


Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2010 at 7:42 pm

It's hard to admire Mossar, as I recall when she was the "parking Nazi" at PAMF, back when she worked there. Petty, perry, dominating behavior. And why didn't she stand up to the unions when she was on the council?


Posted by Rick, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 25, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Some people are so naive. When you reduce staffing levels and there are no firemen to staff a fire station...guess what? The station is closed, lock up, lights out. Don't fool me (city council) with this "we just want to be able to reduce staffing, not to close a fire station." Again, if there is no one to staff a fire station..it is close!

I'm hearing the same old "close a fire station, just NOT the one by my house" from my neighbors too.
I want a vote on this.


Posted by gh, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 25, 2010 at 8:20 pm

Rick,

YOU are either extremely naive or have a special interest in the firefighters' union or their benefits.


Posted by TheyGetEnough, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 25, 2010 at 8:52 pm

I like Paul's comment.

If the fire union thinks it's fair to vote on any reduction in their department's expenses, then it's also fair to have us vote on every increase in their salaries and benefits. I'll vote "no" until they put THAT on the ballot.


Posted by no more increases, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 25, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Follow their lead and file to pull the measure from the ballot Web Link


Posted by Mark, a resident of University South
on Aug 26, 2010 at 1:53 am

Reduce staffing and all you do is increase the need for paid overtime for an already understaffed department...you might not find the savings you are hoping for.


Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 2:41 am

This ex council member was at the helm when the council and city manager decided to leave the downtown fire hall vacant for hours on end many nights of the week! It's still happening!
Nobody at the station, nobody on the pumper, nobody there.
No fire or paramedic protection in the entire downtown/north palo alto area!
Sounds like great risk management! Some people actualy trust the Council has property and lives in mind when they make these choices!
But you won't hear anyone at that level even touching the subject let alone justifying their actions.


Posted by svatoid, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 26, 2010 at 7:22 am

I am not a supporter of Measure R and plan to vote against it. However the two-faced hypocrisy of Dena Mossar and this committee that has come out to oppose Measure R is amazing.
Let's not forget that this committee is made up of former city council members (Kniss, Ojakian, Beecham, Mossar etc), who basically gave the firefighters everything they wanted during their tenure in office.
I guess now that the political winds are blowing against Measure R, these "servants of the people" have decided to jump on the bandwagon and express their "outrage". How convenient.
Why did these council members not deal with these issues when they were in office? Probably because they were afraid of conflict and did not want to be seen as taking a stand on anything (which is the MO for a PA council member). remember that Dena Mossar's proudest accomplishment in office was the Homer Avenue pedestrian tunnel!!! (you can look up her interview on the PA Weekly website)
What gall of these "politicians.


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 26, 2010 at 7:53 am

One poster mentions that reducing ff headcount will result in more overtime. Another poster talks about a down town station not being fully staffed. Maybe those statements are accurate, but that is not what Measure R is about. Measure R is an attempt by a group of non PA residents to create a situation where PA elected officials can not address budget issues with out a 2/3 vote and multiple meetings. It is a terrible precedent by a group of union militants to make their overstaffing permanent.

But let's go the next step and talk about ff staffing in PA. We don't need every station staffed every night. PA has 30 ff's sleeping away every night. Most of the time they do NOTHING but collect a salary and build up massive pension liabilities that the citizens are burdened with. Once Measure R is defeated, PA needs to take the next steps. A few of those steps include:
1.) Repealing binding arbitration
2.) Adjust ff pay to be in line with national averages
3.) Improve and streamline the organizational structure so we don't have so many captains, battalion chiefs, deputy chiefs etc.
4.) Use resources efficiently so ff's spend little time shopping etc and they actually work.
5.) Evaluate outsourcing and private firefighting services


Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 8:43 am

"taxpayer"
You make a lot of claims about what fire fightersand paramedics do and don't do, you also seem to be an expert in public safety staffing issues. You claim to know exactly what public safety workers do on a daily basis.
Unless you yourself have done the job or are looking at confirmed data you have no idea.


Posted by Paul, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 26, 2010 at 8:54 am

To gh in Barron Park,

No, I don't have a special interest in the Firefighters... I have a special interest in my family and home.
I paid big money to live in Palo Alto and I want a first rate fire department to protect myself, family and home.
I want to vote on any reduce staffing or closing a fire station. That simple.


Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Aug 26, 2010 at 11:23 am

Sounds like a completely frivolous lawsuit - a waste of money and it will certainly lose. Not sure I like the 2/3 vote requirement in measure R, but we should have the opportunity to vote on big issues like closing fire stations. We need more fire stations in LAH.


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 26, 2010 at 12:13 pm

We live in a state that has adopted the concept of government by initiatives, all of which include highly misleading and false language. Now that the big bad unions have decided to use the same medicine others have been using for decades,insignificant and minor former public figures like Mossar shriek in terror and demand their 15 minutes. A trivial and ridiculous lawsuit.


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 26, 2010 at 12:22 pm

jake - i understand your frustration and disappointment. PA ff's had an incredible gig going. but Measure R is going to lose badly and then the council is going to continue to correct the problems with the pafd overstaffing and over compensation.

looking back i think there were several areas where the union made judgment errors:
1.) hanging out at Costco, Safeway, Peets etc when you were getting paid was a red flag to the tax payers
2.) not cooperating with the city on the budget problems (when you are making 3 times the national average) came across as selfish and arrogant
3.) submitting a ballot measure to make the feather bedding permanent was where you lost the fence sitters.

Hopefully we will all learn from this and do better in the future. The really disappointing issue that still remains is that we are stuck with the ridiculously bloated pension liability. Will be working to see if we can correct that problem now.


Posted by the_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 26, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Once you get a UNION foot in the door, the rules change in favor of the UNION.

The FF & COPS use the PSYCHOLOGICAL advantage they have to get THEIR UNION to change the rules.

THIS IS DESPICABLE BEHAVIOR, IMNSHO....

It's no longer about FAIR employment practices ( the reasons for unions in the first place ), it's about how much power & money the UNION can grab....

Just look at the California deficit caused by these power/money grabs....

And the reasons for the final demise of the largest UNION ever, the SOVIET ....


Posted by daniel, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 26, 2010 at 1:04 pm

The reason for the California deficits is Prop. !3 and other brilliant right wing ideas such as outsourcing and destroying this nation's industrial base, and has got absolutely nothing to do with the unions.


Posted by Hall of Shame, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 26, 2010 at 2:23 pm

The reason they didn't confront the unions when they were on the council is because they all, every one of them, Dena Mossar, Vic Ojakian, Bern Beecham and Liz Kniss, were busy serving the developers and real estate interests. And enriching themselves. That is where their energy went.The only name missing from this hall of shame is John Barton.


Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Jake, you say, "This ex council member was at the helm when the council and city manager decided to leave the downtown fire hall vacant for hours on end many nights of the week! It's still happening! Nobody at the station, nobody on the pumper, nobody there. No fire or paramedic protection in the entire downtown/north palo alto area!"

Engine 1 at Fire Station 1 is staffed 24 hours a day by three firefighters. Medic 1 at Fire Station 1 is staffed 12 hours a day, 8 am to 8 pm, by two firefighters. For the other 12 hours, 8 pm to 8 am, Medic 1 becomes Medic 3 and is staffed by the firefighters working the 24-hour shift and assigned to Engine 1.

When you say that Fire Station 1 is "vacant for hours on end many nights of the week", do you mean that during those hours the firefighters assigned to Engine 1 are using Medic 3 to respond to a paramedic call for service that may or may not be in the Downtown area?

If not, what do you mean? Do you mean there are no firefighters assigned to Fire Station 1 for hours on end many nights of the week? Do you mean that the firefightters assigned to Engine 1 are prohibited from using that engine to respond to a fire call for service when Medic 3 is not being used?


Posted by Tim, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 26, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Does anyone know if Dena Mossar is getting 100% lifetime medical benifits for just 4 part time years of serving on the city council? Jack Morton is.


Posted by The_punnisher, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 26, 2010 at 6:22 pm

Posted by daniel, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, 5 hours ago

The reason for the California deficits is Prop. !3 and other brilliant right wing ideas such as outsourcing and destroying this nation's industrial base, and has got absolutely nothing to do with the unions.

The other GARBAGE STRIKE story invalidates your PRO UNION stance....

You sound like a unions PR Shill to me....

Want to debate the NUMMI issue too?


Posted by Buy online, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 26, 2010 at 7:07 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 27, 2010 at 12:00 am

We're between a rock and a hard place--between the city council (which I for one don't trust) and the self-interested firefighters' union.

The city council is quite capable of closing a fire station to save money--and then use those savings for some outrageously unnecessary purpose like repainting the council chambers!

The union isn't necessarily to be trusted to act in the public's safety interests, either.


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 27, 2010 at 8:31 am

Alphonso - looks like it wasn't a frivolous lawsuit. The union was required to change the misleading language.

Jake - are you planning to respond Deep Throat's questions about the misinformation you spewed about staffing in Fire Station 1. You are either completely out of touch or (more likely) deliberately trying to mislead and deceive. Kind of like the ff's who would target the older folks at Safeway. They would try to scare them with misinfomation and then get them to sign the petition.

It wasn't that long ago that PA ff's were looked up to and respected. Now they are viewed at as the selfish union militants twisting facts and trying to gouge the citizens.


Posted by Alphonso, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Aug 27, 2010 at 11:43 am

"Alphonso - looks like it wasn't a frivolous lawsuit. The union was required to change the misleading language."


Yes it was! According the The Mercury, the people who signed the document were willing to make language changes before the lawsuit was filed. Furthermore the deadline would have never been achieved without full cooperation of the signers. BTW none of the signers were part of the FF union - just supporters of the measure.
The lawsuit was just a grandstanding stunt by an ex-mayor who did a very poor job of controlling costs while she was in office.


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 27, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Alphonso - I just went back and re-read the MN hard copy article. There is no mention of the "people who signed the document were willing to make language changes before the lawsuit was filed. Furthermore the deadline would have never been achieved without full cooperation of the signers".

You may know something the rest of us don't but from what has been published:
1.) the union tried to put a Measure with misleading language on the ballot
2.) it was challenged by a citizen
3.) the backer measures were called in to a meeting with the judge, backed down, and agreed to change the misleading language.

That is pretty simple but if you want to try and spin it some other way, have fun.

BTW - one of the backers is a former union member. Not sure about the others.

I agree that the former city council (including Mossar) did a sub par job in managing the budget. I wasn't there so have to be careful to be too critical when not having all the facts when that budget was being prepared. But the result of the negotiations with the unions are a catastrophe. I think what the ex-mayors are focusing on is the terrible precedent that Measure R would set (taking the budget power out of the hands of the council). I'm not even sure if Mossar et al have publicly stated that the PAFD is overstaffed and over compensated.


Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2010 at 6:42 pm

"deep throat"

Engine 1, and the total of three people assigned to it at night and the same three people total at the fire hall are used to cross staff an ambulance. They respond out of the downtown area and could and have been as far away as San Jose at the burn center or hospital.
While they are gone the station is vacant, empty with no people there.
The entire downtown area has no fire protection and no paramedics. And NO, nobody is sent to that area to cover additional emergency calls. If you need the Fire Dept for anything, wait and hope for units from soemwhere else.


Posted by Mark, a resident of University South
on Aug 28, 2010 at 1:01 am

Yeah, Jake actually is completely right on his description. If another Walgreens fire happens and Engine 1/Medic 3 is out (which is entirely possible because it's a busy night station with all the nightclubs in their district), the nearest stations would be Station 3 (1.8 miles) and Menlo Park Engine 1 (1.2 miles).


Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Jake and Mark should talk to Tony Spitaleri to ensure that you are all using the same data for your conclusions.

Tony Spitaleri thought the City consultant Public Safety Research Group was providing good data.

The City Council's Finance Committee didn't like the information in the Special Status Report from the Public Safety Research Group, so the City Manager got rid of that consultant and hired a different consultant with a different scope of services.

Here's what the Public Safety Research Group's study says about Medic 3 at Fire Station 1:

In calendar year 2009, Medic 3 had 193 runs during 365 days for a total of 186.8 call hours, or about 4 calls a week that average 58 minutes each out of a 12-hour shift.

That means, on average, Medic 3 was not being used for its entire 12-hour shift on 3 days each week and the firefighters assigned to Engine 1 were available for assignment to fight fires the entire 12-hour Medic 3 shift, while those same firefighters were available to fight fires for over 11 hours of the 12-hour Medic 3 shift on the other 4 days of the week

Of course, those are averages. If some of the runs were longer than 58 minutes, then others were less than 58 minutes. If there was more than one run on some days, then there were more days with no runs.

I have just provided you with the source of the data I used above.

If you disagree with the data I provided, please provide your own data on this forum and cite the source of your data.


Posted by Insider, a resident of Professorville
on Aug 29, 2010 at 5:23 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2010 at 5:10 pm

"deep throat"
Another important detail not clearly spelled out in the statistics is that Engine 1 is the most active engine in regard to number of emergency calls. Often at night engine one is on an emergency call with Paramedic Ambulance 2 from Fire Hall 2.
In that example there is no emergency unit available in the downtown area, and that also means there is no available ambulance for a second call in all of Palo Alto!!
One single medical call after 7:30 PM involving Engine 1 and Medic 2
actualy takes THREE units out of service for the duration of the emergency. Engine 1, Medic 2 AND MEDIC 3! (Engine 1 cross staffs Medic 3 after 7:30 PM.
If you live in Palo Alto don't just assume your going to dial 911 during a medical emergency and firefighter/paramedics with an ambulance are going to be there in a few minutes, they may not be available to do so.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Very interestig to read the posts by Jake and the other ff supporters. They try to make it sound as though the city is at risk and the ff stations are under manned. But when some one like Deep Throat posts activity data, it shows how infrequently the ff's work at all. And when they do occasionally get a call there are still 20-30 still hanging out, sleeping, shopping etc. I don't trust any thing the the PA ff union workers publish. It is deliberately misleading. And I am very concerned that we are continuing to fund an overtaffed and highly over compensated dept. Now that folks are getting a chance to see how little ff's do, I am sure Measure R will be soundly defeated.


Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2010 at 6:38 pm

"resident"
You have no real understanding of fire dept staffing, units or definitions it appears. For starters the vast majority of fire stations in palo alto contain ONE unit, period. One unit staffed with three firefighters/paramedic. Three people total in the station.
Many areas of the USA have four persons on a unit. NFPA standards call for staffing of four.
Just two emergency medical calls taking place at the same time take 3 to 4 PAFD units out of service (more if its a serious incident, ie fire or auto accident) 3 to 4 units out of service equal TEN to Eleven people.
Three firefighters/paramedics on an Engine is hardly "overmanned".
Three people total, most garbage trucks have more staffing (if they dont have lifting arms).
Reducing the number of staff per day by just three would shut down a unit, that means closing a station. The PAFD does not have extra staffing daily. They staff only the minimum number of people to put three on a unit, ie staff a fire station. They don't have 4 or 5 people on a unit.
The firefighters I have talked to do not fear or not want a study or public meetings on the subject. They want the facts and the statistics to be public. The people of Palo Alto should know about their safety and what the REAL risk is and what it REALLY costs.
If the City of Palo Alto really wanted the public to know details about the FD they would have been publishing detailed data and reports for the public to view years ago.
They did not and have not even told the public the station in downtown PA is vacant and not staffed at all many times. The crew from that station could and have been as far away as SJ or Santa Clara. That fact means NOBODY is in the downtown area of Palo Alto to respond to a fire or medical emergency, they most times are gone from 1 to 2 hours if on another call outside the area.
Most elected leaders in ANY city in America would not feel comfortable or view it as good risk managment to have the most populated and dense area of their City not protected or under protected at best. The Palo Alto City Council and City Manager have been fine with that fact for years. They also don't and have not told the public that. Most people assume that Station is staffed 24 hours a day 365 days a year. This is the area of the City with the most emergencies.
The PAFD also generate revinue and collects fee's, money that offsets the FD's operating budget. No other Fire Dept I know of covers much of it's operating budget costs with revinue. That simply means that the Palo Alto FD does not really cost the budget amount the CITY says it costs in it's budget figures. They don't like to publish that fact. Instead the CITY hides that fact in the charts and covers the trail by taking the revinue the FD collects. The CITY puts that money the Fire Dept collects into the general fund.
That way, unless somebody looks hard or knows how the budget is done it appears the Fire Dept costs the WHOLE amount listed in the City Budget figures.
The City views the Fire Dept as a generating cash cow in reality, but then paint it as outdated old ox.
Im sorry but the people of Palo Alto should know their actual service levels and the actual true costs, not the run around the City spins.
If the people of Palo Alto make a decision after hearing the facts see the real cost, then thats all most people would want. When I see elected officials and City Managers avoiding public hearings, trying to keep issues of the ballot, etc. I wonder what they have to hide?
Why does the City not tell the public what the real costs of programs are? why does the City not make the TRUE cost of a department a clear figure for everyone to see?



Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 30, 2010 at 8:11 am

Jake -
1.) The city officials and managers aren't hiding from any one. They are the elected representatives of the people. They represent us. Their job is provide the city with effective leadership including well managed services. Unfortunately former city leaders allowed themselves to be manipulated by the unions. That appears to now be changing (Price and Yeh being sad examples of elected city officials who still seem to be more inclined to cater to unions than represent their constituents). The ff union overplayed their power grab with Measure M and will be soundly defeated in the election. Do you really think the citizens of Palo Alto are going to vote against the judgment of their elected leaders and support a group of non resident union militants who are trying to grab more money for themselves?

2.) All your postings about the revenue the PAFD brings in is irrelevant. If the city leaders cut a reasonable deal with Stanford to provide ff services, great. The city has to pay to provide those services. Of course the revenue is going to offset the costs. Hopefully it is breakeven or a bit better. If the city gouged Stanford, the university would contract elsewhere or recreate their own FD. What is relevant is that PA union ff's are paid 2-3 times the national average, and the dept is way over staffed. There are hundreds of qualified candidates to be ff's (it doesn't take much to qualify). The current salaries of the PA ff's is at least twice what the city chould be paying.

3.) In your example of medical emergencies, you state 10-11 ff's would be required for two medical emergencies. So you want two rigs loaded with ff's to go to every medical emergency. Then 1/2 to 2/3 of the ff's can arrive at the scene and stand around, pretending like they are making a contribution. They have nothing else to do but sit around the station, waiting for the occasional call. There should be one truck dipatched per emergency. This is the way it would be done in an efficiently managed operation (as compared to a feather bedding program trying to make it look like there is work for union employees).

The reality is that PA ff's (and in general ff's around this area), have been way over compensated and under worked for the past decade. It is a sad waste of taxpayer resources. Fortunately the tide is turning, just not fast enough.


Posted by Deep Throat, a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2010 at 2:58 pm

When the City of Palo Alto issued its Request for Proposal for a Fire Services Utilization and Resources Study, the City said it "desires to have final report completed by August 20, 2010 or sooner".

Maybe somebody can use the Public Records Act to get a copy of the consultant's final report now and tell us what is says, rather than wait for the City to release it at a strategic time in an effort to defeat the firefighters ballot measure.


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