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Firefighters' petition heads for November ballot

Original post made on Jun 16, 2010

A proposal by Palo Alto's firefighters union to freeze the staffing levels at the Fire Department is bound for the November ballot after the union received more than enough signatures to qualify it for the election.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 16, 2010, 9:54 AM

Comments (91)

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Posted by concerned mom
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2010 at 10:39 am

A firefighter saved my son's life....they come when you call.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 16, 2010 at 10:40 am

This is totally preposterous. Either the Firefighters union have 6,100+ relatives in Palo Alto or there are 6,100+ very naive and stupid people who live here. But the firefighters were smart. They targeted seniors wherever they could find them - supermarkets, pharmacies, anyplace - with outrageous scare tactics about "no 911 help if their nearest firehouse closed and as a result they could die!!" Frightened people to death'. Ton Spililtari should be very proud of himself as an official of Sunnyvale. If the firefighters approved this action, they have earned the scorn of the residents. They already have.


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 16, 2010 at 10:51 am

I will vote against this measure. Spitaleri is not to be trusted. His tactics are deplorable. His goal is to make sure his union gets as much money as they can from the city--our firefighters are pulling down ridiculous amounts of overtime.
Just like a police union has never thought that any of their members have ever done wrong, a fire union never thinks that their people are getting enough money


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Posted by Greg
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 16, 2010 at 10:54 am

This fire union initiative closely parallels the failed PG&E Prop 16 initiative that just went down in big flames despite PG&E's self-serving statewide $50 million ad campaign.

Expect a similar all-out blitz by the Palo Alto fire union which, for starters, hits Palo Alto with a $190,000 bill to put their selfish measure on the ballot. This is another shameful use of the initiative process which will be soundly rejected by thinking Palo Altans.

Palo Altans keep themselves too well-informed to let the wool be pulled over their eyes by this bogus fire union initiative.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 16, 2010 at 10:55 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Now would be a perfect time for Palo Alto to consider consolidating ite Fire department with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District - with which it shares a very long common border. The result would save the taxpayers a lot of money and would provide improved service levels.


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Posted by Concerned
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 16, 2010 at 10:56 am

An increase of $754,399 in the next fiscal year because of increases in firefighters' salaries and benefits? Why are salaries and benefits going up during year which we have a budget shortfall?

One other area where they might save money is by not cruising around downtown on a Friday night. Those large trucks has got to be burning a lot of fuel and it has costs the city money. How about looking at reducing expenses in other ways than in staffing?


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 16, 2010 at 10:58 am

PS. IF the city can afford the 4th of July chili cook off, please don't eat even a spoonful at the firefighter's booth.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of University South
on Jun 16, 2010 at 11:00 am

Concerned Mom's comment reflects the challenge in negotiating with the firefighters union. I don't think anyone wants to get rid of the fire department. The problem is that the union has used scare tactics to obtian overly generous pay, work rule and retirement benefits. Rational businesses and cities have to deal with economic cutbacks in a reasonable manner. No business or city can afford to pay retirement at 50 years with 90% of the last years inflated (via overtime) salaries. If we as a community don't stop these unfair benefits, many other valuable community services will need to be cut. It is time for the unions to wake up to the problems and negotiate in a reasonable manner.


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Posted by Agreeing
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 16, 2010 at 11:02 am

I too will be boycotting the fire fighters on the 4th. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] This measure is so ill-advised. I am hoping they get their [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] kicked in the election or the city puts some sort of alternative measure on the ballot. If there are 2 structural fires a year in PA, I would be amazed.


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Posted by Gloria
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Jun 16, 2010 at 11:07 am

Palo Alto is spending a ton of money on firefighters when only 3% of their calls are actually fire calls...3%. Most are paramedic calls and sweeping up glass after accidents.

Outsource or combine with other communities so our outrageous firefighter salaries and benefits can be substantially reduced.

Our community will be screaming this loud and clear when this fire union initiative loses by a landslide in November. This ill-advised and divisive initiative should prove to be Toni Spitaleri's swan song.


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Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2010 at 11:25 am

I could not be more disappointed in our firefighters who I have always previously admired. The PAPD stepped up with an offer to help with the budget deficit. The firefighters have used deliberately misleading statements to strong-arm people into signing a petition that poorly serves the community. I was approached by them in the supermarket twice. Each time I was told by a different firefighter that the city might close a station (a plan that I know is NOT currently on the table. I read the budget. I felt insulted by the lie.)

Shame on you! While I value your work, you should look around you. NOONE in this economy is getting the benefits that you are demanding. NOONE. It is unsustainable. The younger firefighters should wake up. Your union is serving its most senior members with a benefits package that is unsustainable for the long-term. The question younger firefighters should be asking is..."Where will this leave me when the money runs out?" Senior firefighters will be rolling in money, the city will be bankrupt...and you will be looking at an empty pot.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] It's time for a complete reorg of PAPD & PAFD.


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Posted by Jerry
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 16, 2010 at 11:58 am

If it is legally possible, my advice to the City Council is to NOT to settle on a June 30 contract with the Firefighters' Union. They should wait until AFTER the November vote on their measure. We all value firefighters as individuals and experts at their job, BUT they also need to be realistic about their fringe benefits. This might be the time for our City leaders to start negotiations with Menlo Park and other nearby cities to create a combined fire protection agency. Also, perhaps citizens could organize a polite but forceful boycott and picketing of their booth at the Chili Cookoff.


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Posted by Spitaleri is bad for the city
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 16, 2010 at 12:06 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Don't sign
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 16, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Kate says: "This is totally preposterous. Either the Firefighters union have 6,100+ relatives in Palo Alto or there are 6,100+ very naive and stupid people who live here."

When I asked a neighbor of mine why he had signed the petition, he replied: "I trust the firefighters more than I trust our City Council" I don't think he's alone with that thought. It's sad but lets face it, previous City Councils haven't exactly filled me with confidence either. They've made some appalling decisions with our tax dollars and wasted a lot of our money.

Just to show you how persistent those firefighters were. I was taking my morning walk through Mitchell Park, minding my own business, when a firefighter came up and thrust his clip board in my face and asked me to sign his petition. Needless to say I did not, and I gave him a piece of my mind!!!


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 16, 2010 at 12:37 pm

"I trust the firefighters more than I trust our City Council"

Interesting comment. I trust Spitaleri so little, that I think he would be perfect for our city council.
True our council members do not know how to handle our money, but this proposal by the firefighters is preposterous.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 16, 2010 at 12:47 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Jerry states:"my advice to the City Council is to NOT to settle on a June 30 contract with the Firefighters' Union"

Yes it is legally possible to do this. The Menlo Park Protection District, which serves Menlo Park, Atherton and East Palo Alto, has refused to enter into a new agreement with its firefighters even though the last contract expired in 2008. Why? Because the firefighters demanded an 11% increase. There is absolutely no need to have a contract with firefighters who want to negotiate with the citizens via the ballot box. Just freeze their salaries and benefits where they are right now. By law they cannot strike and the city doesn't have to do anything but sit and listen to them.

Not entering into a new contract would be a very wise move by Palo Alto and would facilitate pursuing consolidation with other fire agencies.

And just imagine Spitaleri's reaction if the city just said we will talk to you AFTER we have carefully researched consolidation and we know the costs and the benefits of NOT ever having to negotiate with you again.


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Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 16, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Like Peter Carpenter above, I strongly encourage the Palo Alto City Council to fully explore consolidation with one (1) or more local fire agencies and districts.

Fiscal prudence requires our Council to actively pursue such possibilities.


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Posted by Frank
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 16, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Humm - maybe the city council should close several fire stations and lay off half the department now - before the ballot. Then they could hire back and re-open to the level they think appropriate.

A bad idea perhaps, but not as bad as this initiative.


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Posted by Frank
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 16, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Correction- They needed 5,444 signatures, they turned in over 7,300!


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Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 16, 2010 at 2:20 pm

In a way I am glad that Spitaleri and the union are trying to soak the citizens for more by pushing this initiative. I wasn't aware of how overpaid and under worked the PAFD union folks are. Thanks to this initiiative by Spitaleri to take even more $'s the issue is getting visibility. I am sure it will be defeated soundly. But that doesn't solve the problem. PA citizens are paying 2-3 times what the PAFD is worth. The national average salary for a FF is $45K (US News & World Report - May 2010). PA is paying $113K plus ridiculous overtime and benefits. We need to fix that problem now. Doing nothing is unacceptble. I'm not an expert on unions and contracts but there must be a method to correct the problem in the short term. I would love to see the entire PAFD laid off and then interviews held to rebuild the PAFD with a reasonable cost structure.


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Posted by Low Expectations
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 16, 2010 at 2:26 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Don't sign
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Taxpayer says: "I am sure it will be defeated soundly."

I'm not, your statement is loaded with inappropriate self-confidence. The firefighters are going to fight every inch of the way for your vote.

Since they were able to gather more than 6,000 signatures rather easily; they obviously plan to do a Meg Whitman and smother us with misinformation and scare tactics.

No, we will have to fight this all the way to next November and hope their City Charter amendment is defeated.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 16, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Don't sign states:"we will have to fight this all the way to next November and hope their City Charter amendment is defeated. "

He is so right!! The public service unions have very deep pockets. In the last MPFPD election that firefighters' union spent 10 times as much money as did any single candidate. Fortunately a well informed electorate spurned two of their three choices and only re-elected one individual whom they supported. That person was a retired firefighter who had already served a very productive full term as a Director and who deserved to be re-elected in his own right. The unions count on a low turnout and on mail-in ballots to win what they want.

The citizens of Palo Alto will have to fight this all the way to election day.


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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2010 at 4:18 pm

"Kate"

By the tone of your posting you seem to be calling everyone who feels different than you "stupid" and you also infered that "seniors" are not able to make their own choices regarding important issues.
First off, the ballot issue is dealing with possible station closures and staffing levels. It has nothing to do with pay and benefits. Station closures/staffing is the only thing that the voters will be voting on.
As far as your put down comments about seniors, I'm sorry but seniors are some of the more informed and civic minded people and voters.
The powers at be, ie the City Council and the City Manager have done a very good job of clouding the real issue by trying to have this made out to be an issue related to pay and benefits.
This is the same Council and City Manager who contracted out for a study to measure how the PAFD was responding to emergencies and the facts pertaining to areas covered, types of calls, etc.
When it was learned that the data was going to shed light on the fact certain areas of the City are underprotected or delays for an ambulance, the City killed the study.
Instead they are trying to get a tailor made study to justify their overall plan to reduce the size of the PAFD, they seem to care less what is actualy needed or how the current PAFD is performing.

The signing of the petition only put the measure on the regular November election ballot. The firefighters are only proposing that the VOTERS in Palo Alto have the final voice about closing fire stations or reducing staffing. As it is now the PAFD only has three people on a fire truck, not four as is a NFPA standard or like the SJFD has.
The City Council and the City Manager would have taken away the peoples RIGHT TO VOTE on this issue had they had the choice. I guess they feel the voters deserve the right to vote on many other issues but can't be capable of deciding and making their own choices when it comes to safety.
Look at the local news, the free newspaper where many people seem to get their information has printed almost zip other than stories about pay and benefits. Nothing about staffing, emergency response, response data, death statistics, the fact the downtown area of Palo Alto often has no firefighters in Station One. No they don't tell you those little gems.
No stories about the 3 Alarm fire downtown that totaled eight plus apartments and while that was happening other 911 calls were delayed or had nobody available to send without major delays.
How about waiting until the information is all distributed on both sides before the November election and then letting the voters decide about their own well being related to fire protection and paramedic services.
The people who signed the petition may not even agree with the people having the choice regarding station closures and staffing. They may just want the issue to be decided by the PEOPLE/VOTERS on the regular November ballot. The Council and City Manager wanted to take away the peoples right to vote on the matter by telling people not to sign the petition.


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Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jun 16, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Given their salaries, the firemen have a lot of money to spend on the campaign.


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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2010 at 4:29 pm

"Fireman"
You keep bringing up the same old argument over and over, many of the people who keep bringing up have been gone a long time from what I hear.
People retire, and as you well know some people QUIT.
I would trust even the average firefighter more than most elected officials. The City Council does not even have the integrity to inform the public about their own benefits and pay, including retirement benefits. They also don't mention the fact that they increased their number of members from what it was in the past.



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Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jun 16, 2010 at 4:30 pm

The people who signed the petition are probably people who pay little in property tax due to Prop 13. They don't mind spending other people's money.


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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2010 at 4:41 pm

"Chris"
Again, more speculation on who signed the petition and their reasons for doing so. Maybe they have many different reasons? If they can vote in Palo Alto AND pay any kind of tax period, whether it is property tax, sales tax, use tax, etc They are spending their own money.
Property tax is only a small portion of where Palo Alto gets it's revenue. Sales tax is a major portion, goods purchased and services paid for contribute greatly to a Cities funding.
When people spend money in other Cities other than Palo Alto they are supporting that Cities programs and services. Sometimes people forget that their property taxes are only a portion of where a Cities funding comes from.


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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2010 at 5:11 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

This ballot measure is an issue about the future, the possible closure of fire stations and reductions in the number for firefighters and paramedics.
I see a group of firefighters asking only that the people ie VOTERS have a choice in their own safety. By asking that there be two public hearings (information) and a vote of the people prior to a fire station being shut down. THEN I SEE a City Council and a City Manager urging that the VOTERS ie PEOPLE not have a vote or choice in the matter by professing that the City Council have the power supreme. The City Council has urged puplic votes on many issues of less impact to human life and property in the past. They have a long and contnued history of spending millions on studies and consultants.
Money for things they and the people of Palo Alto could have decided for themselves. Look at the Councils priorities over the last ten years, almost nothing to do with pressing local needs impacting Palo Alto.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 16, 2010 at 5:55 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

1.) The city leaders aren't trying to take away anything from the voters. We elect them to make policy. We don't want a union to have control over the staffing levels of the employees.

2.) This is about pay and benefits. Palo Alto has way too many union employees making way too much money. We want to reduce the pay and benefits of these folks. The more FF's sitting around collecting huge salaries, the more PA citizens are wasting tax dollars on pay and benefits. The union would like to make this permanent but the citizens are going to vote down the initiative and urge the council to reduce the cost of the bloated PAFD.

I hope the union wastes all of their $'s pushing this issue. They have already burned up all the good will they accumulated over the years. Not one person I have talked to supports this union petition. Many I have talked to signed it because they assumed if FF's were behind it, it was probably a good idea. Now they know better and plan to vote against it. I have lost all respect for PA ff's.

The initiative I would support is one to limit retirement benefits and increase the minimum age at which PA employees can begin collecting retirement benefits.


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 16, 2010 at 6:08 pm

I don't understand the sense of anger toward the typical firefighter - they do their jobs and are paid based on a contract approved by the PA City Council. Perhaps it is fair the criticize the union leadership but what about the people who approved the contracts - the people who represented the taxpayers. If you want change then elect better people. Go out and vote! Meanwhile the firefighters will try to protect what they already have, they are no different than the rest of us in trying to protect jobs and salaries.
The lucrative pension deals are driven at the State level, yet when Arnie tried to reign in the public unions the voters turned him down. Did anyone contributing to this blog actually support Arnie's propositions? - probably not.
And by the way the fire department consolidation will not save much money. Some administrative costs might be saved but you still need the same manpower and the same equipment and that is where the money is. Paying for Police and Fire is like buying insurance - probably never need it but if you do it is nice to have it.


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Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 16, 2010 at 7:33 pm

To Chris:

Whoa. Know the facts. EVERYBODY HAS A PROP 13 HOUSE. EVERYBODY. The person who bought in 1978 and every year thereafter. The person who bought before 1978 has a pre-Prop 13 house. In 1978 assessed valuations wee rolled back to 1975. Houses were going for about an average of $50K in 1978, maybe a little more. The same house next door last week was sold for a lot more - over $1M. Since 1978 taxes are based initially at 1% of the selling price with a max increase per year of 2%. Before that the increase may have been 20%, 25%, 30% - skyrocketing heart-stopping taxes of even more. And acc to the latest AARP bulletin, the property tax revolt is now spreading nationwide. And why did astute well educated seniors sign the FF petition? Fear. The FF had a great terror script. They also went after dewey-eyed just-turned-eighteen-years old high school students. It will be interesting to see how many of the signatures are valid. The signers must be American citizens - that's is, they must 'legally' be able to vote.


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Posted by Koa
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 16, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Top Gun Chili will be happy to feed any of the Firefighter's defectors!


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 16, 2010 at 8:02 pm

So far the firefighters have spent VERY LITTLE money on this drive. All signatures were done on their days off. There was no problem getting over 7000 to sign.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2010 at 9:12 pm

>"the ballot issue is dealing with possible station closures and staffing levels. It has nothing to do with pay and benefits."

Staffing levels have a lot to do with pay and benefits. More staff means more money spent on salaries, benefits, pensions.

>"When it was learned that the data was going to shed light on the fact certain areas of the City are underprotected or delays for an ambulance, the City killed the study."

The consultant did not give any information about the city being under-protected or delays in ambulance service.

The study was stopped because the city council woke up to the fact that " the consultant performing the study is affiliated with the International Association of Fire Chiefs -- a support network for fire chiefs and emergency -response leaders -- and has never recommended a staffing reduction. staff is now proposing a new study that would go beyond the "standards of coverage" analysis and focus on staffing levels and overtime expenditures." See Web Link

>"The City Council does not even have the integrity to inform the public about their own benefits and pay, including retirement benefits."

The city budgets (with salaries) are online on the city website. The Daily Post has published salaries of all employees.

>"This ballot measure is an issue about the future, the possible closure of fire stations and reductions in the number for firefighters and paramedics."

The ballot is about giving the union total power on staffing. It's about forcing the city to have an election even if it wants to lay off one fire fighter or paramedic.

If you don't trust the city government, why would you trust the union, particularly after the spin it has put on this proposal? The union's goal is to maximize staff, salaries and benefits, which you pay for.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 16, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Alphonso - not to be antagonistic but to try and answer a couple of your points:

1.) folks are angry with the PA ff's for several reasons including:
a.) when every one else in the city was making concesions to help with the budget, the ff's took more of the budget. maybe that is OK with you but it turned off many of us
b.) the ff's used scare tactics and targeted the senior citizens with their signature drive
c.) the ff's spend most of their time sleeping, eating, etc (not working). PA rarely has any fires. the ff's pay is excessive by almost any standard and the O/T and retirement benefits are more than excessive. yet they are demanding more and telling citizens that the city manager and city council are doing a poor job. people are just sick of their selfish, self-centered attitudes.

In regards to your coment about safety services being like insurance (hope you never use it), i totally agree. but that doesn't mean I want to pay 2-3 times the value of the insurance like PA is for the value of the PAFD.

I think you are right that consolidation isn't going to save much money.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 16, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Resident states:"consolidation isn't going to save much money."

WRONG. Put together 2 or 3 or 4 fire agencies and you will see a 15-20% reduction in total cost and better service. You eliminate multiple Chiefs, Deputy, specialty chiefs like training, you consolidate training and HR into one place - big savings.


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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Jun 16, 2010 at 10:18 pm

If certain people really want the City Council making all the decisions than why not just let the City Council decide everything? except for City Councilmember elections, why not have the City Council decide every single issue related to the City Of Palo Alto?

Do teachers calling for reduced class size get accused size get accused of just wanting more teachers? more union members?
Do those calling for not reducing or eliminating crossing guards at schools for safety reasons get accused of trying to protect crossing guard salaries or jobs? are their valid concerns about safety more valid than closing a fire station? police, flood control district, etc. I guess anyone who questions "safety" is really just trying to line their own pockets.
The "consultant" refered to regarding ambulance/paramedic response NEVER RELEASED the completed study because the CITY COUNCIL AND CITY MANAGER KILLED THE STUDY BEFORE IT WAS COMPLETED OR RELEASED IN FULL.
And did somebody actualy have to explain that voters have to be american citizens? really. If your statement was not so truly sad it would almost be funny. Is there some big problem with "illegal" voters in Palo Alto?
If the City Council has voted to ask that people not sign a petition to place a measure on that ballot, a measure that MUST STILL BE PASSED BY THE VOTERS BEFORE GOING INTO EFFECT, then explain to me how they are not taking anything away from the voters? First enough signitures have to be gathered, then they have to be certified, then it goes on the ballot, then it may or may not get voter approval.
If the City Council had actualy convinced people to not sign the petition then it would not be on the ballot. Hence they could keep the voters from voting yes or no, the City Council could be free to do whatever they choose to at that point.
Again, I read more people claiming seniors were scared into signing the petition, all those poor seniors I guess. Most of them have lived through times the rest of us can only imagine. World Wars, depression, natural disasters, hard labor, poverty, etc. But some people here would have the rest of us believe they can't even be trusted with signing a petition to place a proposed measure on the ballot.
Like some 29 year old firefighter is going to scare a depression era WWII combat vet into signing a petition? and you talk about scare tactics like some are professing here.
Nobody here has yet had a answer for the "overtime" accusations. The City Council and City Manager are the ones who ordered firefighters and paramedics to staff units the that the CITY MANAGER AND CITY COUNCIL mandated be staffed with overtimers, instead of actually hiring to properly staff units. Explain how that is the firefighters doing or choice? They take orders following policy, they don't set policy or make staffing orders.
And talking about scare tactics, look at how many people here are saying people were scared into signing, went after dewy-eyed 18 year olds, etc, etc, etc.
The proposed measure is not about salary or benefits. Those types of things are done in contract talks, 110, 95 or 25 firefighters/paramedics the number of employees has nothing to do with salary or benefits.
The measure is about fire station closure and staffing levels, period. If the voters want to change other elements than take up that issue. Trying to make it part of proposed fire station closures is a scare tactic in my opinion.
The measure is now up to the VOTERS to decide in the regular November election. It's June now, do some research (besides Diana Diamond)learn about the facts, how they will or could affect you and go cast your vote in November. It's that simple, but as most people know the average person does not even take the effort to VOTE. Look at voter turnout around here, it's a complete joke.


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Jun 16, 2010 at 11:19 pm

PC said
"WRONG. Put together 2 or 3 or 4 fire agencies and you will see a 15-20% reduction in total cost and better service. You eliminate multiple Chiefs, Deputy, specialty chiefs like training, you consolidate training and HR into one place - big savings."

Have you bothered looking at the proposed 2011 budget? There are about 125 positions in Fire and you may be right that 4-5 positions would be eliminated through consolidation. That savings would be shared 50/50 by the two consolidating communities. So PA would see a savings of say 2.5 positions out of 125. How could you possibly get 15% to 20% savings out of that? Sure the positions being eliminated would be high salary positions, but you still could not squeeze out more than a 3% -5% savings.

Its fine to promote "Big Savings" but there is nothing supporting that dream.


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Posted by jardins
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 16, 2010 at 11:31 pm

I am saddened by the cynicism of so many of the people in this "discussion." As Jake has pointed out, the firefighters simply want the voters of Palo Alto to have the power to decide on the measure (about fire station closure and staffing levels. What's wrong with that? Surely it's much better than the city council having that power, given their track record!!

Recently I had a long talk with one of the firefighters gathering signatures outside a grocery store. I told him at the outset that I cannot vote because I'm not an American citizen. I went on to ask him about the massive amounts of money spent on overtime. His response was that any further reductions in the number of firefighters will mean even more money will have to be spent on overtime. The city is off its head if it thinks that having fewer firefighters is going to save money--what we need are more firefighters, regular shifts, and less overtime being paid out. And we need our own local fire-stations to stay open and sufficiently staffed, not mergers with other cities--look at all the dense development going on apace in this city.


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Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2010 at 11:39 pm

why make it a 2/3s vote, why not a simple majority?
why only ask us to vote on staff reduction and not staff increases?

Matters concerning reducing and increasing the staff should stay with the same group. The only way to do that is to leave it with the council. If it is judged that they did they wrong thing, we vote them out and vote back in representatives that will give us what the majority want.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 17, 2010 at 6:06 am

Will the firefighters kick in the $190,000 it will cost the taxpayers to put this on the ballot? Will they take a cut in the largess they get now? I don't think so. They will take every cent they get back to wherever they live and plunge it into that economy.
And they do their grocery shopping at Safeway in Menlo Park.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2010 at 9:09 am

Direct democracy rears its ugly head again. Hopefully we will just vote off this self-serving measure to help discourage future ones.


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Posted by Cal
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 17, 2010 at 9:33 am

Call it what you want, it's still democracy! Complaining on some cyberspace posting site doesn't really change anybody's mind no matter how many times you post your opinion. You either vote yes for the measure or vote no and the last time I voted they didn't have a comment section on the ballot for you to explain why you voted the way you did. There's a lot of things I disagree with but the right of citizens to bring concerns to voters so that a majority of the public can decide is still a protected right. God Bless America!


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Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2010 at 9:43 am

"Complaining on some cyberspace posting site doesn't really change anybody's mind"

so then why did you do complain here?


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Posted by Don't sign
a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 17, 2010 at 11:05 am

Jake: democracy is one thing but you don't mention that it will take a 2/3rds majority of the voters to override an amendment to the City Charter.

In other words if this amendment to the City Charter passes, and a vote of the people is required to close a fire house or reduce the number of firefighters it will take a 2/3rds majority to pass it.

No, if this ballot measure passes in November, the firefighters Union and their Boss will be in charge because it will be impossible to get that 2/3rds majority to stop their ceaseless demands for increased pay and benefits.


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Posted by kludged
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm

There are wider implications for this: If the firefighters succeed, will the police issue their own charter amendment? What about the city Janitors? Arborist? This is a perversion of the city Charter and the firefighters should be exposed for this power grab. Let's get real post every Firefighting job with $130,000 salary on craiglist and see how many applicants show up.

How about a city charter amendment that would require a 2/3 vote to pass a charter amendment for changes to union rules?

I'm really fed up with the firefighters union.....


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 17, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Jake,

Please be honest here. Of course it is about pay -- the required staffing levels contributes significantly to the amount of overtime pay firefighters receive. Higher staffing levels means that when someone is out sick, on vacation, someone else has to work. Lower staffing means fewer have to work, thus less overtime. Pretty straight forward as far as I can tell.

Certainly I value firefighters, but the current pay levels and the astronomical pay increases over the past decade are not justifiable. That firefighters were not willing to maintain pay (not even asked to take a decrease) during our fiscal crisis suggests a very "I'll get what I can, everyone else be damned" attitude that causes me to lose respect for those I generally appreciate highly. This ballot measure is costly, self-serving, and divisive. THE VOTERS ALREADY HAVE A SAY -- THEY ELECT THE CITY COUNCIL. I think the firefighters association should give careful consideration to withdrawing this request.


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Posted by Pick a little, talk a little, pick, pick, pick...
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm

Read the budget. There is NO proposal to eliminate a fire station at all. This is a fabrication designed by PAFD to intimidate people into signing their petition. Shame on them. Shame on citizens who sign petitions without fully understanding what they are endorsing.

This election will cost the city about $190,000. I can think of a lot better uses for that money, especially in these times.

This petition supports bad policy. Council should have discretion to make staffing decisions based on need which fluctuates over time. The average citizen does not have the information to make voter decisions of this kind--as is amply evident in this thread.


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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Again, if staffing was lowered they would reduce the TOTAL number of firefighters employed. The City will not carry extra employees.
There will still be overtime costs because there will still be vacation, injury and sick days that will require covering a position.

But still the measure on the ballot is dealing with possible station closure, unit closure and safe staffing levels. NOT PAY AND BENEFITS.

Firefighters pay is not dependant on total number of firefighters or the number of stations.


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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2010 at 5:56 pm

The number of emergency calls has only gone up and up over time, year after year. Does anybody really think Palo Alto will ever return to 1976 numbers in regard to number of emergency responses every year??
"the Council needs the power to adjust staffing based on need" etc.
The need for emergency responses has only increased over time, not decreased.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 17, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Jake says "Firefighters pay is not dependant on total number of firefighters or the number of stations".

He knows full well that the more firefighters sleeping in the stations, the more ff payroll $'s it costs the city. And the more revenue for Spitaleri and the union. But he tries to twist this by saying pay is not dependent on the total number of FF's. What is it dependent on? The number of libraries that will be closed so we can have ff's sleeping all summer in the firestation in the foothills? Doesn;t make sense but it makes as much sense as Spitaleri's comments.

Then Jake says "The need for emergency responses has only increased over time, not decreased". What he knows but deliberately omits is that most responses used to be for fires. Fires can take a lot of manpower. But Palo Alto rarely has fires any more. Now they have paramedic calls. The calls can be handled by 2 personnel, not 10-20. So there is a lot less demand which should translate in to a lot fewer ff staffing. But this is conveniently omitted.

I am so tired of the ff union whining and spinning. I plan to put significant efort in to getting the facts out so that the bloated PAFD is reduced to a reasonable size


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of another community
on Jun 17, 2010 at 6:45 pm

When Fire Station 8 is open, it is staffed during tht hours of 8am-8pm. Firefighters are not allowed to sleep during the day- it is against the rules and firefighters caught sleeping during those hours are subject to disciplinary action.


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Posted by bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 17, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Jake sure knows how to confuse the issue. Picking a couple of his claims: "the number of emergency calls has gone up and up...". Read page 33 of the City Auditor's Service Efforts and Accomplishments for FY 2009. What has increased is EMT calls - fire response has stayed fairly flat over the last 5 years while calls for service have dropped.

Staffing is a contractual matter between the City and the Fire Fighters Union. Of course the petition is about protecting jobs, not about fulfilling a need. Mr. View has 1 fire station for about every 16,000 residents. Page 33 of the SE&A notes that Palo Alto has 1 fire station for every 13,000 residents. Are Mr. View residents less safe than Palo Alto's? I haven't read of a single fire fatality in recent times in Mt. View.

Palo Alto firefighters are unelected employees and almost all live elsewhere, not in the city, (including Mr. Spitaleri). Yet they want to prevent our elected Council from allocating limited revenue to meet total needs. Overspending on salaries and pensions means less money for parks, infrastructure, the arts, and long overdue City maintenance.


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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 17, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Come on, Jake, please don't distort. It is the requirement for certain staffing levels that creates the overtime, which creates the inflated salaries, which costs the city, which costs me, the taxpayer, who pays property and sales taxes. If a station reduces staffing requirements, this reduces overtime, without reducing positions.

Also, I am a state employee and know of no one whose retirement is based on base pay AND overtime. This seems to be unique to fire and police union members. It's ludicrous to base a lifetime pension (starting at age 50, no less) on a year with a run-up on overtime just prior to retirement (and often it's disability retirement with no income taxes). That so many firefighters retire from one district and then seek employment in another tells me that the retirement age needs to be raised. Eliminating overtime from retirement calculations, increasing the base for retirement from single highest year to 3 highest years, and raising the retirement age would all be reasonable and save the taxpayers.


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Posted by James
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2010 at 5:45 am

How many times does it need to be said... your overtime does NOT count towards your retirement!


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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2010 at 2:12 pm

"neighbor"

For starters, your facts are wrong. Overtime earnings DO NOT count towards retirement benefits. Period. Again this sounds exactly like the false information Diana Diamond has spread in her stories. In this State overtime does not count in determining retirement benefits for public safety employees's. You said yourself "I know of no one" "who's retirement is based on base pay and overtime"
You write you know of no one, but then you profess public safety officers get exactly that? How did you draw that conclusion? where did you get your facts? The problem with those kind of wrong statements is some people actualy may believe what you wrote, just because you say your a state employee. How many others have you professed that incorrect information to? you claim to be a State employee but you profess incorrectly somebody is getting a benefit they do not.


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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2010 at 2:32 pm

"resident"

Fire Station 8 is not staffed at nightime, the Engine is shut down at 8:00 PM. Your statement to the opposite is not correct.

And as for your ill informed statement that medical emergencies "can be handled by two personnel" that is not the reality. Yes some emergency medical calls could be handled by two. But not all and less than you probably think. Any kind of life threatning serious medical call or the potential to be will require more than two.
Trauma, cardiac arrest, multiple injuries, seizures, stroke, advanced medical care, etc. Takes more than two, on TV or the movies maybe not but in the real world yes. Firefighters and Paramedics don't get the option of another take, or a re-shoot. They don't have editing or prop masters. They don't have eight hours to handle a 5-10 min emergency scene. They operate under real time reality.
Under your statement how are two people going to get the ambulance to the hospital? one needs to drive and one is left to handle all of the patient care. Have you ever done one person CPR in the back of a moving ambulance? started an IV while controlling major bleeding by yourself in the back of an abulance? drawing up life saving medications and attending to the patients many needs requires more than two people let alone one by themself in the back of an abulance.
Oh I forgot, sometimes their are multiple patients too which require even more people at the time of arrival.
It's really an education reading so many peoples expert advice and opinions on pre hospital emergency care and fire suppression operations. I am really baffled how so many people have apparantly become self taught experts on these subjects. But again, it seems most have used the local news agencies as their main source of information or another incorrect post from another self professed true fact writer.


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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2010 at 2:43 pm

"resident"

And also your "10-20" people stat for the number of firefighters to handle a building fire is pretty broad. Do you even know the exact number of resources or people sent to a first alarm working fire report?
Do you know the many different tasks that need to be completed in a coordinated timely manner in the first few mins after arriving. What operations need to be conducted to save life and property? What types of equipment is needed and who does what at the scene of the emergency?
Or are we to just take your general statements as the god given gospel?
News flash for those people who think Diana Diamond or some of the Palo Alto City Council members are experts or even informed about emergency response operations or managment. They are not.
But most people would never think that given what those lsited above write and say.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 18, 2010 at 3:13 pm

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a non-profit organization established to create standards of operation for fire departments throughout the country. The codes written by the NFPA are considered the standard that fire departments are expected to meet.

For those interested in facts here is the NFPA standard for a first alarm response:

"NFPA Code 1710-Standard for Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments- involves staffing of career fire departments. In this code, the NFPA has used scientific evidence, past history and first hand experience to establish the minimum number of personnel required to safely and effectively operate on a fire scene. NFPA 1710 guidelines say that a first arriving company must consist of 4 fire fighters and arrive within 4 minutes of the initial 911 call. For an initial full alarm assignment (any structure fire) minimum personnel on scene should consist of 15-17 fire fighters arriving on scene within 8 minutes of the initial 911 call. "


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Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Palo Alto has only three firefighters on a first responding company.

Palo Alto first alarm response to a structure fire is 15 firefighters, including the Batallion Chief: 2 engine companies, the truck company, and the rescue company, each with 3 firefighters for a total of 12, plus paramedic van with 2 firefighters, plus Batallion Chief.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 18, 2010 at 3:45 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

An interesting report on fire agency consolidation:

Web Link

Also look at Orange County and SacMetro - both superb consolidated fire agencies with a fully integrated ambulance system.


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 18, 2010 at 3:48 pm

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Here is the Orange County Fire Authority story:

Prior to May, 1980, fire service for the cities of Cypress, Irvine, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Placentia, San Juan Capistrano, Tustin, Villa Park, and Yorba Linda along with the County unincorporated areas was provided by the California Department of Forestry (CDF)*. However, on May 16, 1980, the Orange County Fire Department (OCFD) was formed as a county department reporting to the Board of Supervisors. It's first Fire Chief was Larry Holmes. Fifty-two percent of the 518,483 residents served by the OCFD lived in unincorporated areas of the County.

However, over the course of the next decade, five new cities were formed from unincorporated territory and two additional cities decided to contract with OCFD for fire service. As a result, by January 1, 1991, over 80% of OCFD's service population of 808,139 lived within these sixteen cities. Yet their fire service was still governed by the Board of Supervisors. The cities wanted greater input into how their emergency services were provided. Clearly a new form of governance was needed for these new circumstances.

During 1991, the OCFD was on its way exploring the possibility of forming a special district as an independent entity governed by a board of directors representing the member cities and the County. The California Government Code dealing with special districts was studied, other fire protection districts were contacted, and services the new agency would need to provide were identified (i.e. investment services, employee benefits, payroll, and purchasing). Discussions had begun with the County about transferring title of the fire stations to the new organization. However, although a great deal of enthusiasm and effort was poured into this project, unforeseen difficulties prevented the formation of a special district.

Nevertheless, the dream did not die and the momentum was soon recaptured. A new governance structure, a Joint Powers Authority (JPA), was selected. Much of the previous work was used in this endeavor. By 1994 the plans and structure of the new agency were well underway. The County Board of Supervisors, the various City Councils, the OCFD labor groups, and management were all pulling together to launch the new JPA. Then on December 6, 1994, the County of Orange declared bankruptcy. Yet, inspite of this almost insurmountable obstacle, the dreams and plans were brought to fruition and the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA), under Interim Fire Chief Ken Mcleod, was formed on March 1, 1995. The County bankruptcy, which was merely coincidental to the JPA formation, had not derailed the efforts.

Since then, the OCFA has continued to grow. Three more cities contracted with the OCFA for service and three new cities incorporated. The helicopter program was begun in 1995 and in 1997 Chip Prather was appointed the new Fire Chief. The move to the recently completed Regional Fire and Operations Training Center (RFOTC) finished in May of 2004 and in 2009 Keith Richter became the OCFA's third Fire Chief.

* - In 1980, the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, La Habra, Newport Beach, Orange, San Clemente, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, and Westminster had their own municipal fire departments. Since then, Buena Park, San Clemente, Seal Beach, Stanton, and Westminster joined the OCFD/OCFA.

*****************
Here is the Sac Metro Fire story:

On December 1, 2000, two local fire districts came together and formed the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District. From public education and training to firefighting, emergency services, search and rescue and more, your Metro Fire professionals stand ready to serve the greater Sacramento region. We invite you to visit this site often and let us know what we can do to improve our partnerships with you, our community.

The highly skilled firefighters and support personnel of Metro Fire serve nearly 640,000 citizens over a 417-square-mile area, serving Sacramento & Placer counties including the City of Citrus Heights and the City of Rancho Cordova.

Historically, Metro Fire represents 16 former fire agencies, some of which were founded more than six decades ago. Today, Metro Fire is the seventh-largest fire district in California with 42 strategically located fire stations.

Thanks to fire district consolidations, we are more effective than ever. We operate a central 911 dispatch center and a unified communications system that keeps all our fire companies informed and connected. Mergers have also enhanced the consistency of our training and operations, helping us maintain our reputation as a respected leader in firefighting and emergency services.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 18, 2010 at 4:48 pm

"Mt. View firefighters have offered to decrease their 4.2 percent pay raise in 2010-2011 to 3 percent. In 2011-2012, firefighter contract expires and firefighters have offered to take no pay raise and firefighters will take on some of their pension costs, for another $750,000 in savings. See Web Link

" police officers in Palo Alto's largest police union agreed to defer their negotiated 6 percent raise for the second year in a row. The move is expected to save the city about $800,000 in fiscal year 2011, according to Sgt. Wayne Benitez, president of the Palo Alto Peace Officers Association." See Web Link


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Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 18, 2010 at 6:03 pm

the measure that will be put in front of the voters is about who decides if we have too many fire fighters. As Jake points out above, the average voter is ill equiped to make that decision yet thats where the decision will be placed. Given this implied, then its pterry clear this measure is not about giving the power to the tax payer. Its about job protection since you can rarely get 2/3s of palo alto voters to agree on anything. ;-)

And thats my basic problem with this ballot measure, the decision should remain with the council and it should be up to the firefighter's leaderships to help educate the council as to the required staffing level is and why. It would seem though its easier to just try to hide behind this ballot measure, then have the leaders actually lead.

Kind of sad when you think about it.


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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2010 at 9:03 pm

"so"

I never said, wrote or implied that "the average voter is ill equiped to make that decision"
Where did I say anything remotely close to that??

If you read my post I refer to certain people who post here, the ones who make statements and cite "facts", information that is not correct or factual. I also refer to the some City Council memebers who refuse to learn anything about the Fire Department and other City departments before making imprtant decisions or cuts. Instead of doing their own homework they rely on what the City Manager says.
The Fire Chief is not even free to speak his mind directly to Council.
I think the average voter in Palo Alto is capable of making an informed decision, with informed being the key detail. I don't feel that Diana Diamond or the City Managers Ofiice is a un biased source.
The City Managers Office can instruct the bean counters at the City to write up budget charts to paint a particular picture or use charts or statistics to paint a particular picture. Anybody who has ever sat in a statistics class knows even data can be used in a way to reach cetain conclusions. The City accounting is not even that easy for CPA's to review. Certain things are given titles that make little sense or budget items are assigned to other departments.
Honestly, how often if ever do you ever see a newspaper around her print anything about the FD other than salary information, overtime and number of firefighters?
Ive never seen anything about response times, number of times no ambulance is available in the city, number of times the fire engine in downtown PA is taken out of service, fire loss rates in PA, insurance rates in PA, number of times other Cities have to send their untits to PA because the PAFD units are all busy on calls,
percentage increase in emergency calls over 10 20 30 years,etc etc.
The fires that are kept small or the people who almost dies before reaching the hospital don't make the news. Only when things go really bad does something get covered most of the time.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 18, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Jake,

You may not want to take my posts as god given gospel. No problem. Rest assured that yours are read with complete skepticism. The PA ff union has lost all creditibility with PA citizens due to Spitaleri's constant whining and spinning.

The bottom line is that the PAFD is over paid (the national average is about 1/3 of what PA is paying ff's). The job is not that difficult and PA ff's spend relatively little time working relative to the hours they are paid.

The PA ff union was able to use their muscle wnd whining to create an over staffed, over paid dept. It might have been allowed to continue if the ff's had helped out with the budget crisis. But their unwillingness to help with the problem and their attempt to create a situation where the elected leaders are not able to govern effectively have put the spotlight on the problem.

The initiative is going to lose and will be an embarassment to the ff's. Now trhat we are aware of the problem, the citizens will continue to request that the massive budget problem caused by the bloated PAFD budget be fixed. The sooner the better.


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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2010 at 4:11 am

"resident"

You posted non factual information about Station 8 in the foothills,
your spreading wrong information and when several people point that out you don't even have the class to take responsibility for your comments or research the information to get the facts for yourself.
Your now using false information as a smear tactic tool. The City Council needs members like you.


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Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2010 at 4:19 am

"resident"
Again more "facts" from you,

"the massive budget problem caused by the bloated PAFD budget"

Do you or anyone honestly think the City of Palo Alto's budget problem is entirely the falt of the 120 member PAFD? thats a very big claim made by you! very big claim. I'd really like to see how you came to that answer??


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Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 19, 2010 at 9:45 am

Jake,

Palo Alto voters are busy people. I think you overestimate the time they will put into this. Thats why we dont have a democracyin the U.S. Real democracies don't scale well. Instead we elect people that make these decisions because that scales better, and if they do it poorly, we vote in new people. So where do you think those council members that you dont like came from? The citizens voted for them. Why is it when the average voter voted in someone you dont like, you think the voters will do "the right thing" on a more complex issue of fire staffing. This is not a good measure for the people, it is a good measure for the union and job retention.
Last I knew no station closures were on the table. Seems to be there is a good argument for closing station 8 only, since it had only 4 calls a year when most other stations had a 1000 calls. So if no station closures are on the table, I dont see that the council is doing what this measure is trying to prevent. Station closures and staff reduction.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 19, 2010 at 11:40 am

Jake, any time some one disagrees with you they are "smearing". The fact is the union demanded that the station in the hills be staffed and there were virtually no calls. The ff's did nothing but collect o/t and create more budget problems for PA. Whether hey were sleeping, reading, bbq'ing, etc, they were not productive and wasted more taxpayer $'s. You criticize and belittle any one (city council, city manager, etc) who disagree with you. Typical union progaganda garbage. But it has worked for you in the past so it is understandable why you continue the same tactics. A relatively simple job that should be paid $50K per year is costing the city three times that.

Every time I read one of your posts I add another 10 individuals to my list that I wil meet with to help them understand how much money is being wasted on the PAFD.


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Posted by homegirl
a resident of another community
on Jun 19, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Jake-
How can you sleep at night knowing that you and your union are selling the other dedicated city workers down a crap river.
THAT is the problem that the OTHER UNIONS have with you and your delusions of grandeur,FF's.
Get a grip, before everything you seem to think is due to you SLIPS AWAY.
Tony wants to play hardball? Go to NYC.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm

>"Do you or anyone honestly think the City of Palo Alto's budget problem is entirely the falt of the 120 member PAFD?"
No, I don't. But the IAFF seems to be the only group not willing to share the pain of the budget deficit and make some concessions.
From the 2009 city salary list:

Fire department: 121 FTEs, 63 earning over $100K. Average about $99K. Total regular salaries about $12M. Overtime about $2.1M.

Police department: 167 FTEs, 70 earning over $100K. Average about $89K. Total regular salaries about $15M. Overtime about$1.4M.

Management: 21 FTEs, 13 earning over $100,000. Average about $101K. Total regular salaries about $2M. Overtime $371.


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Posted by Clean Up City Hall
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 20, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Palo Alto City Government needs to be cleaned up. The firefighters are leading the way on reform with this referendum. Next steps are to reduce the number of Council members, trim the number of City departments, and the lower the profile and lessen the role of the City Manager. Elect a Mayor with real powers to clean things up once and for all!


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 20, 2010 at 3:17 pm

The only area the ff's are leading in is being overpaid and becoming the organization in the city that no one respects. City manager is doing a good job. Not sure if the city council would be more effective with less members, but they have a lot of information to review so I prefer that they have enough members to spread the work out between the comittees.

Hope the city council and city manager get the ff salaries down to the national average ($45k).


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Posted by Cal
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 20, 2010 at 9:51 pm

Either vote yes or no on the measure. To poster "so", Nobody's complaining,relax!


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Posted by jake
a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2010 at 1:16 am

"resident"

So you really think Palo Alto should pay their firefighters/paramedics $45,000 a year? That would probably make them the lowest paid in the entire State and for sure in the Bay Area.
Thats a whole $15.00 approx, per hour.

As for the City Council, they used to manage just fine years ago with less members on the Council. So why do you support them having more? Just because they "have a lot of information to review"?
Did they have less information years ago?
If you support reducing the firefighters salaries down to the National average, then how about every other City Employee? including the City Manager? How about private sector employee's? do you support paying them the National average for their job position as well?


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Posted by peter carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 21, 2010 at 6:33 am

peter carpenter is a registered user.

Here is a great overview of the CalPers mess and how we got there and where we are going:

Web Link


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Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 21, 2010 at 8:04 am

All professions should be paid at the market rate. The issue with the union jobs, especially the public sector unions in California is that the market is not driving the pay scale. If you posted a job for a PA firefighter starting at $40K, you would probably get over 100 applicants the first day. In San Diego they start around $35K. It is a very popular job. How many jobs do you get to hang around with a group of great folks, sleep on the job, not go to work most days of the week, workout, drive a big truck with lots of cool gear, and be a hero around town. Most firefighters used to have a 2nd job and/or their spouse worked. The PA firefighters don't need 2nd jobs because they make so much money working for PA. The amount of pay per hour of work (not sleeping, reading, shopping, etc) is probably closer to $50 per hour.


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Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2010 at 1:24 pm

resident,

You cant pay national average for a California Job. Its does not work in any field, public or private. Cost of living in California is higher than most states given the real estate prices.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 21, 2010 at 5:27 pm

So,

California has a very high unemployment rate (I think 11%). And that is understated because lots of folks have given up on looking for work, and aren't counted in the unemployed %. I read today that there are 5 job seekers for every job opening. I understand that ff openings have an incedible # of applicants per opening. When demand it that high, you can and should pay less. In San Diego that start FF's at under $40K. PA is over paying for their fire dept by a huge amount. If the ff's had cooperated and helped with the budget crisis, I would not be so focused on this issue. But now that the details of the exorbitant PA ff salaries and cushy working conditions have become a focus of public attention, I realize we have to correct the problem. The feather bedding initiaitve being pushed by the union boss and the lack of judgment by the rank and file who went along with and supported the union boss have convinced me that it is time to radically restructure the PA fd. The changes should start with major reductions in salaries.


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Posted by bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Jake,

Since you insist on accuracy and facts, why haven't you referred to the facts cited by bill of Barron Park on June 17? The Service Efforts & Accomplishments report by the City Auditor gives the facts on how many calls for service and what kind for FY 2009. Compared to Mt. View, Palo Alto seems overstaffed.

I notice you're a "resident of another community". Why are you so concerned about Palo Alto's budget problems? Since almost no firefighter lives in Palo Alto, I could believe you are one of them.

It comes down to unelected, non-resident employees trying to take away elected officials' job of setting conditions on how to protect our community. Turning this job over to a 2/3 majority who don't have the background to vote on such matters is irresponsible.


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Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2010 at 11:26 pm

Resident,

I do believe their compensation is high, I think your suggestion is low and unrealistic. Tell you what though the measure is not about compensation its about how minimum staffing levels are set, so its really a moot point for now.


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Posted by homegirl
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2010 at 10:13 am

Jake-
So, when it comes down to lowering pay, NOW you are mentioning other City workers. Hmmm, where is the solidarity?
Don't even mention "other workers" because you FF's think you are so very special. Well, you are NOT SPECIAL, just extra specially arrogant. Cheers, I hope you all get what you want (not) Booo Hooo. Get a grip on your hoses and off your high horses.


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Posted by ummmm
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2010 at 10:35 am

Firefighter Jake,

Just a suggestion, you should just admit you are a Palo Alto Firefighter and that you are mad because the city is going to eventually cut your pay and shrink your department. The endless justification and trying to give h epublic the impression that Palo Alto firemen work really hard all day and therefore deserve their salaries comes across as arrogant.


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Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 23, 2010 at 3:46 pm

In 1989 the firefighters circulated a similar petition and collected about 6,000 signatures, but many of the signatures were not valid, and the resulting number of valid signatures was about 330 less than the number required to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

The best outcome for the firefighters this year is to repeat the effort they made in 1989 when they used the circulation of the petition to get their message out to a lot of people while not collecting enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot where they would risk having their proposal defeated by the voters.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 23, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Give President Spitaleri and the outstanding members of our great fire department anything they want. Dump city hall and the rest of the non-essential workers. When you call the f.d. they 100% always show up within 5to7mins. Call a cop or a city worker you might see someone in about 6hours and with a very lousy attitude. Try calling city hall for assistance, that's the real rip off.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 23, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Trying to understand if the post from Old Palo Alto Resident is sarcasm or more of Spitaleri's ego tripping. I think the poster is serious. That is amazing!

Just got back from Costco. Guess who was cruising the aisles stocking up for all the bbq'ing & feasting. Yep, the good old PAFD. The big rig was in the parking lot. Wouldn't think of taking a smaller vehicle and save on gas or wear & tear. Doesn't matter to the ff's. It is coming out of the taxpayer's pocket, not theirs.

I would have thought that Spitaleri would have put out the word that the ff's should just stay in the stations and avoid being seen goofing off until the election. They would probably go stir crazy after a while just sitting around.


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Posted by Firefighter
a resident of another community
on Jun 23, 2010 at 6:55 pm

We shop at Costco for the same reason you do...and the city does NOT pay for our food, we do.
At your job, do you get to leave your office for meals?
How much shopping do you do outside Palo Alto?

You thought wrong about Union President/Sunnyvale Mayor Tony Spitaleri.
You have no clue about being a Firefighter or maybe you tried, but couldn't make the cut.




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Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 24, 2010 at 9:48 am

Firefighter,

I don't think you understand. Most of us shop on our own time. We spend 50 hrs at the office, get paid for 40, and often work thru our lunch breaks. It is disappointing to see the union ff's trying to get a ballot initiiative passed to make their over staffing permanent. Sounds like you think getting paid to shop is a privilege of being a ff. And using a firetruck to shop is OK. Why can't you folks shop during all your off hours, and bring your food to work? The reason you shop while getting paid is you don't have work to do so you need to do something with your time. PA needs to cut ff staffing and require that ff's work if they are getting paid.

There is nothing special about becoming an ff. you have to be able to get through high school and be in reasonable shape. most folks wouldn't be interested because it doesn't take much brainpower and it didn't pay that well. The only thing that is different now is that the pay has become ridiculously high, and the workload has decreased. But hopefully the pay and workload issues are going to be corrected.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jun 24, 2010 at 1:46 pm

The PA firefighters, particularly their unwise leadership, are overreaching. The ballot will cost the city $190,000 and will gain the firefighters nothing but derision and disrespect.


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