News

Palo Alto takes aim at binding arbitration

City asks attorneys to draft ordinance to repeal 1978 provision in City Charter

Palo Alto residents could be asked to choose between their elected leaders and their firefighters in the November election.

After a long and wide-ranging discussion stretching into early Tuesday morning, the City Council asked the City Attorney's office to draft an ordinance that would repeal the "binding arbitration" provision in the City Charter. Palo Alto voters approved binding arbitration in 1978 as an effort to prevent strikes by police officers and firefighters.

State law had since made strikes by public-safety officers illegal.

Binding arbitration came up during the council's review of a report from the Santa Clara County Grand Jury, which evaluated employee costs at cities throughout the county.

The report -- which bears the title, "Cities Must Rein in Unsustainable Employee Costs" -- offers 13 findings and 22 recommendations to cities in the county for reducing employee costs. Key recommendations are to provide less generous pension formulas, increase retirement age and eliminate binding-arbitration agreements with unions.

Binding arbitration "limits the ability of city leaders to craft solutions that work for the city budget," the report concludes. It specifically recommends that San Jose prepare a ballot measure asking voters to repeal binding arbitration from its City Charter.

Shortly before 1 a.m. this morning, council members voted 8-1 that Palo Alto should also discuss repealing binding arbitration, based on a motion by Councilman Greg Scharff, with Councilman Yiaway Yeh dissenting.

If the council chooses to place the ordinance on the ballot, Palo Alto voters would become arbiters in the tense negotiation between the city and Palo Alto Professional Firefighters, Local 1319. The firefighters union has already gathered enough signatures to place its own measure on the November ballot.

The measure would require the council to hold a citywide election before it could close any fire stations or reduce staffing levels in the Fire Department.

Councilwoman Gail Price urged the rest of the council to delay voting on an issue as important as binding arbitration without more discussion. The competing ballot initiatives could worsen the disagreement between the city and the union, she said.

"The firefighters' proposal as well as binding arbitration I don't want any of those on the ballot," Price said.

The only two members of the public who spoke to the council about binding arbitration were council watchdogs Bob Moss and Herb Borock. The two split on the subject.

"Just put in on the ballot to repeal it," Moss said. "It's not necessary and it creates major problem."

Borock urged the council not to place the binding-arbitration measure on the ballot.

"That would just follow the firefighters' bad example of negotiating on the ballot," he said. "Just let their measure be the only one that's there."

The council also discussed at length some of the other cost-cutting measures the Grand Jury report recommends, some of which the Palo Alto has already adopted. The city recently instituted a two-tiered formula for retirement payments and has asked employees to make contributions toward their health care.

The council also approved a budget last month that includes outsourcing park maintenance, janitorial services and printing operations to cut costs.

City Manager James Keene presented charts Monday night showing the increase in expenditures at various city departments. While the city's spending on community services, libraries, public-works projects and planning has dipped in recent years, the Fire Department budget has increased from $23.4 million in fiscal year 2009 to $27 million in the current fiscal year.

According to the Grand Jury report, the median total compensation (including benefits) for Palo Alto police officers and firefighters increased from $89,059 in 2000-01 to $146,061 in 2009-10. For other employees, the median total compensation went up from $75,815 to $113,841.

The city's pension costs are rising even faster than salaries. In 2003, pension expenses added up to $2.4 million. In 2010, the city's pension expenses are about $23 million. They are projected to rise to about $33 million by 2014.

The council will further discuss repealing binding arbitration at its July 26 meeting. It is scheduled to vote on putting the ordinance on the November ballot on Aug. 2, the final meeting before its August recess.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Fred Smith
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 20, 2010 at 11:54 am

Public employee compensation costs are bankrupting this city.
We should cut costs and eliminate binding arbitration.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2010 at 12:26 pm

"Palo Alto residents could be asked to choose between their elected leaders and their firefighters in the November election."

Who you gonna call/When there's smoke/In your domicile?

The mayor?


Like this comment
Posted by Former PAFD Fan
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2010 at 12:28 pm

People who pay taxes (ergo PAFD salaries and benefits) are being fired by their private employers and replaced by lower cost employees. Why should ONE group of city employees be immune to the economic downturn that the rest of us have to deal with?

EVERYONE is living with cuts right now. Tony Spitaleri is providing poor, stubbornly oppositional leadership to the union. His greed will be their downfall. The firefighters have lost SOOOO much good will in the community. It's really very disappointing to see one man creating so much bad blood. The firefighters have to take some responsibility for this. They are supporting him. PAFD, you need new, thoughtful, creative leadership.


Like this comment
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 20, 2010 at 12:59 pm

I agree with the comments of Former PAFD Fan. What I don't understand is how we got in to this situation. Why is Palo Alto (and neighboring cities) paying three times the national average for ff's. It's not like it is hard to find qualified and interested replacements. If the ridiculously high salaries are primarily a result of the mechanics of binding arbitration, then every city needs to remove this option. As disgusted as I am with the greed of the ff's, it almost seems like the deck will be stacked against them once binding arbitration is voted out. If they can't stike, what choices do they have if they don't like the city's offer? I guess they will be in the same boat as the rest of us (if you overlook all the other perks like early retirement etc).

Once binding arbitration is voted out, I hope all the bay area cities quickly bring ff compensation back down to the $70K range. We will be able to start adequately funding parks and libraries again, from the savings that was being wasted on ff's.

In the longer run the whole system should be restructured to make it competitive and efficient.


Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Once again the union masters speak, and their council member dogs, Yia-weh Yeh & Gail Price roll over.

These council members care nothing about the well being of the city, only supporting their union masters. The article says pension costs will go from $23 million to $33 million by 2014 (just 4 years from now). What will these council members propose cutting to fund this?


Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 20, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Just what was the vote on this? Was it 7:2 or 8:1? I fell asleep with the radio on at 11:30 p.m.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2010 at 4:48 pm

"Palo Alto residents could be asked to choose between their elected leaders and their firefighters in the November election."

So we have to choose between fellow citizens who were elected democratically based on their qualifications or .... we can choose to go with a group from outside of PA, led by a union boss, that spends most of their "working" hours sleeping and shopping, that is compensated at 2-3 times the national average for their line of work, and is asking to make theri feather bedding permanent. Hmmm...

That's a no-brainer. It is also a no-brainer that Yeh and Price have placed their loyalty to labor unions over their duty to govern in the best interests of the PA citizens..


Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2010 at 4:53 pm

So what WAS the vote? Was it 8:1 as the article says above or ?:2 with Yeh and Price voting 'no'. Did council vote to discuss it next week or did it vote to put it on the ballot?


Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 20, 2010 at 6:21 pm

Get rid of binding arbitration and contracts will be tied up in the courts for years costing the city and union big money. The Fire dept has used BA only two times since 1978 and one favor the fire dept and the other to the city. Mayor Burt is wrong when he saids "it favors the fire dept". Both the city and the union pay half the cost each for a arbitrater. The decision is final and both sides except it.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 20, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Tim states:"Get rid of binding arbitration and contracts will be tied up in the courts for years costing the city and union big money."

WRONG - without binding arbitration the parties either reach agreement or go to impasses. For fire and police, who cannot strike, impasse means that the City can unilaterally impose its last offer. Then both parties are obligated to resume negotiation after 12 months. This is a MUCH better arrangement than giving an unelected panel of arbitrators to impose a settlement on the taxpayers.


Like this comment
Posted by KATE
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2010 at 8:06 pm

GENNADY, will you PLEASE clarify how this vote went last night? Was it 7:2 or 8:1?
This is rather important. Can we filter out these last two above? Please.


Like this comment
Posted by Bruce
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 20, 2010 at 8:40 pm

The vote was 8 to 1.


Like this comment
Posted by One of your Police Officers
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 20, 2010 at 9:26 pm

What's really bad about this is the fact the the police officers will be dragged into the messy fight between the City and the Fire Fighters because the City's Charter on arbitration covers both groups.

Over the years, the police department has saved the City millions of dollars in reduced medical costs. Last year we deferred our raises saving the City another 800K. We offered to defer again this year but the City chose not to accept so they could bargain with us next year (Fair enough, there choice). Millions of Dollars have been cut from the police departments budget and we still provide services above and beyond other cities our size.

At around 20% of the General Fund budget, our police department spends less City money on law enforcement as a percentage of the City's General Fund than every other City in the County. The problem is not that we spend too much money on police, the reality is the City spends far more money on all it's departments than most cities because that what it's citizens want in services.

As for police arbitration. We've had one labor arbitration over the past several decades and the arbitrator sided with the City. Eveything the police officers have received is because the City Council voted to give it to them based on comparable cities and competition for police officers.

We don't have 600 applicants for every opening like the fire department. Were often lucky to salvage one acceptable candidate from each one hundred applicants.

Arbitration is there to keep both sides from having an unfair advantage. Without arbitration, the police officers will have less rights than a teenage hourly lifegaurd at the City pool.

If you can't strike and you don't have an objective third party, you have nothing. The City can do whatever it wants to and we will over the years end up as a training ground for new and innexpericned officers as more experienced and qualified officers go to other agencies. We've seen this before.

So way to go fire fighters for bringing us down with you. You make us all proud. This is so frustrating.


Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 20, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Thank you Bruce. Now one last question. Who really DID vote "NO"? Was it Yeh or Price? THAT could be an issue in the next election. So could the vote next Monday night.


Like this comment
Posted by National average
a resident of another community
on Jul 20, 2010 at 10:54 pm

You have got to be kidding me about the national average argument. Take a look at housing prices and other industry salaries and you will find the same discrepancies. The cost of living in Palo Alto is easily 2 to 3 times the national average. By the way, your elected officials approved all these budgets the last few years.


Like this comment
Posted by Jeff
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 21, 2010 at 7:19 am

The vote was to discuss it next week, not put it on the ballot. Yeh voted not to even discuss it. Price however is clearly not in favor of it and can be expected to do everything she can to keep it off the ballot. Kudos to Shepherd for her support of the motion as she was union endorsed.


Like this comment
Posted by Gennady Sheyner
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Jul 21, 2010 at 9:09 am

Gennady Sheyner is a registered user.

Kate,

The vote was 8-1, with Yiaway Yeh dissenting. The council was voting to 1) discuss the possible repeal of binding arbitration on July 26 and 2) consider the drafted ordinance to repeal binding arbitration on Aug. 2. At the Aug. 2 meeting, the council would see the ordinance drafted by legal staff and consider whether to place it on the November ballot.

Thanks,

Gennady


Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 21, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Peter states:

"...without binding arbitration the parties either reach agreement or go to impasses. For fire and police, who cannot strike, impasse means that the City can unilaterally impose its last offer. Then both parties are obligated to resume negotiation after 12 months. This is a MUCH better arrangement than giving an unelected panel of arbitrators to impose a settlement on the taxpayers."

Agreed.

It's time, too, to consider consolidation with the fire district(s) of an adjoining community or a merger therewith. All options must be 'on the table'. Our City Council and City Manager must examine all alternatives to prudently manage our ongoing fiscal obligations.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 21, 2010 at 6:45 pm

JA3+, I'm not convinced consolidating with Menlo Park will result in cost savings. I'd be concerned that there would be a bigger bureacracy and less ability to make changes. One advantage of keeping the decision making local is that it is relatively easy to cut thru the bureacracy (versus trying to push thru change on a regional level). Look at that new building that MP Fire just occupied on Middlefield. I don't know all the details so I won't be too critical. But unless some buildings were moved out of when MP Fire moved in to the new building on Middlefield, it is more costs that the tax payer has to fund. Looks like because they are a "regional" organization, they had to build a "regional" HQ.

Ideally I would like to see two or three regional fire protection service organizations run as non-profits or even as for-profits. The cities would keep the real estate and the vehicles. The cities would specify what level of service they want and the companies would bid on the contracts. I beleive the companies would be able to take advantage of the larger areas and statistical probabilities, so they could provide the same or better response times with less personnel. And since they would be competitive and bidding on contracts, the costs per employee would be much better managed. Instead of FF's spending most of their time sleeping and shopping they would be working. There would be much less overtime and the salaries would be competitive with similar occupations and regional/national averages.

I believe a model like this would result in cost savings to cities like PA of 30% - 50%, with no decrease in service.


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 21, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Orange County, Sac Metro and the City and County of San Francisco all have consolidated fire departments and they all operate superb ambulance systems. There is no need to reinvent this organizational model - learn from it and build on it.

Sometimes difficult change can only occur when there is a crisis - well folks, we have a crisis so let's make this very important change.

*********************
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.

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.
**************
Fire consolidation saves money AND improves service.


Like this comment
Posted by Bradley
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 22, 2010 at 2:55 pm

My strong impression is that the Palo Alto police have been far more thoughtful in their compensation demands than have Palo Alto firefighters through these tough financial times for all of us. Calling these guys "firefighters" has become something of a misnomer today since fire calls make up only 3 percent of their total calls. It sounds more dramatic to be a firefighter rather than a sweeper up after accidents or a false alarm responder.

Fire union leadership is realizing too late they have led union members into a lose-lose box canyon. Palo Alto voters will let them know in no uncertain terms in November that their greedy compensation demands will cost them big time.

Then it will be up to Palo Alto leadership and management and to reign in this out-of-control fire operation and get them back on a reasonable compensation track.


Like this comment
Posted by ToPoliceOfficer
a resident of another community
on Jul 22, 2010 at 4:42 pm

I am disappointed you are expressing dissatisfaction with your fellow public safety employees (ie. PAFD). You sure painted the police department in a pretty positive light, but did fail to mention a few things.

Did you mention the multi-year contract that gave police officers huge raises year after year (much higher than the fire dept raises) ? With raises like that it was probably easy to just defer one raise, which was only a temporary savings for a year.

1. The fire department did offer to defer a raise too, however the City declined the offer.
2. The fire department reduced health care costs several years ago by eliminating the highest cost plan, same as PAPD.
3. The fire department provides fire protection to Stanford and SLAC by contract and provides the city with significant income, but it just goes into the general fund.
4. PAFD's paramedic ambulances provide additional income.
5. As a result of this income and with PAFD not being one of the highest paid departments around:

** The fire department provides fire protection/EMS response at one of the lowest costs per person in the state. ***

For some reason the local small paper (P*st) has been out to bend the truth to present the fire department in a bad light for several years now. Most the the time not all of the facts are considered when the slanted editorials are written in that paper.


Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 22, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Resident, Peter, & Bradley:

Very interesting posts; thanks. Is our City Manager actively studying consolidation? If so, what are the results? If not, why?


Like this comment
Posted by Shirley
a resident of Southgate
on Jul 22, 2010 at 10:11 pm

Are you watching, as I am, the Palo Alto Online vote totals on support for the self-serving fire union initiative which will appear on the November ballot? Community opinion is running strongly against the union proposal.

In the past, Palo Alto Online polls have reliably predicted within 4% of actual election results.

Someone above said, "Palo Alto fire union leadership is realizing too late they have led their membership into a lose-lose box canyon." This clearly appears to be the case.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 23, 2010 at 8:57 pm

The fire union feather bedding issue is losing by over 2-1 on the Palo Alto online poll. My guess is that at least half of the yes votes in the poll are non-resident union employees. Who else would possibly support this cause. The measure is going to get crushed at the ballot box. The PA Wekly editorial this week came out very strongly for removing binding arbitration and against the union featherbedding initiative. I'm guessing the union members regret following Spitaleri in to the box canyon. The bad news is that for years citizens have been paying ridiculously high salaries for the over staffed and under worked union employees. And we are saddled with the exorbitant pension costs of the retired employees. But finally corrective action is being taken. Hopefully we can get the average total compensation for the PAFD union members down to the $60K - $79K range where is should be.


Like this comment
Posted by One of your Police Officers
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 24, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Nice try fire fighter.

The reason the police officers got a substantial contract three years ago was because they were the lowest paid City on the survey list of surrounding agencies and we gave up a substantial amont of operational concessions to pay for much of the increase. Prior to that contract we were short almost 20 police officer positions in part due to the salaries.

If you want to talk about what we gave back compared to what you gave back, go ahead. You gave up nothing. Our department suffered millions in cuts in recent years and you gave up alomost nothing.

Your offer to defer your raise was with strings attached so of course it was rejected. You didn't really want to help the City. You just made it look that way and then pulled your offer when you didn't get your way.

Hope you are happy when we all end up without arbitration, you end up without your ballot measure, and the City is finally able to cut your crazy staffing numbers (30 fire fighters asleep in town every night). Even with Stanford and SLAC that's nuts.


Like this comment
Posted by Is that for real?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 25, 2010 at 9:18 am

Are there really 30 firefighters "sleeping" (if not responding to a call) in town every night? It sounds like a lot but I guess were pretty safe with that many of them on. How many cops are on duty at night?


Like this comment
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Jul 25, 2010 at 1:42 pm

The fire department minimum staffing at night (8 pm to 8 am) agreed to in the last contract between the City and the Union is 29. Add the Battalion Chief to get 30 firefighters at night. When Foothills Park Station 8 is staffed for four months in the summer during the day (8 am to 8 pm) there are a minimum of two more firefighters required by the contract, but current City policy is to staff that station's engine with three firefighters. During the day (8 am to 8 pm) there is a second Paramedic van with two more firefighters, but that is by Council policy and is not covered or required by the contract with the Union.

The minimum Police patrol staffing between midnight and 3:00 am is seven (which includes a Watch Commander), and between 3:00 am and 7:00 am is six (no Watch Commander).


Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 25, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Police Officer states:"because they were the lowest paid City on the survey list of surrounding agencies"

The problem with that is that the other six agencies on the survey list were some of the highest paid police officers in the entire nation - and I bet you that good old neighboring East Palo Alto wasn't on the list. And the deal is that when each one of the survey group unions negotiates they want to be above the average for the group. Once you go through 2 or 3 rounds of negotiation with everybody being above the average of an already very highly paid survey group the result is incredible salary inflation - with half of the people involved screaming that they are being paid below the average.


Like this comment
Posted by phil
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 25, 2010 at 4:21 pm

Yo Bruce, from PAPD. Way to make the statement about PAFD firefighters bringing us down. Oh by the way, way to go for not sticking together with PAFD firefighters and us, SCIU members, when we were attempting to negotiate in fairness with the City and you guys( PAPD) bailed out of negotiations with us and CUT your own deal with the City and left SCIU and firefighters holding the bag. Good job!!
Non of this is any of the labor groups fault. This has occured due to the financial failure of the banking system and home loans mess and the State taking away tax money from each city and the general economy nation wide. Binding arbirtration is a fair and just way to protect the city and the labor group and if people are smart and look at who mostly wins at binding arbirtration it is usually equal to both sides. there is no cost to this if both sides negotiate in good faith. It is only when either the City or labor group do not negotiate in good faith. Better to have a fair independent party who both sides agree to then to not come to a conclusion and have a long term internal fight that could lead to long term court problems and that WOULD lead to a very costly time for both sides.


Like this comment
Posted by Is that for real
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 25, 2010 at 6:29 pm

Wow, you mean to tell me in the wee hours of the night there are six cops on duty for the entire City inccludng the foothills but meanwhile there are 30 firefighter on duty? Yikes, personally I see a lot more crime than i do fires and while I surely want plently of firemen on duty I cant fathom how they can only have six cops on duty.


Like this comment
Posted by One of your Police Officers
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 26, 2010 at 7:55 am

Peter (Not from Palo Alto)

You just proved you have no idea what you are talking about.

The police department uses 17 survey agencies (not 6 as you state) from all over the bay area. The goal for the most part is to use cities of similar size, function, and operation. We also use the three sheriff's departments around the bay. These agencies are agreed to between the City and the Union. Over the past several decades, the goal has been to try and keep us somewhere in the middle of those 17 agencies. By using 17, you clearly avoid the impact of the really highs and the really lows.


And Deap Throats staffing numbers are accurate for both police and fire.

As for all the garbage about us failing to stand with Fire and SEIU. Oh Please. Were not blind sheep. We have no interest in following you guys off a cliff. Look where your great performances have gotten you. It's just too bad we will be dragged into the arbitration battle with fire.


Like this comment
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 26, 2010 at 8:16 am

So every night there are 30 pafd union employees sleeping away in PA. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
So we hve to raise taxes, close libraaries, cut back on fields, eliminate youth programs etc so the pafd union folks can sleep, shop, and make $150K a year.

PA needs to get rid of binding arbitration and then outsource the whole operation. The city councill should get a bid from Cal Fire asap.

Thank you Spitaleri for being so greedy that the full spotlight is on the pafd union feather bedding. You gambled too far and are about to get clobbered in the next election.


Like this comment
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Jul 26, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Paying for fire department staffing is a form of insurance. You know you are going to need a certain number of firefighters when there is an emergency, but you don't know when that emergency will occur.

The National Fire Protection Association standard is 15-17 firefighters for a a first alarm structure fire. (See below for Peter Carpenter's comment about that standard from another thread.)

The standard reponse for a Paramedic call for service is five fireghters (2 on a Parmedic van, plus 3 on an engine).

Palo Alto's contract with Stanford that implements Stanford's contract with the Department of Energy requires an engine with 3 firefighters to always be at SLAC. If the engine assigned to SlAC is on a call to some other place (for example, an incident in Menlo Park or Woodside), then another engine must replace the SLAC engine.

So, that already accounts for 15 (first alarm structure fire) + 5 (simultaneous paramedic response to another incident) + 3 (SLAC engine) + 3 (standby replacement for SLAC engine) + 1 (Battalion Chief), or 27 of the 30 firefighters on duty, based on NFPA standards and the Stanford contract, without counting anybody available for a second alarm.

That's the insurance provided by a properly staffed fire deparatment according to NFPA standards and the Stanford fire contract.

Or you could have less firefighters on duty and less insurance, but the contract with Stanford will not allow cuts at Stanford, only in Palo Alto. That's why the one ladder truck is at the Sanford fire station and not at one of the fire stations in the City of Palo Alto. When Palo Alto eliminated one ladder truck, it was eliminated from the Palo Alto fire station, not the Stanford station. If there is a reduction in staffing in the future, it will be the Palo Alto fire stations that will have less firefighters, not the Stanford stations.

Here is Peter Carpenter's comment on the NFPA standards:

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. "


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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