News

Opponents of firefighter measure raise $58,000

Group 'Safe Palo Alto' seeks to defeat Measure R, which would lock in firefighter staffing levels

A coalition of former Palo Alto mayors has raised more than $58,000 to defeat a ballot measure that would lock in firefighter staffing levels, campaign finance data shows.

If voters approve Measure R on Nov. 2, Palo Alto would have to hold a citywide vote any time the city wants to reduce staffing levels in the Fire Department or close a local fire station.

Palo Alto Professional Firefighters, Local 1319, is pushing the measure as a way to protect the local fire department from staff reductions. The firefighters union is also in the midst of tense contract negotiations with the city.

In response to the measure, a group of former mayors and council members had formed a group called "Safe Palo Alto" to fight the firefighters' proposal, which it calls an "unprecedented power play." According to new campaign-finance data, the group has raised $58,393 as of Sept. 30, which includes $41,376 in cash contributions and $17,017 in legal services.

The group is led by former mayors Dena Mossar, Bern Beecham, Vic Ojakian and Lanie Wheeler. Its campaign committee also includes Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss, current council members Greg Scharff, Larry Klein, Sid Espinosa and Nancy Shepherd, developer Chop Keenan, land-use watchdog Bob Moss and former council members Jack Morton and John Barton.

The firefighters union, which led a petition drive this summer to get Measure R on the ballot, hasn't raised any money to support the campaign in favor of the measure as of Sept. 30, according to finance records.

Contributors to the Safe Palo Alto campaign include dozens of local business professionals, school activists, commissioners and council members.

Alma Plaza developer John McNellis contributed $2,500 to the campaign, while Councilmen Larry Klein and Greg Scharff contributed $1,000 each. Other council members submitted contributions ranging from $50 (Yiaway Yeh) to $250 (Shepherd).

The measure would require any proposal by the council to reduce Fire Department staffing levels to go through two public hearings. It would then have to be approved by voters in a citywide election.

The two sides held a debate on the measure Wednesday night in the Palo Alto Art Center, co-sponsored by the Palo Alto Weekly and League of Women Voters of Palo Alto.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by No on R
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2010 at 1:02 pm

I'm disappointed with the local firefighter's union. Measure R is bad policy. Our firefighters do fine work and I value their contribution to our community. However, many other people who also do fine work are experiencing significant declines in pay, benefits and pensions these days...and they are going to be required to pay the increased taxes necessary to support the union's stubborn and unrelenting demands.

Council, not unions, must have control of the budget. Measure R is a bad deal for our community. Vote NO on Measure R.


Like this comment
Posted by citizen q
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 6, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Well said above. We elect our City Council, and we'll stay on them to make sure they stay in line promoting the general welfare. We don't need sweetheart deals for specific unions... and it's frustrating watching them spin this as if their primary interest is public safety rather than what's best for them.


Like this comment
Posted by Anciana
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 6, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I agree with the two comments above. We elect council members to make personnel decisions, not unions! I am VERY old, and have never missed an election, but this is the first time I've ever agreed to allow a sign on my property. Vote NO on R.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 6, 2010 at 2:07 pm

I agree with the sentiments to vote No on R. I am fed up with overpaid, whining, unions. I hope the council moves ahead with repealing binding arbitration. I'd like to see ff's salaries and benefits but by 40-50%, the staffing reduced 50%, the minimum retirement age increased to 62, and retirement payout limited to 50% of max annual salary.

I am glad Spitaleri was foolish enough to try to put this ridiculous initiative past the citizens of PA. It will be crushed and now we are on to the enormous cost we are burdended with by having a unionized PAfd.


Like this comment
Posted by safety first
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 6, 2010 at 3:23 pm

But what about safety? We need one firefighter for every family in Palo Alto. After all, every second counts!


Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 6, 2010 at 7:27 pm

If your ok with the city council closing the fire station next to your home then vote no. I'm not and I WANT a say...I'm voting YES!


Like this comment
Posted by matthew
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 6, 2010 at 8:52 pm

I disagree Tim. Saying that a "No" vote is a vote for closing stations is factually and procedurally inaccurate. A "No" vote is a vote to let elected officials make decisions. And a "Yes" vote is NOT a vote for direct democracy... it's a vote that means there will be a "light" standard to push in the union's favor, a tougher standard to push the other way.


Like this comment
Posted by carlitos waysm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 6, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Can somebody say where we could drop a monetary donation to defeat this ballot measure?


Like this comment
Posted by No-On-R
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 6, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Carlitos, you can donate to defeat this outrageous measure at Web Link. I can believe the firefighter union had the audacity to put this on the ballot, and waste $200,000 in much-needed city funds doing so.

This is the most outrageous initiative since PG&E spent $46 million trying to sneak their Prop 16 "Right to Vote Act" Trojan horse past voters in June. They failed, and I hope Prop R goes down in flames too!


Like this comment
Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Tim,

Voting No does not mean any firestations close. It just means the power to manage the city stays with elected officials, we elected to manage the city. If we want to just save money and have the same man power, we can just pay Cal Fire to man the stations.


Like this comment
Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Oct 7, 2010 at 12:12 am

"Daniel" your comment says it all about Palo Alto!

There are more reviews and steps involved in Palo Alto for many things that don't involve life and property. If you don't think so look around the City. Try remodeling your house, review boards and design reviews, public comment and input periods, posted notices,
etc etc etc.
For those who feel the City Council is elected to make all the decisions, then why not let the City Council decide everything?
why have public input or elections at all if "thats what we elect the City Council for"


Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 7, 2010 at 7:03 am

To so,

Did you read the same story I did? "the city wants to reduce staffing levels in the Fire Department or close a local fire station."


Like this comment
Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2010 at 7:59 am

Tim,

and so vote them out if you dont like what they do. Whats the right coverage? Maybe we do have more than we need. I have seen no evidence that what we have now is too small or too large. Only that its what we have had so it must be right. I know that station 8 only responded 2 times in a season. Hard to justify that station. People just argue to keep it because its always been there, or its near something, not because it is really needed. How many of the voters would take the time to understand that station never goes on calls, they wont, they will just react to the emotional plea of "Dont let them close a fire station". 2/3s wont take the time to do the heavy lifting it takes to form an opinion based on real facts. Sad but true. Thats why we elect people, to take the time to make informed decisions and if they dont do well, we vote them out. So why not a simple majority for this bill? Its because the union wants to make it impossible to remove anyone even if its justified. So if you really like the idea of putting this decision in the hands of the people directly, at least it deserves a better wtitten proposal and not written by the people that stand to gain if it is put in place. Also ask yourself, why were police staffing levels not in this bill?


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2010 at 9:58 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I do not trust public safety staffing to a group that has made it their mission to out Davis Davis, to continue on a waste program that has become a joke, where state of the art machine sorting of garbage yields a consistently higher value waste stream. I even question the need to separate lawn clippings. Just think, one truck, one bin, with more money to staff foothill 24 hours.


Like this comment
Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 7, 2010 at 10:18 am

To so,

You still did NOT answer my question. Are you ok if the council closes the fire`station that responses to your home and family?? I'm not and that's why I'm voting YES on R.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 7, 2010 at 10:45 am

Tim, the issue in this ballot measure is not closing fire stations (even though the union tries to use their scare tactics to fool the public in to believing this is the issue). The issue is are we going to allow our elected leaders to determine the city budget and spending priorities or are we going to make the PAfd budget process different and special and permanently bloated.

But since you keep asking the question I will give you an answer. Now that Spitaleri's attempt to pass this ridiculous proposal has allowed me to understand how bloated and overpiad the PAfd is I would support the following:
1.) cut PAfd staffing by 50%
2.) cut PAfd salaries to national average (from $150 to $50K)
3.) limit PAfd pensions to 50% of max annual salary
4.) raise PAfd retirement age to 62
5.) require that PAfd employees work and not spend their time shopping every day.

It is sad that a group that once was once respected has sunk this low in the public opinion.

Measure R will be crushed and the reputation of the PAfd permanently tarnished.


Like this comment
Posted by Against R
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 7, 2010 at 11:12 am

I will vote no on R, because the way it is written, it will become practically impossible to cut the budget of the fire department in hard times, and all other city services will have to be cut automatically to make room for an untouchable fire department. That's no way to run a city.


Like this comment
Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 7, 2010 at 11:36 am

I'm even more motivated to vote Yes on R after reading how much money the No vote has raised. I would trust those people to make the right decision about my safety about as much as I would trust a Black Mamba slithering right next to my foot. The record of most of the opponents is to get it wrong on most issues. This is an incredibly easy vote for me.


Like this comment
Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 7, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Tim,

Yes, I am ok with the city council having the authority to close the fire station nearest me.


Like this comment
Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Oct 7, 2010 at 2:59 pm

The present City Council, past City Council's and the City Managers Office are largely to blame for the present situation. They chased many tax revinue companies out of the City, period. A city is like an ecosystem, it needs to be diverse and also provide for the basic needs of those inside of it.
Palo Alto residents and companies operating within the City should be able to get the basic products and services they need WITHOUT having to travel outside the City to Menlo Park, Mtn View, Los Altos, East Palo Alto, etc to get access to things like gasoline, food, home improvment products, car repair, auto parts, vehicles, appliances, etc.
When people from Palo Alto spend their tax dollars in other Cities those Cities budgets and programs benefit, not Palo Alto's. Why not support your own Cities programs instead of the others?
The powers at be also added programs and employee's to many of the departments in the City of Palo Alto in better times. Instead of funding infrastructure or contributing to unfunded liabilities as they should have they hired more employee's! The PAFD was an example of a department that made concessions in the 1970's and actualy reduced unit's and people. Through the years they continued to eliminate positions at many levels WHILE other departments grew and hired people. Many of the hires were older workers from the private sector who worked 5-10 years only.
The PAFD made cuts while others did not. It's easier to reduce your size if youve added extras through the years as many departments did.
Blindly trust the City Council if you want to, do you really feel they have done a good job of keeping the Cities economy diverse and making sure their fellow residents don't have to leave the City to get many of the things they use?
The City Council even got BIGGER, 9! City Council people for a city of this size? Oh and don't forget the City Council also get's pay, benefits such as medical and dental PLUS retirement benefits.
You have other CPA workers who work 30+ years, over 40 in some cases and the City Council wants to take away their benefits or largely reduce them.
The City Council members for the most part have a profession that pays them well and provides benefits. They expect their benefits and full pay for being on the City Council though.

First they killed the study of the PAFD's operations and service level and now they are ponying up their own money in many cases,
(probably the several thousand in pay they get for being on the City Council) to fight measure R. And of course they are not going to say they want to close a Station or reduce Units BEFORE THE ELECTION, that would make the people possibly stop and actualy think about the issue in many cases. Measure R has nothing to do with ADDING staff or increasing pay or benefits! that fact keeps getting clouded.
Pay and benefits are items that are taken up in labor talks and contracts.


Like this comment
Posted by what's that work, starts with "h"
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 7, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Amazing how the FD union doesn't want to allow direct governance in pensions! Web Link
"Attorneys for the two labor unions that sued the city June 22 contend the ballot measure is unconstitutional because elected bodies must decide public employees' compensation, not voters."

Now, what's that word...starts with "H"...


Like this comment
Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Oct 7, 2010 at 7:42 pm

The firefighters collected the proper number of signatures to get this on the ballot.

Most likely it will go down in flames.

The Palo Alto City Council spent your tax dollars in an attempt to shop a judge who would pull this from the ballot.

So, who should we apply the "H" word too?


Like this comment
Posted by Carlitos waysm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 8, 2010 at 12:54 am


Reckoning day is near for the public employees unions, whether they are Fire, Police, SEIU, and every other acronym in the book. In though economic times like this, while the majority of the population bears the brunt of the recession through job loss, reduction of pay, etc.,there are the few unions representing public "servants" that pretend to live like we are still at the dot com bubble peak and refuse to share the pain that the rest of the population are going through.

Some telling signs of things to come if the economy doesn't improve quickly:

As you well know the City of Vallejo had to resort to Bankruptcy just to get rid of the contracts and of its public employees like the police dept. The reason? most of the city's economic resources went to pay for salaries and benefits of the employees and no money was left to pay bills and provide services to the comunnity. Also eliminated arbitration rights for public employees unions..

In San Jose there is a ballot measure V for November that asks the residents to bar arbitrators from awarding raises and benefits to the police and fire depts. that the city can not afford without reducing services and also would block compensation increases that exceeds revenue growth or retroactively entitle employees to richer benefits.

So, Palo Alto Fire Union it is in your best interest to pray hard , really hard for either of these two things to happen:
1.- The majority of Palo Alto voters get a senior moment and vote yes for your measure.

2.- Overnight the economy improves, with money again filling up the city coffers.

But most likely hell will freeze over, before we see those two other things to happen.

This is just the start to bring fiscal sanity to our cities finances.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 8, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I want to see the cuts where the relationship to actual city needs is less. Several years ago I suggested that the city travel allowance be diverted to the setup of a first line teleconferencing facility, and that the city withdraw from any organization that does not accommodate electronic attendants. Some city officials spend half their time attending junkets. Mostly sizzle and a tough steak, that's Palo Alto.


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