Firefighters loan $35,000 to Measure R campaign

Palo Alto ballot measure would freeze staffing levels in the Fire Department

Palo Alto's firefighters union has loaned $35,000 to its campaign in support of Measure R, a ballot measure that would freeze staffing levels in the Fire Department and require the city to hold an election before it could reduce staffing or close a fire station.

The union, which received enough signatures to place the measure on the Nov. 2 ballot, has spent $31,323 so far to support the measure, new campaign finance records show. This includes more than $8,000 for campaign literature and more than $5,400 for campaign signs.

While the firefighters' campaign is being run entirely with union funds, opponents of Measure R are continuing to solicit funds from local elected officials and community activists. The campaign "Safe Palo Alto," which is fighting Measure R, received $3,216 between Oct. 1 and Oct. 16, most of it in donations ranging from $50 to $200. Donors include Councilwoman Karen Holman, school board member Dana Tom and Human Relations Commissioner Ray Bacchetti.

Leaders of "Safe Palo Alto," including former Palo Alto mayors Dena Mossar and Bern Beecham, have argued throughout the campaign that Measure R would make the city less safe because it would protect firefighters at the expense of other public-safety employees, including police officers. At least one Palo Alto police officer appears to agree. Police Lt. Scott Wong contributed $50 to the campaign against Measure R.

Opponents of Measure R have received $61,609 in contributions to date, the new campaign documents show. The campaign has spent $43,476 to date, including $13,883 on a political consultant, the San Francisco-based firm Terris, Barnes and Walters.

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Like this comment
Posted by Neal
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 22, 2010 at 9:59 am

Prop R deserves to go down in flames. Firefighters have sqaundered their good will. We won't forget. What a shame.

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 22, 2010 at 11:37 am

Our firefighters do a great job. I don't think anyone is saying they don't. However, this is a policy issue. Deciding a departmental budget by forced referendum is a HUGELY expensive and cumbersome process. It will force Council to cut other budgets, like police (who are understaffed, in my opinion, at present).

Council is ultimately responsible for the budget, so they should have authority to make these decisions. Further, it is simply not the case that Council will eliminate fire stations if this isn't passed. Some time ago, not recently, Council had this discussion. The community and firefighters spoke out, because the opportunity was available as due process currently provides, and Council listened and opted to keep the station.

This is how a representative form of government is supposed to work. The system is not broken.

Though I appreciate our firefighters, Measure R is very BAD policy. I hope it will fail on a large scale. Vote NO on Measure R.

Like this comment
Posted by Timothy Gray
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Oct 22, 2010 at 11:39 am

I hope it is clear to the voters of Palo Alto that this Measure is bad government and needs to be defeated.

It established manadatory expenditures without any connection to the revenue that would be required to pay for these services.

It is an unethical power-grab and deserves a no vote.

Best regards,

Tim Gray

Like this comment
Posted by Measure R
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 22, 2010 at 3:04 pm

...will go down, according to my informal poll (everyone I know).

Like this comment
Posted by Mark
a resident of University South
on Oct 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm

Concerned Mom, while I am voting for Measure R, I thought your post was remarkably well reasoned, respectful and provides an excellent perspective. Thanks for contributing in such a positive way.

Like this comment
Posted by jd
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 23, 2010 at 12:35 am

Great coverage by the Daily News 'Following the Campaign Money Trail' pointing out how unions and developers - both with potentially huge financial gains - are buying local elections.

Like this comment
Posted by Robert
a resident of Stanford
on Oct 23, 2010 at 5:44 pm

In the event of a fire or medical emergency, which would you call:
a.) a firefighter or b.) a politician?

If you called the first, he would come over pronto and risk his life if needed to save yours. If you called the second you would get a speech that would be interpreted to mean several different things all at the same time. And he or she would not come to your aid, much less risk his or her life, in any case.

No brainer.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 24, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Robert, a more relevant question might be:

Who are you going to trust to make an informed budgeting decision that is in the best inerests of the community:

1.) a non resident union boss who increases his income by having more employees paying union dues, or

2.) a democratically elected resident who has demonstrated her/his knowledge of the issues and is trusted by the majority of the voters.

You were right about the no-brainer. Measure R will get crushed by a margin of 10-1.

Like this comment
Posted by CHinCider
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 25, 2010 at 8:40 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 25, 2010 at 12:42 pm

This one is easy: simply vote 'No' on R.

The Weekly's editorial Web Link provides a clear, rationale discussion of the Measure; as the Weekly concludes: 'Measure R deserves overwhelming defeat'.

On a prior thread here at Web Link, ample discussion outlines the logic behind a 'No' vote. In my opinion, here's little to debate here; it's quite clear-cut.

Kindly vote 'No' on R.

Like this comment
Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Oct 27, 2010 at 10:16 am

I have a suggestion, write your City Counci via email. The link is on the City of Palo Alto website.
1)Ask them if they were in favor of the City Councils vote a few years ago to Not open Station 8?
2)Then ask them if they would vote yes or no to close a fire station in Palo Alto by a vote of the City Council?
3)Ask them to direct council to provide data on which CPA departments have grown in number of employees and which departments have made reductions the last 30-40 years?
4)Then ask them why the City Council voted to not take a pay cut themselves this year?

Like this comment
Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 27, 2010 at 10:43 am

you talk like not opening a station that only responded to 2 calls in an entire year is a bad thing.

A city council member makes $7,217 a year according to the state controllers office. A cut would have only been symbolic. The paper work it would have caused to make the cut would have probably cost more than the cut itself.

Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 27, 2010 at 4:04 pm

While I respect the work that the firefighters do, I have to say that this whole campaign has put a serious dent in my opinion of them. I think this is such a manipulative, self serving measure that it kind of disgusts me. This measure is not a noble gesture to maintain the safety of citizens... it is a greedy gesture to maintain the firefighters lifestyle.

Like this comment
Posted by Jake
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2010 at 4:33 pm


Your data on Station 8 is not a factual number. The truth is and call the fire chiefs office if you want the truth. CPA dispatch routinely did not dipatch E8 into their own area for emergency calls. The CPA CAD system has it faults, bad information in, incorrect or not the closest Unit dispatched to the call. E8 often responded to calls which is not reflected because another Unit was dispatched first, they heard the call by monitoring the radio ie scanning. The "2 calls" is the number the City Manager and City Council keep promoting. Geez ask the crew at E8 firehall even.
Statistical data is wrong sometimes.
As for the City Council. They also get health and dental benefits above and beyond their "$7,217.00 a year" which more than doubles their salary at a minimum. Depends on the amount of dependants they have on their plan. Oh ya, some of the Council members present and past are getting retirement benefits for life including medical.
Huge cost considering how many hours they work and years of service to the City. These same Council members are complaining about medical and retirement benefits going to employees who put in 30+ years with the City of almost 60 hour weeks.
The City Council should be publishing their salary and BENEFIT real cost per year, like they do for everyone else.
Most of the Council members are easily costing the budget above $25,000 per member when medical, dental, etc are figured in.
And more Council members mean more requests and work generated for CPA staff, which costs money in staff hours and costs.

Like this comment
Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 31, 2010 at 9:54 pm


So now you say I cant trust the information CPA provides.
So all the residents must not only vote on the reductions themselves, they must also all collect all the data because there is not one capable of counting service calls properly.

How about we just vote No. Even flawed our current system is better than what measure R proposes to replace it with.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Nov 2, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Measure R is getting crushed as expected. I hope the fire sleepers realize the amount of damage they have done to their reputation and good will with the citizens of PA.

Time to go the next steps and fix the problems:
a.) repeal binding arbitration
b.) cut fire sleeper staffing by 40-50%
c.) reduce wages and benefits to national average ($50K)
d.) increase retirement age to 62
e.) limit retirement pay to $50K max per year

Like this comment
Posted by member
a resident of another community
on Nov 2, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Demand that the city publish the results of the independent study that they have held back until after the election. Most likely they will sweep it under the rug because they do not like the results. Just the same as the last study. Just the same as the Library study. Studies that cost tax payers money and then do nothing with because they prove the council is off base. Talk about a wasteful political non sense.

Like this comment
Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 2, 2010 at 10:48 pm


"increase retirement age to 62"

you really want to be carried down a ladder by a 62 year old?

"reduce wages and benefits to national average ($50K)"

California is a more expensive state to live in than the national average that does not work either.

"cut fire sleeper staffing by 40-50%"

Show me the justification for that number.

You just sound vendictive. Dont be a sore winner.

Like this comment
Posted by Taxpayer
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 3, 2010 at 9:52 am

I don't see why Resident's suggestions are vindictive.

1.) Folks are living longer, healthier lives. Society needs to adjust. The burden on taxpayers and society will be overwhelming if we allow folks to retire at 55. The older ff's can do inspections, or clean equipment, or perform back up roles. Or they can work as gardeners or clerks. Or they can quit and live off their savings. But they should not receive retirement benefits before age 62.

2.) The demand to get a fire dept job is overwhelming. The compensation should be reduced till supply equals demand. The national average is a good place to start. If there are not enough qualified candidates, pay a bit over the average. In San Diego they start at less than $40K per year.

3.) Look at the statistics for PAFD calls and work. There is a fire in PA every other day! These folks go days with out having to do anything but go to Safeway or Costco. We need to find a better way of providing safety services. They are clearly overstaffed. The overstaffing is due to union power politics and feather bedding. Measure R was an attempt to make the feather bedding permanent. We need to step up and demand a more rational approach to ff compensation and staffing.

Like this comment
Posted by so
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 3, 2010 at 10:15 am


My comment was because it was not backed up by any data, just a list of demands. Defeating R leaves the choice with the council. Some people on these boards are starting to have a tone of getting even with the FFs for putting up measure R. To me, Resident had that tone. Example calling the FFs, "sleepers" is disrespectful in my opinion. The city should do the analysis then hire or fire FFs, and open, close, or move stations based on what they learn. Maybe we have too much coverage, maybe we dont have enough. The council should do the heavy lifting, figure it out, and act. Thats what we elected them to do.

Like this comment
Posted by Deep Throat
a resident of another community
on Nov 3, 2010 at 3:27 pm

Taxpayer says, "They are clearly overstaffed. The overstaffing is due to union power politics and feather bedding."

The City's contract with Stanford requires (1)responding to a first alarm structure fire with the battalion chief and 14 firefighters, (2) staffing the SLAC station with three firefighters, including replacing those three firefigthers with another three firefighters when the SLAC station responds to a call, and (3) responding with a certain number of firefighters for each alarm at Stanford beyond the first alarm.

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

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