Palo Alto fires back against union's complaint | August 5, 2011 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 5, 2011

Palo Alto fires back against union's complaint

City claims firefighters' effort to keep labor reform off ballot is 'neither just nor proper'

by Gennady Sheyner

Palo Alto's heated standoff with the city's firefighters union spilled over from the negotiating table to the court system this week, with the city firing back against the union's effort to keep labor reform off the November ballot.

The firefighters union, International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1319, last week filed an "unfair practice charge" with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), claiming that the City Council acted illegally by not consulting the union before placing a repeal of the binding-arbitration provision in the City Charter on this November's ballot. The city fired back Tuesday by asking the court to toss out the firefighters' request and accusing the union of attempting "to rush through an order blocking the Council's Constitutional prerogative and stripping franchise rights from 60,000 Palo Alto citizens."

At stake in this dispute is a ballot measure that, if passed by the voters, would repeal a provision in the City Charter that empowers a three-member panel to settle stalemated labor disputes between city management and public-safety unions. After more than a year of discussion and analysis, the council voted 5-4 on July 18 to place the repeal measure on the Nov. 8 ballot. The council's previous effort failed 4-5 in August 2010.

The firefighters filed a complaint with the labor-relations board on July 28 accusing the city of failing and refusing to provide unions with "reasonable time and opportunity to meet and discuss the aforesaid ballot measure" and to consider alternative proposals from the unions. The firefighters' complaint seeks an injunction that would keep the binding-arbitration repeal off the ballot.

In her opposition brief, City Attorney Molly Stump cited several cases in which the courts found that cities are not required to meet and confer with unions on issues of binding arbitration. She also pointed out that the union had ample opportunity over the past year to weigh in on the issue, which was the subject of numerous public hearings before the council voted on it last month.

"The City was under no obligation to meet and confer over a Charter amendment on interest arbitration," Stump wrote. "And even if there was an obligation, the Union waived its rights by sitting on the sidelines in the face of repeated notice that the Charter amendment to repeal interest arbitration was under active consideration."

She asks the board to decline the union's request "because there is no cause to believe an unfair labor practice has been committed and the injunctive relief that Local 1319 seeks is neither just nor proper."

The union, in its complaint, also seeks an order from the labor-relations board requiring the city to reimburse the union for "all monetary losses and/or financial expenses borne or incurred by" the union that it would not have borne or incurred but for the city's "unlawful conduct." Stump countered that the union had no problem spending election money last year, when it spearheaded a measure to freeze staffing levels in the Fire Department and require the city to hold an election before it could reduce staff or close fire stations. Measure R lost by a roughly 3-1 margin.

"Now, just one year later, Local 1319 complains that an election campaign is an overwhelming burden," Stump wrote. "PERB, the Superior Court and the voters of Palo Alto could be forgiven for concluding that Local 1319's views on the value and burdens of election campaigns appear to shift depending on whether the ballot measure in question advances their interests."

Palo Alto voters adopted the binding-arbitration ordinance in 1978 in recognition of the fact that public-safety unions, unlike other workers, can't legally strike. Palo Alto is one of 22 charter cities in California that has such a provision. Vallejo and Stockton voters recently repealed their cities' respective binding-arbitration provision, and San Luis Obispo voters are scheduled to consider doing the same on Aug. 30.

In Palo Alto, the City Council majority has consistently maintained that the binding-arbitration requirement is undemocratic because it empowers an unelected panel to make decisions that could significantly impact the city budget.

Councilwoman Karen Holman and councilmen Greg Scharff, Pat Burt, Greg Schmid and Larry Klein have all criticized the requirement over the past year, though Klein supported modifying the provision rather than scrapping it altogether. At the July 18 meeting, Vice Mayor Yiaway Yeh provided the crucial swing vote to bring the repeal to the voters.

This week, the council voted to direct Mayor Sid Espinosa to appoint a committee of four council members to write and undersign a ballot argument in favor of the repeal. But the council delayed passage of a companion ordinance that would have required the city and all of its unions to seek mediation during labor disputes. The mediation requirement could only be waived if both sides choose to do so.

The council on Monday decided not to pass the ordinance in order to give labor groups more time to review the proposal.

Stump wrote in a memo to the council that although the union's request is belated, the city "welcomes labor's input on the proposed mediation program.

"The ordinance is not scheduled (to) go into effect until December 2011, at the earliest, so there is sufficient time to accommodate a meaningful exchange with IAFF as well as any other labor group that is interested in exploring the matter further," Stump wrote.

The council is scheduled to consider the mediation ordinance in September.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at


Posted by Casey, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2011 at 9:17 am

Lesson from NYT re: how arbitration can drive a town into bankruptcy:

"The benefits were often determined by outside arbitrators, who were intent on resolving disputes rather than assessing whether towns could afford their promises."

Web Link

Posted by johnjacobjinglehimer, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:17 am

Hey If Palo Alto fire department wants to further destroy their public image, let them.
If they do care about how we see them. Then they need to replace the fat cat union rep. They need some one to represent them who is in touch with reality.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:21 am

The good news is that there are many firefighters' union leaders in California who are actively working with the communities which they serve to restructure their pay and pensions to accommodate today's economic realities. The sad news is that our local firefighters' union leaders are doing exactly the reverse and costing both the taxpayers and themselves dearly in the process.

Posted by Wheres The Fire, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:39 am

This action by our loyal Fire Department puts the final nail in the coffin of anything resembling a cordial relationship.

Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 4, 2011 at 11:51 am

"The good news is that there are many firefighters' union leaders in California who are actively working with the communities which they serve to restructure their pay and pensions to accommodate today's economic realities."

I don't share Peter Carpenter's optimism about fire safety unions interest in actively working with communities. I believe they will continue to take advantage of every opportunity to enrich themselves at taxpayer's expense. The current economic slump and the ridiculous attempt by Spitaleri to push thru the Measure R featherbedding initiative have temporarily pushed the PA unions greed in to the limelight. But as soon as taxpayers go back to their normal routine the unions will continue to pay off politicians like Price to take more from taxpayers.

I think we need to take a different approach to solving the problem. Ultimately we probably need to go to using private contractors that bid to provide the service.

The thought of these folks taking home $150K while spending most of their time sleeping is ridiculous and disgusting.

Posted by chris, a resident of University South
on Aug 4, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Why doesn't Palo Alto take steps to outsource the fire department?
That should save a ton of money.

Posted by just wondering, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Aug 4, 2011 at 12:16 pm

I wonder if any of the palo alto fire men ever read our posts of discontent

Posted by firemen, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Camplaints are heard,but what about our ressentiments?

Posted by Pat, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 4, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Taxpayer...where did you get 150k a year. Palo alto city site says average salary 5,703-8,086 per month. Per year 68436 to 97032. Now the higher ups and overtime may get them more but this is what Palo Alto has posted on their website Web Link

based on the above information, their pay is appropriate giving the cost of living in the bay area and how high risk their jobs CAN be. I think the real problem is not the pay but the department is overstaffed and the FF unwillingness to let go of min staffing. I hate for people to lose their jobs, especially those with small kids, but I think that is what needs to occur. Downsizing is part of business and in this case a necessary evil.

Posted by chris, a resident of University South
on Aug 4, 2011 at 1:24 pm


You are not taking into account overtime and benefits.

Non-union workers would accept much less.

Posted by Wayne Martin, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 4, 2011 at 2:03 pm

The following was taken from the data released by the City for 2010 City employee salaries:

Total Gross Pay|Job Title
348,078.48|Fire Chief
220,290.86|Fire Cap Haz Mat EMT
203,433.42|Fire Inspector EMT
195,114.57|Fire Captain EMT
193,086.27|Fire Captain EMT
190,546.19|Fire Captain EMT
186,603.24|Fire Captain EMT
186,601.63|Fire Ap Op Hz Mt EMT
183,273.98|Fire Cap Haz Mat EMT
183,041.66|Battalion Chief-Shift/E
182,690.81|Deputy Fire Chief-EMT
182,340.28|Fire Appratus Op EMT
182,301.48|Fire Fighter EMT
180,761.08|Fire Captain EMT
173,262.17|Opr Prmdc-12.5 EMT
171,863.38|Battalion Chief-Shift/E
169,473.98|Fire Inspector EMT
168,856.00|Fire Captain EMT
166,741.09|Fire Captain EMT
164,182.90|Battalion Chief-Shift/E
162,375.22|Fire Inspector EMT
162,112.80|Opr Prmdc-12.5 EMT
160,053.50|Fire Appratus Op EMT
159,986.72|Fire Fighter EMT
159,409.72|Fire Captain EMT
158,223.55|Fire Appratus Op EMT
157,502.47|Fire Fighter EMT
156,975.15|Fire Appratus Op EMT
156,279.50|Fire Captain EMT
154,765.66|F Fgh Prmdc-12.5 EMT
154,755.28|Fire Captain EMT
154,203.58|Fire Captain EMT
153,925.55|Fire Fghtr Hz Mt EMT
153,389.96|F Fgh Prmdc-12.5 EMT
152,209.86|Fire Appratus Op EMT
151,192.72|Opr Prmdc-12.5 EMT
149,549.34|Opr Prmdc-12.5 EMT
148,925.35|Opr Prmdc-12.5 EMT
148,236.25|Fire Fighter EMT
148,013.78|Fire Captain EMT
146,738.54|Fire Fghtr Hz Mt EMT
146,401.00|F Fgh Prmdc-12.5 EMT
145,602.65|F Fgh Prmdc-12.5 EMT
145,519.11|Opr Prmdc-12.5 EMT
144,997.30|Fire Ap Op Hz Mt EMT
144,151.66|Fire Cap Haz Mat EMT
143,140.17|F Fgh Prmdc-12.5 EMT
142,983.73|Hazmat Inspector
142,601.79|Hazmat Inspector
141,999.59|Fire Captain EMT
141,433.70|Opr Prmdc-12.5 EMT
141,041.68|Fire Captain EMT
139,280.57|Fire Captain EMT
139,172.59|Fire Fighter EMT
138,587.72|Fire Captain EMT
137,831.52|Fire Captain EMT
136,890.07|Fire Appratus Op EMT
136,069.75|Fire Appratus Op EMT
135,629.68|Fire Captain EMT
134,756.19|Fire Fighter EMT
134,673.64|Fire Fighter EMT
134,208.01|Fire Captain EMT
133,775.11|Opr Prmdc-12.5 EMT
122,451.47|Opr Prmdc-12.5 EMT
121,509.29|F Fgh Prmdc-12.5 EMT
120,055.25|Fire Fighter EMT
117,885.77|Fire Appratus Op EMT
116,480.53|Fire Fighter EMT
115,813.29|Fire Appratus Op EMT
115,736.40|Fire Appratus Op EMT
115,290.98|Fire Fighter EMT
114,983.84|Fire Appratus Op EMT
114,838.71|Fire Fighter EMT
113,469.78|F Fgh Prmdc-12.5 EMT
113,244.68|Fire Fighter EMT
112,346.04|Emergency Medical Service
112,080.61|Fire Fighter EMT
111,970.05|Management Spec
111,572.82|Fire Fghtr Hz Mt EMT
107,165.08|Fire Fighter EMT
105,919.53|Fire Fighter EMT
105,235.51|Fire Fighter EMT
104,640.91|Fire Fighter EMT
103,795.33|Fire Fighter EMT
102,893.92|F Fgh Prmdc-12.5 EMT
99,096.48|Fire Captain EMT
91,816.58|Fire Appratus Op EMT
85,546.88|Fire Appratus Op EMT
85,292.70|Fire Captain EMT
82,664.94|F Fgh Prmdc-12.5 EMT
72,191.12|F Fgh Prmdc-12.5 EMT
71,980.00|Admin Assistant
65,391.68|Fire Fighter EMT
62,772.62|Administrative Associate
62,694.34|Administrative Associate
62,687.44|F Fgh Prmdc-12.5 EMT
61,796.81|Administrative Associate
58,796.85|Administrative Associate

These numbers include: base salary, overtime, cash out and other.

Unfortunately, this blog does not handle tables, so the full table that shows how these gross salary numbers are determined does not display well, so I'm only posting the job titles, and gross salaries for 2010.

Note--the $300+K salary for the Fire Chief includes a "cash out" when the former chief retired.

Note--the City's Auditor claims in the yearly City Performance Report (SEA).. that the most recent percentage of actual fire fighting callouts are in the 2-3%.

Note--the Current Fire Chief is doing dual duty as Police Chief, drawing about $220K a year.

Posted by Pat, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Chris I clearly stated that OT and higher ups might make more.

Posted by Michael, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2011 at 4:30 pm

150K a year for a job that should pay 1/3 to 1/2 of that is a ridiculous example of public sector waste. It's disgusting how much influence this special interest (the fire union) has been able to buy and exploit over the years. This argument over minimum staffing is ridiculous. The union has long ago forgotten who works for who here.

These public "servants" have become a privileged class who we're supposed to overpay and support with six figure pensions starting at age 50, for doing a job that is safer than most blue collar jobs and invloves lots of paid time and overtime for sleeping and idling at the station.

FF pensions should be 401K style, or at the very least be capped at what a US Soldier or Marine can accrue, and then not paid until 65. I don't want to stick my children with payments to bureaucrats enjoying their third and forth decades of taxpayer funded six figure retirement.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 4, 2011 at 5:42 pm

I completely agree with Michael. First steps to begin to fix the problem should be:
1.) remove binding arbitration from Palo Alto's charter
2.) vote out the politician's that priortize union greed over taxpayer's best interests. First to go should be Price. Every candidate for city council should be asked to explain their view of the government unions excessive influence on politicians, and how much money they took from unions

Posted by Pat, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 4, 2011 at 9:26 pm

These public "servants" that really what you think? Who the heck are you to call them servants? Wow! Last I checked these "public servants" have saved a life or two. Why I agree that there are issues, the ff must feel such anger that the people they have helped in plane crashes, auto accidents, fires and so on think of them as servants and trash. I am assuming we are all adults and instead of name calling and insults we should discuss how to fix problems.

Posted by Michael, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Absolutely -- "servants" is in quotes because public service used to mean just that: providing value to the public. Your righteous attitude overlooks the privilege the public sector is currently extracting for itself at the expense of those it means to serve.

This once noble mission has devolved into milking the taxpaying public for every penny possible, thanks to our public unions and the cycle in which they buy politicians in exchange for giveaways on the backs of the taxpaying public. Less and less value is provided for every dollar consumed.

Look at our current firefighters union. They defend inefficient work rules that lead to overstaffing and excess overtime. The losers: the city of Palo Alto and the citizens who pay their taxes, who see higher taxes and/or money that could be spent on roads, police, schools, etc, diverted to paying too many overpaid firefighters to sleep and idle at the station between mostly routine medical calls. When a Civil Grand Jury report exposed some of these numerous operational inefficiencies, the union head blasts it as "biased" and campaigns for more business as usual. The losers: Palo Alto and the citizens.

And I wouldn't worry too much about hurting firefighter feelings; they are doing just fine making 150K for a relatively quite safe job that involves a lot of overtime and paid sleep time, while coasting to a six figure pension at age 50. I'm more worried about the 20-30 or so regular taxpayers who will get nothing for their tax contribution beyond paying a bureaucrat who milked the system thirty years ago's pension, while working into their 70s trying to supplant their meager social security retirement.

Posted by Pat, a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 5, 2011 at 7:10 am

Michael you missed the point. My "righteous attitude" has not overlooked anything. If you actually read my post, I said there are issues and in previous post that things need to change. The point I have is hate and insults are an insufficient way to get results. It ends up hurting everyone involved. The way you used public servants was insulting. You intended to belittle them. And you tried to insult me by calling me righteous which I find a compliment in this case. The other point is how easy we forget the times they have not been sleeping and they have saved lives. As adults we should have discussions that do not sling insults. By they way Palo Alto is in the black if you look at the budget. They also just received $40 million from Stanford to do as they please and are expected to get more.

Posted by USMC Ernesto, a resident of Ventura
on Aug 5, 2011 at 8:28 am

The firefighters deserve the skepticism that Michael and others harbor and then some. Saving lives occasionally is part of the job; it cannot be used to justify paying them triple what you could pay someone else to do the same job just as well. That is ripping off the public and destroying benefits for the city. We could have a reasonably paid fire department PLUS better schools, social services, parks, or roads if we didn't let the fire union buy out successive city councils.

Pat, saying that PA is in the black now mirrors a disingenuous tactic that the Unions use that is one reason we're in this mess, where they cite balanced budgets as a justification to extract future benefits that lead to systemic deficits in future years (six figure pensions and early retirement).

Not only is that poor government, but we are NOT in the black: the $40M is an old fashioned one time shakedown of Stanford ("Pay us or we won't let you expand your world-class research hospital" -- stay classy, Palo Alto). The money is a one-time injection that comes with designated purposes: traffic mitigation, low-income housing, and energy efficiency. Using it to sustain or justify continued overpayment of our Fire Union will just postpone the day of reckoning. A fix is needed now.

"I'm more worried about the 20-30 or so regular taxpayers who will get nothing for their tax contribution beyond paying a bureaucrat who milked the system thirty years ago's pension, while working into their 70s trying to supplant their meager social security retirement."

Well put. I think this captures the problem perfectly. Just reading it makes me angry, in that good, civic, "I'm going to vote to stop this madness and make sure everyone I know does too" way.

Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 5, 2011 at 10:42 am

I agree with Ernesto's comments. But I think the budget problem is greatly understated. I don't think it includes the pension benefits that have been granted to current retirees. Since the benefits are a known and committed liability (you have to do an acturial calculation to determine what the current value of the amount to be paid in the future), it should be part of the budget. But it is easier for politicians to leave this item out of the budget discussion and push it down the road for our kids to deal with. In additon to the over compensation and lack of work problems that we are dealing with, the under funded pension plan is an even bigger problem.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 5, 2011 at 11:36 am

Just reviewed their benefit package -- in addition to the early and very generous retirement package, they don't pay ANYTHING into their retirement. The city foots the entire bill of 9% per month. This is unbelievable; how could any reasonable person not expect to contribute to their own retirement, especially at their pay level.

Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2011 at 2:16 pm

I'm not a firefighter, or a public "servant", but I have worked very hard my whole life and I have a modest retirement, which I have saved and built myself. Having said that, I'm disgusted by what I am reading! I simply went on-line to retrieve a city phone number and ran across this page. It is clear to me that most of you have no idea what it must be like to drag a lifeless baby from the bottom of a pool, or perform CPR on a 7-year-old in front of her parents, while she dies in your arms, or perhaps the feeling of being vomited on, urinated on, or worse. Have you ever picked up pieces of human remains near the train tracks? No? Have you ever had to tell a child he will never see his daddy again, because he just died in his sleep at age 42? Probably not. How about what it must be like to walk into a burning building (YES...JUST ONCE) to save a life. I'm not sure how many of you would be willing to do that, but I highly doubt there would be any takers. I don't care if they save one life or 100...Firefighters and Police Officers deserve their retirement and pay. You might agree if they saved one of your loved ones. I'm sure you'll greet them with open arms when/if the time comes. I know I would.

We all make choices. They made a choice to become firefighters. They chose to miss special events and holidays with their children/families and to work terrible hours to be there for you when you need them. All the while, risking their lives. You all made your career choices. You chose other paths. Shame on you for criticizing their pay. Stop being bitter and find something else to complain about... How about the many government agencies out there where employees still collect great pensions and truly DO sit at a desk all day! Leave the firefighters alone!

Posted by danos, a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2011 at 4:03 pm

"I'm not sure how many of you would be willing to do that, but I highly doubt there would be any takers."

-- Simply not true. Any time a local fire dept posts a job opening, applicants line up for blocks.

In addition to that, the vast majority of firefighters in the US and around the world are VOLUNTEERS. They do everything Taxpayer listed in his whiny rant for FREE.

Time to give the "they deserve it all" line a rest.

Posted by ajoke, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 5, 2011 at 4:11 pm

You mean everyone can volunteer here without starving to death.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 5, 2011 at 4:48 pm

"We all make choices. They made a choice to become firefighters."

They made a choice to work in a relatively easy job, with decent pay, and lots of time off. And as a taxpayer that works fine for me. But I'm not OK with paying them $150K per year. I'm not OK with the featherbedding and O/T manipulation. I'm not OK with all the backroom politics and paying off of the politicians by the labot unions. I'm not OK with future generations being saddled with unsustainable pension payouts because my generation fell asleep and let the unions manipulate the politicians. I'm fed up and discussing this with every one I know. Fortunately I'm noticing a lot more folks are now informed (many thanks to Spitaleri and Measure R).

So cheeerlead all you want about the safety union jobs but I'm not buying it. The public is being ripped off and it is in our power to make the necessary changes.

Step #1 - repeal binding arbitration!

Posted by 50 plus year ressident, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 5, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Taxpayer - I have done almost every one of the things you have listed as a volunteer. I some other freinds that also live in Palo Alto and have done the same things. All of use have and will again risk our lives if the need is there. None of use are paid to do this so. None of us get glory for this or do we need it. By what you say we can not be heros like PAFD since we are not paid to do the same things. I help others when needed and not only when paid like some. I was once a unpaid paramedic. I still help as needed.

Ajoke - Last year I volunteered 750 hours and still worked 40 hours a week.

Posted by deadoralive, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 5, 2011 at 9:19 pm

I was wondering while you are at your volunteer service at hospital,did you accidently wheel an alive person into hosipal's death bed.

Posted by 50 plus year resident, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 5, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Deadoralive - In 41 years of service never caused harm to a victim or had any complaints made about my work. You do not have to be paid to be good. Have not been a hospital in 27 years.

Posted by deadoralive, a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 5, 2011 at 10:20 pm

No wonder there is no complaint,you have not volunteered in hospital for this many years,there is no surprise here,cause dead ones can not complain.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Aug 6, 2011 at 8:40 am

Local firefighters' union leaders take note:

"For the first time in more than 30 years, city officials in Detroit have ratified a collective-bargaining agreement with unions that was not imposed by an arbitrator.
The deal struck between the city and public safety unions freezes current pensions and reduces the multiplier used to calculate retirement benefits going forward. Modifying benefits for current workers is almost unheard of in the public sector, though it's an effective way to reduce unfunded liabilities. Equally significant, the agreement creates mandatory 401(k)-style plans for new employees."

Web Link

Posted by Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 6, 2011 at 10:59 am

Hey deadoralive,

Are your referring to those volunteers in Alameda that stood around while the guy died. Oh wait. Those were PROFESSIONALS. The poor guy might have been better off if there were volunteers available. He was ultimately brought in by volunteers who were disgusted by the PROFESSIONALS inaction.

Posted by deadoralive, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2011 at 11:29 am

Did he pay his taxes or 911 fees on time?If not,he is on his own.That is the principle of capitalism.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 6, 2011 at 11:53 am

Hey deadoralive,

First few times you posted you were from Palo Verde. Now you live in Old Palo Alto? Are you confused? Or an out of towner worried about his job. I don't think capitalism was the issue in Alameda. I think it was cowardice.

Posted by Tired of being ripped off Voter, a resident of University South
on Aug 6, 2011 at 12:07 pm

The drowning victim in Alameda that the 10 or so six-figure firefighters on the beach were too afraid to enter the water to rescue was eventually pulled to shore by a lone female passerby.

Have the cowardly bureaucrats been fired? Nope. They're still on the books for six figures coasting to a 100K lifetime pension at 50. In fact the union defended their cowardice and blamed the public. This is another aspect of public unions I despise; they protect their own regardless of performance.

We need to vote in council members who will take a hard stand. No more fixed-benefit pensions. As Peter pointed out above, current obligations can and should be frozen. Asinine union giveaways like minimum staffing need to go immediately. The pay issue also needs to be addressed.

Posted by deadoralive, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Does that matter to you where I live,or what I do or work for a living,mind your own business and do not forget pay your 911 fee or otherwise you will have the same fate as this young man.

Posted by Jim, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2011 at 5:25 pm

First, let's get a few facts straight about this "drowning" victim in Alameda. He did NOT want to be rescue.
This person was trying to commit suicide. He had try to kill himself many times before. He told all those on the shore, "if you come in and try to stop me, I will drown you too".
Do you risk another person's life by trying to rescue someone who is 6'3", 240 lbs and DOESN'T want to live?

Posted by Tired of being ripped off Voter, a resident of University South
on Aug 6, 2011 at 6:49 pm

"First, let's get a few facts straight about this "drowning" victim in Alameda."

The "facts" the above poster cites are either completely made up or after-the-fact fire-union propaganda. Mr. Zack, the victim, never threatened to drown anyone; the firefighters made that conclusion themselves because they were too afraid or too lazy to go into the water. Fortunately a lone female bystander was able to conjure the bravery that the highly paid rescue "professionals" were lacking and swam out to check on him.

Alameda Fire department blamed lack of equipment (blaming the public for not overfunding them even more), ignoring the fact that they were also too incompetent to go across the street to Big 5 and comandeer a surfboard or raft or two. The worst part: all of these incompetent bureaucrats are still on the job at the taxpayer trough.

Posted by JIm, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 6, 2011 at 8:49 pm

So I guess his family (that was standing on the shore) with the police and firefighters were lying too when they said he wanted to kill himself and that he had try many times in the past.
Don't let your hate for the firefighters get in the way of telling the truth. And because you hate firefighters so much, next time you have a fire or medical emergency, don't call 911, deal with it yourself big guy.

Posted by George, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 6, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Tony Spitaleri and his Measure R are proving to be a very effective wrecking crew...wrecking the reputation and good will firefighters once had in Palo Alto. Our firefighters couldn't save their featherbedding Measure R from going up in flames last year, 75% of Palo Alto voters said, "No way!"

Now Tony is at it again, trying to get Repeal Binding Arbitration off the November ballot. I suspect his legal maneuvering will be just as effective as his past years of union leadership. You have to wonder about the judgment of firefighters who just reelected Tony.

Whatever Tony says, and he can't seem to stop talking, I immediately start thinking the opposite. Tony, and the entire Palo Alto Firefighters Union, have earned zero credibility with me.

Posted by George, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 6, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Wayne Martin's firefighters' salary figures above DO NOT include benefits which typically add at least 50% to salary. So a $150,000 per year salary is really $225,000 per year in compensation. Very rich for ambulance attendants. Remember, under 3% fire calls per year.

Wake up, fellow Palo Altans, the fire union (really an ambulance union) is skinning us (and generations to come) alive.

Vote YES to Repeal Binding Arbitration.

Posted by Tired of being ripped off Voter, a resident of University South
on Aug 6, 2011 at 10:57 pm

George is absolutely correct. To elaborate, the job is in practice about 98% ambulance 2% fire. The public has been taken for a ride and needs to keep the heat on the fire union in this and every future election until the huge efficiency gap is shut.

Jim: Mr. Zack's family did not lie when they said he was mentally ill and had attempted suicide before. You lied in your post when you attempted to justify the firefighters incompetence with this little nugget of a lie: "[the victim] told all those on the shore, 'if you come in and try to stop me, I will drown you too'."

Posted by NIMBY, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2011 at 11:01 pm

what is really sad is that the activity that firefighters do the most while on the job is SLEEP!

Posted by George, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 8, 2011 at 11:13 am

Fairness mandates binding arbitration be repealed.

When that happens, California labor laws require mediation, the way over 95% of California cities handle it today.

We each have an opportunity to make our wishes known during the run-up to the November vote...YES to repeal binding arbitration.

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