Coastside Fire Protection District recall succeeds; incumbents are out

San Mateo County Times
April 10, 2013

HALF MOON BAY — Cal Fire is in, and the incumbents are out.

Three members of the Coastside Fire Protection District board of directors were swept out of office by a roughly 2-to-1 margin in Tuesday’s recall election, according to a final tally released Wednesday morning by the San Mateo County Elections Office.

The candidates who were chosen to replace them — Karen K. Anderson, J.B. Cockrell and Harvey Rarback — plan to sign a new contract with Cal Fire. That process will formally begin once the new board members are seated, which must wait until the election results are certified sometime in the next 28 days.

Mike Alifano, Douglas Mackintosh and Gary Riddell were recalled over their push to sever ties with Cal Fire, which has provided fire services for Half Moon Bay and the surrounding area since 2008. Their opponents, and apparently most voters, felt the state agency deserved to stay.

Scott Jalbert, Cal Fire’s chief for the Coastside district, said he appreciated the support his team received. This year Cal Fire is charging the district roughly $5.8 million.

“If the board does want us to stay,” Jalbert said, “we are excited to continue services out here on the coast.”

The recalled board members had chosen to budget roughly $2.2 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year toward the transition to a new stand-alone department. Board member Gary Burke, who supports Cal Fire and endorsed the recall, estimated that about $250,000 has been spent. The new board will decide what to do with the rest.

The citizens behind the recall had argued that the board majority was looking for any justification to get rid of Cal Fire, saying it was providing a better service than the district’s old stand-alone department — and at a cheaper cost.

A 2011 study by an independent consultant and a 2012 report by the San Mateo County civil grand jury both determined Cal Fire was doing a good job and recommended that the district maintain its relationship with the state agency.

Editorial: Let 2013 be a year of coming together on coast

Editorial: Let 2013 be a year of coming together on coast
HMB Review
Thursday, Januery 3, 2013


Then there are the metaphorical bridges that must be built.
Take, for example, the Coastside Fire Protection District situation. A recall election has been set for April and three duly elected directors may be shoved out of office. They brought that fate upon themselves by ignoring the obvious (that we have top-notch service at a fair price) and putting the district into reverse, toward another dysfunctional, expensive, crony-filled department operated by, well, them. However that plays out, we’ll ultimately have to build a bridge on common ground. We all have an interest in affordable, professional fire service.

Recall Of Alifano, Mackintosh, Riddell is now only sensible option

HMB Review
January 3, 2013
Matter of Opinion

A recall election for the three seats held by the Coastside Fire Protection District Board’s majority, Mike Alifano, Doug Mackintosh, and Gary Riddell, will take place on April 9. The issue that prompted the recall election is a major policy change to go back to a more costly and trouble-prone stand-alone fire department.

A stand-alone fire department will cost the community somewhere between 50 percent and 70 percent more to provide the same level of fire protection that we have currently from Cal Fire. It appears to me that the reason for the change is so that the Board majority can have more authority in day-to-day operations. A public Board of Directors is responsible for policy; it is not qualified to run the daily operations of a fire department.

The primary failing of the current Board majority, is that it does not understand its responsibilities. Having once served as a firefighter or a paramedic, or even as a small business operator, does not qualify anyone to run the day-to-day operations of a fire district. This misunderstanding has been underscored recently by the members’ inappropriate behavior since the recall election petition succeeded in requiring this change to go to a vote of the public.

The three board members announced their intent to make this major policy change a year ago last December and after an uncontested election in which this intension was not announced. At every meeting since last December’s, a growing number of constituents have asked the board not to make this costly policy change. These requests have fallen on deaf ears.

The Board majority’s justification for the policy change is that Cal Fire’s services are inadequate. The San Mateo County grand jury investigated this claim and found no evidence to support it. The grand jury recommendation was for the Fire District to continue its current policy and for the Board majority to desist from its plans to form a stand-alone department. The grand jury noted that Cal Fire is providing fully adequate fire protection services and has saved the community millions of dollars over the last five years.

Saying “no” to this major policy change is the rationale behind the recall election. If the recall petitioners win this election, there will be a different Board majority on April 10. A new majority will continue with the current policy of outsourcing fire protection services to save tax dollars. For the past five years this policy has been extremely successful.

In their last meeting of 2012, the majority recklessly put in motion a process that will mean that, starting next July 1, our community will be without fully qualified fire protection services. This irresponsible act underscores how unsuited and unqualified these three individuals are for public leadership. Sensible leaders would have at least awaited the outcome of the recall election before pulling the plug on our current model for fire protection. This decision has elevated the issue to a new and dangerous level. These three directors all deserve to be removed from office.

Jim Larimer is a resident of Miramar.

Fire recall vote set for April

Fire recall vote set for April
HMB Review
Sunday, December 23, 2012

There is now a date to determine whether three members of the Coastside Fire Protection District board will be recalled: April 9, 2013.
As far as San Mateo County Elections Deputy David Tom can remember, it will be the first recall election in the county in recent memory.
President Doug Mackintosh, Director Mike Alifano and Director Gary Riddell are all facing recall.
Critics say they lack transparency as they seek to terminate a contract with current fire protection services provider, Cal Fire, and to pursue a more expensive, independent department. They counter that they only want what’s best for district taxpayers and that Cal Fire hasn’t delivered on promises.
Elections office protocol required governing board members — including those facing recall — to select a date between 88 and 125 days after announcing that the election would take place. During a special meeting on the evening of Dec. 12, Director Gary Burke proposed that the election happen as soon as possible, on March 12.
“To delay it, to me, doesn’t seem to be in the best interest of the voters,” said Burke.
Alifano requested the date be pushed back into April.
“I think that the feeling was that the recall message has been out there unchallenged for the last four months,” said Mackintosh on Thursday. “We need time to respond, to educate people on the reasons why what we’re doing is best for the coast.”
As with most decisions of late, the vote was 3- 2. The majority, made entirely of members facing recall, voted to have the election take place at the polls rather than through the mail. That will be $55,000 more expensive than the mail -in ballot option. Regardless, Tom said that vote-by-mail is an option for all elections. Voters have the option to return the ballots by mail or drop them off at the elections office or at the polls.
Anyone who is in the Coastside Fire Protection District is eligible to vote.

Coastside Fire Protection District recall election will be held

Coastside Fire Protection District recall election will be held
San Mateo County Times
Thursday, November 29, 2012

HALF MOON BAY — The San Mateo County Elections Office has certified the recall petitions for three members of the Coastside Fire Protection District, and an election will be held next year.

An elections official delivered the certifications to the board at its meeting Wednesday night in Half Moon Bay. The board will convene a special meeting Monday to decide when to hold the election.
A group of citizens collected a total of 9,983 signatures to recall board members Mike Alifano, Douglas Mackintosh and Gary Riddell over their push to sever ties with Cal Fire, which since 2008 has provided fire services for Half Moon Bay and several nearby coastal communities, and re-establish a local fire department. The three men argue the state fire agency has not lived up to its contract.
“These directors have spent over $170,000 on consultants trying to create a new stand-alone fire department and they have almost nothing to show for it,” said Marshall Ketchum, a leader of the recall campaign.
Alifano said Thursday he is looking forward to the recall election, which will pit the incumbents against a slate of fresh candidates.
“I’m excited that we’re going to have it,” Alifano said, “because I think we can finally put to bed (the issue of) Cal Fire versus a traditional fire department.”
Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at


9,983 Signatures for Recalls

Wednesday morning we turned in petitions to County Elections with a total of 9,983 signatures to recall Directors Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh.  The individual breakdowns are

Alifano – 3290 signatures
Riddell – 3366 signatures
Mackintosh – 3327 signatures

County Elections now has 30 business days to verify the signatures.

Alifano’s petitions are in yellow folders
Riddell’s petitions are in green folders
Mackintosh’s petitions are in blue folders
The color selection was completely arbitrary.


New, short-staffed fire department will cost at least $7 million more than CAL FIRE over the next 5 years


The new standalone fire department proposed by Directors Alifano, Mackintosh, and Riddell will be short-staffed from Day One, will rely heavily on overtime, and will cost at least $7 million more than CAL FIRE over the next five years.

This is according to the documentation provided in the October 18 Coastside Fire Protection District Board Packet.

Attachment D (page 23) shows staffing requirements. We currently have 35 full-time CAL FIRE firefighters staffing our fire stations. CAL FIRE firefighters work longer hours for less pay than would the firefighters of the proposed new standalone fire department. The last round of expensive consultants showed we would need approximately 42 firefighters working shorter hours to provide the same amount of coverage as we currently get from CAL FIRE. Yet attachment D’s budget covers only 34.5 full-time firefighters.

Attachment E (page 25) of the board packet shows the projected 5-year costs for this new, short-staffed, standalone fire department at $42.4 million. Last year’s actual expenses with CAL FIRE were $6.66 million. Assuming that CAL FIRE’s costs rise 2% per year over the next 5 years, the CAL FIRE 5-year cost would total $35.4 million.

The new, short-staffed fire department will cost on average at least $1.4 million more per year than CAL FIRE over the next five years.

Update: the CFPD budget presented on October 18, 2012 was poorly done and did not add up.  The October 18 Board Presentation did not specify amounts for overtime in the annual budget (10/18/12 attachment D), but did include $600k annually for overtime in the 5 year plan (10/18/12 attachment E).  There was no way of knowing this looking at the budget as presented.  This was clarified a month later in the  November 24, 2012 Board Presentation – see 11/24 attachment B.



Thanks to the tireless work of dozens of dedicated volunteers, we are pleased to announce we now have more than the required 2,714 signatures on each of the three recall petitions for Coastside Fire Protection District Directors Mike Alifano, Gary Riddell and Douglas Mackintosh.  This means that when we turn in the petitions to San Mateo County Elections, they will be required to accept the petitions for filing.  We have until Friday, October 26 to file the petitions, and we expect to file the petitions during the week of October 22.  Volunteers will continue to gather signatures up until the day we file the petitions, since we’ll need every signature we can get to make sure we qualify the petitions for the ballot. We will have booths at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival to collect signatures.

After County Elections accepts the filed petitions they have 30 business days to verify each signature, or they may choose to verify a random sampling of signatures.  San Mateo County Elections Manager David Tom said in the August 29 HMB Review that because the petitions have a relatively small number of signatures, he expects they will verify each signature.

If the number of valid signatures is greater than or equal to the minimum required number, County Elections certifies the petition as sufficient, notifies the proponents, and submits a certificate of sufficiency to the governing board.  Within 14 days after the meeting at which the governing body received the certificate of sufficiency, the governing body issues an order for an election to be held.  The election is held between 88 and 125 days after the issuance of the order.  Candidates may file nomination papers and declarations of candidacy after the order of the election is issued and up to 75 days prior to the date of the election.

By law, Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh may not succeed themselves or each other in a recall election.

Please see sections II, subsections G through L starting on page 22 of the PDF at this link for the official process.  Also see section III on page 25.

California Elections Codes are at this link.  There are some minor details in the Code that are not covered in the PDF above.