Matter of Opinion: Fire District Proposed Costs to be $3.18 million Higher, or 46% Higher This Year

Half Moon Bay Review
September 26, 2012

The suspense is over.  Five long months after Directors Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh voted to effectively end our contract with CAL FIRE, we’ve finally learned how much this ill-conceived effort will cost us.  And it’s absolutely staggering. Would you believe nearly ten million dollars for just this one year of fire service?

That’s right. The Fire District is proposing operating expenses for their standalone department of $9.99 million for the fiscal year that started July 1, 2012. Compared to last fiscal year’s actual costs of $6.81 million, that’s a one-year jump of $3.18 million, a stunning 46% increase.

The proposed budget includes a highly questionable line item for $2.07 million in proposed costs for a ‘Transitional Organization’.  Incredibly, there are no details explaining what exactly we are getting for this $2 million.  None.  While the budget includes details for relatively mundane items such as $1,500 for custodial services and $5,500 for postage, this enormous, extremely controversial $2 million expense has no details whatsoever.

In case you haven’t been following the shenanigans on our Fire Board too closely, here are some recent ‘highlights’, as it were, from Directors Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh:

–          Director Alifano is still under criminal investigation by the San Mateo County District Attorney for his conduct over the weekend of July 14, when he and handful of supporters allegedly harassed recall supporters who were collecting signatures for his ouster.  Regarding these incidents, Alifano is quoted in the July 20 San Mateo County Times as saying “I made a mistake. I should have never went out there.” “They wanted me to stoop to their level.”  So this is how a public official acts – Alifano blames his opponents for his own conduct.

–          In the July 18 HMB Review, Director Mackintosh said “we could solve all kinds of problems if we could hear each other… Whether people agree or disagree, if we listen, we can develop something better for everyone”.  One short week later, these words rang very, very hollow, when Mackintosh wouldn’t even listen to Fire Chief John Ferreira’s annual report during the July 25 Fire Board meeting.  The August 1 HMB Review said “Director Mike Alifano lamented that he was done arguing over the future of CAL FIRE here and didn’t intend to let Ferreira address his report” during the July 25 Fire Board meeting.  It appears at the very least the Directors grossly misled the public and our Fire Department when they released a public agenda they now admit they had no intention of following.  This pathetic action was also a huge slap in the face to each of the firefighters in our department.

–          In the July 18 HMB Review, Gary Riddell said that the Fire Chief’s position will be advertised.  How quickly things changed.  In the August 22 HMB Review, when discussing the Fire Chief’s position, Director Mackintosh said “If you have very specific people in mind, nothing says you have to go outside”.  One has to wonder if Directors Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh have ever looked up the definition of ‘cronyism’.

To see the proposed budget for yourself, go to  Click on Board of Directors, then Agenda, Minutes & Video, then View the Board Packet for the 9/26/12 Regular Meeting, then Tab 4 for the September 26, 2012 meeting. [Click here to download Tab 4 of the Board Packet directly.]

Directors Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh will be voting on this budget with its $2 million blank check for a ‘Transitional Organization’ at the Fire Board meeting at the Half Moon Bay Fire Station at 7pm tonight, Wednesday September 26, 2012.  Please be there at 7pm, fill out a speaker’s slip, then let Directors Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh know what you think of their performance, their governance, and this proposed budget with $2 million in unexplained transitional costs.  But before you do, please visit, and be sure to sign the recall petitions to take back control of your Fire Department.