Frequently Asked Questions.
Q: Who or what is CAL FIRE?
A: CAL FIRE’s full name is the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. You may have known them by their old acronym CDF. Dozens of cities and localities like the Coastside contract with CAL FIRE for Fire Protection services. Their website is here: http://www.fire.ca.gov/
Q: Does this impact me?
A: Yes, if you live in the Coastside Fire Protection District, which includes Half Moon Bay, Montara, Moss Beach and El Granada, as well as much of the rest of the unincorporated Coastside. The CFPD website is here http://www.coastsidefire.org
Q: What are the Grand Jury reports I keep hearing about?
A: Right here: http://keepcalfire.com/?page_id=69 For a complete de-bunking of every single argument Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh have made to get rid of CAL FIRE, please see pages 6-12 of the 2012 Grand Jury report.
Q: How much will it cost us taxpayers to get rid of CAL FIRE and go back to a standalone department?
A: $7 million dollars over the next 5 years according to the CFPD’s own budget.
Q: What is the plan for the new fire department? What is the transition plan for moving away from CAL FIRE?
A: After over a year in ‘planning’ and $170k in consultant fees, there is not much of department plan, nor is there much of a transition plan. Although they have been pushing this agenda since December 2011, Alifano, Riddell and Mackintosh still have not developed a complete framework for creating an entirely new fire department from scratch in less than six months — yet they are charging recklessly ahead without a plan for where they are going. Their disorganized, slapdash effort will certainly produce a disorganized, slapdash fire department — if we allow it to happen.
Q: Did Director Mackintosh really sue the Half Moon Bay Fire Protection District?
A: Yes, in 2007 he was trying to prevent the Half Moon Bay Fire Protection District, which by that point was in a shambles, from contracting with CAL FIRE. Here is a link to a court filing – Director Mackintosh’s name is clearly at the top of page one. Director Mackintosh lost every step of the way, but that didn’t stop him from appealing to all the way to the State Supreme Court where he also lost. The net result was he was delayed the CAL FIRE contract by several months, and cost taxpayers huge amounts of money in legal fees. You might want to ask him who paid for this lawsuit.
Q: Aren’t Alifano, Riddell and Mackintosh just doing what we elected them to do?
A: No, and that is precisely why California allows recalls of public officials. None of these three individuals ran for election on a platform of getting rid of CAL FIRE to build a more expensive standalone department. If they had, they never would have been elected. They hid their agenda until they had a board majority.
Public officials are elected to serve the community, and part of that service requires listening to the community. Not only are Alifano, Riddell and Mackintosh not listening, they are openly defying the community to push their private agenda. That’s why we are being forced to recall them.
Q: Will my taxes go up after we get rid of CAL FIRE?
A: Inevitably, they will. Alifano, Riddell and Mackintosh plan to spend the millions we have saved on CAL FIRE to make the new department happen, and at the rate of $1.4 million more a year, those reserves will be quickly exhausted. Once that happens, the only way to maintain fire services would be to raise parcel assessments, which have dropped since CAL FIRE was brought in.
Q: Why did Alifano, Riddell and Mackintosh terminate the CAL FIRE contract? What problems have we had with CAL FIRE?
A: CAL FIRE has delivered superb service, fully staffing every fire station for the first time in decades and providing professional management and new equipment. CAL FIRE has ended the scandals that wrecked the old department and embarrassed the community. And they have thoroughly impressed the entire Coastside with their professionalism and responsiveness.
The board majority has accused CAL FIRE of failing us professionally, legally and morally, but they have presented zero evidence to support the smears. Please see pages 6-12 of the April 25, 2012 report of the San Mateo County Grand Jury for a detailed, point-by-point debunking of every single complaint Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh have made against CAL FIRE. The directors have tried and failed to impugn the Grand Jury:
- The May 3, 2012 Half Moon Bay Review said “In an interview last week, Mackintosh dismissed the Grand Jury report because it wasn’t prepared by firefighting professionals.” Mackintosh has since publicly apologized for that remark during a Fire Board meeting. Riddell said exactly the same thing in an interview with the San Mateo paper, and he stands by it. The July 3, 2012 Half Moon Bay Review reports Mackintosh now says “I’m not doing this for any other reason than my belief that this change is best for my family.”
- Riddell frequently complains during Fire Board meetings that the Grand Jury report did not include any of the information he provided, though to our knowledge he has not provided any data that were not covered completely in the Grand Jury report. If the Grand Jury ignored Riddell’s input in the report, it’s because the Grand Jury found it non-credible. All juries in our legal system are charged with sorting through presented evidence and discarding that which they don’t find believable. Clearly, the Grand Jury believed multiple other witnesses and didn’t believe Riddell.
Q: How do Alifano, Riddell and Mackintosh intend to ensure their new fire department won’t have the same ugly, expensive problems as the old standalone department?
A: They don’t. Alifano, Riddell, and Mackintosh have announced plans to offer extra pension benefits to former firefighters from the old department to return and staff the new one. Mackintosh and Riddell were Fire Board directors during some of the worst years of the old departments, and they participated in the bad decisions that contributed to the wreck of those departments. It is safe to assume that the same oversight with the same staffing will produced the same problems.
For a reminder of how just how catastrophic the old department was, check out this Review article from 2003:
Q: Why are you doing this?
A: To save our Fire Department. Alifano, Riddell and Mackintosh are deliberately defying the community to advance their agenda, without having shown cause or reason to do so. They are recklessly endangering our fire coverage by dumping CAL FIRE without any semblance of a plan to build a new department from the ground up in less than six months. And they’re planning to spend the millions of tax dollars we have saved on CAL FIRE to make it happen.
Q: Isn’t there any other way?
A: Unfortunately, no. Alifano, Riddell and Mackintosh can continue to vote as a bloc and do darn near anything they want, including getting rid of CAL FIRE. They have shown absolutely no inclination to listen to community input.
Q: Can’t we sue them to stop this?
A: You can sue anyone for anything. However, a lawsuit would take months or years to resolve, and even if the suit is successful, CAL FIRE will be long gone.
Q: How can I get involved?
A: Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact one of the recall proponents directly. Please be patient — we’ve been swamped with interest and it may take us a few days to get back to you. We’re looking for help gathering signatures, making signs, and doing all the things it takes to run a political campaign.
Q: When is the next Fire Board meeting?
A: The Fire Board meeting announcements are published on this page, typically 3 days in advance of the next meeting. There are also links to Montarafog.com, where Darin Boville maintains video recordings he has taken from the past meetings. http://www.coastsidefire.org/agenda2012
Q: What is the TriData report?
A: Please see this article in the Half Moon Bay Review: http://www.hmbreview.com/news/article_fc2835c4-9d20-11e0-ab1c-001cc4c03286.html