HMB Review Editorial: Fire board should reconsider most important hire
Thursday August 30, 2012
Here’s the thing about good-old-boy networks. They are generally not clutches of evil-doers bent on dictatorship, but rather well-meaning people who simply think they know best. So it is with the emerging cabal that is determined to return Coastside fire services to “local control.”
The dissolution of the Coastside Fire Protection District’s CalFire contract is sad for many reasons. By most guesses, the stand-alone department that emerges will be more expensive at a time when money is so scarce for other public projects and infrastructure. It marks the return of acrimony surrounding the local fire department. And it has sparked an unfortunate effort to recall elected members of the board of directors.
But if you are looking for the most obvious reason to be concerned about the future, look no further than this: The board majority that caused this mess has decided on its next fire chief without so much as posting the job. Forget vetting candidates in public. Three men on the coast don’t even plan on interviewing anyone at all.
Board President Doug Mackintosh told the Review last week that he had no intention of advertising the job. Like-minded board member Mike Alifano told us something similar on Monday, adding that the board was not required to notice the job. They already know who they want to be chief. [emphasis added]
We don’t know whether the fire board is technically required to advertise the chief’s position, but why in the world wouldn’t it choose to do so? If you were on a public board and contemplating paying your top employee something like $200,000 a year, wouldn’t you want to entertain outside candidates for the position?
The board has hired a good man, former San Mateo Fire Chief Dan Belville, to study the next steps toward forming a stand-alone department. His most important task is to find some way to attract qualified firefighters to what would be a fledgling department —without breaking the bank. That means navigating the morass that is the state’s retirement system for public employees. The Coastside’s new department would likely incur as-yet-unknown health care and retirement expenses that could easily run into the millions of dollars.
When he’s done decoding CalPERS indecipherable rules and expenses, Belville should tackle another all-but-impossible task. He should ask board members to change their minds. Cronyism is among the most damning charge made against any public board. By announcing the new chief without a single interview, the current board majority would be acknowledging they are good old boys indeed. [emphasis added]
We regret to announce the quick and untimely death of two of our three “Keep CAL FIRE” signs. My son and I painted them, and I installed them with the help of a Keep CAL FIRE volunteer on the morning of Sunday July 29. By Tuesday morning they were gone. This was not the work of Caltrans protecting their right of way, as numerous other signs at the same locations were left alone.
The two signs are survived by our only remaining sign on Highway 92.
Keep CAL FIRE Sign in El Granada - a skeleton of broken posts is all that remains
Keep CAL FIRE Sign in Moss Beach - only a single stake was left behind
July 26, 2012
Half Moon Bay Review
A San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office investigator has been assigned to look into complaints about a series of verbal run-ins between a Coastside Fire Protection District board member and recall supporters that occurred over the past two weekends.
The first confrontation happened the weekend of July 14 outside the Half Moon Bay Safeway. Supporters of a petition to recall three CFPD board members — Mike Alifano, Doug Mackintosh and Gary Riddell — had set up a table to collect some of the 2,714 signatures necessary to get the recall on an upcoming ballot. Recall supporters say that Alifano and a firefighter from over the hill were once again intimidating petitioners as they sought signatures at Harbor Village over the weekend.
At least one recall supporter reported feeling threatened by Alifano, who showed up to offer his view on the petition to passersby. Recall supporters say Alifano was intimidating potential signers, a contention he denies.
Intimidation could be in violation of California Election Code 18630, which outlaws attempts to influence elections by intimidation.
Alifano allegedly took photographs of the circulating petitions that would get the recall on a future ballot. He denies taking photos of the petitions or names of signers. California Election Code 18650 forbids the use of signatures for anything other than qualifying for the ballot.
Government code excludes recall petitions from state open records laws.
“That means that there is some expectation of privacy relating to them,” said Wagstaffe.
Breaking any of these election codes could qualify as a misdemeanor.
See more Recall and Fire Board news here http://keepcalfire.com/?page_id=94
July 18, 2012
Half Moon Bay Review
Alifano asks in his full-page ads, “Does the risk outweigh the benefit?” Alifano, Riddell and Mackintosh have effectively ended our CalFire contract, have no plan or budget in place to form a new fire department, have less than 11 short months to create a department from scratch and hire about 43 firefighters. The risks of creating another poorly run, more expensive, short-staffed fire department filled with allegations of cronyism and lawsuits surely outweigh any benefits.
See more Recall and Fire Board news here http://keepcalfire.com/?page_id=94
On June 28, 2012, San Mateo County Chief Elections Officer Mark Church notified us that he has approved our recall petitions for Michael Alifano, Douglas Mackintosh and Gary Riddell. We have 120 days to collect signatures, but we intend to collect them as quickly as possible to Keep CAL FIRE.
Today we published the Notices of Intent in the Half Moon Bay Review for all 3 recall targets.
We also filed our recall petitions with County Elections for approval. County Elections now has up to 10 days to approve the petitions, or let us know what we need to correct on the petitions so we can file them again. This process repeats itself until the petitions are approved by County Elections.
- Riddell admits he’s long since made up his mind about getting rid of CAL FIRE.
- Mackintosh says “I am currently carefully evaluating the cost, feasibility and advisability of making that change.”
- Alifano says “No decisions have been made. We’re simply trying to compare what we have.”
At least someone – Riddell – is telling the truth about what’s going on. Mackintosh tells us he’s still evaluating costs nearly 2 months after he voted to terminate the CAL FIRE contract on April 25, 2012. Alifano says “No decisions have been made” despite the fact that he, Mackintosh, and Riddell voted to terminate the CAL FIRE contract on April 25, 2012.
alifano – answer
“I only want what’s best for the Coastside. I was born and raised in HMB and plan on living here with my parents, wife and 2 kids for the rest of our lives. I serve on several local non-profit boards and committees and donate much of my time and income to support our Coastside.
Current board directors McShane, Burke and Mackintosh appointed me to the Coastside Fire Protection District board in 2010. I then ran unopposed for the 2011-2015 term. I came to this board without any baggage, campaign donations or promises. My moral and ethical obligation is to provide the very best Fire Service within our district’s budget. If that means we stop contracting our Fire Service with CalFire and opt to be a Standalone agency or possibly contract with another agency then that’s our responsibility as a Fire District. Our job is to always be working on the best solution for the money, not choosing the cheapest option or contract. The previous Fire Board chose CalFire to cure our labor and management conflict, not because that’s all we could afford. My hope is to always increase the level of service no matter what solution we choose.”
mackintosh – answer
riddell – answer
As part of the recall process, the person being recalled may ‘answer’ the recall with up to 200 words, and the answer gets printed on the recall petitions. We now have answers from Directors Riddell and Mackintosh.
“I have been a resident and business owner on the Coastside for over 30 years. I have raised six children and now have three grandchildren along with in-laws living in this community. To suggest I would in any way jeopardize their safety is appalling. I have served on this Board off and on for many years and have seen the best and the worst. For the last four years I have worked with CalFire to improve their level of service. During that time I have spoken with dozens of chief fire officers both inside and outside the CalFire organization and with directors of Districts who contract with or are considering contracting with CalFire. I have listened carefully to the words, actions and reactions of our local CalFire officials. I am currently carefully evaluating the cost, feasibility and advisability of making that change. My final decision will be based on my experience, information gathered and on the premises that in order to move forward the change must be sustainable without additional taxes, that our communities’ exposure to long term liability be reduced, that the level of service be improved and that our lives, property, children and grandchildren not be at risk.”
“My goal is to provide you the best possible services regardless of who provides them, Cal Fire is not doing that. Cal Fire failed to meet its legal obligations in our contract and the California Fire Code and its moral obligations as a fire service provider. How does the largest fire service provider in the State sign a contract, then not provide those services specified in that contract. The District didn’t fail in our obligation to pay for those services, Cal Fire failed in its responsibility to provide those services, year after year. At what point does this Board have a duty to act? Should we wait like previous Boards until we have multiple lawsuits? Isn’t it better to be proactive instead of reactive? Doesn’t our obligation as Board members responsible for the lives and property in our community demand we be proactive? Further, community needs are subservient to the needs of the State and this will never change. Cal Fire just made a decision without Board consent that will cost thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars and will negatively impact services levels specified in the contract. And the answer for some is recall the individuals who hold Cal Fire accountable.”
Mike Alifano is quoted in the June 6, 2012 HMB Review as saying “No decisions have been made. We’re simply trying to compare what we have.” Unfortunately this statement is simply not true, as on April 25, 2012 Mike Alifano, Douglas Mackintosh, and Gary Riddell decided to vote against extending the CAL FIRE contract. Alifano, Mackintosh, and Riddell continue to say one thing while doing another, and hope the public won’t notice. When Alifano makes statements such as “No decisions have been made” after he voted against extending the CAL FIRE contract, it shows he either has no idea what he’s talking about, he has no idea of the consequences of his actions, or he hopes that no one is paying attention. This vote was extremely significant, and its significance cannot be overstated.
- This vote told Coastside residents that the Board intends to get rid of CAL FIRE.
- This vote told the 37 CAL FIRE Firefighters serving the Coastside that they better start looking for a job elsewhere.
- This vote told CAL FIRE that they need to start planning to re-deploy the 37 Firefighters on the Coast to other locations. That process will start months ahead of the June 30, 2013 end of the CAL FIRE contract.
- This vote told other firefightering organizations that the Board negotiates very poorly, as we’re now in a position where we’ll have to pay someone else to fight fires for us and we’ve just laid all our cards on the table.
- This vote told everyone that even if somehow we decide to continue with CAL FIRE service after July 1, 2013, this Board will continue to be a poor partner in public safety.
This vote has started to quickly galvanize public opinion against Alifano, Mackintosh, Riddell. I have attended at least the last 4 successive Board meetings, and listened to dozens of members of the public address the Board. Nearly all these speakers are upset at the Board’s direction, and many were downright distraught. Many literally begged the Board to reconsider the actions.
In all these recent meetings, listening to several hours of discussions, I have heard only two members of the public speak in favor of the Board’s actions. One of those speakers went on to insult other members of the public during his speech, calling them ‘retarded’ during his public comments. The other member of the public who spoke in favor of the Board’s direction admitted that he was a former neighbor of Gary Riddell’s. It seems that there may be only 5 Coastside residents in favor of the Board’s direction – these two members of the public, and the Alifano, Mackintosh, and Riddell.
We realize that initiating three recalls is a drastic measure. No one wants to do this. No one is happy about this. We are acting because we are compelled to save our relationship with CAL FIRE, the best firefighting agency the Coastside has ever seen. I, personally, am getting involved because I couldn’t live with myself if I stood by and did nothing, and watched Alifano, Mackintosh, and Riddell destroy our fire service.