In 2009, the City tasked the ICMA (International City/County Management Association) with providing a professional assessment of Alameda’s fire service needs. Their report stated 75% of calls are medical and the Alameda Fire Department (AFD) should focus on medical responses and fire prevention. ICMA advised, per industry standards, 78 personnel, two fire stations, and five captains are sufficient to retain response time and safety.
National firefighting industry standards call for one fire station for every 1.5 mile radius, and one ladder truck for every 2 mile radius. Alameda is 4 miles long; we need two stations and 1 ladder truck.
If our city did just three things—-reduce four fire stations to two, mothballed two of our three ladder trucks, and cut 15 of our 20 fire captains (who earn on average $217/K/year [$3.25M/year alone!])-—it would make Measure C’s relatively paltry $1.8m tax revenue per year irrelevant.
Instead, the City has acted in opposition to that independent evaluation. Today, we have 92 station personnel, four open fire stations, 20 captains, and plans for six new facilities requiring additional staffing. The AFD’s overstaffing currently costs Alameda Citizens $4M+ annually. Measure C’s projected $11M cost for fire facilities will actually be doubled by the bond costs. We are being asked for $22M for fire facilities we don’t need.
According to the City’s Fiscal Sustainability Committee, actual City debt was almost $12M in 2009, despite the passing of the Measure P property tax in 2008.
In 2011, debt spiked 250% to $4.4M, and another 24% since then, to $5.1M, making actual debt today north of $15M. It was deceptive or shockingly uninformed of Vice Mayor Bonta to tell people that the City’s debt is decreasing each year and soon the City will be debt-free.
2011 city worker earnings skyrocketed $4.8M above 2010. 30% of fire and police earn $200K – $400K. 88% take home over $150K. Additionally, there are 66 retired workers drawing annual pensions over $100k.
Measure C does three things:
1) Suggests, but does not guarantee, city improvements (Carnegie Library, 50m pool, lighted fields)
2) Allocates 50% of the tax revenue to offload 90% of our annual city-vehicle costs from the General Fund, to offset continued overstaffing and exorbitant worker pay, and
3) Allocates the other 50% to pay for bonds to build fire stations we don’t need, to prioritize firefighting when only 25% of AFD calls are for fire responses. These costs will only continue to spike as we hire new staff .
Why are firefighters going house to house to campaign for Measure C? Why does the firefighters’ union pump nearly $50K each year into our local elections? Is it because they can afford to? Six fire staff earn over $240/K per year, 34 earn over $200K, and the rest mostly earn over $150K. Is it because the AFD’s high staff-to-call ratio makes it so easy? Are firefighters campaigning for their own security or the security of the Citizens of Alameda? The ICMA found the AFD lacked performance management and measurements. Despite our talented personnel, the AFD is responsible for a string of failures in recent years: they didn’t protect our public and environmental health from toxic and regulated substances (friable asbestos and crude oil), they didn’t rescue Raymond Zack one year ago, and they have engaged in other behavior that has incurred several lawsuits against the City.
In the future, a well-written sales tax measure could be a great idea. But today, there is no justification to impose a 30-year sales tax to fund an excess of fire facilities.
Alameda needs fiscal responsibility focused on necessary services. We demand that the City stop wasting our hard-earned money and get to work for the Citizens of Alameda.
Get informed, read the facts (www.AlamedaNoOnC.com) and join me—June 5th—vote NO on Measure C.