Category Archives: November 2010 Crude Oil Transfer

Be advised:

LAST WEEK our city argued in court last week the our public safety services (police and fire) did not have a duty to rescue Mr. Raymond Zack (who did not know how to swim) when he was despondent and standing in 4 to 5 feet of extremely calm water at Crown Beach while his elderly mother stood on the shore begging for action.

TODAY the judge ruled for immunity of firefighters over duty. And the judge finds further that: “under the circumstances presented there was no moral blame attendant to the conduct of responding officers and firefighters.”

I have been told that this ruling impacts all cities in the state of California, not just the City of Alameda.

I’m wondering why our fire and police are some of the highest paid in the SF Bay Area . . .    I’ve argued for years that because the fire procedures and protocols are so exceedingly substandard for the industry of firefighting (and I’ve shown this), that the fire staff cannot be held to any performance standards. Hell, our city has worked multiple times, year after year, to cover up fire failures . . . Continue reading


Vote NO on Measure C.

Republishing my opinion piece because that’s what I really want people to read; not the garbage dealing with the no/c shenanigans.  Also, if you missed Jeffrey Smith’s opinion on Measure A in the May 31 Alameda Sun, you really should read it; we can expect more of the exact same irresponsible spending patterns with any new tax revenue, particularly because Measure C has zero accountabilities built in:  MEASURE A EXPECTATIONS DON’T MEET REALITY

Vote NO on Measure C. Here’s why:

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 ( and join me—June 5thvote NO on Measure C.


Letter to local newspaper editors:

We are a small unaffiliated group of Alameda residents who wrote, signed, and sent a request for an investigation to California State Attorney General (AG) Kamala Harris. We are unrelated by campaigns or any politics but are united in a single purpose: we have a right to expect fire services to rescue and protect us and we have a right to expect our city management to ensure this.

It seems simple, yet our city has been failing us in this regard for years—we have been subjected to a series of extreme city-wide exposures to highly toxic and regulated substances (asbestos and crude oil) and now these failings have culminated in the death of Raymond Zack.

Why?  Moreover, what or whom is next?!

Our fire services have politicized the issue, and rather than take our complaints seriously, our mayor exacerbated the situation: without a recruitment process, she placed a retired captain unqualified to lead at the helm of our fire services of a city of 74,000 residents. This contradicts everything we know about how fire and public management skills, rank, ICS (Incident Command System), and recent experience matter when it comes to public safety services. We brought our concerns to fire and city management and leadership. When those proved unresponsive, we felt it was necessary for the safety of this community to escalate it and bring these issues to the attention of AG Harris.

Signed: Horst Breuer (former Economic Development Commission Chair), Greg de Haan, Adam Gillitt (2010 city council candidate), Denise Lai, Mark Linde, Karin Lucas (attorney, former city council member), Rosemary McNally,  Liz Williams.

thinks we’re a ship of fools.

Quick note to address the misinformation published in The Alameda Sun recently.

There is no group of local activists called Raising Hell for Good. There is no RHG acronym.  Raising Hell is merely my blog. D’oh.

Letter to the State AG: The group of people who wrote and signed a request for an investigation into the city corruption to CA AG Kamala Harris are a group of friends who have HAD IT and thought it appropriate to engage the state AG and expedite a letter thereto. The signers are unaffiliated with my blog; I  just happen to be one of the signers; and the letter was sent quite a while ago, not last week. Our primary issue is that we have a right as residents to expect our fire services to at least meet contemporary standards in the industry of firefighting and actually, oh, rescue us and protect us and our environment, and we gave proof that we have been receiving substandard fire response and performance in the City of Alameda repeatedly, year after year, that is correlated deaths in years past, recent extreme toxic pollution to individual, public, and environmental health, and culminating in the death of Mr. Zack. It’s gotten worse, not better. We are not safe, people have died, and we need help because we have repeatedly asked for help from fire management, city management, the county DA, the county grand jury, and all have been unresponsive.

Dom Weaver (local fire union president) wants you to think that all those who signed this letter are all DeHaan supporters. He’s trying to get you to believe that there’s a politically split faction at play here. That couldn’t be further from the truth. … Continue reading

Two for Two

Stroke transport protocol changed: check.

Illicit crude oil transfers stopped (along with the toxic fumes and oil spills): check.

So I’m pretty happy. It appears that when we take the time to report serious problems to the right people in the right agencies, they care and they do their job of protecting us, really well apparently.  And quickly.  In under two months for the stroke protocol. In under three months for the illicit crude oil transfers. Impressive.  Kudos (again, I can’t thank these people enough) to: … Continue reading

Gobs of GOBs (and this has to change!)

BAAQMD (Bay Area Air Quality Management District), quite honestly, rocks.  More specifically, Inspector Simon Winer rocks.

You’ll remember the November 4th Wall of Stink we all sucked into our eyes and lungs from the illicit crude oil transfer between Public Service Marine’s (a misnomer if there ever was one!) Jovalan barge and the Olympic Spirit barge out at Reefer Dock…

Here are the facts about that day, and the facts are outrageous.

Public Safety Marine Inc. (PSMI) was “founded in 1978 to build and operate the barge Jovalan, which transported petroleum products for public utilities in Southern California.” PSMI has been the exclusive shipper of crude oil out of VENOCO’s Ellwood, California terminal (formerly ARCO) in Santa Barbara County.

The Jovalan, a single hull barge, was state of the art in the 1980s. Not so much, however, after the 1990 Oil Pollution Act (OPA) went into effect requiring crude oil to be transferred in double-hull crafts. Yet the Jovalan continued to be given a state permit to run crude oil up from SoCal to the SF Bay Area. (In fact, its current permit does not expire until 2012.[!]) Sometime between 1990 and now, local refineries stopped accepting deliveries from single-hull crafts.  Yet VENOCO continued to load crude oil onto the Jovalan, a single-hull barge whose singular activity is transporting petroleum to the SF Bay Area.  Neither VENOCO, the Santa Barbara County Energy, nor any of those in the petroleum industry in the SF Bay Area thought this enough of a problem to speak up or do something about it. Huh?

In 2002, Harley Marine (Seattle, WA) who bought Public Service Marine and the Jovalan with it. … Continue reading

Thursday’s Letter to the Editor

In the Alameda Sun, here.


Corrected version to the Sun’s version is below. They changed the crude oil spill date to 2009. In fact, the crude oil spill in our estuary took place on November 2, 2010, as I originally wrote.

Hospital board making the decision


Although I exposed the 2007 substandard Alameda County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) stroke transport protocol in an October op-ed in the Alameda Sun (Vote Medicrats Out,” Oct. 21), kudos go to Mayor Beverly Johnson, Interim City Manager Anne Marie Gallant and Alameda County EMS Director Dale Fanning who all worked quickly — overriding the hospital’s protest — to get this changed in under two months. As of Dec. 1, our ambulances transport stroke victims to certified stoke centers. Record time, I’d say!

The reason the stroke protocol was changed is because Alameda Hospital is not a stroke center, i.e., it’s not appropriate for ambulances to take stroke victims to Alameda Hospital. Federal and state stroke prevention and response standards dictate this, and it’s based upon the soundest of medical sciences.

People need to know that the recent statement made by Alameda Hospital CEO Deborah Stebbins explaining that “the hospital will still get other stroke patients … who are outside the four-hour window in which drugs that reduce the symptoms of stroke may be administered” makes no sense. Intravenous (IV) drug therapies are only effective the first four hours after a stroke. Interventions that work at or after four hours can only be found at a certified stroke center: intra-arterial tPA and mechanical embolectomies. Also, there are several kinds of strokes; for some types, IV drug therapies are not appropriate. This is why a comprehensive stroke center is so important for all stroke victims.

Now I don’t know which is worse, the fact that “island stroke victims caught in the middle” may have been seriously harmed during the last three years. Or the fact that the hospital leadership (CEO and board) knew of this protocol, created business strategies around it, and recently staunchly defended it in attempts to stop the county from removing it. Hospital board members are our elected officials, Stebbins is the CEO they hired.

This is a clear-cut case where our elected officials are not making decisions in our best interest. Alamedans need to wake up from their longtime, culturally ingrained and endemic hospital ticklefest: the Alameda Healthcare District should serve our best interests and not the survival of the hospital at any cost.

Lastly, I’d like to tip my hat to Liz Williams who is the maven of public records requests — she and I often work together on the 2009 FISC fire, the Nov. 2, 2010 crude oil spill and the Nov. 4, 2010 illicit crude oil transfer by the Marine Starlight company that filled our lungs with toxic air…

— Denise Lai