Tag Archives: AFD Chief D’Orazi

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

C: Post mortem

Congratulations to all the Alamedans who read up on the facts and became informed voters. You took our city back for all Alameda residents!  And protected us from a financial debacle of tremendous proportions. And thank you to the Alameda Sun for having the stones to publish hard-hitting facts that know no political sides, for publishing the truths as the city documents state them. And to the Alameda Journal: you shoulda been agnostic to our politics; shame on you!

Now for the really hard work: get the city leadership and management to properly manage our general fund and prioritize we-the-residents in this fine city.  The multi-millions we would save from proper staffing levels and reduced salaries would easily restore our library and senior center staffing, pave our roads, fix our sidewalks, and start addressing some of the desirable capital improvements.

In looking at this recent election over the backdrop of past elections, I hate to think that this might be true, but is sure looks like two things:

1. Have the fire unions have been getting overpaid overstaffing in exchange for approximately $50,000 per election? Were they promised  much, much more with the passage of Measure C?  Multi-million dollar fire stations, training tower, computer center, and control of our city’s emergency operations center? All of which would further increase already over-staffed staffing levels! The fire unions paid $20,000 to ‘Citizens Preserving Alameda Committee for Measure C’ (source is here), walked the streets for C knocking on doors, and manned phone banks.

2. Did someone tell the understaffed and usually reticent police department to play ball politically?  Is this what it takes to get the city to provide proper police staffing levels to service our city safely? I don’t recall seeing donations from our police unions in past elections. They gave a whopping $28,000 to ‘Citizens Preserving Alameda Committee for Measure C’ (source is here).

Yes, we have overpaid firefighters and police, but we also have some people in positions for which they are unqualified yet they are making the salaries/benefits of someone who is an out-performer/over-qualified.  And we have some city workers in top positions with questionable performances getting reviews that reward them.  And we have had under-performing fire services delivering us significant failures year after year primarily, IMO, due to a lack of performance (outcome) management tied to contemporary (fully updated) performance protocols and procedures. Our GOBs (general operating bulletins) continue to be substandard, incomplete, and inadequate, putting both the fire staff and all residents at unnecessary risk. Having staff unqualified for the position of chief doesn’t really help. Fire Chief D’Orazi seems affable, seems to know fire fighting stuff. But there’s zero in his CV that prepared him to be fire chief for a city of 80,000 residents. As I said, we have staff in some departments who don’t have the CVs for the position or the exorbitant pay. There are many ways for our city leadership and management to adjust staffing levels and salaries in order to properly allocate our money for better & higher uses that will improve our city’s ability to serve us.  Note to the city: laying off the janitor at our senior center is not one of them!

Let’s stay on it, Alameda. We’ve got November ahead of us coming up pretty soon here. Stay informed. Stay engaged. Manage up.

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 (www.AlamedaNoOnC.com) and join me—June 5thvote NO on Measure C.

Speak Truth to Power

Written May 28, 2012 by Janet Gibson, Alameda resident & retired teacher

I feel that most people want to believe that firemen, as well as policemen, are “our friends”.   It is, therefore, quite alarming to hear a number of Alamedans express fear and concern when it comes to our local Fire Department.

When residents. . .  .

*  know about the callous act of our firefighters “not lifting a hand” while a despondent Raymond Zack waded to his drowning;

*  learn that the Fire Fighters Union has contributed almost $70,000 in the past several years to our City Council members;

*  observe Alameda Fire Fighters and their Union being the major supporters and contributors to the passage of Measure C:     assertively knocking at voter’s doors,  running telephone banks,  distributing campaign signs; sending $12,000 mailers

*  experience engine and ladder trucks with lights and blaring sirens driving past the homes of known opposition bloggers,     without an observable emergency response event;

.  .  .  .it is not hard to understand the intimidation being felt by a number of people.

As the June 5th Vote  nears, people who oppose Measure C feel particularly vulnerable.   Scores of “No on C” signs are being taken from the lawns of private homes.  One homeowner reports that four consecutive signs have been stolen from her yard.    Another neighbor expressed the fear that fire fighters might not be as diligent in responding to an emergency call, if they saw a “No Sign” in front of her home.

What a sad state of affairs. . for community members to lose confidence in their public servants!  The perception exists that our fire fighters’ powerful union has taken over City Hall.  The public is not against unions who bargain collectively for members.  The public is against the excessive use of that power. The public is not against our civil servants having good salaries and benefits.  They are against excessively high salaries/benefits and employees who work only for their own self-interest.

We must not be afraid to “Speak Truth to Power”.    VOTE NO on C   Inform yourself: www.AlamedaNoOnC.com

Janet Gibson

Pointing out the obvious . . .

I’ve written a fact-based well-researched blogpost (see below or here) about Measure C on the June 5th ballot. Curiously, the firefighters are suddenly driving past my house, driving on my block alone (zig-zagging over from the main nearby throughfare streets) on a daily basis now. Is this meant to threaten and silence me?

They did this in 2011 when my op-eds online and in the local papers addressed the several significant failures we’ve suffered from at the hands of the Alameda Fire Department, and when I had my cameo in the SF Chronicle’s scathing article about city management. So this is  a pattern, not just a happenstance.

Are they trying to bully me? Doesn’t it seem ridiculous in the 21st century? That we cannot have open dialogs about the facts without being threatened? Kind of proves the point I make in my op-ed if the ff’s feel they have to act out in this way, doesn’t it?

The fire services needs some serious downsizing in staff and facilities, per national firefighting industry standards. Pointing the obvious out—when everyone who runs the city is ignoring this basic point—is apparently not acceptable to those benefiting from the largess of pay and the high staff-to-call ratio in our city.

Tell me, just what is so wrong with demanding the city streamline fire services since streamlining services is also optimizing them?! AND saving a minimum of $5 million dollars per year?! It’s in everyone’s best interests. Including the firefighters who, as employees, will be happier if their buildings, vehicles, equipments and work better fits our needs!

And if you haven’t seen KTVU Channel 2’s report last night on the anniversary of Mr. Zack’s wrongful death, you really should. It’s here.


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.

The Good, The Sad, and The Ugly.


Human Being Extraordinaire: Dee Berry. You’ll just have to watch last night’s council meeting….there are no words. Mr. Zack was a “gentle giant” who would never be violent or dangerous and moreover, would—because of his extremely strong Catholic faith—never consider suicide.  He was doing exactly what he was reported to say he was doing on Memorial Day: praying. And he’d done something similar before: APD had previously brought him home one morning from Crown Beach when he’d sat on the beach overnight praying…. Continue reading