Almanac

News - August 21, 2013

Election: Union influence key issue in Menlo fire board race

by Sandy Brundage

Peter Carpenter, no stranger to the Menlo Park fire district board of directors, decided to enter this year's election with barely 24 hours to spare before the filing deadline. The district serves Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and portions of unincorporated San Mateo County.

He told the Almanac he'd returned from Colorado the day before the filing deadline, and discovered that incumbent Stephen Nachtsheim had decided not to run. Mr. Carpenter, 73, cited his nine years of prior service on the fire district board and long history of public service that included time as a volunteer firefighter and Air Force officer. Mr. Carpenter also referred to his corporate management and nonprofit experience.

He joins incumbents Jack Nelson and Rex Ianson on the roster, along with former council candidates Chuck Bernstein and Carolyn Clarke.

Mr. Carpenter said he is "very concerned that the firefighters' union is going to attempt to take over the board with this election." The incumbent's withdrawal "left an easy opening for the union to control three seats."

From his perspective, a board composed of current member Rob Silano, incumbent Jack Nelson and newcomer Carolyn Clarke would yield control to the union.

Mr. Carpenter has already declined to interview for an endorsement from the San Mateo County Central Labor Council.

"Since there will (hopefully) be a new firefighter's contract negotiated with the Fire District during the forthcoming term, I can understand that it is in the labor union's interest to have Fire District Directors who you think will serve your interests," Mr. Carpenter wrote in an email to the labor council on Thursday. "Similarly, an endorsement by a labor union for an election that will be immediately followed by labor negotiations carries with it the appearance of a conflict of interest."

Mr. Carpenter described this year's election as pivotal for protecting taxpayer interests. "While I have deep respect for our individual firefighters, I cannot say the same for their union which, disregarding the district's fiscal health, demands an excessive pay, benefit, and pension package," he wrote in a campaign announcement.

Written statements from Ms. Clarke and Mr. Bernstein indicate that labor issues, with raises as a key point of contention, will be at the forefront of this year's election. The fire district has been in protracted negotiations with the firefighters' union for more than six years.

According to Mr. Bernstein. the current board has managed to resist pressure from the firefighters' union to push expenditures higher, only by a 3-2 majority. He expects the district's share of retirement benefit costs to increase by $3.5 million during the next seven years, which he foresees as leaving the board a choice between reducing headcount or cutting salaries to avoid service cuts.

Like Mr. Carpenter, Mr. Ianson and Mr. Bernstein both said they won't attend the labor endorsement interviews, and not accept union campaign support.

The remaining two candidates are taking a different path. Ms. Clarke told the Almanac that she will attend the labor council endorsement interview. Mr. Nelson said he will, also, but noted that it does not translate to an automatic endorsement.

"If I am offered their endorsement, I will give it the serious consideration it deserves and go from there," he said, noting that some second-time candidates refuse to accept labor endorsements. As a current board member, Mr. Nelson said he declined to comment on wage and benefit issues since negotiations are ongoing.

"The goal is to bring to a successful conclusion to this event, that is win-win for all sides, establish labor peace and with a unified effort move the fire District forward for years and fire boards to come."

Nachtsheim

Mr. Nachtsheim, a member of the Menlo Park fire district board of directors since 2009, said he decided not to seek re-election because he didn't have time to properly run a campaign this fall. "Things have been a little different at the fire district since Harold (Schapelhouman) was injured," he said.

The search for interim personnel and disruption of management continuity has left the director working "three to four hours a day" on district business, leaving little time for campaigning. Otherwise, Mr. Nachtsheim said, he would have sought re-election.

While he hasn't formally endorsed anyone yet, he said he thought that Mr. Ianson would bring some needed continuity to the board, while Mr. Bernstein's financial background would be of value.

Comments

Posted by Double Standard, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 1, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Peter C., showing his double standard and a real political animal...Endorsed by the union in the past and VOTED FOR the 3@ 50 for the firefighters retirement! I can't believed he was fooled by the union....he's to smart for that ....RIGHT! Looks like the his political machine is running out of gas.....no one else wanted to run, except him....what a sad state of affairs for you Peter. The firefighters are now in mediation with the district. Morale at the district is high! The district is running great, with the current management. Go retire..you did a great job in the past, now go fishing!

[Portion removed.]


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2013 at 6:49 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I am pleased to once again rise to the call of public service.
My priorities,if elected, will be:

Make sure that the District remains financially solvent.

Reach a negotiated agreement with firefighters' union.

Maintain superior fire and medical responses.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2013 at 7:39 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I would note that I have previously served more than 9 years as a Fire District Director - having been elected twice by the citizens to four year terms and also unanimously appointed twice by the then four serving Directors to fill unexpected vacancies (including when Peter Ohtaki left the Fire Board when he was elected to the Menlo Park City Council. I am currently endorsed by 2 current mayors, 5 former mayors, three current Fire Board Directors and 3 former Fire Board Directors and Board Presidents.


Posted by Union One, a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2013 at 8:28 am

Has Peter Carpenter every been a member of a union?

And, how classy to be bashing labor movements on LABOR DAY.

Good work.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2013 at 8:44 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Note my second priority:

Reach a negotiated agreement with firefighters' union.

Nothing union bashing in that statement.

I was quoted, correctly, as saying on Aug 21 :
"Since there will (hopefully) be a new firefighter's contract negotiated with the Fire District during the forthcoming term, I can understand that it is in the labor union's interest to have Fire District Directors who you think will serve your interests," Mr. Carpenter wrote in an email to the labor council on Thursday. "Similarly, an endorsement by a labor union for an election that will be immediately followed by labor negotiations carries with it the appearance of a conflict of interest."


Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2013 at 2:25 pm

I am pleased to support Mr. Carpenter. He bring a wealth of experience and knowledge.

Conversely, I will not be supporting Mr. Nelson, a well known union backer and mouthpiece like his colleague, Mr. Silano, who was heavily backed by the union in the last election. While I'm not anti union, it was interesting that the union spend $85,000 in the last fire district election -- $85,000 -- when historically candidates have spent less than one tenth that amount. I wonder how much the union plans to spend in this election?


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 2, 2013 at 3:50 pm

The fact that the union was willing to spend $85,000 in the last election should tell anyone with a modicum of intellect that they are trying to buy influence on the board. I'll vote for Peter in the hopes of preventing the union from owning a majority of the board.


Posted by Thoughts & Question, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 5, 2013 at 1:33 am

Bob, I totally agree with you about supporting Peter Carpenter and not supporting Jack Nelson. I think you're right that Nelson is a union hack. From what I've heard, Nelson isn't the brightest bulb either, but getting back to the union support... I think anyone financially supported by the firefighters should not be elected to the fire board. From what I've read, it also sounds like Carolyn Clarke may also be backed by the union.

Peter: who do you think the non-union backed candidates will besides yourself? Also, do you know the candidates' ballot placement?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 5, 2013 at 7:06 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

There are three seats on the Board that are up for election this November.

In addition to myself two other fiscally conservative and experienced individuals are also candidates in this election - Rex Ianson, who is currently in his second term on the Board, and Chuck Bernstein.

Carpenter is first on the ballot, Bernstein is fourth and Ianson is fifth.

The two seats not up for election are held respectively by a very competent, fiscally conservative individual and the other by someone who was elected in 2011 with a huge financial investment ( estimated to be over $50k) by the firefighters' union. The three seats in play will determine wether or not the union gets control of the Board - just in time for the Board to sit in judgement on a new contract for the union!

I urge all of you to vote for the three of us - Bernstein, Carpenter and Ianson - and to ask your friends to do do the same.


Posted by Ginger, a resident of another community
on Sep 7, 2013 at 10:50 am

Remember to vote for Carpenter, Ianson, and Bernstein. Their job is to represent you, the taxpayers.


Posted by Double Standard, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 10, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Why was my post removed from last night? It appears freedom of speech is no longer a right or the truth no longer counts. People should know this when they pick up and read your newspaper. Good luck and I'm sure the next election you will be a bad memory.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields