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Fire board member decries union ads
Original post made
on Oct 16, 2009
With a contract dispute unresolved and an election looming, the union that represents 93 firefighters in the Menlo Park Fire Protection District has provoked the ire of one board member by launching what he views as a misleading election campaign.
Read the full story here Web Link
posted Wednesday, October 14, 2009, 11:06 AM
Posted by John Wurdinger, Menlo Park Firefighters
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 18, 2009 at 10:56 pm
My name is John Wurdinger, and I am the President of Menlo Park Firefighters. I have been labeled as President of my Union, but I am not, Ed Hawkins (a retired San Mateo City Firefighter) is. I would like to take the time to attempt to explain our Association, our endorsement process, our current political campaign, and issues brought up in the Menlo Park Almanac Blog.
Menlo Park Firefighters Association
The earliest records we have of the Menlo Park Firemen's Association go back to 1932, we think our Association goes back further but we have no documentation. Although we do have records going back to 1932 we were not officially incorporated until December 17th, 1938 as the Menlo Park Firemen's Association. We did not have any women within our Association for nearly five decades because our Fire District never hired any. By the 1980's this changed and on October 30th, 1989, "Menlo Park Firemens' Association Inc." officially and legally changed our name to "the Menlo Park Firefighters' Association Inc." via a vote of the General Membership.
Like other Associations, ours has a Motto "our family helping your family," a Mission Statement "the Menlo Park Firefighters Association exists to protect, improve, and preserve the lives of the citizens of the Fire District and the members of the Firefighters Association," and By-Laws. Our By-Laws break our Association into 4 categories, Active, Associate, Retired and Honorary.
Our Endorsement Process
Although I have only been a member of the Association for just over eleven years, I am aware of our Association endorsing candidates for well over two if not three decades. Although we are currently affiliated with a Union, IAFF Local 2400, Menlo Park Firefighters endorsed Board Candidates when we were not in any Union.
As a point of interest I would like to bring to your attention that we have endorsed 4 out of 5 of the existing Board Members at some point in time. Our only exception is Director Peter Otaki, who we probably have the best relationship with. In addition to endorsing candidates for Fire Board we once endorsed Jellins, Winkler, & Duboc for Menlo Park City Council. It was a little out of the ordinary for us to do so, but Jellins, Winkler, & Duboc asked and we gave them our endorsement. I personally even walked streets and handed out campaign literature for Lee Duboc. After their first term we chose not to make another endorsement of City Council because it was such a contested race and the Menlo Park City Council has little to do with the Menlo Park Fire District.
What is interesting is that none of the candidates, whether they are existing Board Members or former City Council members, ever had an issue of being endorsed by "Menlo Park Firefighters" while they carried our endorsement. It is only after they do not receive the endorsement of Menlo Park Firefighters that they feel the endorsement is "unethical."
The Menlo Park Firefighters Association chooses to endorse by committee. Our committee interviews candidates and then ranks them. The ranking goes to our Association Board and in accordance with our By-Laws and the Roberts Rule of Order the Firefighters Association Board votes to ratify the committee's findings and suggestions.
Our current political campaign
There have been some serious allegations being made about our current political campaign that are not true. These allegations include but are not limited to:
1. Menlo Park Firefighters misrepresenting themselves as the Fire District.
2. Using District Grounds to campaign for the 3 members we endorse for Fire Board.
3. Using District photographs in our campaign mailers.
4. Secret closed door meetings with the 3 candidates we support inorder to secure an 11% pay raise.
Menlo Park Firefighters misrepresenting themselves as the Fire District
Menlo Park Firefighters are not now nor have we ever been misrepresenting ourselves as the Menlo Park Fire District. We are only representing ourselves as what we are, Menlo Park Firefighters.
Using District grounds to campaign for the 3 members we endorse for Fire Board
Menlo Park Firefighters have not and will not utilize District Ground to campaign. We will not because we know we are not supposed to. This charge comes from us having a booth at the 9th Annual Firefighter Pancake Breakfast. A Breakfast in which the Mid-Peninsula Junior League and the Stanford Inn help us raise nearly $9,000 every year for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation.
At this event we screened roughly two dozen citizens for High Blood Pressure, passed out medical "file(s) of life" to be used as tools for citizens to document their medical issues when we respond on them during a medical emergency, passed out Firefighter Association stickers and sold T-shirts. There was no political campaigning going on.
Using District photographs in our campaign mailers
If you have received a mailer or have already visited our election webpage, Web Link you will notice that the firefighters on the literature are not those of the Menlo Park Fire District. They are photos provided to us by the printer who is designing our mailer. However, there is a candidate utilizing the Menlo Park Fire District's insignia. This candidate has the Fire District's insignia on his campaign signs and who knows what else. You will not find the Fire District's logo on any of the signs form any of the candidates we support because we believe this would either be against the law or dangerously close to it.
Secret closed door meetings with the 3 candidates we support inorder to secure an 11% pay raise
Of all the allegations this one is the most troubling. The reason why is two fold; (1)we are not asking for an 11% raise; and, (2) we have never had any such meetings.
We would like to go on record and state that the firefighters of Menlo Park do not want anyone to feel obligated to us. What we hope for is that our next Fire District Board is one that will independently choose to meet with us and have a working relationship with us. Our ultimate desire is that the relationship created with our new Fire Board is not disingenuous and is not only about appearances. We dream that our next Fire Board will meet with us not out of obligation, but will meet with us because they understand the need to hear all sides of an issue prior to making an informed decision. In the end all we want is a professional working relationship with our elected officials, a goal that currently escapes us.
What we are attempting to do is something we have never done before, bring up issues that we feel are important to you as citizens. Like:
1. The Fire District Board voting not to speak to us while engaged in contract negotiations (we have been in negotiations for 36 of the past 42 months)
2. The Fire District not utilizing recognized standard of professional development of our Chief Officers'
3. The Fire District spending nearly 1.3 Million Dollars on legal expenses in the past three years, when in years past the District spent between $30,000 to $87,000 a year on said expenses.
4. The fact that although everyone is claiming to be fiscally conservative and having a fiduciary responsibility to the Fire District, that we now have nearly 3 times the staff in admin that we did just ten years ago and we currently have members who have been here for 26 years, received 1 incorrect paycheck in the first 25 years of employment with the Fire District and yet in the past 9 months has received 3.
5. The fact that we want to consolidate Fire Protection Services with the City of San Mateo. Such a merger would save the tax payers of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District roughly 2 Million Dollars a year.
6. Acknowledge that while our pension costs are high, the firefighters of Menlo Park have a plan that would cut the Fire District's annual pension obligation in half.
7. The fact that our Classification from the Insurance Safety Office fell from a high Class 3 (78.2%) in 1987 to a low class 3 (70.99%) in 2004. According to the ISO website this rating effects your fire insurance premiums as residents of the Menlo Park Fire District. But more importantly, that the firefighters of Menlo Park gave the Fire District a plan over a year ago that, if implemented, would raise the Fire Districts ISO rating from nearly a Class 4 to a Class 2 Fire Department. The District has yet to implement the plan.
8. The fact that despite the firefighters of Menlo Park pleading with the Fire District to hire Paramedic Firefighters, the District has chosen not to. This decision has lead to the District having to change the way we bid for Station and Shift because we do not have enough Paramedic Firefighter/Engineers to staff our emergency apparatus.
We feel that if we are able to successfully bring up these issues during this years campaign that all of the Districts stakeholders will be better because of it, the Taxpaying Citizen, the Agency (Menlo Park Fire Protection District), and the members who staff the District (the firefighters).
Issues brought up in the Menlo Park Almanac Blog
The firefighters of Menlo Park have yet to have been interviewed by the Menlo Park Almanac. However there have been plenty of articles and blogs about us in the paper and on the web.
I would like to offer my personal apologies to the former retired firefighter for what is out in the media. The firefighters of Menlo Park have not engaged the press because we watched a Fire Protection District in our County go down in flames due to an internal war making its way into the press. What the firefighters of Menlo Park learned from the process was to never go to war with someone who buys ink by the barrel.
After the first story that was released about our current situation I received one e-mail from a concerned citizen it read as follows:
"Seriously? You guys have got to be kidding. You want an 11% raise? Are you tone deaf to what is happening around you? I am in the construction industry and I am lucky to still have a job. I have also had to endure pay cuts and reductions in benefits. So have most of the rest of the citizens of your district (I live in Menlo Park). Do you think you are immune from this recession? Guess what, you are not. As a citizen that you serve and having read both sides of the argument and as a former public servant myself, I stand fully behind the District Board. Wake up and smell the coffee guys this is not the time to be demanding a raise."
I responded with:
"I am sorry it has taken me two days to get back to you but I do not answer these types of e-mails relating to the Association while on duty. What I can say is that we are not demanding nor are we even asking for an 11% raise and while you may have read some information that was on our website, you do not know our side of the story because you will not find it in the papers or on the internet.
I would like to thank you for your concern on he matter and offer to sit down with you as a citizen we serve. I can only imagine how you must feel about your firefighters after reading some of the things that are currently out there, but I can say that a majority of the information is not accurate or a misrepresentation of the facts. I will be availible to meet with you either on Saturday and Sunday morning but start my 48 hour tour on Monday at 0800.
Menlo Park Fighters"
I bought this citizen a cup of coffee and he let me talk for nearly three hours. A few months later he took me out to lunch and gave me pointers on how to express our issues to the other citizens of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. You can see the fruits of our conversation on our election page of our website and I assure you there will be more shortly.
If you are a concerned citizen I ask that you read the material on our election page of our website or write me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, I will do my best to set a date with you to have coffee.
I can also state that the reasons that contract negotiations are stalled is because we believe the Fire District is breaking California State Law and bargaining in bad faith. Instead of writing to the newspaper and blogging about the situation we went to the only place that we could really solve it, the California Public Employee Relations Board (PERB). This is the process in which disputes are solved for firefighters in California.
If the District really thinks we are running our campaign illegally I encourage them to have us brought up on charges. We are not breaking any laws, but if we were the way to solve it would be by bringing charges to the proper authorities, just as we did when we filed a claim with the CalPERB. It is important to recognize that we went to the proper authorities when we felt the District was breaking the law and did not slander the District in print and on blogs.
Menlo Park Firefighters
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