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Firefighter group yet to divulge spending on campaign endorsement effort

Original post made on Oct 30, 2009

Scores of union-sponsored campaign endorsement signs are visible all over the local landscape, but the state-mandated campaign spending report stating how much has been spent by the local firefighters' association on the signs -- and mailers, advertisements and "robocalls" -- in support of three candidates for the fire board is nowhere to be seen more than one week after it was due.


Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, October 30, 2009, 6:20 PM

Comments (44)

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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Oct 30, 2009 at 9:03 pm

Just some routine corruption / law breaking from our public sector unions, in support of their bought and paid for politicians. Situation normal in the grand old USA.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 30, 2009 at 9:27 pm

The truth about the union's significant financial expenditures (which will not include the value of the significant manpower which the union has also employed) will not be known until AFTER the election. Their failure to report their expenditures on time is simply one more example of this union's flagrant violations of the law - failure to negotiate in good faith, placing campaign signs on public property, and misrepresenting themselves as speaking on behalf of all the MPFPD firefighters when they do not.

Why have the three candidates who have been endorsed by the union not repudiated these actions?

Will the voters be duped into supporting the union's candidates simply on the basis of the union's massive and unreported expenditures?


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Posted by legal
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 30, 2009 at 11:54 pm

Is the Menlo Park Firefighter Association even registered with the state. Can't find it listed on the states registry Web Link


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2009 at 4:53 am

Given the story was not placed on this website by the Almanac until "Uploaded: Friday, October 30, 2009, 6:20 PM". I think it might well be the candidates have not repudiated or commented on the Unions failure to file the information because they do not know about it.

Yet again Peter Carpenter takes an opportunity to ask a rhetorical question which is intended not to shed light on the candidates seeking election, but smear the candidates he does not approve of.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 31, 2009 at 5:48 am

Time line of union actions:
- failure to report their expenditures on time - 1 week
- failure to negotiate in good faith - 4 months
- placing campaign signs on public property - 30 days
- misrepresenting themselves as speaking on behalf of all the MPFPD firefighters when they do not - 30 days

There has been plenty of time for the endorsed candidates to choose to repudiate these actions - they were publicly challenged to do so on 13 Oct.

My question remains - Why have the three candidates who have been endorsed by the union not repudiated these actions?


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2009 at 7:36 am

Mr. Carpenter, Perhaps in fairness to ALL of the candidates (a process you are not apparently familiar with) we should ask have Any of the candidates responded to the issues you have raised....

Well lets try and figure it out shall we.

1.failure to report their expenditures on time - 1 week

Mr. Carpenter please enlighten us with your knowledge of this matter. The Almanac only reported it yesterday. How can any candidate (endorsed or otherwise) be expected to "repudiate" issues they are not aware of.

Were you aware a week ago that the union had not filed the required forms? If so, why did you not bother to tell the rest of us, or at least tell the Almanac a week ago? Or just perhaps you did not know, and if you as a current board member of the district did not know, how would the candidates?

2. failure to negotiate in good faith - 4 months

As a board member perhaps you Mr. Carpenter can tell us whether or not these negotiations are made in "Closed" or "Open" session. I know the answer, perhaps you can find some semblance of honor and state that no candidate could possibly know the true state of negotiations between the union or the district, because the public is not permitted to know the discussion that takes place.

Unless of course a member of the district board chooses to reveal it to those they support(In the vernacular, A CRIME.) Carpenters claim is a cheap shot by any criteria. It amounts to a cry about "They have not complained about what they do not know about", a silly and specious argument.

3. Placing campaign signs on public property - 30 days

Like this has never happened before. Its a silly and childish complaint. NO candidate can control where supporters place placards. The best they can do is having been made aware of them, have them removed. As if only union endorsed candidates do this.

4.misrepresenting themselves as speaking on behalf of all the MPFPD firefighters when they do not - 30 days.

Another stupid statement. Who cares how many employees of the district the union represents. The FACT is they represent the "rank and file" of the district. Its a complete waste of time and just another attempt to distort the real issues.

Carpenter acts as if he is somehow the arbiter of these questions. Have ANY of the candidates responded to the questions? How could they given the circumstances.

I will state again that I understand the terms and conditions the Almanac reasonably imposes to posters on this forum, and I thoroughly agree that questioning another poster as to their motives in their comments is perfectly legitimate. That said, Mr. Carpenter is not just another poster. He is, and has been a member of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, he has served as the President of the Board.

Mr. Carpenter decries the current situation between the board and its employees, yet he as as responsible as anyone for the current situation and now presumes to tell the rest of us how we should vote in this election.

Carpenters use of this forum to denigrate the candidates endorsed by the union (whose only apparent "crime" is a willingness to talk to the district employees) is a disgrace. Is it possible that the tactics used by Carpenter in the discussion of the election are the same tactics he used in his discussion with the fire district employees. If so I can certainly understand why the fire district finds itself in its current situation.



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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 31, 2009 at 7:46 am

The following Open Letter to the Community was published more than four months ago and it answers many of the questions just raised about the negotiations with the union:



AN OPEN LETTER FROM THE MENLO PARK FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT BOARD OF DIRECTORS TO THE DISTRICT'S EMPLOYEES AND THE COMMUNITY THEY SERVE
ABOUT CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS WITH OUR FIREFIGHTERS

The Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District offers this letter to address the currently stalled labor negotiations and disparaging public statements issued recently by the Menlo Park Firefighters Union concerning District management personnel. We feel that our employees and the public we serve should have access to all the same information we have used to inform our contract negotiations and to know the depth of the Board's support for the District's administration.
At the heart of the impasse is the District's offer to extend the labor contract until the end of the year while maintaining present salary levels and improving the medical plan. As explained to the Fire Union leadership, this fiscally conservative approach is necessary and justified given the rapidly changing and highly uncertain economic conditions facing the District.
To that end, we wish to begin by publicly acknowledging and thanking the District employees represented by AFSCME for ratifying a new cost neutral labor contract with the District and the District's unrepresented management employees for agreeing to defer a scheduled salary increase until January 2010. Such concessions in these times of economic insecurity and distress are very difficult for all involved and deeply appreciated by the Fire District.
To our firefighters represented by the Menlo Park Firefighters Association, Union Local 2400, the Board also wishes to acknowledge and thank you for the professionalism and dedication to the public service that you offer every day, as recently demonstrated by your response to the July 16th Susan Gale Court fire in Sharon Heights. And while the Board is confident that the present deadlock in negotiations between the Union and the District will not deter District employees from their common mission to serve and protect the public, we are dismayed that over a year of negotiations have resulted in unfair labor practice proceedings and an impasse on the issues of salary and benefits.
We are also distressed and offended by the Union's public charges against the Fire Chief, the call for the termination of the District's Director of Administrative Services and by the Union's suggestion that the public service may suffer if its demands in this regard are not met. This Open Letter offers the Board's perspective on the labor dispute and the regrettable tactics undertaken by the Union leadership, which are counter-productive, inflammatory, and in opposition to the best interests of the public we serve.
To be clear, we are confident the firefighters of Menlo Park Fire Protection District are fairly compensated. While the District is looking to contain its labor costs, it has and will continue to provide very competitive compensation. Firefighters in our District get paid on average $125,900 in salary and benefits. Sixty-nine of our firefighters were paid more than $100,000 last year. The average cost of employing a firefighter is $170,000.00. In contrast, the median household income (usually two wage earners) of our taxpayers in Menlo Park was $103,702 and East Palo Alto was $49,267 in 2007.
The District also provides a generous pension plan, whereby a firefighter who works for 30 years is entitled to 90% of his or her highest salary, and can retire as early as 50. This benefit plan costs the District approximately 39% of payroll, and this number is projected to go up to almost 50% by 2011.
In the face of pay cuts, rising job losses and property foreclosures in our district, the Union demands to be paid at the higher end of firefighters on the Peninsula, which is an 11% salary increase this year and additional increases thereafter. The Union also demands $1,322 per month for medical insurance benefits, a 55% increase, whether or not the firefighter is single or has a family.
The District cannot accommodate these demands, particularly given the uncertainty surrounding the District costs and revenue sources. In addition to the projected increase in pension costs and the reduction in property tax revenue, the recently adopted State budget promises to take more money away from the District. We have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of our District to prudently plan and prepare for these anticipated hits to the District's budget.
This economic reality is being recognized by many other firefighter unions nearby and across the state. Nearly every day you read of public employee unions agreeing to eliminate and/or defer salary and benefit increases to accommodate the growing fiscal crisis. Just recently, Central County firefighters gave up incentive pay and an increase in order to keep stations open. A recent CALPELPA Economic Crisis Survey of local governments stated that 25% of responding agencies had reduced compensation by 6%, about 40% had not reached agreement on open negotiations, another 25% had unilaterally adopted reductions in compensation and about 31% advised that next year's negotiations will be worse
It has been suggested the District seek alternative means of financing the increases being sought, including the use of reserves to meet the firefighters' demands. This is neither responsible nor feasible. Because property tax revenues are paid twice a year, we must keep a half-year's budget, or about $15 million, in reserve, and we need to keep another $10 million in reserves for apparatus, equipment, and stations replacement, among other obligations. It would be fiscally irresponsible to utilize the District's critical reserves to fund ongoing salary increases.
The District has made a serious good-faith offer despite our current economic situation by offering contract improvements in the areas of educational incentive pay, EMT and Paramedic Pay, bilingual pay and acting pay. The District has also offered to increase its contributions to employee medical insurance and we have reached tentative agreement on more than 106 subjects covered by the previous labor agreement. And though we are at impasse, we have made repeated offers to the Union leadership to return to the bargaining table with the help of a neutral mediator only to be rebuffed each time. Nevertheless, the District maintains its offer to the Union to return to bargaining to end this dispute.
The Board would be remiss if we did not address the Union's public mistreatment of the District's Director of Administrative Services, Michele Braucht. Ms. Braucht is a dedicated public servant who must often say "no" and recommend hard decisions in order to maintain tight budgetary control. Her role is thankless and can be extremely unpopular, but for the Union to singularly and publicly blame her for poor morale and demand her termination is misplaced, unfair and wrong. The Board of Directors has the utmost confidence in Ms. Braucht's abilities and rejects out of hand the Union's call for her termination.
We must also address the Union's charges against Chief Schapelhouman and his administration. As the one charged with overseeing administration and operations of the Department, Chief Schapelhouman also needs to make tough decisions, especially during difficult economic times. The Chief has proven himself to be service-minded, dedicated and passionate about the fire service. Also, he embodies leadership and commands respect. He has our full support.
In closing, we are in the midst of an almost unprecedented economic downturn, and Americans across the state and the country are being forced to make changes in the face of hardship.
The pressing economic conditions have affected people as well as organizations and public agencies, including the Fire District. We are all being challenged to step up and deliver in the manner the public expects and deserves. The Board is asking Department members to strive towards excellence again and to work with the District to resolve our present differences. Such resolution can only be achieved through open and good faith communications at the bargaining table. We have directed the District's representatives to communicate our standing offer to the Association leadership to join us there so that we may solve our disputes and refocus our energies on the public service.

The Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District
Bart Spencer, President
Peter Ohtaki, Vice President
Ollie Brown
Rex Ianson
Peter Carpenter


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 31, 2009 at 8:03 am

It is distressing to see the Town Square degenerate into a diatribe by anonymous persons who do not address the substance of the article which started the thread. Let's keep the Town Square a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion.

If you have questions for me about my views or performance as a Fire Board member please simply email me at peterf@menlofire.org and I will respond directly to you so long as I am still a sitting Board member.


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Posted by Bill R
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 31, 2009 at 10:35 am

Let's guess how much the FF union has spend on this election.

Mailers, phone calls, yard signs, door hangers, and more. Who's campaigning in this election the union or the candidates they represent?

It just too cozy. Why would people vote for candidates who are endorsed by the union when the union has asked for an 11% raise.


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Posted by Gunshow
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 31, 2009 at 11:53 am

Mr Carpenter,

The letter you wrote above was your guesstimated projections of future revenues and economic decline. They have since been proven wrong and the FD has seen an increase in revenues from last year. Also you failed to average in Atherton's average income. And you compared total roll up cost versus income. And the calpers rate has become a problem due to the fire board deciding not to pay in years when the market did well. Firefighters don't get to decide how much is paid into our retirement, those tough decisions belong to the fire board. I could go on but if you actually read and dissect your letter you will see it is terribly flawed. This is another reason why you have lost the respect of the firefighters you are supposed to represent. Also why again is it so bad to be in a public union when almost all professional firefighter's across the nation are in one? Please visit www.mpffa.org for more good info.


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Posted by truth
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Oct 31, 2009 at 11:56 am

This is the same Peter Carpenter who predicted a sharp property sales decline in Menlo Park that would derail the budget. He lashed out at the city council and the Mayor, specifically.

But property taxes were up and are up again. There are other areas of problems, but Peter made his comments so confidently as if he were the county assessor himself, and he was wrong. This is a major point. Peter was wrong so his entire position failed. Now he avoids the topic.

Peter despises unions. He is a private sector, Repub who made millions as an executive.

And he lives in Atherton.

Respect Peter for his service to our country because he deserves it. Few have taken his path.

But realize that he is clouded by his politics and his personal frustration failing to bring a result to a long-standing feud with the unions.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 31, 2009 at 12:35 pm

Many of the anonymous posters on this Forum fail to read my comments carefully. I have repeatedly stated that the GROWTH in property taxes would stop and that we would see a decline from the 7-11% growth we have seen in prior years.

Well folks the facts are in and the growth rate for FY 2009-10 is 38% below the prior year's growth or a shortfall of $726,060 from the District 5 year average. My point was and is that the District cannot keeps spending money like it did in the high tax growth rate years.
And I believe that District wide 2010/11 may be no better because of the lagging drop (behind Menlo Park and East Palo Alto) in Atherton property values
****************************************
That having been said, this thread is NOT about Peter Carpenter, it is about the union's failure to obey the law on campaign expenditures - let's get back to the issue at hand.

Once again - It is distressing to see the Town Square degenerate into a diatribe by anonymous persons who do not address the substance of the article which started the thread. Let's keep the Town Square a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion.

If you have questions for me about my views or performance as a Fire Board member please simply email me at peterf@menlofire.org and I will respond directly to you so long as I am still a sitting Board member.


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Posted by gunshow
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Oct 31, 2009 at 12:51 pm

If you can dodge a wrench you can dodge a ball or a question.


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2009 at 5:04 pm

Some of the latest comments are completely inappropriate. Where Peter Carpenter lives, his political views or his wealth have absolutely nothing to do with this discussion.


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Posted by Susan
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 31, 2009 at 7:03 pm

I'm tired of all the stuff from the union coming to my house -- they are way too involved in this election. I don't even get this much when candidates run for state or national office.


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Posted by Phil Randolf
a resident of another community
on Oct 31, 2009 at 7:37 pm

I'm not from Menlo Park but I have to ask myself "why are those that are obviously anti-Peter Carpenter ignoring the entire point of the story?"

I've been very pro-union my entire life. As was my father and all of my uncles, who were union officials with the Amalgated Clothing Cutters union in New York.

So why hasn't the union clarified the sign issue? It's not Menlo Park fire fighters that are doing this - it's the Menlo Park Fire Fighters Association. Regardless of your union sentiments, it's deceptive. We call it out when management pulls this kind of stuff, and we should be honest enough to call it out when our unions do it, too.

Even more troubling, however, is the MPFFA's failure to disclose political financial contributions as required by law. I find that totally unacceptable and so should the rank and file of the MPFFA. I expect better than that from fire fighters.

I suppose that I can now expect to be attacked. Yes, let's ignore the union's actions some more... it's certainly easier, isn't it?


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Posted by Gunshow
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 1, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Hey Phil,

What sign issue?

The numbers have been reported to the county. There is no requirement to report to the local fish wrap. If you have any specific questions contact John Wurdinger www.mpffa.org he has answered all of mine.

Your question about Peter...well just read the website so you can get both sides of the story.

I hope that you didn't feel attacked.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2009 at 6:47 pm

Gunshow states "The numbers have been reported to the county."

Late enough so that the public won't see them until after the election.

Perhaps the union would be civic-minded enough to post them here so that at least a very few voters might know how much the union spent as of 10? days ago on their massive campaign effort.

The union might also explain WHY they have spent so much money on this particular election. What do they expect in return?

IF what the union wants is Board members who will talk to the union firefighters then the union needs to be reminded of the law against 'by pass' discussions:

"In labor-management terms, a 'bypass' means that management has disregarded the union's exclusive representational role and elected to deal directly with bargaining unit employees on matters pertaining to a grievance, employee working conditions, or other issues related to the labor-management relationship. Once employees have elected to be represented by a union, the union becomes the exclusive representative for those employees. That exclusive representational role limits management's ability to deal directly with represented employees and instead requires that management deal with the union to resolve grievances and to negotiate workplace resolutions."


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2009 at 7:00 pm

A very pertinent report by the Fair Political Practices Commission on the issue of so-called 'independent expenditures' such as those by the firefighters' union ststes:

"Despite the public's demand to reduce the influence of special interest money in elections, the opposite has occurred, thanks, in part, to an orgy of spending by so-called "independent expenditures," also known as IEs. The emergence of "independent expenditures" has thwarted the will of the people, dramatically undermined California's campaign finance laws and doubtlessly influenced the outcome of numerous statewide and legislative elections."

see Web Link for the full report


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Posted by WOW
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 1, 2009 at 7:27 pm

Stop this cat fighting. If you or anyone else thinks there are any violations of the law....report it and stop being cry babies. Mr. Carpenter, as an elected official you have a legal man date to report it. Anyone else, you have you a civic duty to.............


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2009 at 7:50 pm

WOW states:"Mr. Carpenter, as an elected official you have a legal man date to report it."

Response:

Late reporting of financial information - the FPPC is aware of this violation

Placing of signs on public property - complaint has been filed with the Town of Atherton

Sec 3205 violations - insufficient facts exists at this time for the DA or the Grand Jury to file charges but they have been put on notice.

Failure of the union to negotiate in good faith - filing has been made with the Public Employees Review Board

misrepresentation of the union as speaking for all firefighters - an ethical issue which has been well documented and well reported so that the voters can decide how to respond


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Posted by Wow
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 1, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Ok, Mr. C,,,,,,,,,,,


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Posted by Gunshow
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 1, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Mr. Carpenter,

1.Did you report all 6 candidates have signs on public property? Or only the ones you don't want to win.
2.What are the laws or ethics for incorrectly slandering the local firefighters, their association and union?
3. What are the laws or ethics for making multiple false statements and asking questions loaded with innuendo, knowing full well that they are B.S. just to carry out a vendetta?
4. Why are no other board members in agreement with your nonsense? If they are why aren't they posting here in your defense and corroborating you story and numbers?
It's starting to sound familiar to the actions of a board member that missed being elected by a few votes the last time around.
You should have listened to the Firefighter's and you would've been a hero when they told you how to save tens of millions of dollars and how to fix the ISO rating saving every citizen in our district on their fire insurance. Instead you decided to stir the pot about a raise with numbers you made up. By the way call the county and they will tell you why the numbers have been reported late, there was no malicious intent.
5. Do you have a website showing factual data on numbers or where to find them on the statements you have made?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Gunshow (a firefighter in disguise) asks:
Mr. Carpenter,

1.Did you report all 6 candidates have signs on public property? Or only the ones you don't want to win.

I reported ALL signs that were on public property

2.What are the laws or ethics for incorrectly slandering the local firefighters, their association and union?

Slander is malicious, false and defamatory statement - I have made no such statements although I recognize that my truthful statements have made the union very uncomfortable; making people uncomfortable is not slander

3. What are the laws or ethics for making multiple false statements and asking questions loaded with innuendo, knowing full well that they are B.S. just to carry out a vendetta?

I have made no such false statements.

4. Why are no other board members in agreement with your nonsense? If they are why aren't they posting here in your defense and corroborating you story and numbers?

You would have to ask each of them - I only speak for myself.


By the way call the county and they will tell you why the numbers have been reported late, there was no malicious intent.

Why don't you or the union leadership post the numbers here and an explanation for the failure to file on time? The election is Tuesday and time is of the essence.

5. Do you have a website showing factual data on numbers or where to find them on the statements you have made?

Contact Michele Braucht at MPFPD for the data on property tax revenues


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Posted by Gunshow
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 2, 2009 at 7:14 am

Mr. Carpenter,

Then it must have been the other Peter Carpenter who is posting on the town square forum.......weird?


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Posted by Phil Randolf
a resident of another community
on Nov 2, 2009 at 8:25 am

Gunshow:

It is that "fishwrapper" (as you call it) that provides you with the forum to post your opinion. I would think you would be more respectful. The Almanac does a terrific service to our community by providing this.

And the MPFFA has a responsibility to the public to disclose it's political contributions. Doesn't the membership deserve transparency?


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Posted by Gunshow
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 2, 2009 at 8:55 am

Hey Phil,
You are right that was a little harsh. I am sure that the folks at the Almanac work very hard to put out the news, so my apologies to them. This was just stemming from the recent attacks by Mr. Carpenter and his ability to manipulate the news stories and adjust the posts here on the town square. It would be nice if my opinions went uncut. The numbers have been disclosed, and please educate me on why that matters anyway.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 2, 2009 at 10:32 am

Gunshow (a firefighter in disguise) states:"The numbers have been disclosed, and please educate me on why that matters anyway."

The numbers should have been filed more than ten days ago so that the voters can be informed of the actions of this independent expenditure group BEFORE they cast their votes tomorrow. The late disclosure and the failure to post that information on this Forum or the union's web site denies the voters this important information.

The disclosure laws exist for a reason and the union does not get to decide which laws it will obey and which it will ignore. Now the damage has been done because the voters will not have this information BEFORE they vote.

As the Fair Political Practices Committee report states:
"Despite the public's demand to reduce the influence of special interest money in elections, the opposite has occurred, thanks, in part, to an orgy of spending by so-called "independent expenditures," also known as IEs. The emergence of "independent expenditures" has thwarted the will of the people, dramatically undermined California's campaign finance laws and doubtlessly influenced the outcome of numerous statewide and legislative elections."


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Posted by Renee Batti
news editor of The Almanac
on Nov 2, 2009 at 10:47 am

Renee Batti is a registered user.

The county elections office reported at 10:40 this morning (Monday, Nov. 2) that the firefighter group supporting three candidates had not filed its campaign spending report at that time, but was expected to file later today. Gunshow, what numbers were you referring to when you wrote "the numbers have been disclosed," and disclosed to whom?


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Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Nov 2, 2009 at 11:46 am

I have become somewhat disconcerted by the recent postings regarding this issue.

I originally became involved in this discussion because I felt Peter Carpenter had used innuendo and smear tactics to suggest the Union Endorsed candidates would comply with the unions demands without regard to the economic situation in which the District finds itself. I did not believe it was fair of Mr. Carpenter to post some of the things he did and I have stated my concerns (sometimes with more passion than I thought myself capable of) several times.

I have not changed my views as to the tactics, and heaven knows I need not repeat them yet again.

That said, I am very disappointed to discover that at least one other poster whom I presumed shared my unbiased views appears to be an employee of the fire district but failed to state that fact when posting. I am not impressed.

The fact is the union still has the opportunity to provide us with the information that should have already been provided. It may well be that this forum only constitutes a small number of those who will vote. But no one can deny that we are a VERY CONCERNED AND INTERESTED group of those who will vote.

Personally I am not really concerned about how much the union has spent. I am far more concerned about which candidates will put an end to the impasse that has existed for the last two years. I intend to vote for candidates (Union or Almanac endorsed or not) whom I believe will enact a TWO TIER BENEFIT AND SALARY scheme.

And NO, I will not say who I think they are. Decide for yourself...

Respectfully.....


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Posted by Phil Randolf
a resident of another community
on Nov 2, 2009 at 12:17 pm

Gunshow:

The reason for disclosure is called democracy.

As Renee Batti pointed out a moment ago, the disclosures have NOT been made as you stated. Your cavalier ability to obscure the truth is quite a commentary on your position. I don't think voters will be amused.

Regardless of their political stripe, when a politician accepts money or services from an organization, especially from an entity that they regulate, it impacts their decisions... and that impacts MY vote.

I think citizens have the right to know who's paying a candidate's bills and who a candidate might owe in the future. By the way, the law thinks so, also.


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Posted by Ol' Homeboy
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 2, 2009 at 1:00 pm

What does voting for Ferrando and Thomsen for Seqouia Union High School District Board have to do with the Firefighter Group not disclosing their expeditures towards tomorrows election?
Nothing...other than the same kind flagrant violations to a fair election process have been orchestrated by Superintendent Patrick Gemma and several other existing board members against candidates Ferrando and Thomsen!
Thanks to our Almanac for exposing this corruption. Let truth and honesty win out.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 2, 2009 at 3:15 pm

The Day After



On November 4 the voters will have elected three individuals to serve four-year terms on the five person Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. No matter which of the six well-qualified candidates are elected the result will be most unfortunate due to the massive and unprecedented actions of the firefighters' union in this election.



The union supported only the three candidates who would talk with them and only after holding closed door sessions with those candidates. The public has no idea what went on in those sessions and what deals, if any, were made in return for the union endorsement. The union then launched a massive financial and manpower campaign to get 'their' three candidates elected. It is estimated that the union spent well over $50,000 on this election not including the in-kind cost of hours of union members efforts. This is more than 10 times the historical average spent by candidates for this office. We don't know the exact amount because the union has failed to file the financial disclosure requirements mandated by State law. The union repeatedly misrepresented the fact that they represent only some of the firefighters instead stating that they represent all of them. The union flagrantly violated local ordinances prohibiting political signs on public property.



None of the three union endorsed candidates received a single endorsement by any of the three local newspapers – who carefully and objectively interviewed all six candidates. The three union endorsed candidates were, as a result of random selection, placed 4th, 5th and 6th on the ballot. Under these circumstances it would be very unusual for the union endorsed candidates to be elected in a union-campaign free election.



So now we have three new Board members. If any of them are the ones who were not supported by the union they will begin their tenure knowing how hard the union tried to defeat them – hardly a recipe for a new management-labor relationship. If any of the union supported candidates are elected they will begin their tenure with the reasonable assumption that they would not have been elected without the union's massive campaign on their behalf. This is unfortunate for a number of reasons. First, I am confident that any one of these three candidates would have done well on their own - but neither we nor they will ever know. Second, every action they take will be made under the cloud of their union endorsement – are they acting on behalf of the citizens or on behalf of the union to which they owe their election? Third, while the union states that they supported these candidates because the would talk with the union the fact is that labor law prohibits so called "by-pass" discussions between Board members and members of the union.



Regardless of the outcome the citizens of the Fire District will have a Board that is severely handicapped by the union's unprecedented intrusion into the electoral process.


Peter Carpenter
retiring Fire Board member
speaking out as an individual citizen and NOT as an elected Director


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Posted by Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 2, 2009 at 3:34 pm

The sign placed on the property of St. Denise Church by the Union should be removed immediately, it is a voting place. Our firefighter should have know better about the law(are they all highly qualifing for their job?)and follows them. Please don't behave like a crying baby just because you want that 11% raise. You Are Not Going To Get It!!!!!


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Posted by Rob Silano
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 2, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Letter to the Editor of Almanac, Never published.
Dear Editor,

As a candidate that The Almanac chose not to endorse, I wish to address some errors in your endorsement article, as well as defects in your analysis underlying your endorsement. Your article begins by telling the voters that the "race for three seats on the Menlo Park Fire Protection District board has boiled down to a contest between union-backed candidates and three others who might not favor granting firefighters an 11 percent pay increase over the next three years."
As I have made clear on more than one occasion, I do not favor an 11 percent pay raise. If you review the debate hosted by the League of Women Voters at Web Link, you will see that I suggested a possible starting point for the negotiations tied to the consumer price index of roughly 2% per year.
Your article goes on to state that in your view, "what the district needs now are board members who will take a much harder look at the rising costs of employee compensation, including retirement, and are willing to find ways to save in other areas, like adopting a two-tier retirement system and sharing some staff with nearby fire departments." If so, then I am the perfect candidate for the district. Retirement changes, including a two -tier system, and other innovative cost-cutting measures including possible consolidation have been the touchstone of my campaign. Moreover, I am the only candidate who has already saved the district over two million dollars by alerting the district to the need to respond to an Environmental Impact Report for proposed development in the district which would place a financial burden on the fire district. It would appear by your own definition; that I am exactly the candidate the district needs.
Our district has needlessly spent almost another two million dollars on attorney's fees to continue a stalemate between the board and the firefighters union. Our district cannot afford to waste these precious resources over an unwillingness to communicate. It is time to reach a just and economically sustainable resolution. I pledge, as an outsider to this process, to find a workable, fair solution.
It would appear that I fit every criteria for an endorsement from The Almanac except for the fact that I also have the endorsement of the Menlo Park Firefighters Association. It is a shame that The Alamanc views the Menlo Park Firefighters Association endorsement as a reason to withhold its own endorsement of me as a candidate. Let us hope the voters in the district are more open to the one candidate who will value common sense and common ground over such divisiveness.


Sincerely,


Rob Silano


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 2, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Rob Silano is a perfect example of a highly qualified candidate whose candidacy has inappropriately and unfortunately been overshadowed by the union's massive campaign on his behalf.

I think that he would make a superb Director.


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Posted by Andy Cohen
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 3, 2009 at 2:43 am

As my father used to describe some small claims court decisions in New York City where I grew up as "rough and ready" justice, I have sometimes, in my own mind, applied the term to the American form of democracy. These are indeed difficult times, perhaps the best and worst of times. Leadership is hard to define and often more noticeable in its absence.

I find this quality in most public servants, in varying amounts. However difficult it may be to recognize, it is important to acknowledge the selflessness that beckons most of them to their lonely calling.

I have had the good fortune to know many on the fire board and among former council members and other volunteers throughout our region. We have all been on the receiving end of criticism, some deserved, some not. We are sometimes honored for our service, sometimes we do our work without any recognition.

Over the years I have known Peter Carpenter he has always spoken frankly, sometimes hotly, but to my knowledge, always in an attempt to be honest if passionate. He and many others on both sides of every issue in our region have my respect and appreciation for their willingness to serve the public in a variety of ways.


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Posted by Rob SIlano
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 3, 2009 at 7:21 am

I have spent less then $1,000.00 as reported. The filing fee does not count in the $1,000.00 amount as by law. I was not required to file with the state if I stayed within the $1,000.00 limit. Thanks so much.


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Posted by voter
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 3, 2009 at 7:43 am

Rob, you understand that the issue is not how much you spent but how much the association has spent on your behalf? I hope you realize now that it was a tactical error to get in bed with these folks.


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Posted by Rob Silano
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 3, 2009 at 8:39 am

Yes, I know. I have endorsements from all walks of life. From CEO's to blue collar workers, residents of Menlo Park, Atherton and East Palo Alto. I welcome everyone, including yourself to spread the word regarding my campaign. Association members are people too, and so are the members of the San Mateo Labor Council and their member organizations. Please review my endorsements at www.smartvoter.org/silano

BTW: I have not taken any funds from anyone or organizations.


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Posted by Rob Silano
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 3, 2009 at 9:17 am

It was not an error to speak to all organizations and groups. Seeking endorsements is an american way of life. You as a candidate cannot control the way your endorsers proceed. I thank them for their hard work and their assistance. It is an error on your part to think it is some type of conflict.


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Posted by Richard Hine
editor of The Almanac
on Nov 3, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Richard Hine is a registered user.

A new story has been posted:
Web Link


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Posted by John
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 3, 2009 at 1:25 pm

Can you believe that the union has spent more than $18,000 on this election so far -- that sure is a lot on money. Need I say more?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 3, 2009 at 2:01 pm

$18,000 prior to 17 Oct plus ?? in the 17 days since then plus the fair market value of all the firefighters' time. This union will set an all time expenditure record for any Fire District election by at least a factor of 5 if not ten.

And for what purpose?

In my opinion all they have done is corrupted the electoral process. Sure the union is entitled to an opinion, but I don't think they should be allowed to try to buy the election.

As the Fair Political Practices Committee report states:

"Despite the public's demand to reduce the influence of special interest money in elections, the opposite has occurred, thanks, in part, to an orgy of spending by so-called "independent expenditures," also known as IEs. The emergence of "independent expenditures" has thwarted the will of the people, dramatically undermined California's campaign finance laws and doubtlessly influenced the outcome of numerous statewide and legislative elections."


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