News

Fire board member's opposition to contract raises questions

 

With his letter to the public, Chuck Bernstein was on the record as opposing his colleagues on the governing board of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District on a new four-year contract with firefighters, and he was alone in not voting to approve it on a 4-1 vote Aug. 25. But his letter did provoke a question or two for the district, and a call for his censure.

Mr. Bernstein claims that the contract (formally termed a memorandum of understanding) does not inform constituents of the true costs, that it institutionalizes overtime as regular pay, that it's misleading about the pension plan, and that it will ripple to the battalion and division chiefs and raise their pay as well.


Chuck Bernstein (Photo by Michelle Le/The Almanac)
He says the district was misleading in saying that firefighters' base compensation would rise by 18 percent over four years. The total increase was 41 percent, compensation that would beat by 60 percent the consumer price index over the same period.

Board member Peter Carpenter did not deny that assertion, but said it represented a worst-case scenario, and that while the matter had not been addressed in the contract itself, it had been in a subsequent question-and-answer format on the district's website.

"The staff worked very hard on that issue because you did, in fact, raise it and the staff went and looked at it," Mr. Carpenter said. "The text (in the Q and A) is very clear. It says this is a worst-case assumption and we think this actually is going to be less expensive than that."

A worst-case scenario of the contract's costs to the district, according to Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman and board member Rex Ianson, would include no firefighters retiring over the contract's term, all employees opting into the district's medical plan, all employees being reimbursed for their educational expenses, all receiving $150 a month for being bilingual, and all earning a 3 percent bonus for having bachelor's degrees. None of that is going to happen, they said.

In dissent

Amid praise by board members to the contract's negotiators, Mr. Bernstein was alone in his criticism. "I wish I could join the love fest," he said. "I think we're going to spend the decade regretting (approving) it."

Payroll could rise to 70 percent of the budget, he said. "It risks not being sustainable anymore," he said. "I'm sorry I haven't been more persuasive and more effective. ... I think this is not the right answer. I think it is a mistake."

The raises amount to 2 percent a year when dated from 2007, Mr. Ianson said. Firefighters continued working at a high performance level despite not having a contract, he added. "I think that what's in the contract is reasonable," he said.

The firefighters of Local 2400 of the San Mateo County Firefighters have been working without a contract since 2007.

"Were trying to recognize the professionals we have for the skills they have" so as to keep them employed in the Menlo Park district, Mr. Carpenter said. In negotiating, the district had to comply with the law and convince the union to accept it, he said, adding, "We met someplace in the middle."

"This was not a rushed process. Everyone has a piece of this contract," said board President Virginia Chang Kiraly. "This is not a love fest."

Censure ahead?

After the board members approved the contract, they voted again, this time unanimously, to discuss in September the idea of censuring Mr. Bernstein.

Mr. Carpenter requested the discussion, alleging that Mr. Bernstein violated the board's policies and procedures governing decorum and a member's conduct and responsibilities.

Mr. Bernstein's letter included this sentence: "Notwithstanding my pride in the quality of service we offer, I will vote against the proposed contract. I believe it represents a terrible deal for residents and taxpayers."

Section 5.8 of the board's policies and procedures says that members "shall observe" a code of conduct, which includes this directive: "A Fire District Board Member should strive to: ... 1) Refuse to make commitments on any matter which should come before the Board as a whole."

Mr. Bernstein said he would welcome "a discussion of what's permitted and what's not permitted."

Contract provisions

Under the contract's terms, firefighters' pay will rise by 9 percent the first year and 3 percent annually for three years which, with the annual increases, works out to 19 percent, with total compensation to cost the district around $9.8 million, Mr. Schapelhouman has said.

Under the worst-case scenario of a 41 percent increase described by Mr. Bernstein, total compensation costs would be about $14 million, the district says.

In 2014, the district paid its firefighters $1.5 million in penalties after a determination by the state Public Employee Relations Board that the district had engaged in piecemeal bargaining.

Under the new deal, firefighters would pay 12 percent of pension costs, retroactive to 2014-15, up from the 9 percent they are paying now. This will save the district around $1.2 million over four years, the chief said. Firefighters would also pay 10 percent of the costs for health care coverage.

The contract includes a stipend for firefighters choosing to live within 60 miles of the district, starting at $200 a month and rising to $300 by the end of the contract.

Comments

2 people like this
Posted by Don't kill messenger
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 2, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Bernstein raises legitimate questions. It's sad to see the messenger attacked, not his messages.

The policy is to "strive" not to do something, not to "never say" something. Bernstein could have been more generic in stating his concerns by saying he wasn't supportive of the contract terms rather than saying he would vote to support the contract. But the policy doesn't take preclude him from saying what he did.

I wish the paper and the board would focus more on the extent to which Bernstein 's concerns have merit.


2 people like this
Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2015 at 6:07 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

He needs to be recalled. His approach is not what an elected official should do. Too many problems with this person since being on the fire board


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 2, 2015 at 6:25 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Anything in contrast to handing firefighters the "keys to the kingdom" should be looked at and respected. This MOU is questionable.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2015 at 6:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

In 1998 The Fire Board adopted a unique transparency Resolution that stated:

"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Board of Directors of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District does hereby move that any proposed collectively bargained labor agreement between the District and designated District employee representatives shall be made publicly available at least fifteen (15) calendar days before the meeting at which the agreement will be acted on by the Board."

In this case the Board elected to post the tentative agreement for more than 30 days "before the meeting at which the agreement will be acted on by the Board."

In my opinion it is inconsistent with this commitment to transparency and public comment to declare how I would vote before the public comment period was closed. To do otherwise would to to make a fraud of the public comment period.


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Posted by Huh?
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 2, 2015 at 7:30 pm

Why is that, Peter? Articulating your initial position on an issue might encourage more participation at the public comment sessions you refer to if you were open to having your mind changed.


4 people like this
Posted by 1st Amendment
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2015 at 7:30 pm

No board policy can abridge Mr. Bernstein's 1st amendment right to communicate with the public and press. To censure him is to punish him for having an opinion different than the majority. It's also just petty. In reality Bernstein telling the public how he was inclined to vote was more transparent and encouraging of debate than just posting the contract and waiting for the wind to blow. People could tell him whether the agreed or disagreed with his position and why.


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2015 at 7:39 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Board Policy states "A Fire District Board Member should strive to: ... 1) Refuse to make commitments on any matter which should come before the Board as a whole."

Stating my opinion on the tentative contract is very different that making a commitment regarding how I would vote on that contract.

If I had already made my mind up why should public comment be solicited on the matter? Why should the public bother to comment?

Of course one Director did vote against even giving the public the opportunity to comment on this tentative contract.


4 people like this
Posted by 1st Amendment
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:07 pm

Bernstein didn't make a "commitment" on behalf of the Board. He didn't even make a "commitment" on behalf of himself. He didn't sign a contract or make any agreement with anyone. He didn't commit to anything. He expressed his opinion on the contract. He could always change his mind. He hadn't voted yet. To censure him is to just bully him into being quiet.


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Posted by Process
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:08 pm

The best place to criticize fellow board members is at a properly noticed public meeting. Also, it is never a good idea to talk about how other people are going to vote, before the vote. It can stifle the democratic process when it appears an important issue has already been decided.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Please read the above article:

"Mr. Bernstein's letter included this sentence: "Notwithstanding my pride in the quality of service we offer, I will vote against the proposed contract."


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Posted by 1st Amendment
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:19 pm

That's not a commitment. That's a statement of political standing. He wasn't bound by the statement and neither was the board. Famously George Bush once said he wouldn't raise taxes. Was that an enforceable commitment. Nope. He could do what he wanted, and he raised taxes.

A commitment means an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action. Is there some other definition provided in the Board's policy manual? If you assert it mean to state a position, the policy manual is running afoul of the 1st Amendment.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The First Amendment protects the right of free speech - it does not protect the individual from the consequences of that free speech.

For example, a person who divulges classified information can and should be prosecuted for that act.

A person who libels someone can be sued for such statements.

There are many such examples of the consequences of statements made by individuals.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:29 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"commitment
1.
n
the act of binding yourself (intellectually or emotionally) to a course of action"


4 people like this
Posted by 1st Amendment
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:34 pm

First, those exceptions are provided by statute and even then enforced on balance with the first amendment through precedential caselaw, not provided by a Fire Board's self adopted policy. Second, did Bernstein maliciously and intentionally injure the Board by stating his poltical standing on the issue? The Board members are all public figures, and his speech was focused on a matter before the board.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:40 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

" did Bernstein maliciously and intentionally injure the Board by stating his poltical standing on the issue? "

As I have stated I believe that the Fire Board's policy of ensuring the public the opportunity to comment on a proposed labor agreement is thwarted if the Board individually or collective decides the matter before having the benefit of that public comment.

I was elected to represent the public and I was not elected to decide matters that require public input before I have received their input.

And I welcome this dialogue on these issues.


6 people like this
Posted by 1st Amendment
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:42 pm

Be careful of the slippery slope. You have been presented with two definitions of the word commitment, and you will have to choose one of the definitions at your next Board meeting in your decision whether or not to censure Mr. Bernstein. You might be commiting yourself emotionally to one definition over the other.

The definition you site simply does not comport with the 1st Amendment. You can't prohibit Board members from telling the public their political standing on an issue.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:46 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

No one is prohibiting anyone from saying anything but rather that such statements may well have consequences.

And I am keeping an open mind on what the consequences in this case should be.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:49 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

5.9 Board Member Discipline
Censure: The Board reserves the right to censure, criticize, disapprove, or condemn actions taken by individual Board members if their actions exceed the grounds of authority conferred upon Board members by the law or, if by their actions, they fail to fulfill their fiduciary duty to the District.

The right to censure a fellow elected official is established by case law. Censure is a disciplinary matter and, as such, the person who is proposed for censure has a right to due process (i.e. hearing on the charges). Boards may also pass resolutions criticizing, disapproving, or condemning a Board member for his/her conduct and that does not require a process hearing beforehand.


4 people like this
Posted by 1st Amendment
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2015 at 8:59 pm

Of course there are consequences for making statements of poltical standing. But the appropriate consequences are political, not punitive actions taken by any government body.

It's good you are keeping an open mind. I hope the Board embraces the First Amendment, and leaves the politics to the poltical sphere. I also hope Board members don't become committed emotionally to the idea that the Board is allowed to censure Mr. Bernstein prior to the meeting. That issue will certainly have to be decided by the Board.


8 people like this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 2, 2015 at 10:04 pm

How does a member of an elected body serving the public possibly get restricted from expressing their views to their constituents?

It seems like a real anachronism to me in the context of how the American system of government operates.

Could the U.S House or Senate pass rules that state their members will get censured if they discuss their views on issues outside the chambers?

Maybe technically they could, but it would be stupid and probably declared illegal by a court. Public officials publicly airing their views and sparking debate leads to sharper representation of voter interests.

Imagine: a Democratically-controlled legislature passes rules that states no members can discuss their stands on issues outside of their public sessions. Wouldn't there be cries of trying to stifle the ability of the Republican minority to be effective?

I happen to think this whole issue is ridiculous.


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 7:13 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

As posted above:

No one is prohibiting anyone from saying anything but rather that such statements may well have consequences.

As I have stated I believe that the Fire Board's policy of ensuring the public has the opportunity to comment on a proposed labor agreement is thwarted if the Board individually or collective decides the matter before having the benefit of that public comment.

Therefore expressing an opinion on a matter while remaining receptive to public input before and until the Board meets in an agendized public meeting to make my decision on the matter seems to be a proper balance between informing my constituents and shutting them out of my decision making.


6 people like this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Atherton: other
on Sep 3, 2015 at 7:36 am

"No one is prohibiting anyone from saying anything but rather that such statements may well have consequences."

But attaching consequences to speech is a way of stifling speech; in fact, the only way there is. That's why the only consequences for speech I know of in the U.S. legal system have to do with one's speech unfairly and deliberately injuring others (defamation, the classic example of yelling fire in a crowded theatre, or breaking an agreement you made [e.g., getting paid for an exclusive story, yet talking with other reporters about it]).

The speech you complain about cannot possibly fall into this category. The Fire Board should consider that its policy, and especially if it exercises judgment in a poor enough fashion to go through with the censure, can (and is) having the effect of causing members of the public to wonder if its intent is to discourage differences of opinion, public communication, and public interaction.

You'd come across much, much better if your response to Mr. Bernstein (in public) was simply: "I disagree with his position for the following reasons: … Since Mr. Bernstein has elected to refrain from the board's guideline not to discuss these matters outside of public sessions, I am responding in public."

Do you understand that the optics here, no matter how you describe it, is the board censuring someone who disagreed with it?


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 10:05 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

With regard to the First Amendment "prior restraint (also referred to as prior censorship or pre-publication censorship) is censorship imposed, usually by a government, on expression before the expression actually takes place. An alternative to prior restraint is to allow the expression to take place and to take appropriate action afterward, if the expression is found to violate the law, regulations, or other rules."

By its policy of public dissemination of proposed labor agreement to the public for public comment the Fire Board IS encouraging dialogue and discussion.

If an individual Director were to announce his/her decision before receiving the results of that public comment then the public's right to be heard would have been negated. In such cases the Board policies provide for "appropriate action afterward, if the expression is found to violate the law, regulations, or other rules.

There are always multiple rights and multiple responsibilities and it is essential that those all be respected and balanced.

My actions should be determined by principles and not by anonymous optics.


4 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 3, 2015 at 10:52 am

"The law is an ass," Dickens had one of his characters say.

While it's not uncommon for actions to be justified with a law, it seems to me a matter of judgment.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 11:03 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"it seems to me a matter of judgment"

Correct - How do you balance the public's right for review and comment with a restriction on prejudgment by a Board member which would disrespect/disregard that public right?


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Posted by Process
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 3, 2015 at 11:30 am

Bernstein has a history of counting votes, and talking about how others are going to vote.

"One vote in a narrow 3-2 board majority separates the District from potential layoffs and station closings." Web Link

Under "Public Safety Leadership", candidate Bernstein touts being appointed to the CERT Advisory Board by the Fire Chief. Now Bernstein is accusing the Chief of misleading residents. Good luck with that.


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 11:41 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Interested readers should also note the headline - "Fire board member's opposition to contract raises questions"


Every single one of Bernstein's questions were answered and the answers posted on the District's web site:

Web Link

Every single public comment was included in the Board packet for the August 25th meeting:

Web Link

Bernstein was asked repeatedly before the Board voted on the contract if he had any more questions and the vote did not occur until his questions were answered:

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Process
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 3, 2015 at 1:00 pm

If Bernstein says he won't vote for the new contract, and answering his questions will not change his vote, how does he reconsile the cost of all the staff time spent researching and publishing the answers?


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Park Myopia
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 3, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Peter Carpenter, have you been watching the news about the Iran deal? The vote isn't for another week, yet most representatives have already expressed their intended votes. Stifling the free speech of elected officials would represent a disservice to our democracy.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 1:14 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Stifling the free speech of elected officials would represent a disservice to our democracy."

Please take the time to read what I have posted - No one is prohibiting anyone from saying anything but rather that such statements may well have consequences.

Myopia - Please explain to others on this Forum how there can be a meaningful opportunity for public input on a tentative labor agreement if the decision makers have already declared how they will vote on that labor agreement?


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Posted by Free speech
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 3, 2015 at 1:37 pm

The questions and answers are helpful. I thank chuck for asking questions. IMO he should be more careful to only indicAte how he's leaning on an issue and not state how he intends to vote.
Nonetheless he is entitled to speak his mind and to raise questions. Free speech is at the heart of democracy.
Does anyone really believe he or other board member would raise such issues and then vote to support? There is no surprise here.
A move to censure is uncalled for.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 1:42 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Nonetheless he is entitled to speak his mind and to raise questions." I agree.

"Does anyone really believe he or other board member would raise such issues and then vote to support?"

ALL of the Board members raised issues during the entire process and all of those questions were either resolved in the tentative agreement or were answered in the posted Q&As. And then 4 Board members after waiting to also get public comment DID vote to approve the agreement.


3 people like this
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2015 at 3:34 pm

PC spends lots of time & energy giving us chapter & verse of nearly every topic on which he comments. While generally officious, this is often helpful. Now it's just confusing. Opacity is not a good feature when it comes to opinions of elected board members who spend our tax money. Citing the rules numerically in multiple posts confuses me. Where can I read section 5.___ in its entirety, Peter?
The new proposals will impact us. There're are some to which I may object. Prohibiting the manner & time in which an elected board member can express an opinion is not helpful to constituents & certainly doesn't give transparency.

Instead of censuring Bernstein, how about changing the rule book to let board members express opinions & answer questions? Dialogue is helpful. Explain thing to us. Voters & taxpayers elected the board to represent them as well as the Fire Dept. Why these contract changes & compensation enhancements justified? Or not? It would also help us figure out who to keep & who to reject in the next election. The pre-election candidate statements are meaningless unless we can track congruity among assertions, promises, and actions.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Where can I read section 5.___ in its entirety, Peter? "

Web Link

This Policy Manual was adopted over ten years ago, it is updated annually and adopted as the official policy of the District each year. All of the current Directors have voted to approve it at least twice.


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Thanks, Peter.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 3:57 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"The new proposals will impact us. There're are some to which I may object."

Here are the dates that ads were posted asking for public comment on the tentative agreement:

Almanac
8/5, 8/12, 8/19

Daily Post
7/22 8/4 8/18
7/24 8/6 8/20
7/28 8/11 8/24
7/30 8/13 8/25

The draft MOU was posted on the District’s website on July 20th.

Less than 20 comments were received and all were included in the August 25 Board packet noted above.

Only ONE person spoke at the Aug 25th meeting and she spoke in favor of the agreement.

[Part removed.]



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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Instead of censuring Bernstein, how about changing the rule book to let board members express opinions & answer questions? Dialogue is helpful."

Board members DO express opinions and answer questions and EVERY question asked about the tentative agreement was posted and answered as noted above - some people just refuse to read what is posted.

"Why these contract changes & compensation enhancements justified? Or not?"

Asked and answered.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Citizenship requires paying attention - even though the moderators find that statement somehow objectionable.


2 people like this
Posted by Water
a resident of another community
on Sep 3, 2015 at 4:04 pm

Water is a registered user.

I am unhappy about Bernstein's performance on the board in service to the taxpayers. What can I do about my dissatisfaction?


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 4:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Downtowner asks:
"Explain thing to us. Voters & taxpayers elected the board to represent them as well as the Fire Dept. Why these contract changes & compensation enhancements justified? Or not?"

Downtowner -
Perhaps you remember this posting:

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 12, 2015 at 2:17 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
The Fire Board, of which I am an elected Director, took the extraordinary step in 2008 of adopting a resolution (RESOLUTION OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE MENLO PARK FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT ADOPTING A POLICY REGARDING DISTRIBUTION OF PROPOSED COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENTS) requiring that BEFORE the Board acts on a tentative labor agreement that agreement must be made available for public comment for at least 15 days.

This sunshine policy is unique amongst local public agencies.

At it July meeting 4 Directors voted to provide the tentative agreement to the public for the public's comments and do do so for 30 days before meeting on Aug 23 to consider the tentative agreement. Only Director Bernstein voted against seeking public input on the tentative agreement.

The purpose of this public comment period is to get the public's input BEFORE the Board considers this tentative agreement.

As an elected official I feel it is my obligation to hear what the public has to say about this tentative agreement BEFORE I decide how to vote - why else seek public input?

I urge interested citizens to go to the Fire District's web site, read the tentative agreement and submit any questions you have to the Clerk of the Board. Answers to those questions will be posted on the District's web site.
******
Downtowner - did you read the tentative agreement?
did you submit any questions?
did you attend the Aug 25 Fire Board meeting?
did you use the public comment period at that meeting to express your views?


6 people like this
Posted by My way
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 3, 2015 at 5:39 pm

Downtowner - did you read the tentative agreement?
did you submit any questions?
did you attend the Aug 25 Fire Board meeting?
did you use the public comment period at that meeting to express your views?

I can't speak for Downtowner, but I relied on my elected representative, Chuck Bernstein, who I closely identify with on most issues, to do the above and tell me how he was inclined to vote. After he did so, I relied on him at that meeting to tell you how I felt about the contract.

Now I have you telling me, that my representative, giving me his opinion and stand on this contract before the official vote, is tantamount to shutting me up during the period of public discussion.

That is pretty high horse behavior. Bernstein can change his mind, and perhaps would if hundreds of citizens gave him specific feedback on how they felt about his intention to vote on this contract.

It appears the board fears public discourse, when it proposes censuring a member for expressing his intention, ironically in the name of public discourse. The lady doth protest too much, me thinks.

You need to step back and take another look at your actions. You're burning the village to save it.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

My way -did you read the tentative agreement?
did you submit any questions?
did you attend the Aug 25 Fire Board meeting?
did you use the public comment period at that meeting to express your views?


1 person likes this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 3, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"It appears the board fears public discourse, when it proposes censuring a member for expressing his intention, ironically in the name of public discourse. "

Who exactly wanted public discourse?

Bernstein was the ONLY Director who voted against providing the tentative agreement to the public for their review and comment:

"President Kiraly stated that the Board voted 4-1-0 (Ayes: Kiraly, Silano, Ianson, and Carpenter; Noes: Bernstein) to authorize the posting of the Tentative Agreement between the District and Firefighters Local 2400, along with supporting documentation, for the mandatory 30-day sunshine period and that the Board will consider ratification of the final agreement at its regular meeting scheduled for August 25, 2015."


1 person likes this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Sep 3, 2015 at 7:43 pm

Statements have consequences, decisions have consequences, and votes have consequences. Why not just let the chips fall where they may?


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 3, 2015 at 9:44 pm

Not everyone reads "ads" every week, especially when vacationing. Some folks read Almanac articles online. A few communities actually send bulk mailings of public hearings on pertinent issues. MP does this evidently only to advise neighbors of variance applications for new constructions & remodels.

Maybe the Almanac could help by reporting on such issues in a prominent location, such as the front page? A headline directing people to an inside page with notice about a relevant hearing is more interesting than the usual too-prominently displayed feature stories about some individual residents.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 4, 2015 at 7:32 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Downtowner - So I presume that you missed the 3 ads in the Almanac and the 12 ads in the Daily Post and my frequent postings in this Forum all calling for public comments on the tentative agreement?


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Posted by proper notice
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 4, 2015 at 8:16 am

Bernstein wrote, "A concerned resident could decide to vote for candidates who oppose the contract."

If Bernstein wanted the two incumbents to make a pledge to "oppose" the contract, the discussion should be properly noticed.


4 people like this
Posted by My way
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Sep 4, 2015 at 8:51 am

"My way -did you read the tentative agreement?
did you submit any questions?
did you attend the Aug 25 Fire Board meeting?
did you use the public comment period at that meeting to express your views?"

Asked and answered. If you took the time to read my comments instead of snarking.

Peter - do you actually read and understand our comments. For someone wailing about lack of feedback, I'm noticing an obvious immunity to it.

You stated:

"And I am keeping an open mind on what the consequences in this case should be."

This thread indicates otherwise. You have not conceded a single point, reflected on valid arguments or shown any acknowledgement that you are in the distinct minority in this thread regarding your actions taken. It appears in tone and content that this is about silencing dissent, and not encouraging participation.

Whereas it is admirable that you respond to every point, the quality and tone of the responses are fervent indignation, snarking and prove exactly the counterpoint to your protests.

You are correct, "citizenship requires paying attention."

So please pay attention, as much as the Alamanac and the Daily Post do not like to hear this. We don't read the paper edition of the Almanac or the Daily Post, neither do most of the readers. We are online. As you know, and are frustrated by this fact, we use ad blockers and don't read ads online.

You need to find a better way to reach out, instead of wailing about lack of participation.

So how are you going to communicate with the citizenry in 2016?

On a positive note. You seem to have gotten a lot of attention on the Town Square forum. Unfortunately for you, it wasn't what you wanted to hear.

Shutting down a Board Member's efforts to reach out to the citizenry, while expressing anger that your attempts to do so were ineffective is not the way.

Election day will determine if you have persuaded a majority. You have my full attention. Thank you for the personal time you devote to our town's issues. I'm looking for someone that listens and understands, explains and guides us. I get enough haranguing at work.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 4, 2015 at 8:56 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"You need to find a better way to reach out, instead of wailing about lack of participation."

We placed 3 ads in the Almanac and 12 in the Daily Post and I posted numerous comments on the Forum regarding the public comment period on the tentative agreement. What else would you have had the Fire District do?


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 4, 2015 at 9:00 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Shutting down a Board Member's efforts to reach out to the citizenry,"

That has not been done; the only such effort was Director Bernstein's vote against making the tentative agreement available to the public for comment.

The proposed agenda topic on the possible violation of Board Policy occurred after the public comment period so it could not have had any bearing on his effort to reach out to the public.


4 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 4, 2015 at 9:07 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.


"Asked and answered. If you took the time to read my comments instead of snarking.

Peter - do you actually read and understand our comments. For someone wailing about lack of feedback, I'm noticing an obvious immunity to it."

I read your comments carefully and evidently you did not read the agreement,did not submit questions, did not attend the Aug 25 Fire Board meeting and did not make any public comments at that meeting. Rather, as you clearly stated:

" I relied on my elected representative, Chuck Bernstein, who I closely identify with on most issues, to do the above and tell me how he was inclined to vote. After he did so, I relied on him at that meeting to tell you how I felt about the contract."


3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 4, 2015 at 9:08 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

One person's concise statement is another person's snark.


6 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 4, 2015 at 9:10 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"So how are you going to communicate with the citizenry in 2016?"

I will continue to be the only elected official who regularly posts in this Forum and who always tries to answer responsible questions.


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Posted by Process
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 4, 2015 at 10:12 am

Taxpayers are best served when details of these contracts can be hammered out in closed session. If one side "shows their hand" the other side has an unfair advantage for current and future negotiations.


4 people like this
Posted by his way
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 4, 2015 at 3:23 pm

@ My way. Thank you for your comment. You articulated what many of us are thinking about persistent and contentious comments!


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Posted by henry fox
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 4, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Thank you Chuck Bernstein for pointing out the truth about the union contract, which, despite claims of openness, were misrepresented by the Fire Board. Observe some facts pointed out by Bernstein below.

•Total compensation will increase 41%. The District claims of an 18% increase, referencing just base pay, is misleading.
•Medical benefits increase 81% and more—and allows an employ to collect any unused portion of the medical benefit in cash.
•Bonuses are given to employees living within 60 miles of the Fire District’s borders , not 10 to 20 miles as originally envisioned, so these emergency personnel would be available to the district in an emergency.
•The union contract increases the number of employees on a ladder truck. This is a decision usually reserved for management--which I [Fox] believe has rejected same in past.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 4, 2015 at 3:56 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I recommend that you read the Q&As posted on the District's web site to determine what is fact vs what is alleged:

Web Link


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Posted by proper notice
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 4, 2015 at 4:33 pm

@henry_fox can read this very article to understand Bernstein's "total compensation" claim, which is problematic.

"A worst-case scenario of the contract's costs to the district, according to Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman and board member Rex Ianson, would include no firefighters retiring over the contract's term, all employees opting into the district's medical plan, all employees being reimbursed for their educational expenses, all receiving $150 a month for being bilingual, and all earning a 3 percent bonus for having bachelor's degrees. None of that is going to happen, they said."


2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 4, 2015 at 7:22 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

his way - I would welcome a discussion on the subject of this thread as well as any constructive advice you might have on how I can better facilitate a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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