Editorial: Fire board should broaden representation with appointment


The community is lucky to have seven residents at the ready to volunteer their time and efforts to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District by serving a partial term on the district board. The four current board members, who on Sept. 19 interviewed the applicants for the vacant seat, will be able to choose from a pool of notably strong candidates when they meet to appoint a fifth board member later this month.

With all those solid candidates, including a former board member and several applicants who have volunteered in fire district and town disaster preparedness programs, what might set one person apart as the best choice to fill the seat? The answer, we think, lies in the opportunity to broaden the board's understanding of the entire community the district serves.

Although the fire district's jurisdiction includes Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and nearby unincorporated areas, there hasn't been a representative from East Palo Alto on the board in 14 years. The board now has two residents of Menlo Park, one from Atherton, and one from unincorporated Menlo Park. Of the seven candidates for the vacant seat, five live in Menlo Park, one in Atherton, and one in East Palo Alto.

Robert Jones' East Palo Alto address would not automatically qualify him for a seat on the fire district's governing board. But his East Palo Alto history combines with an impressive professional and personal background, intelligence and candor, and an enthusiasm to become involved with the district even more than he now is. The opportunity to appoint a person who knows first-hand the unique needs of the lower-wealth, high-minority-population East Palo Alto community shouldn't be passed up.

The executive director of EPA Can Do, an affordable housing development program in East Palo Alto, Mr. Jones has been involved in the fire district's Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) program for many years, and serves on the CERT board of directors. During his public interview last month, Mr. Jones noted that there is now a "disconnect" between the CERT program and the fire board, and one of his goals as a fire board member, he said, would be to address that problem.

He also is an East Palo Alto Senior Center board member and has volunteer experience with neighborhood improvement, job training and community economic development programs.

Current members of the fire district board strive to understand the needs and concerns of all district residents, and cannot be accused of representing only the towns they live in. But Mr. Jones knows his community and its needs in a way that's possible only for someone as deeply involved in it as he is. His emphasis, he told the board, would be community education to increase residents' awareness of hazardous conditions they may be living with, such as overloaded electrical cords and other household risks. He also wants to address potential local hazards involving East Palo Alto's chemical companies and flood risks.

The fire district board should not shun the opportunity to add a member who would expand the board's knowledge and understanding of a portion of the district that has been underrepresented for too long. We hope to see Mr. Jones' nameplate at the fire board dais this fall.

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4 people like this
Posted by John The Baptist
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2017 at 12:36 pm

John The Baptist is a registered user.

Your elected leaders leading: -- Web Link

5 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 4, 2017 at 12:37 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

The Fire Board will continue its consideration of the 7 excellent candidates at its 17 Oct Board meeting and, after opportunity for public comment, hopefully will fulfill its responsibility to fill the vacant position.

6 people like this
Posted by Eileen Altman
a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2017 at 1:11 pm

As a resident of East Palo Alto (which I note is not an option in the neighborhoods listed), I heartily agree.

6 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 4, 2017 at 5:42 pm

Hopefully, the 2 directors who were't prepared last time will be able to make a decision at their October meeting. How embarrassing for Bernstein and Kiraly. Previous Boards were able to appoint directors when there was a vacancy; not sure why these two couldn't do their job.

I'm glad to see that there is interest in the position.

8 people like this
Posted by Randy
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 5, 2017 at 2:45 pm

This process has been flawed from the start.

1. The district gave different stories about Ianson's resignation date. The date is important. It determines the deadline by which the board must fill the vacancy, in this case 60 days. If the board doesn't act in time, it goes to the board of supervisors.

2. Peter Carpenter at first wanted Ianson to vote with the rest of the board on his replacement. That was ridiculous since Carpenter -- who is always telling other people what the rules are -- ought to know that would be impossible under the Government Code 1780 (d) (1). The board can only consider a vacancy after the vacancy occurs.

3. Based on the video, the interviews were inadequate. It was like the board was going through the motions. Nobody would hire an employee for their business using such a superficial process, so why should we put somebody on an important local board this way?

4. There was a confrontation at the Sept. 19 meeting between Carpenter and Kiraly over whether the board should vote that night on a replacement or take more time. The board appeared to split 2-2 on this question, with Kiraly and Bernstein wishing to take more time, while Carpenter and Silano wanting an immediate vote.

5. [Part removed. Please avoid negative characterizations in Town Square posts.]

[Part removed. Please avoid speculation in Town Square posts.]

I believe Nachtscheim was on the board several years ago when the district has having so many labor issues. One of the questions they should have asked Nachtscheim is what did he learn from the district's legal dispute with the firefighters' union? What mistakes does he believe were made when he was on the board? It's a fair question since the fire district was fined by PERB for several law violations in how they dealt with the union. (I'm not a fan of the union, but when it comes to collective bargaining agreements, it's important for both sides to obey the law.)

[Part removed.]

9 people like this
Posted by Randy
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 5, 2017 at 3:25 pm

I apologize Mr. or Ms. Censor for my characterization of two MPFPD directors. Please let me rephrase my point.

1. Why isn't Rob Silano more independent of Peter Carpenter? Tapes of previous meetings show that Silano seems to frequently echo Carpenter but he does not contribute his own ideas.

2. If appointed, will Nachtscheim he be independent of Carpenter's influence?

Again, I apologize for phrasing my point in a politically incorrect way. I work with my hands, and I'm used to calling a spade a spade and not mincing words.

3 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 5, 2017 at 4:36 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

As always, the Fire Board welcomes public comments before it votes on any matter on its agenda.

2 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 5, 2017 at 5:17 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"A fundamental element of democracy is the right of citizens to address their elected representatives. Therefore under Public Comment #2, the public may address the Board on any subject not listed on the Agenda. Each speaker may address the Board for a limit of three minutes. The filing of speaker cards is not mandatory, but is helpful in creating an accurate record. The Board cannot act on items not on the agenda and therefore the Board cannot respond to non-agenda issues brought up under Public Comment other than to provide general information. District policy assures members of the public the opportunity to speak to any regular or special meeting agenda item before final action. This opportunity to speak is during the public discussion of each agenda item and must be related to matters under consideration for that agenda item."

I doubt that you will find such explicit language on the importance of Public Comment on the agenda of any other public agency.

6 people like this
Posted by Robert Jones
a resident of another community
on Oct 13, 2017 at 1:42 pm

To The Almanac:

I read your Editorial article dated October 4, 2017 title "Fire board should broaden representation with appointment". Thank you for your vote of Confidence.


Robert Jones
Candidate for Menlo Park Fire Protection District

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