Fire board endorsements make strange bedfellows | October 19, 2011 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - October 19, 2011

Fire board endorsements make strange bedfellows

• Unions back pension-reform candidates.

by Sandy Brundage

You'd expect unions to get along with pension reform advocates about as well as cats get along with water. But this year's election for two seats on the Menlo Park fire district board developed an interesting twist when the San Mateo County Labor Council and Menlo Park Firefighters Association Local 2400 announced their endorsements.

Virginia Chang Kiraly got the nod, as did Rob Silano. Ms. Chang Kiraly, a community activist who volunteers with the Red Cross and Junior League, also put her time in supporting Measure L during last year's election.

Rob Silano, a national security analyst for the state running for the board for a second time following an unsuccessful campaign in 2005, said he also supports pension reform, although the Measure L crowd has taken issue with the depth of his devotion.

"He may have voted for it — we'll never know for sure," said Measure L stalwart Roy Thiele-Sardina. Although Mr. Silano has union support, he does not share the backing of those who led the successful campaign for Measure L — unlike Ms. Chang Kiraly.

Mr. Sardina said only Ms. Chang Kiraly worked for Measure L and has demonstrated a commitment to fiscal responsibility. "The grand jury report (on pension reform) she co-authored is the reason we began the fight."

Ms. Chang Kiraly attributed her eclectic mix of endorsements to being the only candidate to ask both sides their opinions on challenging issues like pension reform and believing there's common ground for solutions.

She said she told both the labor council and the firefighters union that she wasn't seeking their endorsement, "but that I did want to listen to their ideas and reaffirm where I stood on pensions and fiscal responsibility," she wrote in an email to the Almanac. "To my astonishment, both organizations endorsed me, which gave me pause. Considering my consistent position over the last 10 years regarding pensions, such as a two-tier system and increased contribution by employees, I didn't know whether I should take their endorsements."

The candidate emphasized that she declined all financial contributions from the unions.

Repeat candidate Steve Kennedy has been courting union endorsement for years. "You'd think that IBEW Local 617 would get around to endorsing one of their own members once in a while but it never hurts to have a candidate who is beholden to organized labor when the time comes to vote for a generous pay and benefits package for the firefighters," he said. "It might be a moot point because given the three year deadlock in negotiations, a vote for a new contract might not come up during their terms in office."

He said he'd probably ruined his chances to get the endorsement of the firefighters by proposing setting aside space, electrical outlets and storage inside a local station for a warming station and access to the communications pipe in the event of a 50-year flood in East Palo Alto.

Incumbent Bart Spencer didn't expect union support, given that his 12 years on the Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board has seen both benefit increases, but more lately, a deadlocked contract negotiation with the firefighters who want a larger pay raise than the board wants to give.

Union representative John Wurdinger offered insight into the endorsements. "Despite what some might think, we do not want elected officials who will simply 'vote our way' as some media outlets portray," he said." We want and need elected officials who are open to conversation and who will communicate with us on issues that we feel are important and then make rational, well informed decisions. There are members of our current fire board who have voted twice to not talk to their employees, this is flat out wrong. Both Virginia and Rob are open to input, this cannot be said of all of our existing board members."

Describing the fire district as "broken from years without sound leadership and proper management," he said the hope is that the endorsed candidates are able to help fix the organization before it's too late.


Posted by West Menlo Mom, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 2, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Virginia Kiraly's FPPC Violation
Item #15 on Nov. 10 FPPC Agenda
Web Link
"...a commitment to fiscal responsibility"? Give me a break!
Almanac you should rethink your endorsement.
Editor's Note: The Almanac endorsed Bart Spencer and Scott Barnum for the two seats on the Menlo Park Fire Protection District board.

Posted by chang kiraly supporter, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 2, 2011 at 1:49 pm

so she filed her disclosure form late. Big deal. Not great, but that isn't being fiscally irresponsible, just personally sloppy.

Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Nov 2, 2011 at 2:16 pm

WMM - thank you for posting this information. and yes, the Almanac did get it right in their endorsements). CKS - No, it isn just being "personally sloppy" to violate the law. Ms Kiraly failed to file the Statement of Economic Interest as required BY LAW. The ruling body fined her $200 for the offense. Ms Kiraly stipulated to her guilt of the offense. Sorry, CKS, in my mind it is a big deal.

My vote will go to Bart Spencer and Scott Barnum.

Posted by WhoRUpeople, a resident of another community
on Nov 4, 2011 at 2:05 pm

And now read the article in today's Post about Silano, the other candidate endorsed by the union. Almanac got it right in their endorsements!!

Posted by Virginia Chang Kiraly, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Nov 5, 2011 at 1:21 am

Dear Almanac Readers:

Sandy Brundage contacted me for an explanation of what happened with my FPPC violation. Below is the explanation I gave her, and I wanted to share this with you. I hope this answers some questions.

From 2007-2009, the CA Comm for Econ Dev used to meet every quarter. The CA Lt. Gov. chairs the CED. During this time, when John Garamendi was the Lt. Gov. and chaired the CED, we met quarterly. His office either had the forms ready for us at a quarterly meeting or sent out the form to all the Commissioners. When Congressman Garamendi won his seat for Congress in September 2009, state Senator Abel Maldonado was appointed to fill the Lt. Gov’s seat and sworn in on May 4, 2010. The Commissioners usually receive the Form 700 in the first quarter of the year, but there was no Lt. Gov. until May 2010, so we didn’t have a meeting in the first half of the year, and I did not receive the Form 700. Our only meeting with Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado was August 11, 2010. At that time, we did not receive the Form 700 either. Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado was running for election for Lt. Gov. for the November 2010 election. As we now know, he lost. Therefore, the last time, I received a Form 700 was in 2009.

Since Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom became the new Lt. Gov. after winning in November 2010, we have not had a CED meeting, so I didn’t receive a Form 700 in 2011. It was only after the FPPC mailed me a form, in a letter postmarked September 20, 2011 (for which I still have the envelope), and notified me that I was in violation for not having completed and filed my Form 700 in a timely manner that I realized I had not filed my 2010 Form 700 and that I would be late in filing it. I immediately completed and over-night mailed it to the FPPC within the first two weeks of October (before the deadline that would have increased the fine to $5,000), along with my $200 late fee and my signed stipulation that I had not timely filed my Form 700-- because I was late… that’s a fact. My only thought, at the time, was to get the Form 700 to the FPPC and be in compliance. Therefore, my Form 700 WAS filed, along with a $200 fine and a signed stipulation that I had not initially filed in a timely manner, instead of a $5,000 fine had I not filed it at all.

The FPPC’s agenda shows my $200 fee and signed stipulation as violating the FPPC rule of not submitting a timely filed Form 700 in 2010, along with many others for the same violation. We are on the consent calendar. In case you don't know what a consent calendar is, in a nutshell, Robert's Rules has defined "consent calendar" as: "A consent calendar quickly processes a lot of noncontroversial items that can be disposed of quickly by placing them on a list (the consent calendar) of items to be adopted all at once." In order to have been placed on the agenda and the consent calendar, we also had to have filed our Form 700. Therefore, because I filed my Form 700 (though late), the FPPC will be acknowledging and accepting that I, and the others, have filed our Form 700, paid the $200 fine, and signed the stipulation that we did not file our Form 700 in a timely manner.

This is the only time I have failed to file a political form on time with the FPPC. I am not blaming anyone else but myself because this was my own fault. Since we have not had a CED meeting in 2011 under Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and probably won’t, I will, undoubtedly, be filing my Form 700 on time in the future and going to the FPPC to actually download and print the form. Should have I been more diligent in downloading and printing a Form 700 from the FPPC's website in 2010? Yes. Is it my fault that I didn't do this? Yes. Did I intend to violate the FPPC rules? NO. I have no problem with being honest and admitting to my first and only FPPC filing mistake by not filing my Form 700 in time in 2010. Trust me, I will not make the same $200 mistake again!

My term ends in 2014, and I’ve served as a Commissioner on the CED since 2007 in a voluntary capacity. My volunteer work has always been about serving my community and, in this case, the State of CA. I, like the other Commissioners, serve at the pleasure of the Governor, since he appoints the Commissioners. It has always been my/our hope to encourage businesses to thrive in CA so that the CA economy can thrive. Financial sustainability of public agencies is crucial and has been important to me for many years, as well as NOT leaving a huge debt burden for future generations-- our children and grandchildren. Keeping our essential services and being financially responsible is one of the main reasons I am running for the MP Fire Board.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me through my website at: