Election: Clarke releases answers to union questions | October 30, 2013 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



News - October 30, 2013

Election: Clarke releases answers to union questions

• Jack Nelson is only candidate to decline to release answers.

by Sandy Brundage

How much influence the labor unions should have on the Menlo Park Fire Protection District board is the hot-button issue in this year's election, with Chuck Bernstein, Peter Carpenter and Rex Ianson running on a slate against the two candidates, Carolyn Clarke and Jack Nelson, who have accepted union support for their campaign.

The district has been embroiled in a years-long contract impasse with the firefighters union, primarily over disagreements about raises. Given that the directors will vote on any proposed contracts, does accepting union campaign support create a conflict of interest? Ms. Clarke and Mr. Nelson say no, while the other three candidates, among them a former smokejumper and a retired firefighter, say yes.

Ms. Clarke, candidate for the board of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, has now released her answers to a questionnaire used by a labor union to help determine endorsements. She opted to provide her answers without disclosing the questions, as the San Mateo County Labor Council maintains those are confidential.

"Our endorsement process (is) an internal one and we ask candidates not to circulate their questionnaires. While some candidates may still (choose to) do so, out of respect for the process, we do not post or publish the responses," said SMCLC representative Julie Lind in response to the Almanac's request for copies.

Ms. Clarke's answers stated that she and Mr. Nelson "have very similar goals and priorities" for the district, namely operational efficiency, successful labor negotiations, financial stability and increased community outreach.

As far as labor activities, Ms. Clarke said she would not cross a picket line, would support an organized labor boycott as well as binding arbitration for settling economic disputes between management and labor, and, "depending on the type of support required, if elected (she) would be willing to use public stature to support union organizing."

Three labor issues she feels strongly about are workforce diversity, standards for service excellence, and re-establishing and maintaining "normal labor relations."

Her answers stand in stark contrast with those of Mr. Bernstein, who had released his copy of the questionnaire, complete with answers, on Oct. 16.

While noting that the specific circumstances would have to be considered, in general, Mr. Bernstein said, he would likely not support a boycott, and would also not rule out crossing a picket line.

The question about crossing a picket line is inappropriate, he said. "In my opinion, it would be wrong for an official to interfere in a union matter, one way or the other."

He noted that he does not support binding arbitration at all, on grounds that "non-involved parties should not have the power to determine the outcome of disputes."

The one labor issue he would like to address if elected is settling the years-long contract dispute with the firefighters.


That leaves Mr. Nelson as the lone hold-out over disclosing his responses to the labor council questionnaire. Asked why, he responded with the following email:

"Here is my dilemma, we all know that the questionnaire is the sole property of the Labor Council, the information contained in that document is mine, as the response. I gave them my WORD, that I would not share this with anyone, my WORD is my bond. I see no value in going back on my word as a running candidate, just for another story, the other guy's do not have a copy of it either. I cannot help with other candidates in general do, say one thing and then do something else. In addition to my word, I also have credibility and good character to live up too as well. There is way too much unnecessary drama connected to this race, why add more by comprising some one's ethics. If you look closely at the questions, some are simply yes/no and other answer's are relative to the situations and circumstances at that time and may have exception's to them. As a reminder, I have never had/held a union card, been a union delegate/lobbyist , as most of my work career, I have been in management positions. We ask these guys to put their 'life on the line' every time they go out the door, no reason not to have 'Safety Personnel' represented. If you remember the unions (whether you like them or not) help create the 'middle class', which has shrunk over the past several years, both labor and the middle class."

"This may not be the answer you are looking for, but you have my Word," Mr. Nelson concluded.

Incumbent Rex Ianson and former fire board director Peter Carpenter, running with Mr. Bernstein, decided not to fill out the questionnaire in the first place.


Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm

The union sent me the questionnaire, which I declined to respond to and did NOT ask that I keep the questions confidential.

Here is my exchange with the union followed by the questionnaire that I received:

From: Peter Carpenter
Subject: Re: San Mateo Labor Council Endorsement Process
Date: August 15, 2013 11:52:08 AM PDT
To: smclcjulie@sbcglobal.net

Ms. Lind,

Thank you for your invitation but I do not wish to be interviewed or endorsed by the labor council.

Since there will (hopefully) be a new firefighter's contract negotiated with the Fire District during the forthcoming term, I can understand that it is in the labor union's interest to have Fire District Directors who you think will serve your interests. Similarly, an endorsement by a labor union for an election that will be immediately followed by labor negotiations carries with it the appearance of a conflict of interest.

If elected I will be committed to serve the interests of the citizens of the District. In a democratic society the choice of elected officials is properly the responsibility of the voters and not that of a small special interest group.


Peter Carpenter

On Aug 15, 2013, at 11:36 AM, Julie Lind wrote:


Thank you for making the decision to seek elected office this November. Attached please find the endorsement questionnaire for the San Mateo Labor Council. Completion of the questionnaire is a requirement for anyone interested in being considered for endorsement. The questionnaire is due no later than 5pm on Friday, August 23rd. The interview for your race will be held Tuesday, September 3rd from 5:30PM + 6:00PM at the CA Teachers Association Offices (333 Hatch Dr., Foster City). Please let me know if you'll be able to attend, and feel free to call with any questions. Best of luck!


Julie Lind, Political Director
San Mateo County Central Labor Council
650-572-8848 office/650-572-2481 fax
650-333-4110 cell

2005 election:

Menlo Park Firefighters' Association

District 10 of Local 2400, I.A.F.F
P.O. Box 534 Menlo Park, CA 94026-0534
(800) 218-9081

And here is the union questionnaire:

C.O.P.E. 2013


Name _______________

Office You’re Seeking_______________________________________

Phone (work) ___ (home) ____(E-Mail)________

Home Address______________________________

PPC ID # (if not available, then Treasurer's Full Name)

Campaign Address

Profession Employer (if any)
Have you ever been a union member? If "Yes", which union, and any role or office you held:

What other elected or appointed offices prior to this election have you held/pursued?
* * * * * *

1. A. What are your goals and issue priorities for the Fire District? What do you think the issues are in this election?

B. Are you running with, or do you share the same views as, another candidate? If Yes, whom/what views?

2. What distinguishes your goals and priorities from those of other candidates in this election?

3. Why do you want to be on the Fire District Board?


4. What experience and/or education make you qualified to serve the Fire District?


5. To what extent do you feel the Fire District should be involved the day-to-day operations of the Fire Department?

6. A. Describe the role of the Fire Chief, as you see it___________________________________

B. What expectations would you have for him/her? _____________________________________

7. Do you have any ideas of alternative revenue sources for the Fire District? ___________________________________

8. The Cost of providing the community with the best service is expensive, and rising. How would you propose balancing the increasing costs with limited funds? __________________________________________________

9. What is your view point on consolidation of Fire service? On contracting them out? _______________________________________

10. Do you actively support the fundamental right of miscellaneous (non-Public Safety) employees of the Fire District to organize and collectively bargain with the District regarding their wages, hours and working conditions through the union of their choice?

Yes_________ No_________

(If No) What is your reason for opposition? ____________________________________________________________________

11. Would you cross an organized labor picket line?
Yes No_______

12. Would you support an organized labor boycott?
Yes No_______

13. Do you support the right of workers to form or join a union?
Yes No_______

14. If elected, would you be willing to use your public stature to support union organizing?
Yes No_______

15. Would you support the use of binding arbitration to settle economic disputes between management and labor?
Yes No_______
If No, Why?

16. What community organizations are you a member of?

17. Please list the endorsements you have received or are seeking:
Endorsements Received: Endorsements Seeking:

18. If you were to be endorsed by the Labor Council, what three labor issues would you want our members to know you have strong feelings about?_____________________________________

19. Briefly discuss your campaign strategy for getting elected (i.e. fundraising, campaign targets, endorsements, number of votes needed to win, etc.)

20. Do you have any additional comments regarding your campaign? _________________________

21. I have carefully reviewed this questionnaire and I attest that all of my responses are true and accurate.


Date: ________________

Please return to: Julie Lind
San Mateo Labor Council - C.O.P.E.
1153 Chess Drive, Suite #200, Foster City, CA 94404
Telephone: (650) 572-8848
FAX (650) 572-2481

opeiu 3 afl-cio 174

Posted by POGO, a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 29, 2013 at 3:04 pm

"Ms. Clark said she would not cross a picket line, would support an organized labor boycott and would be willing to use public stature to support union organizing."

SERIOUSLY? This is the most outrageous answer I have ever heard. If you are interested in supporting Ms. Clark, why don't you just elect the head of the union? How would that be any different?

Voters are supposed to be electing an official who will represent the interests of CITIZENS, not the UNION. The union is ALREADY represented at the bargaining table. If you elect Ms. Clark, only one side will be heard... and good luck with that. This is precisely what we thought - the union endorsement comes complete with strings.

I urge voters to support Carpenter, Bernstein and Ianson.

Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 29, 2013 at 6:56 pm

"Voters are supposed to be electing an official who will represent the interests of CITIZENS, not the UNION. The union is ALREADY represented at the bargaining table. "

Bingo!!! With Ms. Clarke the voter will have ZERO representation. Once again the tax payers will have NO seat at the bargaining table with Clarke in place.

Vote Carpenter, Ianson and Bernstien. Unless you want to give the fire fighters union whatever they want. Which is. "the district has plenty of money and we should get more." this from the already overpaid firefighters.

Posted by Vote for Bernstein, Carpenter, Ianson, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 30, 2013 at 7:40 am

Menlo Voter is spot on about Clarke! She does not deserve to be in public office!

If Nelson's email is any indication of his level of intelligence, he deserves to be fired! His thoughts are rambling and completely incoherent. His "WORD" is his "bond," so that means to me he will not represent we, the people. His word and bond are to the union.

I especially laughed out loud when he wrote that the unions helped "create the middle class," the classic union line and one that has repeated ad nauseum during the BART "negotiations." To some extent that's true. However, with the current disparity on compensation for the unions and those working in the private sector who pay for these union salaries, the unions are becoming the upper class while everyone else has to work just so that the public employees can get their hefty pensions (a system that needs overhauling) plus their six-figure salaries, plus their generous benefits. This doesn't sound like the middle class to me. This sounds like workers who get overpaid on the backs of the very people they are supposed to serve!

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing bad about fairly compensating public employees. However, there is something wrong when their compensation goes far beyond what can be sustained by the taxpayers. There is something wrong when these public employees feel entitled to get more and have no concerns about the financial stability of the public agency. There is DEFINITELY something wrong when an elected official, such as Nelson, believes he represents "labor and the middle class" and not the taxpayers who are paying for "labor." BOOT OUT JACK NELSON!


Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 30, 2013 at 3:33 pm

"No one can serve two masters." How can either Ms. Clarke or Mr. Nelson represent the electorate after their statements? And don't forget their ally Rob Silano whom the union heavily backed (about $85,000) in the last election.

Posted by MP citizen, a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 31, 2013 at 1:30 pm

Ms. Clarke needs to be more like Mueller and Keith and less like Fergusson & Robinson. The Democratic Party is evolving into a party that is fiscally responsible. We realize that the people who vote us into office are not ATM machines, that they work hard for their money, and that they entrust us to spend it wisely. The days of giving the Unions anything they want on the backs of the taxpayers are over.

That is why I am voting for responsible Democrats like Bernstein and Ianson.

Posted by Henry Fox, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 31, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Let's see.
Clarke said the Union demanded confidentiality. Not true.
Touting economic expertise, Clarke implied in campaign fliers and on Website that she was a CPA. Not true.
Clarke said she is a Member" of CalCPA Society. Not true because she did not pass some CPA exams.
Clarke did not file required campaign disclosure forms which says she did not spend over $1000. Has anyone seen any Clarke signs or Campaign fliers in the mail (which of course say paid for by Clarke? And they didn't cost over $1000? Common.

Posted by John, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 31, 2013 at 11:14 pm

MP Citizen - It's weird you're voting for Bernstein and Ianson if you think Clark needs to be more like Keith. I received a mailer today where Keith was listed with a big picture and quote endorsing Clark. Clearly Keith is voting for Clark. If you think Keith is fiscally responsible, you should vote for Clark too. She is clearly the best all-around choice...

Posted by Hot potato, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 1, 2013 at 7:38 am

I wouldn't expect Keith to endorse Bernstein given her husband's law suit against him.

The endorsement for Clarke has more to do with carry-over from that lawsuit than whether Clarke is a better candidate. Which she isn't. Bernstein et al were confirmed and endorsed by both local papers: The Amanac and Daily Post

Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 1, 2013 at 7:59 am

Voters who want to see all of the endorsements of each candidate can go to:

Web Link

Posted by Henry Fox, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm

John Woodell, Kirsten's husband, is running both Nelson's and Clarke's campaign.

Posted by rumors, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Henry, I heard that you are running the both Nelson's and Clarke's campaign. How much did you get paid?

Posted by Rumors, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 3, 2013 at 1:39 am

Town Square does a great job providing a platform for one or two anonymous people the hijack every conversation (obviously, Henry Fox is not a real person). If comments here had any validity, we'd see similar comments on real social networking sites. Here is an example from a reputable news source.

Menlo Park fire board candidate is no CPA, as union flier may imply
Web Link
[ Sylvan Canales: In other words: "Woman who is not a CPA is not claiming to be a CPA." ]

Candidate stirs up Menlo Park fire district race by making labor an issue
Web Link
[ no comments ]

Peter Carpenter jumps into Menlo Park fire board race to fend off union control
Web Link
[ no comments ]

Posted by validity, a resident of another community
on Nov 3, 2013 at 1:54 am

I agree with Rumors and Sylvan Canales. The real embarrassments in Menlo Park politics are the trolls that make endless anonymous comments here. The elected officials seem to be doing a decent job, and I don't imagine any of them get comfort from the negative comments posted about their perceived political rivals.

Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 3, 2013 at 7:10 am

Any voters who wishes to be well informed about the candidates and their position on the issues can go to the Smart Voter web site:

Web Link

Posted by Fire Watch, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 3, 2013 at 8:45 am

Quit the Keith bashing. Kirsten Keith has far more credibility than all the incumbent MPFPD Board members who will continue service in 2014. Nuff said.

Posted by Vote for Bernstein, Carpenter, Ianson, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 4, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Fire Watch:

Keith is the least credible of all the people in elected office today in the MP area. The incumbents on the MPFPD board are far superior to Keith in terms of credibility because they actually do work, instead of politicking.

Hopefully, when Keith runs for the MP City Council again, voters will see her true stripes. The only candidates she has ever endorsed in fire board races are those paid off by the union. How anyone can think she is a leader in pension reform is beyond me. Keith is a joke and so is everyone she's endorsed in this fire board race.

Vote for Bernstein, Carpenter, and Ianson!

Posted by pension reform, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 25, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Fortunately, Jack Nelson voted for a two tier retirement system for the firefighters. Keith's support, along with 4 of 5 current council members was consistent with the goals of Measure L.

The real dissapointment in this race was that Peter Carpenter, who voted for the unsustainable 3% at 50 retirement package was reelected.

Posted by registered user, Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 26, 2013 at 1:16 am

So called 'pension reform' - I have done more for pension reform in my many years of elected office than you will do in your entire lifetime. My education on the issue began with the 3% @50 vote that took place over a decade ago and since then I have worked hard to ensure that your Fire District continues to have a balanced budget while refusing to accept demands for excessive increases in pay. I was also the initial author of the two tier proposal during my last term as a Fire District Director.

The last two times I was elected 8,567 and then 4,904 of your fellow citizens voted to return me to office - in both case I received more votes than any other candidate.

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