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Menlo Park fire district election: Big battle over union issues

Original post made on Oct 22, 2013

The line is clearly drawn in the upcoming Menlo Park Fire Protection District board elections, with three seats at stake. Chuck Bernstein, Peter Carpenter and Rex Ianson are running as a slate to defeat the candidates backed by the resources of the firefighters union: Carolyn Clarke and Jack Nelson.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, October 22, 2013, 8:55 AM


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Posted by Former Menlo Park Budget Advisory Committee Member
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Oct 22, 2013 at 11:04 am

The Almanac was spot-on in its endorsements for the Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board. Its endorsements are correct for the following reasons:

1. Qualifications. We are fortunate to have 3 extremely qualified people for the Fire Board. In this particular race, as the Almanac has pointed out, Peter Carpenter, Rex Ianson, and Chuck Bernstein have impressive credentials. Carpenter and Ianson have repeatedly demonstrated exemplary performance in their duties as Fire Board Members. Mr. Bernstein is recognized for his expertise in Emergency Preparedness Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), and pension reform.

In an August 16, 2006 editorial the Almanac praised Mr. Carpenter for his foresightedness in addressing runaway pensions

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Mr. Carpenter also had the novel idea that since the public pays the costs of pensions that it should be able to provide input to the process

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Mr. Bernstein, a Menlo Park Icon, is Mr. Fiscal Responsibility. He was a leading member of the Menlo Park Budget Advisory Committee and looked for ways to raise revenue for the City without raising taxes.

On that ill-fated night of February 27, 2007 Mr. Bernstein urgently implored the City Council, led by Mayor Kelly Fergusson, not to give the City employees a 35% increase in pensions because we could not afford the unfunded liability it would create. It was an impassioned speech that reminded the City Council of its responsibility to the residents whom they serve. Unfortunately the City Council ignored Mr. Bernstein’s reasonable arguments and approved a huge increase in unfunded liabilities.

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If the City Council had only heeded to Mr. Bernstein sage advice we would not have needed Measure L which reversed the City Council’s ill advised and irresponsible decision. Mr. Bernstein was a key member of the Measure L Committee for Fair and Responsible Pension Reform and collected over 400 signatures to place Measure L on the ballot. This was the most signatures collected by any member of the Measure L Committee. Measure L won by 71%, but more importantly it won in every single precinct in Menlo Park. This was unprecedented for a contested Ballot Measure.

2. Commitment. This trio is dedicated to serving the community as evidence by their past community service.

3. Fairness. Contrary to what some would have you believe Carpenter, Ianson, and Bernstein are not against the firefighters. They want an equitable balance that provides fair wages and benefits to our firefighters while ensuring public safety. In fact by keeping pensions and salaries reasonable they are ensuring job stability for current and future generations of firefighters. San Jose has had to lay off many public safety offices due to pension entitlements eating into the operating budget. It is critical to have the balance between entitlements and operating funds so that we can ensure the future viability of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.

4. Transparency. With Carpenter, Ianson and Bernstein you have openness and refuse to be coerced or manipulated by the Union. They have no ambitions for higher office and are not subject to partisan political pressure. When Nelson and Clarke refused to disclose their responses to the Union questionnaire, it made their impartiality suspect.

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Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 22, 2013 at 1:45 pm

As someone who has great interest in the FD and ahile this race seems to be about union slate versus non-union slate, it should really be about qualifications. Any elected Board or Council needs leadership.

Peter Carpenter previously served on the Board and has both government and private sector leadership experience which compliments his education (BA & MBA). Chuck Bernstein has experience as a CEO and budget minded individual plus his education (MBA & PhD). Rex Ianson a season Board veteran and firefighter who has experience from his disaster deployments including the World Trade Center.

I'm baffled the way in which Mr. Nelson responded to the question about contributions from the FF union, "It's not illegal." Sounds like a defensive reaction. He asks to be re-elected because of his experience. What has he accomplished that has been noteworthy? And while Ms. Clarke has been involved in the community, her accomplishments don't seem to fill a need at the fire district.

The choice for leadership seems obvious -- Carpenter, Ianson and Bernstein.