Michele Ellson of The Island stayed up to watch last night’s city council meeting and has this on job cuts in the city: “…the word is that we’re getting a list of the positions to be cut today, so I’m sure there will be more to come.” She also has, for your edification, a list of current city employees and their salaries and benefits. Both Alameda bloggers John Knox White and Lauren Do have other info on cuts to city staff.
Archive for the 'Alameda firefighters' Category
After the fire in an abandoned building at Alameda Point in late March, many Alamedans were concerned about the possibility of debris from the fire containing toxic byproducts. Alameda’s fire marshall says debris was tested, and found safe. You can watch ABC news story the day after the fire started here—with info about how authorities think the fire started and what they say burned in the fire. Some Alamedans have expressed concerned about the smoke. And this blog, Alameda Army Medical Fire Depot, was started to track citizen concerns about the burn and their efforts to get answers about asbestos and other toxic byproducts from the fire. And here’s the city’s Q&A about the fire.
[Updated, 7:49 am: The Island has some good info about the smoke's toxicity and the city's response.]
I met with the Alameda’s Fire Chief Dave Kapler this morning to ask him the question that I think is probably on most Alamedans’ minds: “What do fire station ‘brown outs’ mean for us when we call in an emergency?”
Kapler gave me some stats, comparing response time in 2008 to response time in 2009 since brown outs began. (His stats are from before last week when the department changed the vehicle slated to be closed when staffing levels drop below 27 because of illness or vacation from a Bay Farm ambulance to the engine at station five, the western-most Island station.)
In 2008, the average time in took both vehicles (staffed by five firefighters/paramedics) to be at the scene of an emergency was Read the rest of this entry »
With Alameda firefighters in the news a good deal (they’re collecting signatures for an amendment to the city charter that would mandate minimum staffing levels, the city is suing to block the proposed charter amendment, and they’re wrestling with cut backs–the ‘browned out‘ station was last week switched from Bay Farm to the west end) they also made news this weekend for doing what they do: fighting fires.
The Alameda Point fire started in the wee hours Sunday morning, and a trail of smoke blowing what looked like south east was still prominent from the Oakland hills on Sunday evening. Apparently the area has seen a number of small fires over the years and is in an area frequented by youths. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
So the rumors have been bubbling up for weeks, but today—after a closed-door city council session earlier in the week–Alameda’s City Manager Debra Kurita, who has served the city for more than three years, tendered her resignation.
With many California employees taking one or two mandatory unpaid furlough days a month and the governor threatening to send layoff notices to the 20,000 state employees with the least seniority, there’s still no budget deal in Sacramento. The no-taxes Republican minority continues to block the Democratic majority.
And lest you think Alameda is alone in its plight to keep the city budget numbers lining up. There’s this: Ventura workers taking pay cuts to save jobs.
After narrowing the list down to about a dozen California cities – most of which, incidentally, are facing the same budget problems that we are – I ended up 35 miles southwest of here. What I found was a city that spends far more money on parks and libraries than we do – and less on its fire department, despite the fact that Redwood City’s fire department handles more calls than ours does.
Here’s what she found about Park and Recreation services:
Redwood City spends twice what Alameda does on its parks and recreation services, despite the fact that workers there have only 14 acres more of parkland to maintain. A lot of the amenities offered – two pools, a senior center, a teen center, a skate park, dog parks – are identical to those offered here. But Redwood City pays far more to maintain those amenities, and more to staff programs.
On the flip side, there’s one department we spend more money on, and that’s fire. We spent $21.5 million to Redwood City’s $17.3 million, with $19 million for workers’ salaries, benefits and overtime to their $14.5 million. Our fire department is over 100 strong, compared to 70 in Redwood City. And our department has a lifetime health care benefit for spouses that Redwood City’s doesn’t.
You can read the whole piece here—and Ellson promises there are more details to come.
I got a phone call yesterday with a recorded message from an Alameda firefighter. The message was so fast that I did not catch the name of the firefighter who was speaking, though I think it was Mike or Mark. The core of the message was that cuts to the fire department (on January 26 the department has been mandated to reduce overtime) will impact response time for some Alameda neighborhoods. The message mentioned the Gold Coast, Bay Farm and Alameda’s West End and then urged the listener to lobby City Hall to prevent cuts. How much does it cost to auto-dial every Alameda household? Who funds these efforts?
I can’t help but think of the line from Obama’s speech Tuesday, in which he honored the hard work and sacrifices Americans are making to make things better for all of us. He referenced employees who allow their own hours to be cut so others may keep their jobs. That is bravery, no? To say, I will make do with a little less so others don’t lose everything entirely.
In a time when so many are losing jobs, losing retirement security, having their pay cut and otherwise struggling economically, I can not find legitimacy in the stance being taken by Alameda firefighters. There is not an infinite pot of money. Times are bad. Everyone should be impacted as budgets shrink…not everyone with the exception of some. Of course I wish it weren’t so…of course everyone wishes it weren’t so. But it is. So, it’s time to move away from the adversarial stance, an I-me-my orientation, and it’s time for the firefighters to work with the city to maintain emergency services as well as all the other services that make for a vital community.
As I have mentioned previously, Alameda firefighters make over $100,000 a year, with many earning 10 and 20 and 40 thousand additional dollars a year in over time. Alameda firefighters receive full, life-time medical benefits for themselves and a spouse after just five years of service. They are eligible to retire at 50, with 3 percent of their highest salary in pension for each year of service. Meanwhile, Alameda’s non-public safety employees receive only a tiny stipend (something around $100 a month) toward health care in retirement, and they are eligible to retire at 55, with 2 percent of their highest salary per year of service in pension. I am not, of course, saying that I don’t think firefighters should be well-compensated and have security in retirement…I just think that taking a hard bargain stance when the current system is so out of balance (so many employees now have no pensions, no health care on retirement…heck, no health care even while they are working) and when the economy is such a disaster is really perplexing.