McDonald would make cops and firefighters live in Fremont

Just chatted with Fremont City Council candidate Kathy McDonald about the city’s budget for what is sure to be a riveting story in tomorrow’s Argus.

We got a little off-topic when we started talking about public safety, which accounts for most of the budget.

McDonald said she’d like to require cops and firefighters to live in the city — all of them, not just new recruits. Current public safety employees  would be given a certain amount of time to move to Fremont.

Granted, the requirement would make it harder to recruit, but McDonald said the city would have a more responsive police force and fire department. She also said there would be more cops around to provide back up, especially on the edges of the city.

McDonald’s proposal made me think what I would do if my newspaper insisted that reporters live in the cities that we cover. I’d probably pretend to live at a friend’s home in Fremont, and stay in Oakland. No offense. It’s not you. It’s all the red light left turn arrows and the Applebees.

Matt Artz


  1. San Jose is grappling with this issue. They seem to think it is illegal to require an employee live within the city boarders, but it may be legal to require them live within a certain distance for reasons related to response time.

    This would be a non issue if city administrators across the region possessed the minimal amount of ballage to bargain with the fire unions in place of the reckless capitulation we’ve sen during the 2000’s. A city should have the leverage to set pay based on a myriad of factors, including performance and employee availability. Instead we just shovel $175K into each firefighters account and ask questions later — if the union lets us.

  2. Another way to save the taxpayers some cash:

    SAN JOSE — A new audit has concluded that San Jose could save $630,000 a year by cutting the number of workers who are allowed to take their city vehicles home. The audit concluded that the take home use of 93 vehicles could be eliminated.

    At this time, approximately 144 vehicles are taken home by city employees.

    The audit was requested by Councilmember Pete Constant. He says only a small number of on-call employees actually need to take a vehicle home. He also says the potential savings have been well known for some time but there has been opposition to changing the car policy.

  3. It’s a nice idea in theory, but unlikely to work in practice. My wife and I (not police officers) both work outside of Fremont, in opposite directions. What if both of our employers required that we live in their city?

    We’ve both changed jobs (and job locations) several times over the years, while living in the same house and sending our kids to the same schools.

    When I was single and renting, I could be more flexible about where I lived. But even then I traded cheaper rent for a longer commute. I couldn’t afford to live in the same town as my employer.

  4. A lot of police officers expressly avoid living in the same City where they work for safety reasons. That is, if you live in the City, you have a higher chance of running into vindictive people or relatives/associates of people you have arrested/ticketed/etc…

    Who wants a gang member you’ve arrested to run into your family at the local grocery store or know what leagues your kids are in? Some anonymity and distance is useful.

  5. Thank goodness SOMEONE is willing to talk about this sacred cow of a topic. . . I’ve seen nothing from the current Council members on this matter EXCEPT the well publicised support by Fremont FD for Anu and Bill H.

    And in the resulting vacuum of discussion which neither Bill nor Anu seek to fill, I can only conclude that both Anu and Bill H have somewhere confirmed their ongoing support for comp policies which are widely accepted to be non-sustainable . . I was pretty sure I was listening, and I don’t recall any “lone dissenting voice” on what is, according to all projections, a matter of significant fiscal urgency for all municipalities.

    If you took 30 seconds out of a hectic schedule and came up with a list of top priorities which challenge our community, and which are crying out for a “lone dissenting voice” or, even just a couple of pointed questions. . .. . wouldn’t this be high on your list ??

    Of course, we’re reminded that this is a regional matter, with the inference that it would be completely futile for Fremont to tackle something this big on their own – – – people would just leave – – – and, of course, there are NO qualified folks in the market to take their place. . . . best to just keep doing what we’ve been doing and hope for a different outcome.

    Has anyone seen Kathy Macs new (foreign made) ego mobile? This is just the beginning folks… if elected Kathy might try and legalize beating the snot out of Lew Wolf and everyone who supported bringing major league baseball to Fremont. Just say NO to the Kathy McDonald/Vinnie Bacon duo of disaster.

  7. Charlie,
    I am still waiting for you to say something Intelligent!

  8. Box, I cant recall a time when any of the candidates gave a serious critique of compensation. It’s interesting to see McDonald bring up a topic loosely related, but until I hear a candidate say “firefighters are paid too much and I intend to change that”, expect the same old same old.

  9. No employer should have an employee residency requirement. It’s unworkable, unfair and just plain wrong. While I support McDonald on many of her issues, we part company on this one.

  10. Perhaps someday we’ll be able to confirm (or not) speculation about McDonald’s position on this issue.

    I give McDonald points for having the guts to get anywhere near this topic which, historically, would have backfired on any candidate for public office.

    What is NOT speculation is, of the available candidates, F.F.D. has singled out Anu and Bill as being most beneficial to the interests of their union members.

  11. Residence requirements are not lawful in California. From a practical matter, when a young employee starts looking to buy their first home, they generally don’t make enough money to qualify for a home in Fremont. Just as do young Silicon Valley employees, they wind up in places like Tracy or Modesto.

  12. Box, Point taken about the endorsements. But Judging from Vinnie’s policy papers on his website, it appears he’s not touching pay and pensions either. I’d estimate he’s even more likely to be bought by the unions in future elections, as the illusion of six figure firefighters falling under the labor banner suits his leftist politics.

  13. The City of Napa has a “45 minute” residency requirement.

    Escondido has a “1 hour” requirement.

    Ventura has a 60 minute requirement . . . .

    I’ve seen others that require individuals to reside within a specific county or, within specific cities – all in the state of CA.

    That said – what point was Gus trying to make in post 11. ?

  14. I think SJ’s proposal was 50 min.

    Gus, there are starter SFHs in Niles for $350K, and million dollar homes in the hills only cops, firefighters and patent lawyers can afford. Embrace the diversity you helped create.

  15. I agree with the Joel about the cops living in the same town where you work. 20 years a ago I could see it but with the low lifes that are on the street now forget it.

    @Matt call the COF and see if you can get a number of Employees that work for the COF not just the Cops and Fire dept and see how many of them live in the city that pays them?

  16. Specifying time rather than miles makes it difficult to determine distance here in the Bay Area. East Coast friends always laugh when they ask me how far away something is during their visits and I answer with time. Fifty minutes from Fremont could be Morgan Hill or Milpitas depending on the time of the day you’re referring to and what’s transpiring on the roadways.

  17. I know more than a few Fremont cops and firefighters and a majority of them live 90 minutes and further away.


    Because they can take their large paycheck and move to Roseville or Rio Vista and buy a nice, new home. They could buy a home in Fremont, they just don’t want to live here.

    We’re good enough to pay your salary but we’re not good enough for you to live near?

    I can see a minimal argument for police not wanting to live in the same city where they work (I think it’s a crock but I’ll give them a bit of leeway), but not firefighters.

    And Marty, if a candidate ever has the cojones to say out loud that firefighters are paid too much they’ve got my vote.

  18. I can tell you there is one retired FFD Chief who feels the same way about firefighters living far too distant from the city they work for. A while back there were a couple that used a private plane for their commute.

    If the Big One hits it won’t matter how close they are. The professional responders won’t be able to handle what goes down. Be personally prepared.

  19. A residency requirement is a rather goofy and unworkable solution but at least it is a courageous attempt to deal with the very real problem that police and fire comprise around 70 – 75% of the City’s budget. Their pay, perks, pensions, overtime etc are excessive and killing us and no one in Fremont’s political machine has the guts to question it.

  20. You know why most people live near their place of employment? Because their employer doesn’t pay them to sleep.

    Solution: 5 x 9 hour shifts, consecutive with the appropriate breaks. If a firefighter still chooses to commute from the delta, so be it.

  21. To be straight, those 9 hr shifts start at the same time daily, like the rest of us. Unless you are staring at flames, you clock out and let the next shift take over.

  22. Marty, your solution would require a one third increase in staffing. Today, FF work 56 hour weeks, 3 people to fill the 168 hour week. 45 hour weeks would require 3.7 people, rounded to 4.

    Some areas, Massachusetts for one, have 14 hour shifts, so FFs work 42 hours a week. I don’t know how they schedule those shifts.

    It is a complicated problem. It takes 3 people to safely and efficiently operate a fire engine or a truck. But you only need all three for a fire or rescue, which is a small percentage of their emergency calls. Most are EMS.

    But,when there is a structure fire, it takes 15 people in total to fight the fire, three engines, one truck, ad command personnel. Rules are established by OSHA and standards established by the National Fire Protecton Association and are generally not optional.

    I have, semi-seriously, proposed a staffing model which reduces the staffing of each piece of apparatus to one or two, with a cadre of people assigned red Corvettes equipped with red lights and sirens, which would respond to structure fires to provide the people to staff the fire. We could cut maybe 6 people per shift, or 18 in total. And, I bet there would be a long line of people fighting to be a Corvette driving fire fighter.

  23. Gus – I am still curious what you were using as the basis of your conclusion in 11. – “Residence requirements are not lawful in California.”

    Was this just a casual response or does it have any basis in facts ?

  24. Marty, your solution would require a one third increase in staffing.

    Gus, consider the base pay for a firefighter in Fremont is about $75K. But the average take home is about twice that because of overtime.

    This infers that Fremont could DOUBLE the firefighting staff while holding the budget static.

    Overtime could be granted to staff on call to assist in incidents, which would encourage firefighters to live close to Fremont. Doctors, nurses, and all the utilities do this with their staff, so can the COF.

  25. Got it – thank you Marty – so, I think the *full* story goes something like –

    While California’s constitution doesn’t allow a residency requirement several California cities have established requirements for their workers to live within a reasonable distance.

    It seems like this second point is at least as significant to a full understanding of this issue as the one Gus chose to mention . . .

  26. I don’t agree that cops and firefighters need to live and work in Fremont. Howerver, it is long overdue to cut police and firefighter’s fat retirement plans, and overall budget. One small group is sucking up a hugh percentage of Fremont’s limited resources. Harrison and Anu will not address this and thus are fully supported by Fremont police and fire.

  27. My point was we cannot require employees to live in town, which is the topic of this thread. Fremont does have a “reasonable distance” requirement. I don’t know if it is defined by mileage or time, but it is enforced.

    Marty, as for staffing, we need 3 people to keep a station open. If someone is not available and someone is kept overtime, it is not for a few hours, it is for 24 hours at time and a half. Since a firefighter works about 122 days a year (less vacation time), each day of overtime works out to be worth about 1.2% of their annual pay. Of course, the overtime pay is not burdened with the cost of benefits, which are all apportioned against the standard work hours.

    So then, we get to the balance of full time employees with their salaries burdened with the benefit package against time and a half for overtime. Technically, it probably is cheaper to work them on overtime than to hire new, but that is a hall of a way to run an organization. That creates the juggling act the fire management has to perform.

    Couple that with the way we hire. The civil service process is complicated and onerous. Once it is decided to hire, a batch of new people are hired to go through an extensive training program before they are assigned to a station. Usually that is 10 to 12 people. We need to be down that number when we begin the process and it takes some time to get people trained and on the job. Overtime fills the gap.

    Of course, when you hire ten or twelve at a time, sometime in the future, they all reach retirement eligibility at the same time, starting the process all over again.

  28. Since a firefighter works about 122 days a year…

    Sounds like a deal Fremont’s getting for $135,000 plus 30% on top for the pension!

    Here’s my deal again, Gus. 5 consecutive daily shifts. Increase staff by 40%, eliminate overtime by 90% and require all firefighting staff the live within 50 minutes from their station. No pension, 401K, retirement at 55, any chronic diseases will be assumed to be work related.

    If they don’t like it, they’re free to seek employment with one of the many hiring agencies in the region (that was sarcastic, there are none).

  29. While I recognize the enforcement challenges of implementing a residency requirement, I can’t help but wonder why we should limit residency to public safety employees.

    For way too long department heads in the City have made decisions that effect the quality of life here in Fremont when they have absolutely no skin in the game – they don’t really care if residents are adversely impacted by their policy and budgeting decisions; they live in Berkeley, Morgan Hill, etc. Let’s start requiring department heads to actually live here in town. After all, they can’t say that they can’t afford to live here.

    Good deal, Kathy, for having the nerve to speak frankly on a “third rail” subject. It may not pan out, but bringing it up showed courage, a quality that our Council has been sadly lacking.

  30. #7 if Calguy supports Vinnie & Kathy how intelligent can he be? The McDonald/Bacon plan for Fremonts future… Build more swimming pools and at taxpayer expense and put a giant mosaic portrait of Kathy McDonald (much like the really big one on her ego mobile) at the bottom of everyone of those pools. This should help satisfy KMacs off the charts ego. Put all those “live only in Fremont police officers” on alert to prepare for a riot if the bring professional baseball crowd ever dare to bring up the subject again. Not to forget FREE LEMONADE! Just a word of warning to all you voters, some egotistical politicians have become tyrannical dictators… just say “NO” to Kathy and Vinnie.

  31. Once again ramblings from the lemon orchard. Still waiting for you to make sense!

  32. Vinnie proposed Lemon Orchards over Cisco field…defend that! Calguy you and all the rest of the nudniks can go ahead and vote for Vinnie & Kathy and suck a lemon while Fremont goes down the drain. Goes to show how intelligent you are?

  33. The requirement for police officers to live in the city where they are working can be dangerous for their families. My uncle was a police officer in Newark and they lived in Fremont. One night he was with his family at a grocery store and was approached for someone he had previously encountered while on duty, who then eyed the family and said “So this is your family, good. I’ll be looking for them” Shortly after my uncle moved them out to Tracy. Unfortunately it can be dangerous to live and have your family out and about in the same area where you are keeping the peace and possibliy making enemies in the process.
    The idea is good, but may prove to impractical in many ways.

  34. The old saying goes, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.” That’s the philosophy Fremont voters have lived by for the last 20 years. And where are we? No downtown, no ballpark, areas in need of major redevelopment and areas of parkland that need protecting. And what are we getting? More houses. Oh, and more houses. And maybe a new Nordstrom Rack all the way at the Milpitas border.

    Like the ad currently on TV says “how much worse can it get??”

    It can’t get any worse – might as well elect someone new to come in and have an opportunity to screw up. You know the incumbents are just going to lead Fremont further down the same path we’re on now.

  35. Irvington and #30 gets it right. . or, we can keep on doin’ what we been doin’ and hoping for a change in the weather.

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