Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 15, 2011

City and fire union prepare for arbitration

Palo Alto management, firefighters remain at odds after almost a year of contract negotiations

by Gennady Sheyner

After nearly a year of talks, Palo Alto's management and its firefighters are preparing to take their heated labor dispute to binding arbitration.

The city and Palo Alto Professional Firefighters, Local 1319, have been mired in contract negotiations since late May but have failed to reach an agreement. Though both sides said this week that they have made some progress in recent weeks, they are also preparing for a three-member panel to settle the dispute.

City Manager James Keene said the two sides made virtually no progress between May and February, when he declared the negotiations to be at an "impasse." The conversations have since improved, though an agreement has yet to be reached.

Tony Spitaleri, president of the firefighters' union, said the sides are still negotiating and reviewing new proposals and he said he remains optimistic that they could reach an agreement without the need for arbitration. He said the union has made several proposals to reduce labor costs.

"We're looking for better ways to deploy our resources, be more flexible with our units and reduce our overtime costs," Spitaleri said. "We've been working on that pretty diligently for the last few months."

But with many issues still unresolved including the controversial "minimum staffing" provision in the union's contract the prospect of binding arbitration now seems more likely than ever. Keene said the city is now in the "beginning stages" of setting up the binding arbitration process.

The city and the union have already selected the three-member panel that would determine the new contract conditions a panel that includes one member from each side and a third member chosen by the other two panelists. Spitaleri will be representing the union on the panel, while attorney Richard Whitmore was selected by the city. Labor Attorney Katherine J. Thomson will be the third panelist.

Keene said the arbitration process could take between four months and a year. In the meantime, the city's and the union's negotiators will continue to meet in hopes of resolving their disagreements. He said the "minimum staffing" provision, which requires the city to have at least 29 firefighters on duty at all times, remains an important subject for the city.

A recent independent study commissioned by the council also recommended abolishing the minimum-staffing provision a recommendation the union has consistently resisted. The report by the firms TriData and International City/County Management Association (ICMA) stated that the minimum-staffing provision should not be in the contract and that the city "should never agree to a minimum staffing requirement that establishes the total force as this equates to establishing the level of service provided."

Keene said the city's conversations with the union have revolved around issues such as staffing levels, health care costs and pensions. Other labor groups have already made concessions over the past two years to reduce these costs, he said, but the firefighters haven't had to because they were still covered by an earlier contract.

"I think it's absolutely clear, as we've said to all the labor groups, that we need structural changes," Keene said. "Fire has yet to make any contributions since the economic downturn."

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Arbitrate-Then-Litigate, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2011 at 10:05 am

Having a Union's president/leader on the Arbitration committee .. "there outta be a law against that".

Googling around to find out who Katherine J. Thompson might be, and why she was chosen as the 3rd member of this board yields only a little information about her, but there is some information about an arbitration she mediated in San Jose--

Web Link

The FF's in SJ have helped SJ to reduce its deficit (at least at the moment). So, maybe we Palo Altan's should be researching that mediation to find out what other Fire Fighters are willing to do to help out.

It's time to go back to the voters and get this arbitration requirement removed from our Charter. Palo Alto will need to "regionalize" its public safety apparatus in the coming years, and having this Charter-based arbitration requirement around our necks will only make the task that much harder.


Posted by Real American, a resident of another community
on Apr 14, 2011 at 10:45 am

another reason to ban public employee unions in California. They're negotiating AGAINST taxpayers and threatening to bankrupt the public coffers. Sorry. You're public servants. You get what we can afford.


Posted by Concerned Retiree, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 14, 2011 at 11:51 am

Palo Alto Firefighters are highly over paid and over rated for the services they provide. We do need regional dispatching, far fewer firemen, and of course, we need to lower the costs of this very unaffordable union. We do not need firetrucks responding to routine 911 calls where a paramedic ambulance would do.

Time to change things, PAFF. They should have gotten the message when 75 percent of PA voted against their ballot measure to preserve a highly inflated staffing requirement.


Posted by Tax Payer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Bizarre that an arbitration would include Spitaleri. It's time to get the staffing and costs down.


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 14, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I completely agree with the other posters. In addition and to re-emphasize, I would like to see:
1.) binding arbitration removed as soon as possible
2.) pafd salaries reduced to $60K (20% over national average)
3.) pafd work week increased to CalFire hrs
4.) minimum staffing removed (we don't need 30+ pa union fire sleepers every night in the stations)
5.) pa fire retirement capped at $50K per yr
6.) pa fire retirement age increased to minimum 62. If they don't want to work past 50 or whatever, then can quit and do some other line of work. the reality is that very few of them have the skills to work in almost any other line of work and most likely zero could ever earn near the salaries they receive from CPA.

I would like to see a similar approach taken with most other government employees. The union pafd and the union boss may be the most extreme example of government union excess compensation in the local area. I am so glad Spitaleri wasted the union money and made the issue visible to the voters. time to fix the problem.


Posted by Alfred E Newman, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm

"reason to ban public employee unions in California"

Why do you hate Ronald Reagan and his laws so much? RR signed the law to allow collective bargaining in 1968.

"20% over national average"

Doesn't everyone make at least 20% locally? I bet that kid who I got coffee from this morning makes a lot more than a barista in Elko (if they have them!) And at least 20% more body art and piercings.

"the reality is that very few of them have the skills to work in almost any other line of work"

Basing that claim on what reality-based facts? Have you taken the written and the physical? Even the tests don't measure a key aptitude: they run INTO buildings, when you or your family would hope to run out, Lord willing, that you have that mobility in such an emergency situation.

"pa fire sleepers retirement age increased to minimum 62. "

Far out! Can't wait until they come to help you, perhaps down the road when you are elderly, or in less than optimum shape. You look up to see a 61 year old, trying to figure out how to pull an incapacitated fat slob out of a burning building without throwing out his back. Of course, you prefer staff cuts, so his truck has fewer men/women on it: "far fewer firemen"

Yeah, that works.

I pray that if my kids or parents are ever in need, that we have the best of the best.

All this vitriol against working families.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 14, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Arbitration is an unacceptable abdication of responsibility by elected officials. How can an arbitrator be allowed to making a binding commitment of tax dollars when there is NO accountability for such an arbitrator?


Posted by Wha?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Interesting that binding arbitration is used with the firefighters but not the SEIU staff. Why doesn't Keene impose a contract on them like he did for the rest of the city staff?


Posted by Darwin, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Public labor unions should ABSOLUTELY be abolished!

ONE OF THE BIG REASONS FOR UNIONS IS TO PROTECT AGAINST UNETHICAL AND UNFAIR TREATMENT TO EMPLOYEES!

And our government is always fair and just, right?

:P


Posted by Arbitrate-Then-Litigate, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2011 at 7:30 pm

> Arbitration is an unacceptable abdication of responsibility
> by elected officials.

Well .. maybe .. but in 1976 there was an item on the ballot here in Palo Alto that was driven by the Fire Fighter's Union that forced labor negotiations into Arbitration if there was no agreement between the Union and the City.

So .. in this case, it was a "vote of the people" who decided not to allow the elected officials to do their jobs.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 14, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"it was a "vote of the people" who decided not to allow the elected officials to do their jobs."

Voters make a lot of mistakes, but fortunately they usually realize that and reverse their earlier decision.


Posted by Arbitrate-Then-Litigate, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 14, 2011 at 9:22 pm

> Voters make a lot of mistakes, but fortunately they usually
> realize that and reverse their earlier decision.

Maybe .. but it will take some very committed residents to get this undone. The Palo Alto City Council is belongs to the labor unions.


Posted by Rational Citizen, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 15, 2011 at 8:51 am

I realize changes need to be made, but the drastic changes that James Keene wants to make are ridiculous. He wants to cut pay, benefits, pensions, and staffing at the same time. The unions have proposed multiple offers that including an effective cost savings of more than the city would be saving by cutting what the city wants to cut; however, the city wants comparable cuts that they forced down SEIU's throats. They don't care about how much money is saved, they care about what they call fairness and equity.

Do the city's mechanics go through a background investigation, polygraph, medical, and extensive hiring process like our public safety personnel? Do the city's electrical workers face emergency situations where they are literally entrusted to keep someone alive or decisions they make could affect whether someone lives or dies? Do the city manager's personal assistants have to continually study up on the penal, vehicle, municipal, and current case studies and then have to apply this knowledge in a split second decision with misapplication that could lead to their imprisonment or loss of their house, car, and possessions? In order to get hired as a city librarian, is the ratio 1 in over 200 applicants?

The answers, obviously, are no. And as such, you cannot have equity in pay and benefits if the job requirement, hiring process, and day to day duties are not equitable.


Posted by Steve C, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 15, 2011 at 8:58 am

Can anyone post the average annual pay for these public servants, and the average annual retirement figures, such as benefits and retirement age eligibility? I would also be interested in hearing what it costs to have a fire truck and crew accompany paramedics every time they respond to a call, whether there is a fire involved or not. In my opinion, this has to play into the minimum staffing issue. I think if we had these figures publicized, more people would pay attention to these negotiations. It would also be interesting to know the percentage of firefighting staff who actually reside in the communities they serve.


Posted by Arbitrate-Then-Litigate, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2011 at 10:06 am

Thanks to the courageous efforts of the Daily News (prior to the Mercury buyout), the names of employees, and their salaries began to be printed in the paper. This led to a suit by San Mateo Labor Unions (and others too) to suppress the names of individuals and their salaries. The Mercury, and the Contra Costa Times had the resources to see this matter through the appeals process, and now this information is generally available. Other groups had to sue to get CalPERS to release data, and there are on-going suits to get smaller public sector retirement funds to release this sort of data.

There are a number of sources of information available now, the following are easily accessible via the Internet:

Retirement Payouts For Those Over $100K:
Web Link

San Jose City Workers Salaries (2009):
Web Link

2009 Public Sector Workers Salaries:
Web Link

Palo Alto Employee Salaries:
Web Link

This is a lot of data, and sadly, in different formats, but at least the information about these ever-increasing public sector salaries is now out in the open.


Posted by Arbitrate-Then-Litigate, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 15, 2011 at 10:28 am

> Do the city's mechanics go through a background investigation,
> polygraph, medical, and extensive hiring process like our public
> safety personnel?

A couple of years ago, the City moved to required background checks on many of its employees, and even volunteers. The dreadful occurrence of sexual abuse of children in the general society forced the City to recognize that it was not adequately protecting its children by performing prudent background checks. Additionally, "bonding" was required for many of the employees who interface with the public.

Public safety employees are likely to enter the homes, and businesses of our town's residents, whereas the mechanics (or most of the City's employees do not have such access). So, making certain that people with criminal pasts are excluded from the ranks of those employed in public safety is a "must" for any prudent employer.

> Do the city's electrical workers face emergency situations
> where they are literally entrusted to keep someone alive or
> decisions they make could affect whether someone lives or dies?

Electrical workers are frequently involved in situations where their lives, and the lives of their co-workers are involved. Technical expertise is required in high-voltage situations that could lead to the deaths of people around transformers, or downed power lines, if work were improperly performed.

With the diminishing number of fires in the US (less than 4% of the call-outs are for actual fires), the number of situations where people's lives are in the hands of "fire fighters" decreases yearly.

Nationally, only about one hundred firefighters die in the line of duty. Of those one hundred, about two-thirds die because of traffic accidents, and strokes--attributed to a sedentary life style. It would be interesting to compare the number of deaths of "electrical workers" to firemen, so see which of these two occupations is more lethal.

In the case of "first responders", it is true that people involved in traffic accidents, and other misfortune, are dependent on EMS employees, but generally only for a few minutes. It's very hard to find any data on the number of people who die in the care of EMS employees (meaning at the scene of an incident, or in transit to a health care facility). So, we (society) does not have any idea just how well treated people are these situations. What is clear, however, is that if people do die, the "first responders" are rarely held accountable for their deaths.

It's not that hard to project the costs of the Palo Alto Fire Department into the future. Given the more-or-less automatic pay increases, with pensions linked to the high year's salaries, the costs will easily double in about twelve years, and then double twelve years after that. No City government can afford to pay firemen over $200,000 around 2020, and $400,000 by 2030-2035. Keene has no option but to move as forcefully as he can against this bargaining unit, which seems to believe it has the right to uncapped salaries and pensions in the $4M-$6M range, for less than thirty years of employment.




Posted by Alfred E Newman, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 15, 2011 at 11:03 am

Arbitrate:

You are absolutely correct: "...it is true that people involved in traffic accidents, and other misfortune, are dependent on EMS employees, but generally only for a few minutes. "

Clearly, we have overbuilt the social safety net and public services.

Let's close a couple firehouses and reduce staff. Let's reduce wages and attract less candidates for the job. The better candidates will find other, higher paid occupations, but we will have hungry "lessers" to fill the jobs.

We can save a few bucks by deferring maintenance on water delivery systems. Cut back on the ambulance contracts, too. They're just used by poor folk, any way, as a taxi on their way to scam free care at the hospital.

Fire trucks have sirens, they can quickly cover the additional drive time past the closed stations in mere minutes and as you say, we so rarely need them. We can sell the property, especially the better lots near prime residential.

Let's start with two firehouses.

The two closest to YOUR house.

It will be a couple years before your fire insurance premiums go up. Statistically, you and your children will never be in need of help.

Palo Alto is a lot like here in Atherton. Really a poor place. No real solutions exist to raise a few bucks until the economy and revenues come back.

Yeah, let's close the two near YOUR house.

You are going to go put signs up and picket for their closure, aren't you? Be at all the council meetings showing your vociferous support for closing them?

That's REALLY what you wanted to say in your 500 word rant, wasn't it?


Posted by Steve C, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 15, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Arbitrate, thanks for the information. I'm afraid to look at the links for fear of ruining my day..
Alfred. So what you're saying is, it's really the insurance companies who are driving these costs?
So if there's a fire at a mansion in Atherton and one at a 2 bedroom unit in Atherton, there must be a mandate to save the mansion first, right? To keep the insurance costs down?


Posted by Alfred E Newman, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 15, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Steve:

If you cut services, don't maintain your water systems and otherwise lower protection, your fire insurance premiums eventually go up.

Insurance companies are like that, assessing risk and all that stuff. Not really a "what, me worry?" crowd, more of a green eyeshade group. Much to their loss, imho, but that's their job.

I have no idea where you are going with the strange two fire/choice comment. Help me out and explain.


Posted by A. Visitor, a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2011 at 3:37 pm

I've visited Palo Alto, a very nice community. I wish I could afford to live there but, unfortunately, I chose being a firefighter as a career. I find it interesting that in this day and age there still exists a "Lord of the Manor"/ "servant" mentality to some of these posts. It seems like some posters here want to pay and treat their public workers like the hired help, fiscally prevent them from living even close to the community they serve, relegate them to a below subsistance wage (at least in California) while they do work, and condenm them to poverty in their old age. This economy is awfull but it will improve and when it does, and the money pendulum swings back into the favor of those in the private sector, will we still be having these arguments? Will the public workers be able then to receive lucrative stock options, portfolio bonuses, "golden parachutes" and performance based incentives? No they will not. As always, the public workers will slowly plod forward in a vain attempt to keep up with the cost of living while those in the private sector reap the benefits of a bull market. If the public sector is such an easy road to riches why doesn't everyone, as we say, "take the test?" The whining now stems from a harvest of sour grapes.


Posted by Steve C, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 15, 2011 at 3:53 pm

Alfred, mine was a kind of tongue-in-cheek comment, and a little flip, I admit. It just seems to me that far too many choices/decisions these days are based on how the insurance industry would react. So if that is really what we use for criteria regarding location and numbers of stations, it would stand to reason we should protect the most valuable properties first, to keep our premiums down.
Usually the main complaint against unions involves work rules, a carpenter waiting for an electrician to change a fuse, that sort of thing. Here I wonder if a big part of the staffing problem isn't that firefighters don't live in the towns they serve, thus the need for a minimum number of staff in the station at any time, rather than on-call.
I do, however, have a visceral reaction when I hear the word insurance mentioned in a discussion around costs and efficiency. It permeates so many aspects of our lives these days, from medical to employability to credit worthiness. It's unavoidable, I suppose.


Posted by Firefighter, a resident of another community
on Apr 15, 2011 at 4:14 pm

"The whining now stems from a harvest of sour grapes." SO TRUE!
Where was the whining when the dot com was booming?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 15, 2011 at 4:27 pm

According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $119,046, and the median income for a family was $153,197.

It appears that Palo Alto firefighters are paid at or above the median for all Palo Alto residents - why do they claim to being paid like "servants"? Particularly since most of them live elsewhere in lower cost of living communities.


Posted by EDRN, a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2011 at 11:36 am

Did you know that a large percentage of PA Firefighters can't afford to live in the surrounding communities and commute as far as two hours one way?

Did you know that SEVERAL of the firefighters have masters degrees in other disciplines and CHOOSE to save you and your family in your time of need?

I'm astonished that anyone thinks a firefighter can do his/her job at the age of 62, who was the idiot who suggested that?

Have any of you had someone come in and tell you the best way to do your job? These firefighters are trying to tell you the best way they know how to protect your city, and you're complaining about how much they make? Seriously? How many of you millionaires in Palo Alto work every holiday in a given year and miss every one of your child's birthdays or games? How many of you have to choose whether to celebrate Christmas on the 23rd or the 26th? How many of you expose yourselves to toxic chemicals willingly on a daily basis?

The part I love the most is that none if you learn from other people's mistakes. What do you think will happen without minimum staffing? BROWN OUTS! How many cities have tried this and discovered that when you shut fire stations down houses burn and people die.

Don't forget that you get what you pay for. Think about that for a minute and how much money you dump into insurance for your car or your home. Your firefighters are your insurance policy -- do you go with the cheapest one or do you go with the one that's going to cover you completely. Maybe the firefighters should let 1/2 your house burn, since that's what you want to pay for. You can cover the rest.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 16, 2011 at 11:53 am

EDRN states:"Did you know that a large percentage of PA Firefighters can't afford to live in the surrounding communities and commute as far as two hours one way?"

Please look at the data:

According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $119,046, and the median income for a family was $153,197.

It appears that Palo Alto firefighters are paid at or above the median for all Palo Alto residents. If Palo Alto residents can afford to live here then certainly the firefighters could - but, given their work schedule, it is easy for them to commute 6-8 times a month and live in a lower cost community. And guess where the off duty ones will be when the big earthquake hits - nowhere near and that is by their choice.


Posted by EDRN, a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2011 at 12:17 pm

To Peter Carpenter:

$119k? When did those people buy their homes?

"The median single family home price as of April 10 2011 for PALO ALTO is $1,654,215." Web Link

You can really pay a $1.6M mortgage on $119k? The median income is low in PA because of the high % of retired people that have lived there since 1970 when the median cost of a home was $34k Web Link PA too line.com/com_info/by_the_numbers.php

By the time your firefighters could afford a home in palo alto they'll be dead at age 62 from being forced to do their jobs long past the time their bodies could handle it.

Oh and the comment about the firefighters being far away - you wouldn't need them to come in off shift if you kept minimum staffing! You'd have enough firefighters on to handle it until the others could come in to relieve them.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 16, 2011 at 12:27 pm

ERDN states:"Oh and the comment about the firefighters being far away - you wouldn't need them to come in off shift if you kept minimum staffing! You'd have enough firefighters on to handle it until the others could come in to relieve them."

If a big earthquake hits we will need all of our emergency services people not just those who are on duty at that moment. This is why many jurisdictions prohibit their emergency services personnel from living beyond a reasonable distance. Some local firefighters actually live in Nevada!!


Posted by EDRN, a resident of another community
on Apr 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm

From what I'm gathering, then, is that you would like to cut the firefighters pay AND force them to live in or near Palo Alto. The cut in pay would force them to live in low-end apartments and you would like this to happen so that they are close by to save you and your $1.6M mansion? How generous of you.

Ok, I'm game for making them live close by - you have that policy in place for your city manager, right? So you'll offer all the firefighters low interest loans to be able to buy a home within city limits, then? Like you've done for the last two city managers? And what, exactly, do you think that city manager is going to be doing during the "big one" as you keep stating?

Oh, and by the way, who is with the firefighters families that are now living in Palo Alto when the big one hits? When the firefighters are off saving your derriere?

It is my humble opinion that the citizens of PA are self-centered and don't deserve the awesome firefighters they have protecting them. Go ahead and merge with CDF or county or whomever and we'll see how well you like your fire department then.


Posted by DB, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 16, 2011 at 7:49 pm

You people who slam the firefighters, quit being so childish, insulting and nothing more than a bunch of jealous haters. If you didn't plan for your future then thats your problem. The ignorance that you profess about their profession is shocking given that this is "supposed" to be an educated community. You wan't to complain about the city's financial status? Look at yourselves and the politicians you elected. Look at the stats of how many businesses they have run out of town. And if you think you REALLY need 5 libraries then you need to get your head out of the "sand". Whoever wrote for them to work unitl 62 and not having skills for anything else should try to do their job for a day. I bet you don't even mow your own lawn.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 16, 2011 at 8:02 pm

DB - questioning public servants' salaries and benefits is not slamming them. The firefighters do a great job and occasionally are called upon to put their lives at risk but that does not justify paying them whatever they demand.

As for being a firefighter, I have been there and done that and I know exactly what the job entails.


Posted by Steve C, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 17, 2011 at 11:58 am

Interesting article on the salaries of state governors:
Web Link

Note that this is from fox news, the only reliable news source according to most "conservatives" and tea party members.


Posted by FLTR, a resident of another community
on Apr 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Firefighters make a decent salary. Enough to live off of, but NONE of us get rich in this line of work. In "boom" times no one wants our job because you CAN'T get rich.

Now in this economic crisis, we have become the scapegoats of Wall Street's fiscal irresponsibilities. When this recession is over and the local goverments recover this whole debate will be forgotten... Until the next recession.


Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2011 at 11:06 am

Peter Carpenter,

It was not a Palo Alto Firefighter who wrote on April 15 using the word "servant", You responded the same day to the writer saying Palo Alto firefighters were claiming that. Simply not true. It is obvious that "A visitor".
In the future before you credit PAFD members with making a claim you might want to look at the facts instead of mis representing the facts.
This type of behavior on your part reflects poorly on you and the Menlo Park Fire Protection District. You were appointed to the Board of Directors because it was believed you would make sound decisions.
Wrongly attacking sworn emergency workers is disrespectful to say the least. Your behavior is not doing anything positive to the relations between the PAFD and the MPFD.
I find it weird a MPFD Board Member is using these boards to conduct free speech rights by writing that PAFD members claim to be paid like "servants". Honestly Sir, start acting like a fire service agency leader and not a check out line news rag.


Posted by Alfred E Newman,, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 18, 2011 at 11:19 am

Carpener is on a district board?

Shouldn't he mention that in his posts, as a sign of transparency for all, when posting on fire issues?

I always thought he was an open, sunshine is the best disinfectant, kind of fellow.

hmmmm...


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Jake posted:
"It was not a Palo Alto Firefighter who wrote on April 15 using the word "servant", You responded the same day to the writer saying Palo Alto firefighters were claiming that. Simply not true. It is obvious that "A visitor".

You have no idea who made that post. My gues it was a union organizer or other pafd poster, maybe even you. Either way the message and intent of Carpenter was to address the issue (the constant whining by union ff's) and was an appropriate response.

Newman posted: "Shouldn't he mention that in his posts, as a sign of transparency for all, when posting on fire issues?

Carpenter signs in with his real name. If you aren't informed enough to know who he is, that is your shortcoming. Interesting that you complain about Carpenter yet you use an alias.

EDRN states: "I'm astonished that anyone thinks a firefighter can do his/her job at the age of 62, who was the idiot who suggested that?

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] My post said to increase the retirement age for ff's to 62 (and befroe long 70). If an ff is in good shape and able to keep working, let them work as long as they want to. But they'll have pass tests to show they are physically and mentally able. If they haven't kept themselves in shape, they should be terminated and find other work. As a society we can not afford to have folks quitting work after 25 yrs and collecting $100K annual retirement payouts for 40 years. ff's who are terminated early will need to find other ways of earning a living (like the rest of us).




Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Individuals who serve on public boards and council do not give up their right of free speech and should also not infer that they are speaking on behalf of their agency when they are speaking as a private citizen. 99% of my posts on public forums are as a private and well informed individual. I suspect that some would like my voice silenced on these issue because I have both personal experience and a great deal of information on the subject matter - well, don't hold you breath because I will continue to speak out. Deal with the facts.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm

As for firefighters working beyond age 50 - here are some that do and look at how much they get paid and at the physical test they have to pass on any given day in order to stay working:

A US Forest Service Smokejumper (a firefighter who parachutes from airplanes to put out forest fires) are in GS-5 to GS-9 pay grades and start as $27,026/year and top out at $53,234/year at the top step level for non- supervisory ( includes crew chiefs but not management level) smokejumpers

MEDICAL AND PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS: Smokejumper duties present unusual hazards and require that personnel be in excellent physical condition and possess a high degree of emotional stability and mental alertness. The health of individuals must be such that they have the capacity to meet demands for performance in the position and for human reliability. Before entrance on duty, and periodically during employment, smokejumpers must undergo a medical exam, physical conditioning, and an adeptness test. Failure to meet any of the required standards will be considered disqualifying for employment or a basis of termination. The adeptness test will be given in one time period and consists of performing 25 push-ups, 45 sit-ups, 7 chin-ups, and a 1.5-mile run which must be completed in 11 minutes or less. In addition to the work capacity test at the arduous level (as referenced under Other Significant Facts), a smokejumper pack-out test is required and consists of completing a 3-mile hike over level ground carrying a 110 pound pack in 90 minutes or less. The health of individuals must be such that they have the capacity to meet the demands for human reliability and performance in the position.

Anybody want to "take THIS test"?


Posted by Alfred E Newman, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 18, 2011 at 1:28 pm

carpenter: "I suspect that some would like my voice silenced on these issue "

That ain't gonna happen. Even if a relative few notice. And I don't see any reference to you giving up free speech by anyone, please point me to that straw man.

Seems that when:
- you post in an out of town paper
- about a subject matter related to your board position in a neighboring district
- with your history of posting about the need for openness from public officials

that the obvious sign of openness would be the easy disclaimer of your position, even as you claim to speak as a private citizen.

Maybe openness isn't that important to you, after all.

That's a fact. Dealing...

- - - -

taxpayer, meet alfred. Pot, meet kettle.


Posted by Alfred E Newman, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 18, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Peter:

thanks for posting the test.

"25 push-ups, 45 sit-ups, 7 chin-ups, and a 1.5-mile run which must be completed in 11 minutes or less." Is that ALL in 11 mins or just the jog? Either way, quite do-able over 50. WMW?

The 110 lb pack for three miles in 90 mins? Never had that kind of pack, even when younger. That part would be very interesting to try.

One hundred ten pounds? Ugh.

Oops. I misspelled "ugh". It's spelled:

r-e-s-p-e-c-t


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Alfred - you and I simply disagree. I am a strong and outspoken advocate of transparency and I also do not believe in misusing my official capacities to promote my personal beliefs.

If I included a reference to my position on the Fire Board and all of my other affiliations in every one of my posting I believe that that would clearly convey the inappropriate impression that I was speaking on behalf of the board or the fire district or other organizations with which I serve.

My postings are about things on which I have personal experience and information and are not expressing a position of any of my organizational capacities.


Posted by Alfred E Newman, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 18, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Correct. We disagree. Look at your last line:"My postings are about things on which I have personal experience and information and are not expressing a position of any of my organizational capacities."

Just shorten that on fire postings only:

I am currently a MP fd board member, but the above opinion is mine alone, and not oofered on behalf of MPblahblah .

It doesn't even have to be that much.

if you care about openness, relative to fire posts.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Community Center
on Apr 18, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Alfred - I can't tell if you are trying to humor us or just don't realize how silly your posts are. Carpenter is posting using his name. You are chiding him for not fully disclosing soemthing while hiding behind an anonymous name. Too funny!


Posted by Alfred E Newman, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm

resident, meet taxpayer, meet alfred. Pot, meet kettle, meet black.


Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Peter Carpenter?

So you are going to ignore the fact you made a post that was a response to "A visitor" in which YOU wrote it was PAFD firefighters saying they were being paid like "servants" when "A Vistitor" made it clear he was a firefighter who was VISITING Palo Alto! Not a Palo Alto firefighter. Read A visitors April 15th 3:37 PM post yourself.
Show some integrity, as a Menlo Park Fire District Board of Directors Official and admit you have promoted non facts as fact. Or does free speech to you include non factual spin posts that seem to be for your own personal agenda? You get a pay check from the MPFD, you should be held responsble for non factual slander of another agency that works on the same emergencies the MPFD does. My Father always told me a true Officer/Man should not let their ego keep them from admiting when they are wrong. It seems Peter Carpenter does not give the truth
much weight.


Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Apr 18, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Peter Carpenter,

I am not calling for free speech rights to be taken from you, but as a public official on the MPFD Board of Directors you should be held to a higher standard than the average person. Free speech for you should not include promoting obvious non facts as the truth. So much for good working relationships and trust between the PAFD and MPFD.
The sad part is that many ill informed people will view your non factual writings as fact simply because of your position with the MPFD and your education. Like it or not, your posts are looked upon as those of a MPFD Board member.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 19, 2011 at 6:20 am

Correction: It appears that Palo Alto firefighters are paid at or above the median for all Palo Alto residents - why do some people claim that the firefighters are being paid like "servants"?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 19, 2011 at 6:27 am

Jake states:"Not a Palo Alto firefighter. Read A visitors April 15th 3:37 PM post yourself."

Who know how the person claiming to be a Visitor is - on this forum there are no identity controls and since most firefighters are 'residents of other communities' someone calling themselves Visitor could as easily be a firefighter as someone calling themselves Jake or even firefighter. Man up and use your real names, or quit trying to stifle those who do use their real name.


Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Apr 19, 2011 at 8:35 am

Like I said before, Peter Carpenter wrongly accused a PAFD member of claiming to being paid like a "servant". And when I pointed that fact out Peter attempts to infer that "A Visitor" could possibly be a PAFD member posing as a out of town visitor. Instead of admitting he was in error.
If you have an axe to grind? Mr Carpenter why don't you go back to smoke jumping> Carpenter is a Menlo Park Fire District Board Member (but of course speaking on his own personal behalf)


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 19, 2011 at 10:51 am

Jake - note my corrected posting:

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton, 4 hours ago

Correction: It appears that Palo Alto firefighters are paid at or above the median for all Palo Alto residents - why do some people claim that the firefighters are being paid like "servants"?

Now please prove to me that the person who posted as Visitor is NOT a firefighter.


Posted by Alfred E Newman, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 20, 2011 at 9:48 am

Your test is that he has to prove a negative? About identity on this board?

I can't even prove a positive on this board, such as the real Peter made the post above.


Posted by Taxpayer, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 20, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Alfred, meet Goofy, Pot meet Kettle

Jake - you sound like a frustrated union organizer who has nothing better to do than harangue some one (Carpenter) for posting using his real name, while you remain anonymous. So silly.

I hear San Carlos is considering Wackenhut to replace those overpaid union employees. I hope the PA councill and Keene give Wackenhut a thorough review.


Posted by Alfred E Newman, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 20, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Wackenhut ? The afghan, vodka shots of of (you know where) guys?

really?!?

You brought up Goofy, but geez...

Vodka shots. Wackenhut. Google it.

Goofy.


Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Peter Carpenter,

By the posting it appears "A Visitor" is or was a Firefighter, however by how it reads not a local emergency worker and from outside the area or state.
My personal concern with your reply was that you painted "A Visitor" out to be as a PAFD Firefighter. The fact you are a Menlo Park Fire District Board Member and a person people would put faith and trust in because of the position you hold. You make decisions and cast votes affecting the lives and property of the public.
Many people will may read your post only possibly and then take it as fact. They may then repeat to others that "PAFD members feel they are paid like servants". When that clearly was never done by anyone, including "A Visitor".
By the authority of the position you hold with the MPFD your comments are given more weight than the average person, your free speech rights because of your paid director position with the MPFD also come with a huge responsibility to if nothing else be a fact. Free speech rights for you, police officers, firefighters, goverment workers, etc are not honestly the same for the rest of the public. What you may feel are your personal opinions when you post are looked upon more often as not as a given.
I am sure I am not the only one on these boards who saw your name and town of residence and figured out you are the same Peter Carpenter who was appointed to the MPFD Board of Directors. You should remember that you have a responsibility because of your position to be honest and factual. If the people and voters discover you have not been honest or have assigned a quote to the wrong person or organization your credibility and more importantly the reputation of the organization you represent is possibly tarnished in the view of the people.
You have written many times in the past about merger possibilities between the MPFD and the PAFD. You should be working to improve the relationship between the two departments, not making statements or writing comments that may cause tension and relations.
By your bio on the MPFD webpage you are obviously a educated man, served your country (thank you) and earned your jump wings fighting forest fires. In the future I wish you would consider how your comments can be taken as fact.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 20, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Jake and Alfred - you both make the argument that since I post in my own name that I should be held to a higher standard than those of you who post anonymously. I hope you realize what a ridiculous argument that is - according to you anonymous people can say whatever they want, hide their affiliations, employment, place of residence, name etc but anyone who is brave enough to use their own name must also give full disclosure on everything.

As for the poster named Visitor - I suggest that he/she may well live locally but simply elected not to disclose that fact - one more privilege of being anonymous.


Posted by Alfred E Newman, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 20, 2011 at 5:09 pm

"Jake and Alfred - you both make the argument that since I post in my own name that I should be held to a higher standard than those of you who post anonymously."

Not so, but nice try with the twist.

All I said was, given your numerous posts about public officials and transparency, that it surprised me you didn't have a single line disclaimer about who you are and that you did/didn't represent the district with your post.

I could care less if you wish to trike over to the library or a neighbor's house and post, under a new ip, as "a visitor" or whomever.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 20, 2011 at 5:26 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Peter Carpenter,

You have obviously missed my point, it's not about you using your real name. The issue is you are a member of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board of Directors. You are a manager for a special district. You are subject to rules and laws due to your position. What you say and do relects upon you and the MPFD. When you use your real name it simply identified you as the same Peter Carpenter who gets paid by the MPFD for being a director. If you were not a Director on the MPFD board then your true identity being posted here would be not be written about.
But the fact is when you post here your comments are taken as those of a manager on the MPFD Board or Directors. Like it or not people will see your posts and MPFD Director Carpenter and not just some resident of Atherton named Peter Carpenter.
If you honestly don't realize your position comes with a huge responsibility, especialy when it comes to making written comments in a public domain then I am simply shocked.
Would you support a MPFD firefighter, being identified and using their real name making posts in the public domain? comments that are not factual? non truths about the RWCFD for example? How about comments that some people are offended by? Do you not think that same persons comments could possibly harm the reputation of the MPFD?


Posted by Jake, a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Peter, and a real man would have taken responsibility for their NON FACTUAL quote credited to a wrong person or organization the exact moment the issue was raised.
You only wrote a retraction after being pressured into it and trying to cloud the main focus of what I posted in response to you writing it was a PAFD member when it was not.
It appeared to me you only retracted after you realized I was not going to simply be OK with you not addressing the fact you were NOT TELLING THE TRUTH WHEN MPFD BOARD OF DIRECTOR MEMBER PETER CARPENTER was writing on a public board and attributing comments made by "a vistor" to a PAFD member.
I actualy view the entire MPFD Board of Directors in a lesser light now because they chose to appoint you to the board. You were not even voted on the board by the people.
If the entire MPFD Board feels a person (you) who avoids and delays admitting when they were wrong has the integrity they are looking for to make important decisions and the trust of the public they serve than I would question their other choices.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 20, 2011 at 5:57 pm

Jake - I was elected as a Director twice with more votes than any other candidate.
And you?


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton
on Apr 20, 2011 at 8:28 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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