News

Editorial: Clear choices in fire board race

The Menlo Park Fire Protection District serves Menlo Park, Atherton, East Palo Alto and a large swath of unincorporated San Mateo County. In this election, five candidates are vying for three seats, including one being vacated by Stephen Nachtsheim after only one term on the board.

Incumbents Rex Ianson and Jack Nelson are seeking re-election and are being challenged by former board member Peter Carpenter and newcomers Chuck Bernstein and Carolyn Clarke, who last year made an unsuccessful run for the Menlo Park City Council.

Although there are other issues, this race is boiling down to a fight over whether candidates should accept contributions and campaign help from the firefighters union, whose contract is expected to be up for approval in the near future.

Candidates Carpenter, Ianson and Bernstein are working together and have emphasized that they have refused any contributions or in-kind help from the union. Their reason: Fire board members should represent the best interests of the residents of the district, not the firefighters union, especially when it comes time to approve a new contract. This is important, they say, since it appears that the district and union may finally get to the bargaining table after going without a contract for the last seven years.

Ms. Clarke and Mr. Nelson, also running as a team, unabashedly admit that they are getting union support and see nothing wrong in it, although both refused to share their answers to a union questionnaire with the Almanac, saying the union asked them not to make their answers public.

During her Almanac interview, Ms. Clarke said she decided to enter the race after a firefighters union official suggested it as she was leaving a union interview during her run for Menlo Park City Council last year. Mr. Nelson received union help four years ago in his first campaign for the board, and often votes with Rob Silano, who was elected with union help two years ago. If Mr. Nelson and Ms. Clarke were elected it would give the union a 3-2 majority on the board, an outcome we do not believe would be in the best interest of fire district residents.

Mr. Carpenter has made no secret that he is in the race to prevent a union takeover of the board. An Atherton resident, he previously served nine years on the board and is deeply knowledgeable about fire board business. He is also a crusader for transparency, who convinced a prior board to make any proposed contract public to give residents to scrutinize it before it is ultimately passed by the board. Even his opponent Mr. Nelson admitted that Mr. Carpenter is qualified and would do a good job.

Rex Ianson, of Menlo Park, who served 36 years with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, has a huge store of institutional knowledge about the workings of the district. And although he was a member of the union during his years as a firefighter and accepted union help in the run for his first term, he says he now firmly believes that he cannot accept the union's endorsement or support and remain an independent board member.

Chuck Bernstein lives in Menlo Park and operates his own teaching business in Palo Alto, with 140 employees. He has an MBA from Stanford and has worked for Fortune 500 companies. He also is a huge fan of, and participant in, the district's CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training. He said that if the board actively seeks more participants, CERT-qualified residents could be the backbone of the district's coverage when a disaster strikes here. He was appointed by the fire chief to serve on the CERT Advisory Board and currently serves as secretary.

In individual interviews, all the candidates voiced hope that the district's ongoing mediation with the firefighters would lead to a new contract soon. But it is perplexing that two candidates for public office, Ms. Clarke and Mr. Nelson, believe the public doesn't have the right to know how they responded to the union's questions. If the two sides arrive at a possible contract, we think residents of the district will be far better off if Peter Carpenter, Rex Ianson and Chuck Bernstein are elected to the board. We believe they can be trusted to work out a deal that will be fair to the firefighters and district residents.

Comments

Posted by SteveC, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

Not a good stance when running for public office, the fire union doesn't want you to now about my interview.


Posted by henry fox, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Oct 22, 2013 at 1:00 pm

Great Almanac Editorial. It is distressing to learn that Nelson and Clarke would not publicize their answers to the Union questionaire because "the Union told them not to." Ouch.

Also, Clarke has a problem with campaign veracity--implying in her fliers that she is a CPA and flatly misstating that she is a "member" of The CalCPA society when at best she is a "student" or "associate" member because she failed to pass the CPA exams.

Feeling really good about Carpenter, Bernstein and Ianson.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm

One has to wonder what else Nelson and Clarke will do if "the union tells them to."


Posted by SteveC, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 22, 2013 at 3:46 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

They will vote how the union tells them to.


Posted by voting record, a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm

The article states that Jack Nelson often votes with Rob Silano. If the union has not had a contract for the entire time both Nelson and Silano have been on the board, what votes is the author referring to? Two years ago, the Almanac warned us against electing Silano and Kiraly for the same reason.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Here are excerpts from the Almanac article, ""It's not illegal," Mr. Nelson responded when asked whether he saw a conflict of interest between accepting the union's help during a campaign and then voting on union contracts as a board member. "Why can't they have a seat at the table?" and "I have worked very hard to obtain and maintain the respect of labor, and I still have it," Mr. Nelson said. "I believe in a level playing field.""

While there is nothing wrong with having a working relationship with the union, clearly Mr. Nelson is more concerned with his union representation than being a representative of the citizens.


Posted by Menlo Voter, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 22, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Nelson asks "why can't they have a seat at the table?" THEY ALREADY DO!!!!

In case you haven't noticed Mr. Nelson, it is your JOB to give the VOTERS/CITIZENS WHO YOU REPRESENT A "SEAT AT THE TABLE."

This, beyond anything else, demonstrates Nelson's total lack of suitability for the Fire Board.


Posted by Nancy Jo Wood, a resident of another community
on Oct 22, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Clear choice huh?
I'm always interested in what an incumbent has actually achieved while on a board. Have they run the business of their District successfully? Taken care of the budget? Protected the assets? Been active and informed?


Posted by Vote for Bernstein, Carpenter, Ianson, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 22, 2013 at 8:08 pm

Voting Record:

It has been mentioned in other papers that Nelson chaired a board meeting that nearly de-funded the Urban Search & Rescue team. Apparently, Silano AND Nelson voted for that for some unknown reason. Afterwards, Nelson blamed the staff for not giving him accurate information, even though the board was voting on a routine budget. After being on the fire board for three years, Nelson should know what to expect. This budget apparently must be voted on every year. I don't know what other votes there were, but this is a very good example! Do Silano and Nelson not understand the issues? Do they not prepare for the meetings? What is their problem?

Nelson is not competent to be on the board. Never mind the fact that he sees absolutely no problem or conflict of having the union pay for his campaign as the fire district moves forward toward a contract, which is something that he would be involved with negotiating on. How unethical or just plain stupid of him! If he can't see this, then he does not represent the taxpayers/voters/citizens! Nelson deserves to be fired from the fire board!

As for Clarke... well, she's just not qualified to be in public office at all.

Vote for Bernstein, Carpenter, and Ianson!


Posted by Priceless, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 22, 2013 at 9:08 pm

VfBCI, don't assume that everything you read in the Daily Post is true. Dave Price wrote in his editorial that he didn't know if blatantly stating you have degrees from Stanford and Havard, that you don't, is as bad as stating that you are a member of an organization, that you are actually a member of. One is a flat out lie of epic proportions, and the other is the truth. When Dave Price wrote that Nelson didn't know how to run a meeting, maybe he was making a joke, you know, playing the fool, like he was on the other issue.

The voting record is fact. The Rubbish you read in Dave Price"s editorial is opinion. If the Almanac staff never actually looked at the voting record, and how each vote could possibly have some outcome related to the union, then the editor is doing a disservice to the community by simply being a mouthpiece for Peter Carpenter's wild accusations.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 22, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Priceless - You fabricate what Price wrote and you blatantly mistake the facts.

Nancy - "I'm always interested in what an incumbent has actually achieved while on a board."

Simple - 1) Just read the editorial
2) Watch the League of Women Voters Candidates Forum video
Web Link
3) Read the candidates position statements and bios at
Web Link


Posted by Vote for Bernstein, Carpenter, Ianson, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 22, 2013 at 9:32 pm

Priceless:

There was such specificity to Price's article that I believe that Nelson didn't know how to run the board meeting. Didn't sound like Price was joking! The voting record is a fact, as you said. I guess, people can always get the recording of the meeting, but what would be the motive for Price to lie, as you think that's the case?

WRT to the Stanford/Harvard degree problem and Clarke's misrepresentation of her being a CPA, it's about ethics. Don't mince words. Misrepresenting and misleading are unethical. You sound like you're working on Clarke's and Nelson's campaigns. If you are, you are in the wrong business!

Maybe, I'll try to post the Daily Post's endorsement and let others on Town Square of whether Price was joking or not!


Posted by Vote for Bernstein, Carpenter, Ianson, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 22, 2013 at 10:07 pm

"Priceless" suggests that Dave Price, editor of The Daily Post, was joking about Nelson's not knowing how to run a fire board meeting, after The Daily Post endorsed Bernstein, Carpenter, and Ianson. Doesn't look like Price was joking to me, but I'll let the Town Square posters decide.

Below is the Daily Post's endorsement of Bernstein, Carpenter, and Ianson.
Glad to see that both the Almanac and the Daily Post know who the best candidates are!

[Portion removed. Please don't copy articles from other publications. You can post a link to the article on the publication's website, although the Daily Post may not have this online.]


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 22, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Priceless states "Dave Price wrote in his editorial that he didn't know if blatantly stating you have degrees from Stanford and Havard,......"

Clearly this is a lie by priceless since Price never made such a statement.

Priceless - how many other names have you used to post on this Forum?


Posted by Priceless, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 22, 2013 at 11:50 pm

"She can legally call herself a member of the CPA society because non-CPAs are allowed to join... It reminds me of when East Palo Alto Councilman Carlos Romero... had previously claimed degrees from Stanford and Harvard. He didn't have a degree from either school... I don't know if the CPA society trick is as bad as falsely claiming to have certain college degrees..."

Price did not use the word "blatantly", but he does describe one statement as legally true, and the other as a false claim. Maybe Price really doesn't know if stating the truth is as bad as a false claim, but it sounds like he's making a joke. I laughed out loud when I read his opinion piece.


Posted by Issues, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Oct 23, 2013 at 6:20 am

Union issues have never come up on the Fire board for the past 2 years. Nelson, Kiraly and Silano have never voted on any. All union supported., Carpenter and Inason have in the past. CALPERS Retirement Issues: Peter voted for 3 @ 50 and Ianson, a retired firemen, getting 3@50 benefits.

Almanac, your reporting is one-sided, non-factual and unprofessional. What is Carpenter's financial interest in your organization?

Peter, what is your and your friends financial interest in the fire district? What was your total purchase of "MP Fire District Bonds"? Will you disclose that amount? Just like under California and federal law, an union endorsement or funding is not illegal. Is being a member of the Fire Board, buying bonds from that organization illegal? No but, it's shows something of a conflict as does getting a union endorsement . Both of you, Carpenter and Inason had an union endorsement and support in the past.

I know your investment in the fire district will yield, but get rid of your financial interest in the Almanac. That's a sinking ship!

[Editor's note: Peter Carpenter has never held a financial interest in the Almanac and the Almanac is far from a sinking ship.]


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2013 at 6:39 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I have no financial interest in the Almanac.

I purchased $10,000 worth of Fire District bonds in the public market at market price simply to demonstrate my confidence in the District -"put your money where your mouth is". That purchase was publicly disclosed.


Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Oct 23, 2013 at 7:23 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 7, 2009 at 9:59 am
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
My wife and I have decided to invest in this bond issue as a way to both secure a good financial return and to invest in our community.


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