Viewpoint - October 12, 2011
Spencer and Barnum for fire district board
Of the four qualified candidates for the two open seats on the Menlo Park Fire Protection District board, we believe incumbent Bart Spencer and challenger Scott Barnum are the best choices to win the four-year terms. Rob Silano and Virginia Chang Kiraly also are knowledgeable about the district, but we believe Mr. Spencer and Mr. Barnum have the edge. We did not find Steve Kennedy, a former board member, qualified to serve.
As in many other districts, escalating employee and pension costs are a major factor that will continue to challenge the Menlo Park board in the next few years and beyond.
Incumbent Bart Spencer, a 12-year veteran who has served several terms as president of the board, is well-qualified to serve again. Mr. Spencer has a background in fire services, but, more important, has helped develop procedures that make the board more efficient.
Mr. Spencer supported imposing a contract on firefighters and says he is open to reopening negotiations in the next few months. He also is in favor of the "compensation philosophy" recently approved by the board. Hardly a fan of the status quo, Mr. Spencer said he continues to compare the financial statements of other fire districts with the Menlo Park district to look for cost savings that could apply here, including some outsourcing if it is feasible.
Mr. Barnum is an appealing candidate because he will bring a fresh view to the board, as well as business perspective that is needed since the departure of Peter Ohtaki, who last year was elected to the Menlo Park City Council. An Atherton resident, Mr. Barnum has been a volunteer in the district's emergency preparedness programs for six years, organizing his Victoria Manor neighborhood to be prepared if an emergency occurs.
Asked how he would resolve the contract impasse with firefighters, Mr. Barnum declined to issue a flip answer, saying the issue is complex and that since he has not been engaged in the negotiations it would be presumptuous of him to suggest an easy solution. Going forward, he said the board needs to address the fact that less than 5 percent of calls are fire-related and the inefficiency of sending a fire truck to all emergency calls.
At least during the current fiscal year, the fire district has been able to balance its budget. But there are tough decisions ahead, including whether to upgrade fire stations. We believe Bart Spencer and Scott Barnum are the best candidates to help guide these decisions and fill the two open seats on the Menlo Park fire board.
Posted by Virginia Chang Kiraly,
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Oct 15, 2011 at 8:33 am
First of all, thank you for your years of service on the board. You do bring a unique perspective to the finances of MPFPD. I have known you for many of those years, and we have always seen eye-to-eye on the need to curb pensions and be honest and open. However, now, I feel that you must stop misleading voters who really do care about this election and want straight information. If you truly care about correct information, then you could have called or emailed me for the facts-- which you never did.
Here are corrections to your misleading "facts," for the record:
1) I am NOT on any of MPFFA's literature, as you incorrectly stated: "in its literature is a fact." This was at my request.
2) Barnum DID "court" (your word, not mine) the firefighters. His interview was after mine, and I saw him as I was leaving and he was waiting. If he had taken your advice, then I'm not sure why he was at the interview. Perhaps, you should talk to him, as you are supporting him.
For the record, I did not meet with the firefighters to "court" them. I met with them to listen to what they had to say. They are a major stakeholder in our fire district, considering they actually deliver the service for which we pay 16% of our property taxes. They know that I was an active supporter AND endorser of Measure L, which NONE of the other candidates were; they know I was the foreperson of the Grand Jury that published the report on pension reform in 2008-2009, which was the impetus for Measure L. In fact, in my interview, NO FINANCIAL QUESTION WAS ASKED, SO I INTENTIONALLY BROUGHT UP THE GRAND JURY REPORT AND MEASURE L. I NEVER WANTED ANY FALSE EXPECTATIONS OUT THERE. Fortunately, the Daily Post asked for the facts and quoted me correctly when I told them I could see a Measure L-type of initiative for the fire district, if pensions cannot be settled through negotiations. I told the firefighters, "If I'm lucky enough to get elected, we can either work it out (a contract w/affordable pensions) or the citizens will work it out for us with a Measure L-type initiative." I proceeded to remind the firefighters that Measure L won with 71% of votes in MP and won in EVERY precinct in MP.
When I received their endorsement, I point-blank said: "I was very honest brutally honest in my interview with you. Would you please help me understand what helped you make your decision?" The President of MPFFA, who was at the interview, replied, "You'll talk to us and listen to us. We know you're not going to agree with us on some things that are important to us, but at least, you'll communicate wih us. Lack of communication is the biggest problem in that district."
Please get your facts straight.
You have not spoken with or reached out to me to find out why I accepted the firefighters endorsement and NOT their money. They are NOT doing an independent campaign for me, making calls for me, or putting me on their literature, as I'm sure you've seen by now. If they want to list me on their website as an endorsed candidate, that's their First Amendment right.
You of all people should know that I believe in full transparency and open communication, which is the only reason I am responding to you on this blog. If you truly want to educate the voters, like you claim you do, then give them correct information-- not your propaganda. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me-- you have my contact information.
For those writers on this forum, I hope my response answers some of your questions. If you have any other questions, please visit my website at: www.VirginiaChangKiraly.com. Hopefully, that will provide you with information. If you would like to contact me, there is a "contact" form that will get to me. I look forward to hearing from you.