The Half Moon Bay Review says you should vote ‘no’ in the upcoming fire board recall election–but not because a standalone fire department is a good idea. In fact, editor Clay Lambert and publisher Bill Murray, the authors of the editorial, hate the idea of a standalone department, writing that “ditching Cal Fire is a terrible idea,” “every independent study recommends Cal Fire,” and “this switch from Cal Fire is one of the worst decisions by any Coastside board in recent memory.”
What they don’t like is the mechanism, the very idea, of a recall. They say it risks the “sanctity of democracy” and should only be used in cases where the elected official has committed some “grave offence” (they offer three examples: fraud, racketeering, theft). Their recommended plan of action: Let your elected representative know your feelings.
This is nonsense.
The voters have been sharing their “feelings” in wall-to-wall, packed meetings for over a year now, attended by so many citizens that the meetings had to be moved to the large fire engine garage. Over three thousand people signed petitions to put fire board directors Mike Alifano, Doug Mackintosh, and Gary Riddell up for recall in April. (To give those numbers context, Mackintosh received 1435 votes and Gary Riddell received 2333 votes the last time they were on the ballot).
Should recalls be limited, as the Review wishes (but the authors of our state constitution did not), to cases of serious crimes in office? We already have a solution that deals with elected officials who have committed fraud, racketeering, and theft. It’s called prison. A recall is not intended to substitute for the criminal justice system.
The Review wants you to wait for the regularly scheduled election in November if you want to change leaders. Essentially, they recommend that voters neuter themselves on the most important policy decision the fire board has faced in seven years and the most important policy decision likely to be faced for many years to come.
If voters wait until November the deal will already have been done. Cal Fire, already a year past the end of their contract, will exit the Coastside on July 1st. New employees for the standalone department will have been hired by November, pension and health care plans (and liabilities) adopted, unions organized, contracts signed. The fire board will have made long term commitments that cannot be easily undone.
The decision point to decide the future of fire service here on the coast, whether the Review’s Editorial Board likes it or not, is now, April 9th, not some election further down the road after after it’s too late to make a difference.
If you want to stay with Cal Fire, vote ‘yes’ on the recall and choose new leaders. If you want to try again with a standalone then vote “no” on the recall and see where that roads takes us. But whichever way you vote, don’t listen to the Review’s advice. Don’t think ‘yes’ and vote ‘no.’
The fire board and the community need a clear decision on how we want to proceed with our fire service. Muddying things by following the Review’s waffly recommendation will only serve to feed the fire of never ending controversy here on the coast.
Make a choice, one way or the other, on April 9th. But make a choice.