Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How can you help?

Here's some more fire facts.  The fireman will let us know what we can do when it comes up.  He suggested going to the city's website and looking for any council meetings that are discussing the budget.  Here are two that are upcoming:

 MMarch 16 at the Hart Senior Center at 7:30 pm

                        (915 27th Street, 95816)    Map

·        March 26 at the Coloma Community Center at 7:00 pm

(4623 T Street, 95819)    Map



As your firefighters, we know a little about handling times of crisis – it’s what we do every time the bell rings. That’s why we want you to know what the city’s proposed public safety cuts really mean to you.


City proposal: Eliminate 50 fire department positions, including 44 layoffs, and maintain rotating engine brownouts.

What it means: Longer response times, fewer firefighters at the scene, increased safety risks to citizens and firefighters, higher overtime costs.


City proposal: Reduce engine staffing from four (industry standard) to three.

What it means: Slower and less effective response, increased insurance and Workers Comp costs, greater risk of property damage in fire, less-effective medical response.


City proposal: Lay off 67 police officers and eliminate the vice unit.

What it means: Gang, drug and prostitution enforcement will be rolled back, community policing curtailed, patrols in high-crime areas reduced.


City proposals: Lay off nearly 200 other municipal employees and roll back after-school programs, community centers and garbage collection.

What it means: Fewer outlets for youth, especially in low-income areas, messier and less secure parks and recreational facilities.




The city says everyone needs to do their part to close a $50 million budget deficit. But look at some of the things public money is being used for at the same time we talk about putting your safety at risk:


n  $5.4 million … to subsidize development of nightclubs on K Street, including one with a “Mermaid Bar”

n  $55 million … for 32 acres of land at the Sacramento railyard, at nearly six-times its market value;

n  $18.6 million … to buy out nine properties on K Street, at three times their assessed value;

n  $5.4 million … to extend a riverfront “sidewalk to nowhere”

n  $4 million … to subsidize the temporary relocation of the Greyhound Bus Station.


These may be worth doing, but when we’re talking about keeping our neighborhoods safe, is a “Mermaid Bar” really our highest priority? Firefighters respond not only to fires, but also emergency medical calls, hazardous materials incidents, and specialized rescues like water, vertical, confined space and animal rescues.





  • You can also reach us at (916) 761-8013







Q:  The city says they couldn’t redirect this spending even if they wanted to because it comes out of redevelopment funds. Could we even use this money?


A:  Yes, redevelopment funds can be redirected for general fund use, and such a proposal has been offered to the council as a way to avoid deeper public safety cuts.


Q. The city and the Bee say the problem can be solved if employees take a pay cuts. Is this true?


A: No. Even if every employee in the city accepted a pay freeze, there would still be a significant hole in the budget.


Q:  Can’t the fire department get by with only three people per engine, like other fire departments?


A:  Fire Departments with three person companies require fire stations to be placed geographically closer to each other to provide an acceptable level of service.  The City of Sacramento cannot afford to build new fire stations and add new equipment to provide the same level of service that we currently have with four person companies.


Q:  The Bee says four-person staffing is just a union thing.


A:  Virtually every organization’s staffing standards call for at least four, and sometimes five-person crews. These include the National Fire Protection Association, the International City Managers Association, the state and local Fire Chiefs Associations, the California Office of Emergency Services and the ISO standard used by the insurance industry to set rates. None of these are union organizations.




  • Sacramento Fire Department budget has been chronically under-funded for years.  Most cities spend about 66% of the budget on public safety – but in Sacramento we spend less than 50%. 


  • Our fire death rate more than doubles the state average and we have about 40% more fires than similar sized cities.


  • Emergency call volume has increased significantly over the last 15 years, and we cannot currently meet the National Fire Protection Association recommended standards for dispatch, response and drive time. 


  • We understand the city budget is stretched thin, but firefighters need more resources, not less.  The Fire Department has been reduced over the years in the face of increasing population growth and increasing call volume.


  • Response times will increase overall.  Brain death due to lack of oxygen occurs after 4 minutes.  Fire doubles in size every minute.


  • We have been doing more with less for decades, and we do not believe that this is the time to cut funding in any way to the fire department.  It’s about the safety of every Sacramentan we serve.


Anonymous said...

I've been following the news on this and I thought that the Police union's agreement to forego pay raises for the time being meant that they wouldn't have to go through with the police dept layoffs mentioned above. Am I not understanding that correctly?


Anonymous said...

The Police union has agreed to it, but it still has to go to their membership for a vote. It is not a done deal yet. There is a feeling in their rank-and-file, just like there is here, that to continue to present the current crisis as a situation with just two possible outcomes (either the cops and the firefighters give up their cost of living increases or we'll have to lay them off)is wrong and misleading. The third alternative is obviously to cut back on spending money on projects that do not need to happen in tough economic times. I can't understand why nobody in the local media will take this story and run with it. Who are they scared of? There was finally a little blurb on today's noontime TV news about the K street nightclub project, but it's a drop in the bucket. Our C.O.L.A.'s were voted on by the City Council in 2007 with a 9 - 0 unanimous vote. Then-Mayor Fargo said at the time that these increases had been budgeted for and would not affect the general fund. It was considered by the city at the time the right thing to do, and a first step towards attempting to put our department on the path towards pay parity with the cops and with other fire agencies of our size.

And finally, the bottom line is this: the city holds the power to lay off anybody at any time. They can say that by giving back their raises the cops are going to save the jobs of the 67 officers. They can say that if the firefighters do the same it will save our 44 threatened positions. But when the middle of June comes and the city is still short several millions of dollars because they've given it away hand over fist to developers and architects, you better believe they won't think twice about laying off firefighters.

C. Harvey

beckler said...

So there's a big meeting tonight, right?

Anonymous said...

This is straight off of the City's website:

"Community Budget Meetings in March

The public is encouraged to attend these meetings and receive information on the budget process, challenges that the City faces and an update on the Fiscal Year 09/10 budget development.

March 11 at the Pannell Meadowview Community Center at 7:00 pm
(2450 Meadowview Road, 95832)

March 16 at the Hart Senior Center at 7:30 pm
(915 27th Street, 95816)

March 26 at the Coloma Community Center at 7:00 pm
(4623 T Street, 95819)

The City faces a projected $50 million budget shortfall for FY09/10. The City Manager must submit a balanced proposed budget to City Council by May 1. Budget hearings will take place during May and June. By Charter, a balanced budget must be adopted by Council no later than June 30th."

So these are the meetings that you show up to and voice your concern about the proposed cuts to public safety. Certain council members believe that the Sacramento Fire Department can be run like the Mayberry Fire Department, that we all sit around playing checkers and petting the dalmations, and that once a day we leave the station to get a cat out of a tree. These council members are ignorant to the actual workings of a big-city fire department and ignorant to the probable catastrophic outcomes of the changes that they are trying to effect. Please make yourself heard!

-C Harvey

Anonymous said...

Re: $ going to other projects... I'd love to see the money scheduled for the idiotic K Street 'Dive Bar' proposal go pretty much anywhere other than where they propose to put it, but there is a bit more to the story.

As I understand it, this new K Street development boondoggle is being funded by the city as part of their agreement with the developer who bought the Sheraton from the city for $50 million. That deal came with the caveat that the city would then give back $25 million for his future development projects. Whole thing seems dastardly dirty to me, but apparently it's legal.

What I'm getting at is that robbing Peter to pay Paul (i.e. gutting some city projects to use the dough for others) may be much more easily suggested than actually accomplished.

I'm wondering why no one has seriously suggested going after the Maloofs for the millions they still owe the city from the last arena deal.

beckler said...

Hi everyone-
I have wednesday off, so you can discuss amongst yourselves until thursday.

Anonymous said...

Just found out the cops voted an overwhelming "Yes" (over 80%) to okay their new contract. Good for them. Now it will be even easier for local politicians and media to portray firefighters as greedy and unwilling to do their parts to close the budget gap. And all we do is show up for work, answer every single call for service, and ask that the city uphold their end of a bargain that was negotiated in good faith, budgeted for, and unanimously approved. I think it goes without saying that we also ask the city to refrain from giving out millions of dollars to Moe Mohanna, the Berry Hotel, the Maloofs, and others of their ilk while closing fire stations and laying off firefighters.

As far as the 1012-1022 K street deal goes, it's shady and it stinks to high heaven. The fact that the city is in effect becoming a partner in competing against and possibly driving out of business privately-owned and non-subsidized businesses is appalling. It is item 18 on the consent calendar at the city council meeting tonight. Please go and let your voice be heard.

C Harvey

Anonymous said...

As a fellow public servant to this fine city, I share Mr. Harvey's concerns... I think public safety cuts proposed are a bad idea. There are a lot of subsidies to development that seem somewhat unjustified. However, the City should also be careful about undercutting future revenue that could have been leveraged by those investments in the downtown economy, although many of the projects in those lists are indeed wasteful and political pandering. We could always wait to build a nice waterfront bike and ped path (aka the "sidewalk to nowhere") until times are better, no question, and redirect those funds now to public safety.

My take on the cost of living adjustments (COLAs) -- In a time when revenues have been affected so dramatically, due to a massive recession that exceeded all expectations and was NOT budgeted for, my opinion is that everyone who works for the City should give up their COLAs. That includes firefighters, police... everyone. Non-public safety staff should also be doing furloughs, not just managers. Hopefuly things get better someday and we can get COLAs back. I am personally taking 1 mandatory furlough day off per month, equating to a 5% pay cut, and that could go to 2 days per month (10%) soon. Some of my staff, represented by Local 39, got nice raises in January. I'm OK with that, I respect the unions' right to decide whether or not to negotiate. However, many of our staff are new hires and will probably lose their jobs because of Local 39's refusal to come to the table to talk about the COLA's and other concessions. Honestly, the City could half the deficit by getting some labor concessions for COLA's and non-public-safety-furlough's, and save hundreds of jobs. It's sad to see more recently-hired people, who are really talented and work circles around many of the old guard, could get laid off because of bumping rights in the labor agreements. It makes me sick. In times when the union is supposed to band everyone together, some of the old guard are looking at their own narrow self-interests. So much for solidarity!

Anyways, my 2 cents. I support the firefighters & police, I support the concerns of the unions, I just hope that people come to their senses and think hard about what's really important. The revenue projections for the next 5 years are REALLY ugly... it's not going to get better anytime soon. I hope the unions, Councilmembers, City Managers, Labor Relations, etc figure it out quick and hopefully we keep as many people as possible working and not let this place fall apart any further than it already has.