Merger would improve wildfire protection
Los Altos Hills resident Allan Epstein submitted a letter to the editor of the Town Crier Sept. 2 claiming I made false assertions regarding the Los Altos Hills County Fire District (LAHCFD).
Recently, I asked the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors to consider further consolidating LAHCFD into the Santa Clara County Fire Department after an independent management audit conducted by Harvey Rose & Associates found significant mismanagement of the fire district. The audit specifically called out the inappropriate use of fire district funds, Brown Act violations, noncompliance with state and local procurement requirements and, most relevant in the current environment, wildfire prevention plans that are not aligned with the risk in the community as outlined by the Santa Clara County Community Wildfire Protection Plan. These are not my assertions – these are the findings made by the county’s independent auditor.
Furthermore, as your firefighters have battled record-setting fire season after record-setting fire season the past few years, I found the actions of the LAHCFD to be wholly unacceptable. Santa Clara County Firefighters have the professional knowledge, skills and experience to manage the affairs of the district more responsibly and in a way that reduces the wildfire risk not just to Los Altos Hills, but all of the surrounding communities. After all, wildfires don’t respect jurisdictional boundaries. It is a regional problem, and in light of the overwhelming risk, we can do better. We must do better.
Santa Clara County Firefighters provide a regional service model. This service model allows us to provide greater service capabilities and efficiencies than any one community can provide on its own.
This large response is the direct service benefit provided by Santa Clara County Fire Department to the communities we serve, and in the case of a wildfire, is critical to slowing the spread of the fire.
I believe that by consolidating the fire districts, we remove some of the jurisdictional complexity involved in addressing the wildfire problem, provide more regional response resources and simplify prevention.
President, Santa Clara County Firefighters Local Union 1165
Firefighters union’s pitch misleading
We owe thanks to our firefighters, but their union’s advertisement in the Sept. 23 Town Crier is a misleading pitch to “consolidate” the Los Altos Hills County Fire District (LAHCFD).
“The more we work together the better protection we have” appears beneath a map of the LAHCFD and the fire departments of Palo Alto, Los Altos and Cupertino. Consolidation would not merge the LAHCFD with those departments. It would merge the LAHCFD with distant county fire districts and transfer local property-tax revenues to the Gilroy vicinity. That would make the area on the map less safe.
Readers outside of the LAHCFD should not think that this does not affect them. If local property taxes are judged best spent elsewhere for fire, why not for schools? And perhaps the union’s map, suggesting that adjoining city fire departments should be “consolidated,” represents the next proposal.
As for “mismanaged funds,” the programs to improve fire hydrants and remove dead trees were reviewed with the county fire chief and highlighted in the LAHCFD’s budgets that were approved by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Audits find areas of improvement. There is nothing in the audit to justify the drastic action being proposed.
Los Altos Hills
Why did candidates opt out of forum?
The other day I got an email from Los Altos Residents, a group I am not affiliated with, advising me that interviews with five of the seven Los Altos City Council candidates were available for online viewing.
After receiving the list of questions in advance, Sally Meadows and Jonathan Weinberg declined to sit for the interview. The remaining five candidates answered all of the questions. Since COVID-19 means no candidate forums, I have to eliminate Meadows and Weinberg from consideration unless they can provide a plausible reason for bailing out after seeing the questions. If they had an honest excuse, why not at least answer the questions in writing?
I will watch Alex Rubashevsky, Terri Couture, Lynette Lee Eng, Kuljeet Kalkat and Scott Spielman’s interviews and pick the best three candidates.
Editor’s note: Meadows said she initially agreed to participate but declined after reviewing an email list of participants.
“I decided not to engage in what then appeared to be a partisan forum,” she said. “The questions were not the issue.”
Added Meadows: “Not all candidates are attending all forums, and a tally of attendance across all the forums would be more informative than focusing on attendance at a single event.”
Weinberg said: “Los Altos Residents ... have advanced positions and tactics which I do not believe are in the best interests of all Los Altos residents and principles of good government.”
How did Los Altos burn through millions?
How did the city of Los Altos burn through $65 million?
As of June 2018, the city had $65 million in cash. While some of it is set aside in a “rainy day” fund, around $25 million, there was amply enough to build the Los Altos Community Center for $35 million. Last week, the city put out a request for proposals to borrow between $10 million and $14 million. How did this happen?
The city decided to deny several applications that were conforming with federal and state law and our own city codes. Not only did the city deny conforming applications, but defended its decisions in the courts and lost. In one instance, the judge found that the city of Los Altos acted in bad faith.
We may disagree with existing laws and lament the loss of local control, especially on zoning. No one wants a five-story building on Main Street. But the right way to fight a law that we object to is to lobby, preferably within a coalition of cities that agree with us. Refusing to apply the law is the wrong approach.
Instead, the city is spending millions in settlements and legal expenses. This string of avoidable expenditures was brought about by the same ideology that produced Measure C: Do everything possible to say no to all redevelopment, no matter how
We must stop this insanity!
Former Los Altos mayor