The contract with the firefighters is up for renewal this year.
And while everyone wanted the huge tax increase passed so the other district revenues could be sliced up in new wages without conflict, it appears that the contract may have to go forward the same way as earlier years with a diversionary patch instead of a solid multi-year contract.
I am sure we will hear how much the firefighters want to respect the voters, and how important it is that they slide their increases until revenues are higher. Don’t want to look greedy in the face of another failed ballot measure.
So, I expect a slider to come out of today’s Executive Session.
Some contract extension for a year, or at least until after the $53,700,000 ballot measure is voted on in November.
No surprise. Same ol’ same ol’.
Fireworks at the meeting this afternoon.
With little regard for how stupid they looked, and childish they acted, a couple of the commissioners, with cheering from the chief, again showed how juvenile and disrespectful they can be. Not satisfied the commissioners were doing a good enough job making fools of themselves, the chief added his plugged nickels worth too.
While one commissioner tactfully avoided the meeting, (excused but maybe only running late, according to the chair), two others launched a full attack on the lone voice of reason, while the third kept wiping his face. In despair?
Apparently the paragraph that appears on the bottom of every agenda applies not to the chief, or eager to attack commissioners. Respect is clearly not a part of their persona, and civility is grossly absent.
Adding to the bizarre setting, this latest display of dirty laundry was aired while invited honorees waited patiently for their place on the agenda.
Two commissioners spoke of their activities this past month, which consisted of some external meetings.
Then Commissioner Freitas was offered his turn at comments. And he had many.Too many to list here.
From asking about the appointment of committees, which is usually completed in January, Chairman Gates is shirking his responsibility until, maybe, May, to special session commissioner meetings about the union contract which is due this year, the reaction was heated.
Add pending litigation concerning the city of Des Moines; members of the district potentially illegally using district email to advocate, or dissuade, persons running for office; potential lies from the administration about holding public meetings for the bond issue; and something about a salary survey that was quickly squashed, and you can see why the chief was openly enraged, actually cursing at the Commissioner Freitas.
Chairman Gates had no commissioner comments and so quickly launched into other items on the agenda, he ignored the order by skipping past one agenda item.
Not sure what the police chief and other members of his department thought of this infantile display, but I am sure they were not comfortable. After these members of the police force were honored for life-saving acts they performed in 2014, they evaporated from the chambers.
$53.7 million bond on April ballot
By the way. One of the questions that Commissioner Freitas asked concerned public meetings to explain the bond measure. At every single on of the three hastily called meetings in late January, early February, all of which were sparsely attended by members of the public, Commissioner Gates and Chief Church promised more outreach and more educational public meetings would be held if the commissioners approved putting the measure on the ballot.
Commissioner Freitas asked specifically when those meeting would be held, and were they being scheduled.
Chief Church said three of them were held. And no others are currently scheduled.
But that is a bald faced lie. The three meetings Chief Church spoke of today were those held pre-approval by the board, not any meetings as promised held AFTER the board voted to put the measure forth to the people.
The only public informational or educational meetings were to put forth the question, Should SKF&R put the bond measure on the ballot?
Not a single open public Educational meeting has been scheduled or held to help inform the public of the actual measure that was put on the ballot.
Proof is as simple as checking their meeting list. Nary a meeting in sight. The farce continues.
Even at today’s meeting, the last one scheduled before the vote, there was no educational mention of the ballot measure.
Chief Church and his band of merry men are all Liars.
We want our endorsement back
Meanwhile the games continued as Commissioner Fossos and Chairman Gates suffered buyers remorse over the letter they so happily approved, voted 3-2 to support, and sent to the county last month regarding the mega-million dollar PSERN radio vote.
As if their play acting today was anything but chest beating, they tag-teamed each other making fools of themselves trying to rescind their letter of support. As if it mattered. The ballot measure will be fully decided by the time the so-called wah wah I-Screwed-Up-Give-Me-Back-My-Endorsement Letter is drafted, and they damn well know it.
Just a dog and pony show for political advantage. Though it is more like playing the public fool, to me.
You know that Damn well!
Oh, on the title? That’s what it sounded like the Fire Chief retorted to Commissioner Freitas when asked about sending the commissioner some material regarding one of the issues. Specifically in response to the comment about notifying Commissioner Freitas regarding potential litigation with the fire district.
“It was handled in an email to you and you know that damn well!” Chief Church declared.
Excuse me?, the taken aback Commissioner Freitas said.
And the chief, so full of himself, uncontrolled and to angry to even realize how asinine he sounded, or where he was, repeated himself
Imagine how he acts out of public view.
You know that damn well!
Are these the people you trust $53,700,000 of your hard earned tax dollars?
Too arrogant to even realize the damage they are causing the district, no wonder the ship is sinking while these commissioners and administration founder.
Maybe this explains why Gordon Olson chose to leave the state to get away from this bunch.
Anyone doubting that the commissioners are quite satisfied with their not so broad reaching citizen input meetings and will rush forward with putting this measure on the April Ballot?
Even though the majority of the mere dozen or so (total) attendees not already of the inner circle expressed concern over lack of any legitimate notice of the so called ‘Citizen Input’ meetings?
Neither am I.
In fact, one of the comments really hit the mark. When asked about the compounding huge tax increases coming from several levels of government, and what the cumulative impact might mean for the taxpayer, the district responded with little concern for anything there than their own pockets.
They are afraid that if they wait until after the King County radio tax passes, among others, you will feel too pinched to approve money for their wants.
They need to have their hands out first. And they are betting heavily on you not reading beyond the word Safety, either.
Add another tax on the ballot in a year or so
Remember, the chief stating that the district can not spend any of it on anything other than equipment and structures?
Do you know what he was really saying? That as soon as the new fire station is built, the district will come back begging for more money to hire firefighters.
Remember? Not one dime can be spent on anything other then equipment.
So where do you think the money comes from to hire the new firefighters? Over $2,000,000 per year?
Yep! Another tax increase.
Of course, it won’t really be sold to you as a new tax. They’ll just call it an extension of the existing Excess Levy.
Ever heard of a tax actually expiring? Didn’t think so.
As an aside, remember that survey they conducted last fall? Probably not, since it was so widely advertised. But anyway, I asked for the results two weeks ago. Curious what we got at $86 bucks per phone call.
Not the least bit surprised the district is withholding the results until AFTER the special meeting Thursday. Wouldn’t want the public to be able read it a day or so in advance so they are able to ask intelligent questions about it before the vote, would they?
Not even the vaguest hint of open government with this bunch.
After all, as we heard at every meeting from the crowing back slapping commissioner, the board has over 100 years of firefighting experience to back up their stalwart we-know-better-than-you/whats-good-for-you/look-down-their-nose attitude.
To my regular readers, we are not alone. My readership is expanding.
Not only is this blog being read by members of the fire district, they are acting, actively, on the advice.
Your welcome. I will continue giving you feedback.
Second of three
The meeting this evening was more lively than last week. Most interesting was the reaction to my post last Friday.
Just so you know, unless you are honest about the fact you did it, you can edit your page and post as much as you want, as many times as you want, after the publication date and no one will know about it. Useful for correcting typos, someone could, knowingly and willfully erroneously, make the claim it was like that all along.
So a date, of say, January 30, 2015 will remain as the original post date but you can change as much, or all of the content, of the page any way you desire and not tell anybody. Leaving them to think it was all original.
Which is what happened on the fire district blog. Many errors are fixed and now one could point at the facts I presented Friday and claim I was ‘misinforming the public’.
While the fire districts page remained so convoluted even the plain text was random through Tuesday morning, (the print off this morning is very telling proof.) this afternoon their IT tech must have been busy chasing down and fixing a few of the accuracies I mentioned.
Shame, actually. All it would have taken is for him/her to just approach the page as if a new visitor and try the links to see the faults. It’s basic blogger stuff.
Click on the link
Now the text reads “Please click on “Community Voice” in the column to the left”, and that option actually exists. Fortunately I have a dated print copy proving my facts as of the date I wrote them.
Still, save yourself the trouble of thinking the “Next Step” button will do anything helpful. Most people would think you need to hit it to, well, maybe go to the next step.
But if you type something in the ‘Whats your idea?” block (I typed ‘How Much?’) and hit ‘Next Step’ you go to this page.
Yes, I know it will be fixed soon, but as of this writing it says:
We’re sorry, but there is not a web page matching your entry.
And about that FaceBook Harvesting?
Yup, still there.
But you do have an option.
But in order to ask anything without using FaceBook, they require you to sign up to their club. Are you ready to give them all that information, create a fake screen name, remember yet another password to yet another website you probably won’t visit again just to ask a question?
Actually, they are counting on it.
Give them your FaceBook account so they can friend, and lobby, you, or join their private club in order to express your first amendment rights. No worries, I am sure they won’t bother you.
They are listening.
I mentioned that the New Feature website was so lacking of any substance that no one would even know why they were there.
Bonus! Now the entire slide presentation seen at the meetings is available for viewing and downloading, without even putting in a Public Records Request.
Who’s attending the meetings
Gotta say, they are still a long way from getting many non-friends-of-the-district to attend their meetings, and only one opportunity remains before they vote to put this on the ballot. Only about half a dozen new faces in the room.
Amazingly, they are going to tout the success of their sparsely attended meetings when they bring the issue to the voters. Since the rooms are always well attended by staff and payroll, some out of uniform, it looks full, even to the point of getting more chairs.
One member of the public, a known friend-of-the-district, that did show up, said he was at the last meeting and that he will be at the next meeting, did do some politicking, saying he was writing about it and that everyone else should promote the issue on their social media sites, without being stopped by the commissioners, even though they know it is a clear violation of PDC rules.
An uncomfortable moment did occur though. When I asked if I could bring some printed material to pass around the room, the commissioners looked at each other , then the chief, before hesitantly starting to answer in the affirmative.
To which I added they should seek approval from the PDC before allowing me to politic for or against a ballot measure. In the fire station. At and to members of the public. Called to a public meeting.
Should have been a no-brainer. But they didn’t have the attorney there to render his knowed opinion.
Again the highly paid communications officer can’t communicate. He is so used to talking exclusively with staff about internal operations, he must think we too can read his mind.
I imagine the fire district is breaking their arm patting themselves on the back after what they likely consider a quick response to a citizen suggestion last night.
The town hall presentation consisted of dozens of slides glossing over how much they want, how much it will cost you per year, and vague misleading places where it will be spent.
By calling it a Safety measure, they hope you will ignore the millions for a new administration palace (hidden under the name better selling name Fleet/Facilities), or that the new multimillion dollar fire station will sit empty because we have no staffing to fill it, (Unless they staff it with exclusively OVERTIME employees).
But the citizen asked how can the public contact the district with their questions or suggestions.
A good question, since the district had no input method on their website.
But today it think it does. Today it is a Facebook Harvesting ploy.
From the git-go it is filled with juvenile mistakes far beneath the caliber of public servants the district says they have on staff. And want $54,000,000 to keep paying.
Foremost, the page has no information for you to read telling you anything about the ballot measure that might enable you to ask a question. If you did not go to the unadvertised personal invitation only Town Hall meeting, you have absolutely NO IDEA what they want.
No mention of the price tag, no mention of the ‘aging fleet’, no mention of the crumbling buildings, no mention of the Swiss cheese fire boat, no mention of anything that will be on the ballot.
Then, “If you have questions or comments you can send them to us by clicking on the blue writing that says “please share your comments”.
No place on the page is there such a phrase, blue or otherwise.
If you click the blue Community Voice button, however, it goes go to a page that deceives you into thinking something will happen.
You get to play a search game, click several pointless links that take you nowhere and tell yo nothing, and if you are lucky you get to see that the CAO is Top Voice.
Basically, it is a just a Facebook Harvesting ploy.
You are REQUIRED to give them personal FaceBook information about you to even ask How Much they want.
Personal Facebook information like that which got the chiefs son in big trouble with the Department of Health.
But then, I am obviously mistaken. It probably works perfectly as intended. Frustrate the voter and do nothing for the money.
Have they actually heard from even one member of the public not deep in their pocket?
These clowns are so full of themselves and anxious to get their hooks into your wallet they are rushing blindly to the ballot box on the back of a gathering personal information about you.
They are hanging their helmet on the word Safety and hoping you fall for it hook ladder and sinker.
Back to the drawing board.
Thank you all for allowing me a long overdue break from the blog.
As Santa, I had a pretty full schedule for November and December, and suiting up for it took some preparation.
Oh, the stories I could tell. Even the hardened will get a glisten in their eye.
But I am getting distracted.
The break has not been without me keeping up on the fire district, but I have been extremely negligent in posting anything. And there have been several items worthy. Like the shake up on the board of directors with the election this week of the 2015 chair and vice chair. Some on the board showed their true leadership abilities as the decision was being made.
But something really big is about to hit your paycheck and they want you to be ready. At least, that is what they tell themselves.
Have you heard about the $54 million bond measure? Or have you heard about the public meetings the fire district is holding to educate you? And supposedly get your opinion?
That might be because they just thought about asking you a few days ago. Even their website only posted the notice on the 27th.
They have a goal of getting it on the April ballot. Since they have only heard from yes men, they are pretty confident.
For the meetings, at a minimum cost of $400 per meeting, they are holding three of them.
First, I need to say I was wrong. In an earlier post I said the district was coming after your wallet for a huge $45,000,000 tax increase.
I was wrong. I was wrong. I was wrong!
What they want is $53,700,000.
At a time when the state is considering adding a slew of taxes to pay for education, the governor wants to soak you for a new billion dollar energy tax, the county is asking you to add millions to pay for radios, are you prepared for the fire district to saddle you with an additional 20 year long $53.7 million bill for brand new fire trucks, a sparkling new administration building and renovations to all existing fire stations.
Today they held the first of three community meetings to get public opinion. But they failed to reach out and let you know about them. Other than a few flyers at the fire stations.
The commissioners were so excited they could collect and additional $300-$400 each in meeting pay, they refused to put even $100 in advertising in your local paper.
Or submit an item for the community calendar.
Despite all that, the first meeting was well attended.
By fire district employees, longtime supporters and invited guests. And me, of course.
So when they say they want feedback, they really don’t want YOUR opinions. Just the usual bobbing heads and admiration of their friends.
But to be fair, I must also mention the district did conduct a survey last fall to learn what you wanted. And they were pretty loose with your money then, too.
Committing $43,000 to poll up to 500 people.
$86 dollars per phone call
If every single person answered the phone and took the survey. However, I bet very few people stayed on the phone for 15 to 25 minutes answering the 40 very wordy and very leading questions this survey covered.
So the per respondent rate climbs quickly. Could have been $200 – $300 per call trying to swing as few as 150 voters.
Meanwhile, two of your commissioners, without taking the proposal to the entire board, made sure they could line the pockets of a few friends with $43,000 of your tax dollars, and get paid for their committee meetings while doing it.
How much would a full page ad in the Federal Way Mirror cost? Or including a one page insert with a questionnaire on the back to fill out and return? How many people would it reach?
I am still here.
And still watching out for your money.
Even a budget meeting can be entertaining.
The Accreditation of our district.
Does it matter?
Not so much according to Chief Church and validated by Commissioner Jim Fossos.
At the special meeting yesterday, at a point when the district expects a 15.5% increase in property tax revenue, the budget line for Accreditation was left ominously blank. With over $1.5 million in fresh cash infusion for 2015, and nearly a decade since last Accreditation was done, the district decided this is not a good time to bare all to an outside, presumably independent, inspection. For the cost of a mere $15,000.
Keep in mind, this was a special meeting at which the administration was presenting their proposed budget to the commissioners.
A time when the commissioner got to hear what the budget the administration had toiled over these past several weeks, looked like for the coming year, and their first opportunity to ask questions and seek clarification. Of the administration.
When the question was asked by Commissioner Mark Freitas about the lack of budget for Accreditation, the chief answered it was not something we needed right now. It could simply that other expenses were of priority. Commissioner Freitas’ response re-addressed the issue with how important it was for the district to appear in their best light as the pending issue of asking for a $45 million bond were being bandied about.
I assume he felt leading up to asking for money, maybe $45 million, it was paramount that the fire district do all it could to show the public how proficient and accountable it was.
But the chief wanted nothing to do with it. And apparently Commissioner Fossos felt compelled to not leave well enough alone as he proceeded to school Commissioner Freitas and provide the reason.
The rating is “not what it is built up to be”.
The Accreditation, held by a small percentage of public agencies in the state, of which even the great City of Seattle, according to Commissioner Fossos, can’t achieve, doesn’t matter.
Actually, in full context, what he actually said was that if it were done today, we would FAIL!
Citing the state of staffing, equipment, stations and everything in general, we would not fare well under scrutiny.
But we have money for other things.
Adequate firefighter staffing to meet the needs of the district had been cast aside in order to create higher paying positions, pay increases, hiring non-essential personnel and granting a Communications Affairs Officer, (affectionately, I am sure, called a CAO, pronounced COW) position for spinning the actions of the district in a favorable light.
(A position exclusively intended to blow enough smoke at us we don/t see the failures and instead just keep passing tax increases.)
Meanwhile, the budget is simply a prelude to another woe-is-me, people-will-die plea for raising your taxes that is scheduled for discussion at a future meeting.
Get ready. It is coming and it will not be pretty.
Are you ready to give these clowns another $45 million?
After they have wasted and misdirected the $3.5 million per year, you gave them last year?
Remember, they promised to use the Excess Levy money to hire 9 firefighters. But they decided to hire only 2. Redirecting over a million dollars every year into raises, overtime and additional perks.
Gives a new meaning to Excess, doesn’t it?
But I must thank the administration and Commissioner Fossos for their forward thinking. Had they decided to pursue Accreditation, the taxpayers would have wasted $15,000, (estimate provided by Chief Church) and, according to Commissioner Fossos, received a dismal rating.
Bonus, some of the savings will be spent in additional newsletters. You know, that full color flyer you get that seems carefully timed to arrive with your ballot filled with stories of how important your fire department is? The budget for Educational Programs/Website Programs was upped from $12k to $18k just so they can cover the upcoming election cycle. The chief explained the increase was so they can send three newsletters out next year instead of the traditional 2.
Claims of speaking the truth.
Something to consider as we head into another huge revenue seeking ballot measure. And fat revenue forecast.
At the last board meeting, a commissioner was trying to clarify a matter in the commissioner guidelines about accessibility to having issues brought to the board.
The process works something like this: a member of the public might raise a question to an administration member, fire commissioner or the fire chief, and if the answer does not satisfy them, what alternative do they have? Some would think the matter ends with the person’s response (or lack thereof) without remedy. Others might consider the Public Comment section of the board meeting their only alternative. But this venue also often is passed over (outright ignored) without due review.
According to the guidelines, there is another avenue; put it on the agenda for the next meeting.
Apparently the guidelines have a process for in individual to do exactly that. Presumably, if it is on the agenda, it will get more attention than just a comment. A comment is often heard for the first time at a meeting and unless the answer is immediately known, (it usually is but they can play dumb with supposed surprise) it can be politely shuffled off to eternity.
Not likely if they don’t want to deal with it, but at least the commissioners and the administration have at least 24 hours, possibly 72 hours, to become familiar with it, if any of them are remotely so inclined.
When the Chief speaks
Anyway, while the matter of an individual adding an item to the agenda was being aired, an example, (blogging reports), was mentioned to help clarify when such an action might be requested by the individual.
The example was quickly seized upon by Chief Church as an opportunity for him to declare if you want the Truth, ask him. He will impart the Word to you.
The chief says he wanted to address the issue of bloggers misrepresenting the ‘facts’. Actually he alluded to them more as spreading lies.
And further claimed He is the truth teller of the department. While some of his lacky commissioners bobbled their heads in assent, He reaffirmed if you want the truth, ask Him.
Even the chairman of the board says this is the right process to pursue.
Of course, don’t expect an answer. Any email I sent the Chief has been ignored for months now. Typical.
But let’s hear an example of the Truth as told by the Chief.
However, as to the truth, Chuck Kahler’s nicely restored vintage Kenworth fire truck that the Chief allows to be parked 24/7/365 for years inside a fire station now remains out of public view, even though the Chief Truth Giver claimed it was used many times at public events and to promote good in the community. In sharp contrast to what the Chief says, it has NEVER been to a public event. And of course, the other relic that his good buddy Chuck Kahler owns still sits behind station 64, is totally unworthy of public display as it sits neglected and rusting away.
Dick Body is the only driver to move any of the antique fire trucks and while his log does not identify which truck he drove, at every occasion mentioned the only classic in view was the Chevrolet/Stanford pumper. This is understandable since it is the only restored fire truck owned by the district.
Meanwhile, both of Chuck Kahler’s privately owned antiques remain on, or inside, publicly owner property at taxpayer expense.
This is the truth and no one at the district has proven it false. Especially not the Chief.
So is it the almighty Chief that is spreading lies, and his ‘dear friends’ the commissioners openly supporting it?
Remember that when he comes asking for tens of millions for new equipment. Is it really needed? Or is it just another spin on the Truth?
If the Chief is so inured to telling lies, how can the public be convinced anything he says is true?
Will his penchant for ignoring the voters cost our district new equipment?
It is quickly becoming obvious there is little confidence in his ability to lead this organization.
Open Public Meetings
Wonder why they bothered sitting through the Open Public Meeting seminar. Oh, wait, I know. They got paid for it.
I have been waiting patiently since June 24th for a response to this email:
Subject: The vintage KW and the Chevy fire trucks
Can you give me some dates and events in the last few years where the vintage KW that is at station 65 and the vintage Chevy that is at station 66 were last used for appearances in public, say maybe for a market, community event or school function? And the name of the driver for those trucks?
I recall seeing the Chevy at an event or two, but never the KW.
Please refresh my memory.
But, since I was not expecting one, waiting further seems pointless.
But let’s consider the circumstances, created by the chief himself.
It was made a big deal of at the meeting a week ago how Jerry got it all wrong when he reported the housing of personal owned fire trucks at the fire stations. Amid vocal assent from the members of the board, it was declared Jerry should have simply asked the chief for clarification about these trucks before reporting the information. Then it could, according to the chief, be ‘correct’ and everyone would know no wrong doing or misconduct was afoot.
So, in light of the suggestion, and in an effort to report accurate information, that evening Jerry sent Chief Al Church the above email asking for dates the KW, which Chief Church says is owned by the district, (but, as reported here, has been identified as actually being personally owned by a district employee), had been in a parade or at a school, or for that matter at any public appearance representing the fire district.
I also asked who would have driven it, since the owner, not the district, is the only one who has the keys and, lacking permission for regular firefighters to drive or even move it, has caused severe inconvenience when station personnel are attending to normal station duties.
A week has passed. The chief has been in the office. He has been at various social events. But answer the question he wanted the citizen to ask him personally?
A week passed and not a word from the chief. So much for asking at the source for accurate information.
Apparently, even with the grandstanding and fanfare, he has nothing to rebut my accurate reporting.
At the meeting, the chief also stated both antique fire apparatus were owned by the district, that they were stored inside with district approval and that all the appropriate permissions had been followed, and that any liability would be covered by the umbrella policy for the district.
What a convoluted and conflicting statement. If they were indeed fully owned by the district, why would there need to be extraneous district approval or redundant appropriate permissions for the vehicles to be inside the station? Unless, as reported here, accurately, I will add, we do not hold title to the vehicles.
In which case, the chief flatly lied to the commissioners. And the public.
He wouldn’t do that would he?
Even for a friend?