August 7th the Excess Levy will back on the ballot in just a few short months.

 

The district held a Special Commissioners Meeting today and voiced that a 59% YES vote was a substantial improvement over the 49% YES vote in 2010.

 

Having taken straw polls, the commissioners voted 5-0 for putting the Excess Levy on the ballot again as soon as possible.

Filing deadline is May 11. Another Special Commissioners meeting early next week and it will be a done deal for August 7th.

 

Is there enough of a difference in opinion to gain that extra 1% needed for passage?

 

Are you levy weary?

 

Help determine if a solution can be found. What will it take for you to Pass This Levy?

 

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Yes votes – 59.32%

No votes – 40.68%

 

I attended the canvassing board meeting this morning and the official certification confirms it. The district could not overcome the minimum and swing a reversal. Much to the disappointment of the board who basically ignored the levy issue completely at their monthly meeting Tuesday.

So now, because they sat stubbornly in denial, there is a one month delay in dealing with the loss.

Unless, of course, they spend the money for a special meeting to deal with what should have been addressed at the regular meeting.

Do you see the pattern and why they are so dysfunctional?

Unless they can get more of your money just to deal with the basics of their job, they refuse to.Deny there is an issue that we need to discuss and deal with now then call a special meeting later to discuss it. Maybe no member of the public will show up, because after all, we don’t advertise our special meetings and nobody is aware when or where they will be.

 

Has this administration not learned anything?

 

They are not looking at themselves and asking what can we do to improve out image? They are not looking at each other and asking what can you do to improve our image nor are they even asking  each other what can you do to improve our image.

None of the above.

It is so much easier to simply ignore the public unless asking for more money and continue to blame Jerry for their failures.

While repeatedly spending the taxpayers money on self-serving, (but legal) travel, food, meetings and other perks, these leaders refuse to admit they can not control themselves and that they are the problem.

What will it take to pass a levy?

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Are they really listening?

 

The fire district has come before the voters twice in the past two years asking for either a stable funding mechanism or an Excess Levy.

 

And both were rejected by the voters.

 

Why?

 

Leadership? Is that the problem? And if so, is it the administration or the commissioners? Or both? It is decisions or actions? It is perception or real?

Spending? Is that why you voted NO? If so, is it fuel or food? Wages or travel? Buildings or needless meetings?

Attitude? Are they too close knit to approach? Dismissive and arrogant?

Firefighters? What have they done wrong? Do you think there is not enough community involvement? Do you believe they are paid too much? Too little?

What are these highly educated people doing so wrong that they can not pass a revenue ballot?

.

Remedies

Can you pinpoint a problem? A specific policy or practice that needs to be fixed? Person that needs to be replaced or re-educated?

What change do you need to see in order to vote YES for a levy?

I want to know about it. Send my your suggestions or complaints. I will try to get you an audience or at the very least post them here.

The district is reading my blog. Maybe you can get the to start paying attention.

While you need to identify yourself when you email me, I will not disclose your identity unless you agree to it.

For even more anonymity, send your suggestions to me in the mail. without a return address if you want.

Send a message below or post a letter to: Jerry Galland, POBOX 1843, Milton, WA 98354

Lack of input

It has been almost two years since the district held a Citizen Advisory Team meeting where average taxpayers could join avid supporters to voice suggestions and opinions on what type of funding should be secured to ward off the current budget crisis. Some felt these meetings were outcome based sessions where serious discussion was politely handled and the original district concepts were ultimately adopted.

Whatever the reason, this year they simply did not invite you in.

This time, instead of bothering with organized meetings and public opinion, they talked amongst themselves and made a decision for you. Was it the right one? From the viewpoint of many, these were merely good-old-boy meetings with arrogant participants determined to get their way at whatever cost.

And when it was presented for a vote, again you said NO.

 

What will it take to either pass a levy or establish a Service Benefit Charge?

 

 

Many citizens have some excellent comments but have been put off by the harsh and unwelcome requirements of the board of commissioner meetings.

Several that I spoke with have expressed feeling intimidated or bullied by the administration and feel frustrated that they are not being listened to.

After SKF&R instituted the signup sheet requiring full name and address be completed before you could even ask a simple question, that intimidation became too uncomfortable. Since the sheet had to be turned in prior to the start of the meeting, arrive late and you missed out until next month, long after any pertinent input was of value.

Now none other than payroll or former payroll even bother showing up. Unless folks are specially invited, it is always a room full of employees agreeing with each other. Kind of like working in a vacuum.

 

What will it take?

I want to know from the citizens what needs to happen in order for a measure to pass. Can the commissioners do anything to get your vote? Change anything? Improve something?

From fuel to mileage, travel and meals solid cost saving ideas have been presented. And ignored. Apparently just hinting telling them about it is not enough. But maybe voting down the levy might get their attention.

 

Now, what do we do with it? Pretending for a moment that the arrogance is replaced with humility at these historic failures, should they start paying heed, what do you want to say?

 

Send a message below or post a letter to: Jerry Galland, POBOX 1843, Milton, WA 98354

Write me:

Comments or questions are welcome.

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250 records request per year?

Records abandoned at the front desk?

 

I call bullshit and think the union president is spreading rumors under the guise of fact, again.

 

I will check this out and update when the real facts are available.

 

 

What Ryan Herrera, the President of the Firefighters Local IAFF 2024 wrote in the Federal Way Mirror:

“However, a string of requests with an average of 1 per business day is a bit over the top. Sometimes the information requested is never even picked up or reviewed and left behind only to be recycled.”

 

Ryan Herrera2

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At the commissioners meeting today there was virtually no mention of the results of the Excess Levy. Other than a vague reference to it being too close to call.

 

While official certification is not until this Friday, and the Federal Way Mirror has said it failed by less than 1%, the department seems poised for some sort of eleventh hour reversal.

 

Remember, this is King County Elections we are talking about.

 

Or, and more likely, SKF&R will call for a recount.  State law does not provide for a mandatory recount of local issues however the district may surely opt to do so.

 

And with a cost of just $.15 for machine count and $.25 for a hand recount of each ballot cast, I envision either a special meeting to request the recount or the YES committee or IAFF 2024 paying the estimated $2790 to $4650.

 

Should the vote swing, anyone wiling to help pay for a recount?

Comments or questions are welcome.

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We will see as the days pass which avenue is taken, but certainly the district is not yet willing to resign.

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I am sure some heartfelt words of appreciation were said before one of your commissioners finished celebrating the retirement of Deputy Chiefs Knorr and Trackwell.

 

Hopefully some of them were ‘thanks for the opportunity to get paid to be here’.

 

Never one to pass up a meal or a paid ‘meeting’, Commissioner Fossos once again shows how ‘honored’ he is to serve the constituency.

 

The department held a gala for the retiring public officials and the general public only knows about it because elected officials insist on being paid to attend. Another self-serving heavily payroll attended function that only select members of the public were invited to.

 

Whether it be a funeral for a former co-worker, sentencing hearing for a convicted embezzler or farewell party, this commissioner never fails to show how ‘honored’ he is to pay his respects.

 

On March 29th, Commissioner Fossos attended the party then on April 10th he sent in his pay sheet demanding payment, plus mileage of course.

 

Consistent would be an understatement, this elected official has no understanding of a budget crisis.

 

And he wants you to pass another taxation of the people to pay for it.

 

What is your vote on the EXCESS Levy?

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Why would you hold a meeting of elected officials in a restaurant?

So you can eat well and write off the meal, of course!

From the Governors office down, public agencies tell us that there is no fat in the budget, we have cut to the bone and must raise taxes or lives are at risk.

And now comes the public plea for a tax increase from your fire district. Appropriately called an Excess Levy.

Is there any excess in our department?

 

The Dinner Meeting

So why is it that quasi-public agencies that don’t even have an address, website, telephone number or any means of contact, (secret society?) insist on holding their monthly meeting in a restaurant?

We all know that food increases attendance, and getting paid to attend a meeting adds incentive, so convening a meeting of public employees at a nice Italian eatery makes logical sense, right?

That seems to be the logic of an organization I believe is called the King County Fire Commissioners Association. (confusing because the form lists the meeting by different acronyms. KFCFC or KCFCA)

While I can’t seem to find a number for this supposed organization to call them and talk about this practice, this is one of the monthly meetings that we pay our fire commissioners to attend. Sometimes twice a month if you are on the exec board of this mystery organization.

And because it is held at a restaurant, we treat them to a fine meal on the public dime. Every month. Just add it to your expense account.

 

KCLS

From an expense perspective, meeting at an already existing free-to-use location would be more practical.

Since these elected officials are all fire department employees, seems practical, prudent and even honorable, that any fire department could house them for a meeting. Every fire district has some sort of meeting area well equipped to host events like this with little or no cost to the taxpayer for the room much less added meals.

And, if shunned by their own departments, I offer a free and well known alternative. Just as conveniently located throughout King County are places called the King County Library System. Meetings rooms are available in all of them free for the asking. The bad news is your don’t get any Italian food. Sorry.

Or, again in lieu of a food establishment costing taxpayers money and to save that pesky mileage expense, how about a roving meeting place in which the fire commissioners take turns hosting at their various departments?

Free use of the meeting room and no meal expense for the taxpayers to pick up the tab for?

But then, who would show up?

 

 Budget Crisis?

Pay no attention to the budget crisis, it doesn’t apply to us. We just use that phrase when talking to the public about money. And heh, a mans gotta eat, right?

Would you please pass the bread sticks?

Oh, and I need another napkin, too, I seem to have sauce on my face.

 

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Call it what you want, but when a simple bookkeeping task turns into a scramble of inaccurate Public Disclosure Commission reports, you really have to question the financial acuity of our leadership.

 

Last November I became aware of some some glaring errors in the YES ON PROP 1 COMM required by law  reports.

It appeared that the co-chairs, Ryan Herrera and Ed Plumlee (that’s right, this was controlled by the union president and our Assistant Fire Chief) had failed to properly report expenditures and never submitted a final report as required by law.

Entrusted with over $37,000 dollars to influence the election, these two failed to follow basic record keeping practices.

It took several months for the PDC to take action but in the past two weeks a flurry of amended  reports have been filed. But these only add to the confusion.

In some cases the actual amount paid for services, which should have been easily verified by invoice or receipt, changed. And in one case a new $900.00 expense suddenly appears.

Still in the wind is the final report, which was required to have been filed in late 2010.

I think they are waiting until the PDC finishes doing their accounting job for them and gives some sort of approval to their questionable records.

 

Trusted Public Officials?

Or merely financial bumblers? Finding new expenses and changing existing ones to make the numbers match (and still not right) look like cooking the books to me.

As the latest ballot measure takes flight, this group is struggling to meet legal requirements and stumbling over themselves filing inaccurate and incomplete reports.

Do you trust them with millions in tax dollars?

 

I don’t think they can handle it and these reports prove it.

 

BTW

On a side note, who is paying for the Yes Prop 1 signs that are popping up? Two weeks ago I found a record for Vote Yes For Fire & EMS Committee, a group who filed with the PDC in support of the levy, but now they are no longer visible.

And wouldn’t it be illegal to use the supposedly left over money from a single year campaign two years old for this new effort without refiling? The public has a right to know who is paying to influence the vote.

 

Update:

At 5:33 Friday evening an email arrived from the PDC that somewhat answer one question. I think.

Using assumed names and misleading the public are apparently accepted practices enforced by the Public Disclosure Commission.

YES ON PROP 1 COMM and Vote Yes For Fire & EMS Committee are indeed one and the same group. The problem is they filed with the PDC as a Single Year committee. But are in reality a Continuing Committee. And as such apparently get to enjoy the protection of name change without declaring their real identity.

When they originally filed and told the PDC they were a Single Year entity, the PDC assigned them a filer identifier number. So now, no matter what they chose to call themselves, they are required to keep using that same number.

Which probably means that the rules are different and will be conveniently interpreted to exonerate the failure to file final reports in 2010 as required.

Anyone following this twisted sense of government regulation?

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On their Frequently Asked Questions the district states “With the drop of over 22% in revenue since 2009, we have reduced operating expenses. This includes the reduction of 23 personnel including 13 firefighter/EMTs”.

So, a revenue decrease of $5.5 million results in the loss of 13 firefighter/EMTs.

But not getting this $3.5 million increase equals between 20 and 25 firefighters could be laid off?

I call BULLSHIT!

Those numbers do not pass the smell test.

Staffing levels are based on current revenues. But now we are to believe maintaining current revenues equals an additional loss of between 20 and 25 firefighters? (Source- Federal Way Mirror)

Really?

I am always impressed when fear tactics are thrown out in the name of public safety.

Now we are being told that failure means the loss of 20 to 25 firefighters? In the next two years?

And we are led to believe that the $3.5 million dollars retains between 20 and 25 firefighters?

 

How does this new math work out?

Let’s break down the $3.5 million Excess Levy numbers and facts as presented to the Board of Commissioners by the president of the Washington State Fire Chief Association, Chief Allen Church in January:

$2 million is for restoring one aid unit to service and will require 9 firefighters; (this increases headcount not reduces it, and is not in the current budget).

$1 million is for building maintenance and capital equipment; (none of this goes to keeping firefighters or is in the current budget other than paid from reserves).

The remaining $500k covers that unfunded budget drain of a training center property, hires one training officer and makes some attempt to restore wages and benefits for existing firefighters. (Only part of this in the current budget is $230,000 interest only payment for training property)

NOTHING about this Excess Levy is meant to retain “between 20 and 25 firefighters”. But don’t let that stop the district from using this fear tactic to get the levy passed.

None of the budget models or forecast information presented indicated gross reductions to future revenues, indeed most indicated we are at or near the low. Meaning revenues are either fixed or could see negligible decreases. Or that revenues could actually increase within the next 2-4 years.

New ‘Facts’ presented to the public

But to the public he presents some different ‘facts’.

With over 100 current firefighters in the district, I for one find it extremely difficult to believe the chief when he states failure of passing the Excess Levy could mean that 20 to 25 firefighters may be laid off by the end of 2013.

So where does the statement about laying off between 20 and 25 firefighters come from? Certainly not in the proposal the commissioners voted to approve.

But how do we get the public to pass our Excess Levy? Do you think they will understand and agree to another aid unit and training officer? Or that we need a new roof and fire truck? Or that we are still on the hook for $230,000 annual interest only payments for the training center (and new fancy administration building) that we may never get built?

Naw, lets tell them about losing firefighters. That will scare them into voting yes.

Fear tactics. At a premium.

And they accuse me of bending or stretching the truth, or in some cases outright lying, when I present verifiable facts.

Sounds like the chief is spinning a pretty good tale on this one.

 

Here is the real shame

Do you know was is really sad about all this?

The truth.

Getting back a fully staffed aid unit, repairing the buildings and maintaining capital equipment without dipping into reserves and bring back one training officer are all very valid reasons to vote yes on the Excess Levy.

But apparently the district felt it warranted to exaggerate their position with fear and use the threat of losing 20 to 25 firefighters.

 

 

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Passage of the Excess Levy is a dire concern for the fire district.

Signs have been ordered and will sprout soon throughout the district.

Here comes the money

Some in this already cash strapped district have ample funds to promote an Excess Levy

Reports filed with the Public Disclosure Commission show the committee chose Full reporting, meaning that well over $5,000.00 will be spent trying to get your approval for collecting Excess revenue to pay for the Excess commissioner travel and food perks.

 

The newly formed Vote Yes For Fire & EMS Committee filed with the PDC last week.

Even though they are clearly aware of the date for the election, they claim the measure to be on the ballot on the fictitiously set date of  02/14/12. While some may consider this to be blatant misrepresentation of facts, others may see it as a simple mistake.

I am sure the committee was in reality formed to influence the measure on the April 17, 2012 ballot.

Interestingly, the same members making up this new committee have filed reports in previous years. So they should be acutely aware of the requirements. Sure hope this is not a continuation of the trend.

Disrespect for the law

Does anyone else see a trend of fundamental flaws within this district?

  • A commissioner so derelict in their PDC reports that they merit violation investigations
  • 2010 committee that failed to complete filings for the campaign
  • 2012 committee that can’t even fill in the correct election date on their report.

 

I refuse to remain silent while elected officials continue to milk us for precious tax dollars then have the audacity to ask for more.

 

Vote NO on Excess Levy

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