Comments on Firefighters Contract

Last week the council took up the firefighters union contract with more than 100 firefighters in attendance. I thought I would share why I voted no.

First, I think it is clear that if you have worked in city government over the years that things are drastically changing due to structural budget deficits. Second, if you are new to working in city government, you will most likely not have the same career as those before you.

I remember when I was a candidate for city council and meeting with the fire union. We covered a variety of topics but I always remember this question: “How would you help us with city management on wage and benefit negotiations.” I recall saying that I would attend the union negotiations myself. They were quite happy and said that was a great response. However, the firefighters union did not inform me then of the reality that labor negotiations are not open to council members.

I appreciated the 10 percent concession and was surprised that it did not go through binding arbitration. I believe the new interim president of the union is a sincere person.

Even with the 10 percent and after vacancies and retirements, we will still lay off more than 30 firefighters. However, the larger item which remains is minimum staffing for fire engines. I have brought up the minimum staffing issue in council meetings, committee meetings and budget meetings.

The LAFCO report on all Santa Clara County fire departments shows that San Jose is the only city in the county that has four firefighters on an engine. Also looking at the same report it shows we have an over 25-to-1 ratio in calls for medical vs. fire.

I believe we should lower the amount of medical calls when council approves the ambulance contract with the County.  County government, by state law, controls the ambulance contracts. We should stop having our fire fighters respond to calls that are not necessary, like those at the county jail, since they already have medical personnel at the jail. In addition, low priority alpha and bravo medical calls should be left to ambulances.

Other cities as mentioned above are able to make do with three on an engine. We may want four on an engine and we may even want five, but we cannot afford it. This does not mean every engine would have three instead of four, as not all stations are equally busy, and therefore it provides the flexibility to keep stations open.  Residents are not so concerned if there are three or four on a engine, but they do care if the station is open or closed.

Because of minimum staffing requirements in the recently accepted fire contract and the unavoidable layoffs, we would close fire stations.

Back in 2008, when Station 6 was a line item to be sold in the city budget with zero notification to residents, I initiated the policy passed by the Council that mandates mailed notification to residents and two evening public meetings with the presentation of data for the primary service area when fire stations are proposed to be closed. Most importantly, it does not allow a station closure to be included in the budget prior to the prescribed outreach. Before this policy fire stations could be sold/closed with no notice.

So like the Communications Hill neighborhood, which now has a closed fire station, other fire stations somewhere in San Jose will need to be closed due to minimum staffing. It is unfair to residents that we close stations when they can remain open with one less person to maintain response times based on distance.

If the council does not want to see fire engines taken out of service than we will need to makes cuts elsewhere. The most likely place for those cuts will be our police department, with the laying off of police officers.

We do not have a minimum staffing requirement applied to police cars for police officers. If police run short on a shift they do not say “let’s stop patrolling in Almaden or Berryessa.” We do not have minimum staffing for our libraries. We do not have minimum staffing for our planning department to process an application for development.

This comes down to what is most important for San Jose in 2011 with the limited taxpayer dollars that are available to allocate. For me the answer is simple. It is police. Police enforce the social contract. No one else does.

The social contract allows individuals to be free from harm and intimidation.

The social contract allows the weak to be protected.

We cannot do everything. In fact we can’t even do both…police or fire. So we have to choose.

This fire union contract makes the fire department the number-one priority in the city budget by maintaining minimum staffing on fire engines. I cannot say this is my number-one priority nor my residents’ number-one priority when we provide multiple services to residents.

With that said, I vote against funding charities even when they are great organizations; they are not in the city charter. In addition to voting against the Hayes Mansion, golf courses, million dollar IT projects gone wrong or championing $1.475 million in cost avoidance on a current IT project. I voted against $1.3 million on golf nets, rezoning industrial land to residential, affordable housing that does not pay property tax. And I support outsourcing of services like janitorial to save money for core services.

I think it is wrong for myself as an elected official to make promises to every group or specific union when the reality is restricted resources do not allow promises to be kept.


  1. It would have been nice if you and other council people would have said this before.  YOU and YOUR COUNCIL MEMBERS led the fire and all staff to assume you only needed a 10% Cut. 

    You basically did a bait and switch to get an uppper hand in the negociations.  Once you got what you asked for you are now forcing even more.

    Very Sad.  Very Wrong.  Nothing but ill will comes of this!!!!!

    • I do not always agree with Council direction from closed session meetings on labor negotiation. I have voiced my concerns with minimum staffing on fire engines in numerous public meetings.


  2. Pier,

    This is probably the most coherent article you have published to date. You hit the nail on the head when you say that making promises to get elected are really empty ones due to the bureaucratic tangles you must sit through.

    I will have to take exception to one issue in your article. You state we do not have “minimum staffing” at the police department. Actually we do. Minimum staffing allows us to deploy the bare minimum on any given day to any area of the city based upon prior calls/crimes on any day of the week. This factors directly into the number of officers employed, not injured, not sick and able to don a uniform and work. I would encourage you to learn more about “minimum staffing” before you go off and talk about it anymore. It is clear you did not know it was there. I am sure the chief’s office would provide that data for you.

      • Folgers,
        Here is a small snippet of some of the calls SJPD responded to last week. It does not include the gang related shootings and stabbings which occurred over this past weekend. Officers do enjoy a cup of Starbucks, just like many other workers. Working the graveyard shift, I often got coffee at the start of my shift so I could try and stay awake, especially the days when I only got 3-4 hours of sleep because I had a late call the day before or had to get up in the middle of the day to go to court. I realize it is galling that we have the nerve to frequent Starbucks. By the way, our radios are always on even if we are taking a break, and many times I have discarded a half dranken cup of coffee so I could respond to a call for service. I would do the same for you if you called 911 so I could respond to your emergency.

      • give me a break! (and I don’t mean a coffee break). Sgt Folgers-have you NEVER had a cup of coffee during work? These guys are stuck in a vehicle their whole shift and they don’t have the luxury of having a coffee maker with them. I suppose you’d like them to have catheters as well, so they would never be able to use the restroom either.

  3. This just goes to show how out of touch with EVERYTHING you and the rest of the counsil are.  Come walk in our shoes before you judge what we do.  Just FYI I have done your job so I know!

  4. There is apparently some sort of disconnect on the Council and with the public on exactly what the Police and Fire are paid for. When you say “the public isn’t concerned about 3 or 4 on an engine … they just want to make sure the station is open…”
    it shows how little the public/council knows.

    What do you want a station “open” for? Why is there minimum staffing for the police department (and yes there is an internal policy that says there is just ask any officer who had CTO or Vacation or release time denied because of it)? Trust me when the PD goes out with 20-25 cut beats there are areas that DO NOT GET PATROLLED—-AND—- response times to those areas for 911 generated calls are extended ESPECIALLY IN ALMADEN AND BERRYESSA for no other reason than there isn’t anyone to do it!

    How do you propose “cutting medical calls?”  Emergency Rooms are backed up with patients who have the sniffles. You get head of the line when you call 911 and say “I can’t breath” and arrive by ambulance! You think the sacred undoumented
    immigrants and welfare class doesn’t know this?

    The police department like fire is moving to a 100%reactive response model. There isn’t staffing to do complinace check and ther isn’t staffing to do anything more than take a report that is in all likelyhood not going to be investigated.

    The council (of course PierLuigi we all know YOU weren’t around when the problem was created….) did create this problem they chose to pay a few to do the work that needed many.

  5. It seems the big problem here is that the city 10 years ago needed to pay more and give real good bennies to get police and fire personel.

    but the world changed so now the big pay and great bennies don’t work financially.

    So like the business world, cut backs and pay reduction have to happen.

    Any police or fire who don’t like it can always get a new line of work.  It’s a free country. 

    And I’d happily do either job for less pay and bennies!  Trust me, two years out of work is not nice or fun. 

    So when a bunch quit and more on.  I’ll be the first to apply!

    • get a new job-you are showing your true colors. sorry you are out of work but don’t be a hater! It is easy to say “get a new line of work”. Unfortunately, some of us are too old to “get a new line of work” and too young to “quit”. So, quit feeling sorry for yourself and start looking for a real job instead of wasting your time blogging here.

      • No problem.  I take a 10 day a month fire job for 75K please.  The city can pay me more in the future!

        Too young too old; why I am I supposed to care about you?  Your statements don’t care about any one but yourselves.

        So, to the city, lay the ungrateful lot off.  There will be 12,000 applicants ready to apply the next day!

        • 10 days a month=24 hours a day=56 hours a week=240 month (varies slightly). Sorry, but you would never survive one shift. I think I understand now, why, you have been unemployed for two years.

        • Will those applicants be able to qualify physically and mentally? It isn’t as easy as you suspect. Very few of the applicants make it through the testing process. I’d bet you wouldn’t either. If you thought you could, you would have applied already, right?

        • Yeah, good luck with that 12,000 applicants.  i work in a non sworn position and the last group we tested only about 200 showed up.  Most couldn’t handle the work load and the rest couldn’t pass the written, so go ahead and keep saying that as you and everyone else will be “volunteering” as PD and FD because that’s what Reed and Figone are really angling for.  If you really think 100,000 will put their lives under the microscope to get these jobs, bring it on.

        • Thank you, fire-d up. It’s that “Get a new job” and “Dog eat Dog World” don’t understand what it’s like to work 56 hour weeks, to be woken up several or more times a night to TEND to your needs and emergencies. SJFD does adhere to the social contract, PLO & company.

  6. I must say that this is one of the more interesting articles I’ve read on SJI in awhile. It is interesting because this may be the first time that I can remember that an elected official in San Jose has acknowledged that the police department is the only means at the disposal of the the City to enforce the social contract which helps keep its residents safe and which is the first line instrument in the administration of justice.

    Time and again, I have stated (here and in other venues) that the only endeavors to which City Government should turn its attention are those core services necessary to do our part in maintaining a just society, to provide for the common good and facilitate the prosperity of our citizens. What does this look like? Pared down to the barest of essentials, it’s public safety, public administration, infrastructure and education. Only when those core services are satisfied, should the City turn its attention to other endeavors. And, at the risk of coming across as harsh, I seriously question whether or not the city should ever pursue any endeavor outside of those services. It seems to me that the inclination to perform non-essential services (and the slippery slope attempting to do so invariably becomes) is at the very root of the financial crisis San Jose finds itself facing year after year.

    Considering current staffing levels (about a third lower per capita than the national average) it is unconscionable to me that the city council or the city manager’s office could even contemplate laying off any officers. No less so is it stunning to me that the city should contemplate attempting to set in place wage and benefit packages which place the city at a competitive disadvantage as compared to other cities around the Bay Area. Believe it or not, for all the rhetoric coming out of City Hall, San Jose has been at a competitive disadvantage for as long as I’ve been an officer. SJPD made up for this shortfall in the quality of its force and in the variety of possible job assignments only available to a larger agency.

    Already the consequences of this acrimony between City Hall and its police department are being felt. Job listings for other agencies are being posted on bulletin boards. Junior officers are seeking employment elsewhere, and many are finding it. Others say they will remain until laid off, but will never return to the city, even if the city tries to hire them back. They say there is no way they will trust the city’s leadership. And, this is, by extension a commentary on the erosion of trust between the PD and San Jose’s voters. Many of us feel like saying, “Well, if these are the kinds of people the voters put into office…” I fear this loss of trust will prove to be the most detrimental to San Jose’s future. Even when San Jose begins hiring new officers to account for attrition, I suspect turnover will be far higher than it has been historically. SJPD will likely become the training ground for other agencies officers. Over time, the ranks of senior officers will decline replaced year after year by freshly minted officers who, themselves, begin looking for employment at other agencies shortly after passing their probationary period.

    A sea change need to occur in the council chambers and the city manager’s office, one that says “Core services and those alone. Support businesses, large and small. Uphold the social contract first and foremost.”

    I will say this, though: some of us have game changing ideas which would not put San Jose at a competitive disadvantage with other cities. We have game-changing ideas for how to bring some life (and quality of life) back to downtown. Unfortunately, few people are listening.

    • You should be fair to Pier – and Pete C. as well. They have both consistently said, on the record and in public council meetings, that the city should only fund essential city services. Specifically those outlined in the charter and those that impact the health and safety of the residents.

      P.S. You mention funding education. This IS NOT a core function of city government. In fact, the city of SJ has no jurisdiction or authority to fund education.

      • I believe that, despite my frequent disagreements on other points, I have been fair to PLO and, I suppose, to Constant (although I haven’t directly addressed his comments much, if at all). PLO, in particular gets a bit of a pass due to his vociferous and consistent opposition to zoning conversions, low income housing and the addition of additional housing developments without first having the infrastructure and services in place to manage them.

        I will differ with you with regards to ‘those services which impact the health and safety of the residents’. In my opinion, this assertion is far too broad. It allows for handouts like free flu vaccines, wellness clinics and all manner of other ‘extras’.

        With respect to your post script, I completely agree with you and I should have been clearer in my intent. I believe that, if the city has any extra money left over after fully funding core, charter services, then some of the money could be spent in small grants to various schools for an art program, materials or athletic equipment (I am sure there could be other purposes, but you probably get the idea). The rest of the overage should simply be saved for a rainy day.

  7. Pierluigi: Santa Clara can run with 3 firefighters on an engine because #1-they have more stations per capita than San Jose and #2-they have more firefighters per capita than San Jose. In fact, their ENTIRE fire department runs LESS calls in a year than our ONE downtown Station 1. They also make more money than SJFD for doing LESS work. The second point of concern is the 2-in/2-out rule (which is mandatory). This rule states that when 2 firefighters go into a burning structure on a hoseline, there must be 2 firefighters outside, in ready position, to enter the structure in case of a rescue. By only having 3 firefighters on an engine (the captain is IC, the engineer is pumping water and one firefighter that can’t do anything until others arrive), you will possibly have to wait for a total of 3 engines to arrive, in order to have enough personnel to enter the structure. We will be doing EXTERIOR fire fighting only and will be able to save lots of FOUNDATIONS. I understand you have a job to do, but stop cutting the cops and firefighters and instead, for budget savings-cut the nonessential serves that are the nice-to-have’s not the must-have’s.

  8. All of the stats and figures have been shown to the mayor and council. I pretty much have figured that the council and mayor just dont care. As much as they say they do, they have their own agenda and personal feelings when it comes to police and fire. They want them to be the villians when it comes to the city budget. All the facts everyone has written on this blog are true. Pier and council know all of this BUT really just dont care. They do what they want.

  9. Maybe you should have raised these issues BEFORE the firefighters voted on taking the cuts.  By supporting Liccardo in his attempt to get the contract thrown out you simply threw sand in the face of those who worked hard to get the contract and the 95% of union members who voted to accept the concessions.  This did nothing to help the improving but tenuous relationship that the bargaining units already have with the city.  If the relationships are going to continue to improve going forward the council needs to stop playing these silly political games.

  10. Mr. O What will be your vote on low income housing?  Will you be willing to give San Jose money away with NO hopes of ever being able to recover.  Are you will to place the Sons and Daughters of San Jose who protect it from all evil and disaster in a situation not being able to protect this city so that you can give money away?
        Will you agree to live on Nancy lane for a year so that you will see what goes on at these areas.  Why don’t you try Santee area.  Before you make any decision live in these areas.  We understand not everyone has a place to live and things have to be done.  We are out of money.  Stop the madness.  How long would we be able to keep some of the youth centers open with this money?

      • Thanks for your well reasoned vote. Why is it that the test of the council, and especially the so-called “fiscal conservative” simply not “get it?” This is the type of spending that is putting all other city services at risk. Employee salaries and pensions are expensive but are being scapegoated in the myopic arguments presented by the city mothers and fathers.

  11. Can either Pierluigi or some of the police officers here on SJI tell San Jose residents how they can find out how many SJPD officers are on the beat in their area along with average response times?  As the council appears dead set on laying off a large number of police officers, I would like to monitor how the layoffs affect response times in my neighborhood.  Until residents have these facts I am afraid the council will try to hide the impact of the layoffs.

    • You can go on SJPD’s website and see the following info: the city is divided into four divisions: Central, Western, Foothill and Southern. Each has four districts: Central has Victor, Robert, Edward and King. Foothill has William, Mary, Paul and Charles. Western had Frank, Nora, Sam and Lincoln. Southern has Tom, Adam, Yellow and X-ray.

      On most nights in San Jose every beat is not filled by an officer, simply because we do not have enough officers. Each district ranges from 4-7 officers with only the largest and busiest like District Charles and X-Ray having 7. So basically 75-80 (on a good night) officers are on patrol in the city of about 1,000,000 people.

      I couldn’t say the effect of layoffs on response time but another impact of layoffs would be follow up investigation. The plan is to pull detectives out of patrol and back on the street to make up for layoffs. More and more burglaries, financial crimes, sexual assaults and violent crimes may go unsolved. Furthermore, with less officers on the street, proactive policing will be reduced drastically. In my opinion high levels of proactivity, actively looking for criminals engaging or about to engage in crime, is what has kept crime relatively low in San Jose for so long with so few officers.

  12. Pier,
    How do you come to the point that you try to compare staffing in a library and planning department that has no life safety issues with that of minimum staffing for FD and PD? Are you that clueless? Those staffing levels are just that, a minimum! They are what should be there at a minimum to provide adequate coverage and safety to both the citizens and the officers and Firefighters that are out there trying to protect the city despite the cuts.
    As for the constant reference to LAFCO and EMS vs Fire calls. Yes, the ratio as far as numbers is heavy to the EMS side but what that does not tell you is time on task for EMS or fire. What I mean by this is this, I could have a 3rd Alarm fire and have say 48 Firefighters on scene for hours and a few crews for a day or more if you have hot spots and flare ups and in that same time have 80 EMS calls and not come close to the time on task of the 1 fire call. Again, this is where the saying that statistics can show you anything you want if you know how to manipulate them comes from. Your one sided statistic of number of calls does not show the whole picture and paints an in accurate description of workload. Your actions, while great to stir up public outrage makes you look like someone that is not well informed. I can understand that from the general public, who can not possibly understand all the issues and concerns in a FD or PD but from you a council member, I would expect more.

    • 4 is better and more expensive than 3.
      5 is better and more expensive than 4.
      6 is better and more expensive than 5.

      However there are limited taxpayer dollars available in the wallet so choices have to be made. I choose police.


      • PLO,
        I appreciate your honesty and explanation on why you voted the way you did.  Can you please explain to me what you meant when you say “I choose police”.  Just how many layoffs are we talking about?  I know the mayor has said numbers in the 350 range but that just seems incredibly unrealistic for such a short staffed department such as SJPD.  When you say “I choose police” are you saying ‘I don’t want to lay off any police’ or are you saying I only want to lay off 150 police?  Please explain your thought process on this issue, because we all agree that it will have a lasting effect on our safety as citizens.  By accepting fire’s contract just how many police layoffs are we talking about?

      • Pier,
        Again you do not address the issues I raised. You stick to your talking points and have no ability to answer the points raised. This is so typical. I see these posts of people supporting your position and wonder ….. Really? You really believe what you say? Unbelievable. The ignorance is truly amazing!

  13. Pier –

    Others have said it and I’ll say it again – you are COMPLETELY CLUELESS when it comes to firefighting and related issues! While your experience as a bartender and “software industry professional” may qualify you to mix a mean mojito, your need to influence fire department policy is downright dangerous. You have no concept whatsoever in regards to the safety and efficiency of a 4 person firefighting crew versus a 3 person crew. A San Jose Fire Crew with 4, can put out a whole lot more fire in the first 5 minutes of fire when it is most important to save lives and prevent rapid fire spread, than can a Santa Clara City Crew (or any other FD) with a crew of 3. This is even more critical given the loss of 6+ fire companies in San Jose, due to budget cuts. You attempt to compare San Jose Fire with other County Fire Departments related to staffing on an “apple to apple” basis, but your arrogance once again prevents you from making any comparison based on facts.

    Here’s some information that compares San Jose with the City of Santa Clara:

    San Jose – 1,000,000 population     Santa Clara -112,000 population
    San Jose – 205 sq. miles             Santa Clara – 19.3 sq. miles
    San Jose – 33 fire stations =1 station/6.2 sq. miles                               Santa Clara – 10 fire stations = 1 station./1.93 sq. miles
    San Jose – 55,000 calls/year         Santa Clara – 7,000 calls/year

    If San Jose FD was to run 3 person companies with the efficiency of Santa Clara, we would need 100+ fire stations based on the area served.

    Just for illustrative purposes, salary information for the same 2 fire departments, using “top step” firefighter as of 7/1/2011:

    San Jose – Approx. $85,000 base salary Santa Clara – Aprox. $118,000 base salary. A difference of $33,000/year. Additionally, San Jose Firefighters pay over 20% of their salary towards retirement, while Santa Clara pays 9%.

    Pull your head out of the sand Pier!

  14. If 85% of SJ Fire Departmeent calls are EMS and 15% fire and San Jose doesn’t have enough firefighters or budget to pay for more firefighters

    Can SJ Fire Chief or a knowledgeable Senior Fire Officer – like Darryl tell us why:

    1) not increase the Santa Clara County EMS contract with private ambulance service so they have primary responsibility to respond to San Jose EMS calls

    Yes, more EMT’s would be needed but at 1/3 -1/2 lower cost than firefighters The argument not to use expanded private EMS has been that FD has more training and experience so the new expanded contract must specify the same EMS training and experience requirements as SJFD

    2) SJFD does not use 2 person small medical emergency truck rather than very expensive 4 person fire engine   The argument we have seen to not use 2 persons on small EMS truck for 85% EMS calls is that if after EMS call a fire call comes the 4 person Fire truck could respond faster

    Has SJFD ever done a valid study that shows the actual number of fire trucks going from EMS to fire calls where the time to the fire is less than having the 2 person EMS truck meet 2 person fire truck at the fire where another fire truck is not first at the fire ?  If there is NO valid study then is the use of 4 person fire truck rather than 2 person small EMS truck just someone’s opinion with no actual facts or valid study making FD costs higher than necessary

    • First, please see my post under “Minimum Staffing” above, this will give you some perspective.
      In order for Rural Metro (the new Ambulance provider) to satisfy the County requirement to have a Paramedic on scene in 7:59 they would have to increase their units tremendously, some estimates have been in the 8-10 million dollar cost range which obviously would raise their transport rates a ton. Since the FD responds they can be there in 11:59. By having the FD respond we can also get on scene and evaluate the situation and if appropriate, cancel the ambulance or reduce it to code 2 which then can free them up for a higher level emergency response. This is a significant factor when you start wanting to not have the FD respond. If the ambulance had to show up all the time on every call they would again need more rigs.
      As to your point about the FD using a small truck. Assuming the same staffing of 4 on an Engine then you are now adding the cost of a 2nd piece of apparatus and splitting the crew up which is bad for accountability, supervision and safety. Having a 2 person crew respond to a fire is dangerous and flat out not effective. You are putting people in a very bad spot and in positions where they may feel they have to act despite the lack of personnel on scene. A good example would be arriving at a house fire with a report of possibly someone inside and they make the decision to go in despite no back up and possibly no water supply lines down. That is extremely dangerous and ill advised but with a report of a possible occupant you know they will go in. Putting a Firefighter in that spot is irresponsible and negligent. Do we really want our personnel dying so we can get by on the cheap? This is the problem with the public trying to guide public safety, no disrespect but they generally have no idea about why we do what we do, the laws that guide us or the operational impacts of what they think is a good idea. I would liken this to a stockholder at Apple Computer trying to tell Steve Jobs how he should run his company! Would you do that? Again, I am not trying to be disrespectful but there is great danger to having people that no nothing about public safety make decisions that affect our safety and lives.

      I am an officer with the SJFD.

    • To Staffing Questions

      Just some follow-up to the Staffing Response post and to respond to the Staffing Questions post.  First let me state I longer speak for the Department since I have retired and as the Chief I could never find time to read SJI let alone respond.  I want to be very clear that while I served as Fire Chief and now I still advocate for 4 person Engine Companies in San Jose.  That alone can take up a full conversation comparing Metro City needs to smaller cities, west coast versus east coast, construction etc…  I am also a proponent of keeping paramedics on Fire Engines both for the level of service they provide the public in the EMS system and their fellow firefighters.

      I do believe there are adjustments that can be made to medical responses you both reference and heard Chief McDonald address this at the Council meeting last week.  The APLHA / OMEGA response protocol he referenced would allow for some calls to not be responded to; it was estimated this could account for from 13% to 20% of the calls for service.  The Fire Communications dispatch also uses Emergency Medical Dispatch response protocols to prioritize medical calls and I know this was part of the discussion in the new County EMS contract.  This response change alone would increase the availability of Fire Department resources which is desperately needed, especially with the resource reductions resulting from the budget issues of last year and this year.  The Department did conduct a trial model of having a two person unit attached to an engine company to see what impact it would have on unit availability hours.  The study was concluded with the construction of Station 2 which opened last October / November and the results should provide some data for analysis for review.  The concept of alternate response to lower priority medical calls has been around since the 2000 as referenced in the 2000 Strategic Plan and I believe there are viable options worthy of dialogue that could increase unit availability and safety.  Discussions did occur with the previous Union President but they hit a dead end, hopefully this is an area that may reopen with the new Union leadership. 

      The EMS contract implementation alone is very, very complex and I know from experience that the time and personnel to work with the County to implement and ensure compliance on this one issue is tremendous with a very short timeline.  Add to that response times, staffing levels, training, certifications and many more complicated issues that the Chief and his staff I know will work through while reviewing all the standards and recommendations from groups like the National Institute of Safety Training, the National Fire Protection Association, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the International Association of Fire Fighters, American Heart Association, OSHA, LAFCO and other groups.  The snippets in these posts do not do justice to the complexity of the issues.  I am sure there will be much information coming out in the budget documents and study sessions the next couple of months that will provide some facts and insight to these issues.

      Regarding staffing and the contract, I hope that the City will accept the SAFER Grant and provide the Fire Department the opportunity to manage it.  As I have stated before, the recent concessions by Local 230 are commendable and will go a long way in assisting with providing effective emergency services and the budget issues.  The impact to the firefighters both monetarily and safety should not be overlooked.  As I stated when I was the Fire Chief and I will say again, San Jose has the best men and women providing exceptional emergency response and prevention services to our City day in and day out.


  15. Pier,
    Fire-d up makes a very valid point that you seem to never acknowledge. The cities that are running 3 have more stations per square mile than SJ. They made decisions to run with 3 and have more stations whereas SJ a long time ago made a decision to run with 4 on an Engine and have fewer stations. If SJ wants to add about 30 stations to get to the same per capita staffing level as Santa Clara City then fine but that is not what you are proposing. You can not look at one side of the equation and ignore the other. You are not comparing apples to apples you are comparing apples to oranges. The other point was call volume. The other areas do not come close to our call volume per capita. Here is a point you obviously do not get: If it takes 22 Firefighters (excluding Chiefs and support staff) to fight a Full First Alarm fire and you now take 1 FF off each truck (2 on a call) and 1 off each Engine(3 on a call) then you now have only 17 FF’s on the scene. In order for the Chief to get his needed number of staffing back he then has to call 2 more Engines to the scene. Do you not see what this will do to the rest of the city? We are already covering areas with Trucks only that used to have both and Engine and Truck so now what you would have on a Full First Alarm is 7 districts not covered and requiring move ups which basically just spreads companies out further and increases response times. Please keep in mind this is only one event at one time. What do you think the impact will be with a multiple alarm fire or multiple greater alarm fires? This is the frustration with your decision making. You look at things in a narrowly focused way and obviously have not taken the time to truly educate yourself on exactly what you are proposing and what the consequences are. At the end of the day we all want to go home to our families just like you and what you seem to forget is your actions may have fatal consequences if things go wrong and the appropriate number of FF’s are not there to fix the problem.

    As to your point of: The social contract allows individuals to be free from harm and intimidation.

    The social contract allows the weak to be protected.

    The last I checked protecting ones life from fire or providing needed EMS would constitute keeping one free from harm or protecting the weak, would it not????? What is so clear is your hatred for the FD which completely blinds rational decision making or the ability for anyone from the FD to engage you. You are supposed to be a leader of this City but leaders do not degrade their subordinates nor blame them for things that are beyond their control. I am guessing if you look back on successful leaders your behavior or blame game politics would not be at the top of the list of qualities they possessed.  I would appreciate a reply.

    • Pier: Just so you know, Santa Clara Fire has 2.55 Firefighters per 1000 capita. San Jose has 0.6 Firefighters per 1000 capita. If we were to match Santa Clara Fire’s staffing, San Jose at 1 million people would need 100 Fire Stations and more than 4 times the firefighters currently employed. So lets go to 3 person companies and match the area! OH and San Francisco Fire has 2.50 Firefighters per 1000 capita. And Gilroy Fire has 4 person Engine companies in Santa Clara County. Sooner or later there will be deaths to the public or firefighters that will show these low staffing levels are not acceptable. Also have you considered the amount of Disability this City pays to Firefighters and Police? It is because we work harder than any other agency due to our low staffing levels. More with less. The 60% retirement disability rate is because you allow low staffing levels. These stats require your reply!

      • Santa Clara is a wealthier city with a stronger business to housing ratio that allows them the luxury of top tier public safety salaries and benefits as well as coverage.  I can predict based on research that while most south bay cities plan on moving to second-tier pensions, some like Santa Clara plan on holding back for tactical advantage in the new labor market.

        • Palo Alto would like to also remain at first tier benefits for public safety for tactical advantage.  The implemented second tier for all non-public safety employees 1.5 years ago, and at least in this job market it hasn’t hurt their ability to recruit good candidates.  I don’t know whether the PA CM and Public Safety Director are being strategic or dumb by keeping public safety off the table for second tier pensions with new hires.  Time will tell.

          Palo Alto, like Santa Clara, has an excellent business-housing ratio and strong tax base, but I don’t think its solid enough.  I expect problems in their budget in the next 5 years.  If you can lateral I would suggest Palo Alto, Milpitas and Santa Clara.  If you are interested in both job security as well as a little change, consider also Sunnyvale and the SCC Sherrifs Dept.  The FBI and DOJ are also neat options, but they rolled out second-tier pensions in 1984 so it would be best for a mid or late career move when you are already substantially vested with SJ.  The CHP does not currently accept laterals, but I hear that’s the best pay for the least work and great retirement.

        • oh yeah and to stop re zoning commercial property to High Density housing.  that is were all of our property tax base has gone. and why don’t you be honest with us.  define a structural deficit – funny we have a 110 million defect and we are spending 120 on the convention center.  coincidence ??? hmmmmmmm

        • Don’t forget the 1.3 billion dollars to remodel the airport. That was last year. Last year we had a budget deficit of $116 million. With all of the money they have wasted, they could have found the money to pay off the debt. They find the money to do everything else they want to do. Notice that?

    • Hatred is a very strong word that you chose not me.
      I simply feel that in 2011 San Jose needs to save as many police positions as possible and I am willing to make choices rather than hope the financial problem will go away.


      • Pier,
        I would say your HATRED for the SJFD is actually an understatement. How do you come to a conclusion that one public safety service is more valuable than the other? If you do not have a FD, houses burn, blocks of houses burn, etc. You don’t get extricated from auto accidents, your HAZMAT calls go unanswered, you don’t get timely care for your EMS issues and on and on. So with all that life hazard protection you feel you can just so away with the FD? You really are ignorant and have no business being a City Council member. As I have said in other posts a true leader does not degrade the people he is leading.
        You also never addressed any of the points I made rather you did what all politicians do you provided a talking point.

  16. Go Pier! The taxpayers of SJ support you and Sam. Pay and benefits are way too generous. If you look at the pay of fire and police. most make over 100k without benefits. They are raping the taxpayers with overtime pay. Time to lay them off!!!

  17. Year after year San Josean’s more taxes for less services because of more Council political payback deals like and pensions, unsustainable employee benefits, another downtown projects like baseball stadium, more low income housing and corporate subsidies

    You can depend on city government costs to exceed revenues, another budget deficit year,  tax and fee increases

    and Council will endlessly talk but not act fixing budget’s unsustainable pensions and giveaway more millions as tax subsidies

    San Jose government has not been reinvented, made more efficient, or doing more with less

    It costs more each year to provide less while increasing taxes

    The same status quo unsustainable wasteful budget spending with no solutions or new ideas to lower costs except layoffs

    Why can’t San Jose get lower costs, better service by doing what other large cities do rather than do little after 10 years if deficits taxpayers expect action not more political talk ?

    • What other cities do that San Jose does not is have a sustainable income. Mayor Reed, in an interview on KLIV a couple of weeks ago, acknowledged that other cities in the bay area generate more income per capita than does San Jose. Unfortunately, the mayor along with a majority of the city council, seems hell-bent on short term solutions and burying the city in more of the same sort of failed fiscal policies and methods of municipal growth which have helped to bury the city in its present morass. To wit:

      1. The onslaught of commercial/residential zoning conversions
      2. Delinquency of $63 million owed to the county resulting in the transfer at a loss of the old city hall property
      3. The shuffling of monies from the general fund to ‘special funds’ which frequently looks legalized money laundering
      4. Their breathless headlong race to the bottom of the pile when it comes to wages, benefits and provision of services.
      5. Their abject refusal to acknowledge that the decisions they are making today will make future hiring radically more difficult – especially for public safety.
      6. Their near total failure at the task of turning San Jose into a business-friendly community. And no, a baseball stadium doesn’t count.

      In the final analysis, it is on this last point (and the associated zoning conversions) that the success or failure of San Jose as a municipal entity hinges. And, unfortunately, San Jose is moving backwards in virtually every meaningful way.

      • Occifer D,

        “Delinquency of $63 million owed to the county resulting in the transfer at a loss of the old city hall property”

        This was done as one of the “carrots” to keep the San Jose A’s Dream alive.  Without the county support, they would not have a chance doing the ilegal movement of city / rda owned property to a new “fake” public entity for the ball park.

        As for this:

        “Their near total failure at the task of turning San Jose into a business-friendly community. And no, a baseball stadium doesn’t count.”

        The city staff (permits etc), fire dept, and police make doing business very difficult in san jose.  Whether by council direction or not; you and yours have played a big part in making the business tax revenues / jobs hard to develop and sustain.

        Best example is downtown; the police quote of the ages is:


        So you reap what you SOW.  Chickens come home to roost eventually.  And we all lose!

      • “Mayor Reed, in an interview on KLIV a couple of weeks ago, acknowledged that other cities in the bay area generate more income per capita than does San Jose.”

        If they didn’t give all of the millions away and spend it so foolishly, then we would have enough in the coffers to take care of ourselves. It is so easy to throw away other people’s money. And how it all got around the City’s financial manager/accountant is beyond me. Something isn’t right. I’d bet if it was money coming out of their own pockets, they would be a little more careful with it. So now, the employees have to pay for their mistakes.

        “5. Their abject refusal to acknowledge that the decisions they are making today will make future hiring radically more difficult – especially for public safety.”

        I don’t think they care. They won’t be in office when that future time rolls around. You can already see that there is no feeling there.

        As for the City of San Jose, the mayor and the council will leave as their legacies a failed city. A city that they brought down. The first time in the City of San Jose’s history…and THEY did it; screwed up the budget, pit the public against the employees, pit police and fire against each other, all while putting forth monies for other ventures. Losers, Losers, Losers. I’d bet the other more affluent cities are looking at the mayor, council and manager and shaking their heads, but laughing like a kid in a candy store as they reap the cities best and brightest. I’m waiting to see which one of THEM will bail first.

  18. I worked for SCV/AMR as well back in the early 90’s. At that time we had two paramedics on the ambulance and emt fire fighters on engines. In the mid 90’s the SJFD began incorperating paramedics into the ranks(an overwhelming number from the private ambulance ranks). This change allowed the private ambulance to switch to a 1 and 1 system which allowed AMR to have an emt/emt-paramedic ambulance in addition to increased response times due too the fire depts ability to provide earlier ALS(paramedics)to the community. The county contract calls for 2 paramedics on scene. This current model meets the county criteria and AMR subsidies the Sjfd’s paramedic program. In critical ems calls 4 person engine companies provide the best level of ems service to the community and provide at least one paramedic at every fire station. One example of this would be a full arrest situation(CPR) where you would have two firefighters performng cpr a firefighter paramedic providing ALS and a captain gathering critical information and communicating with dispatch,family, and bystanders. So as you can see no duplication of services just a change in the delivery method.

  19. Why do we have Firefighter/Paramedics? I worked as a Paramedic for a Private Ambulance Company (SCV for those interested) in San Jose during the 1980’s. We had 2 Paramedics per Ambulance. No one died because there were no Firefighter/Paramedics in San Jose. I ask again, why do they exist? is it to provide an excuse to get that “4th man” on the Engine Companies? or …? I propose get rid of the San Jose Firefighter/Paramedic Program, keep the Firefighters trained to EMT-1 Levels. Having both Fire Dept Paramedics and Private Ambulance Paramedics is a waste of money and a duplication of services. Can someone provide me justification?

  20. Fascinating spin on examining public safety.  Let the citizens decide how best to staff a fire engine. While residents may not care, the City Council should care about firefighter safety. Ignoring safety for your employees is a travesty.  This is what unions were designed to protect against—unsafe work environments which is exactly what you are pushing. Your justification for the reduction—other Bay Area agencies have reduced staffing—does not make it right. Do you jump off a bridge because your friends are? 

    In 2007, two Contra Costa County firefighters died, in part, because they only had three-man engines.  One of the recommendations of the panel investigating the tragedy to avoid future deaths was to increase staffing from three to four firefighters. 

    San Jose should be proud it meets this basic safety standard. It is appalling that you are considering this a choice when basic personnel safety mandates four man engines—especially when one considers how thin the department is spread compared to the other agencies to which you are comparing yourself. 

    Why not make cuts at home first where no one’s safety is at issue.  Why does the Department of City Council need 108 employees, including the City Council with a compensation budget of over $5.1M.  Why did you not let the citizens know that you gave a raise to one of the Mayor’s five executive officers of over $45,000 in 2009?  Why did you only cut your department by 1.8% while you cut fire by almost 10%?  Why did you not tell the citizens that you were using the money saved from your 4.75% pay cut for “constituency outreach” (i.e. all the polling done to get your views pushed) instead of reducing the budget or increasing library hours etc.?

  21. It is obvious the City Council is taking this position of compromising safety in an effort to gain leverage over pension reform issues. “Of course, we would not have to put you in greater jeopardy if you just give us everything we want on pensions” —virtually stripping them entirely. Since that is likely the political end game here, the City Council should practice what it preaches and lead by example.

    It should cut over 10% of its staffing as it has done with other departments but not its own. City Council Member Pete Constant, a retired police officer, should agree to reduce his police pension to that of the proposed new tier pensioners. All of the City Council should volunteer to reduce their benefits in a commensurate way that they are asking of other employees. 

    The residents should take note too. Service will necessarily be diminished with 3 person engines as one commenter noted as the two in two out rule will require an engine to wait for back up and watch your house burn down because they cannot go in to save it.

    Just as the Council’s efforts (by threatening to further compromise the safety of its employees) to steal pensions and promised benefits is hypocritcal, so is the public buy in of that position. For example, non-pensioned residents are outraged that social security benefits may be reduced. They paid into the system for all their working life so why should they not get promised/anticipated benefits. Of course they should. This is the same with public employees, they paid in (well over the 7% paid to social security and with no cap and they don’t get social security) so why should they not get promised benefits. Why is it ok to strip these but not social security.

  22. Pierluiggi:
    At least you have the courage to make weekly posts to San Jose Inside. Why don’t the other Council Members and the Mayor do likewise?
    Why do politicians always threaten us citizens every time there is a budget crisis with the loss of services that we all want like public safety, schoolsparks, libraries, schools and street repair.
    If the Citizens had a voice, there are many City departments that we would like to get rid of, even without a budget shortfall. To name a few, how about City Planning, the Housing Department, the Redevelopment Agency, a full time City Council and others which are a pain in the ass and make San Jose an undesirable place to do business. I am sure that the readers of this blog can add to this “Good Riddance” list.

    • Courage is the 20 engineers risking thier futures to shut down Nuclear Reactors in Japan.  They will probably give up most of thier lives to help thier country / community.

      Posting on a blog does not take courage.

    • Tonto, I agree! well, most of what you said, anyway.
      I work for the City of San Jose. I have done so for the past 14 years. I am a firm believer that the only services a City should provide are: Public Safety, Infrastructure/Utilities (Water, Sewer, Electric, Gas). All other services can be privatized. My ideas to solve the City’s budget problems:

      1) Get rid of subsidies/tax breaks to the Hayes Mansion, Arts Programs, Golf Courses, Barry Swensen, Tom McEnery, and the Convention Center.

      2) Get rid of the Redevelopment Agency. Why does the City need a bunch of Interior/Exterior decorators?

      3) Housing Dept? Why in the heck is the City involved in housing? affordable housing you say? what “affordable housing”? I work for the City and cannot afford to live there, Pier…where is my affordable house?

      4) Gerontology Specialists? what the heck kind of City Employee Job Classification is this? why is the City involved in Gerontology anyway?

      5) City Managers Office? they all get paid 6 figure salaries for going to meetings? get them into the field outside and make them do some real work!

      • Public Employee X:
        If the City Council appointed a budget committee of public citizens who think like you and me, San Jose would not have a budget problem.
        Re your idea #1. The City’s off street parking program has assets approaching $100 million and is an under performing operation. Add it to your “get rid of” list. 

        Your idea # 2. The Redevelopment Agency is disfunctional and incompetent. We do not need a politbureau of central planning. It has not worked in its attempts to revitalize downtown. The biggest recipients of Agency gifts have been “The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia” at $25 million for the Fairmont Hotel Annex and $37.5 million to CIM for their projects in Century Center and San Antonio Plaza. The $37.5 million donation to CIM included about 5 acres of land valued at its historic purchase price in the 1960’s.

        Idea # 3. The Redevelopment Agency gives the City’s Housing department about $10 million per year to cover operations costs. Moderate Income housing is available to people who earn 80% to 120% of median income. A family of four can qualify if their income is not more than about $120,000 per year. Maybe you qualify.

        Item # 4. You do not have to be “The sharpest blade in the drawer” to be elected to the City Council. That may explain why the City Council created the position of Gerontology Specialist. 

        Item 6. They need six figure incomes and six staffers at every meeting.

        Perhaps Pierluigi agrees with you idea of privatization. He tried it with the Rose Garden gardeners.

        No wonder people call it “Silly Hall”!

  23. So I guess we all can see old Pier’s true colors buy his response to my post earlier where he says ” I choose Police”. Can you all not see that what you are dealing with in Pier is not someone who is trying to protect the citizens of SJ rather you have someone who is trying to pit Police against Fire and obviously is in bed with PD. If you can not see that now then you really are blind.

    • There are numerous alternatives to your little scenario Mr. Bites. Here’s one:

      This is what the job pays. You want it, great. If not, no problem. We can manage just fine without f***ing carpetbaggers such as yourself.

      • Mr. Galt:

        The problem is, you clearly can not manage just fine without me or my kind. You see, I’m one of those who is “holding together the social contract”, so that you can continue to blog safely. And, you will pay me for my services, whether you like it or not. Stay safe, stay healthy.

  24. Public Employee X:
    If the City Council appointed a budget committee of public citizens who think like you and me, San Jose would not have a budget problem.
    Re your idea #1. The City’s off street parking program has assets approaching $100 million and is an under performing operation. Add it to your “get rid of” list. 

    Your idea # 2. The Redevelopment Agency is dysfunctional and incompetent. We do not need a politbureau of central planning. It has not worked in its attempts to revitalize downtown. The biggest recipients of Agency gifts have been “The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia” at $25 million for the Fairmont Hotel Annex and $37.5 million to CIM for their projects in Century Center and San Antonio Plaza. The $37.5 million donation to CIM included about 5 acres of land valued at its historic purchase price in the 1960’s.

    Idea # 3. The Redevelopment Agency gives the City’s Housing department about $10 million per year to cover operations costs. Moderate Income housing is available to people who earn 80% to 120% of median income. A family of four can qualify if their income is not more than about $120,000 per year. Maybe you qualify.

    Item # 4. You do not have to be “The sharpest blade in the drawer” to be elected to the City Council. That may explain why the City Council created the position of Gerontology Specialist. 

    Item 6. They need six figure incomes and six staffers at every meeting.

    Perhaps Pierluigi agrees with you idea of privatization. He tried it with the Rose Garden gardeners.

    No wonder people call it “Silly Hall”!

  25. Hey SJFD,

    Stop crying!

    For years you have copped an attitude with all other agencies in Santa Clara County. Your pompous and arrogant ways are now bitting you back. Your lack of customer service, all the extra add-on’s of pay and sloppy regard for what the public thinks are horrible. Go shave your stupid “flavor saver” and do your job!!!!

  26. In pension reform discussions has elimination of the “double dip” been discussed?
    When city employees retire at age 55 and then go to work for another government agency, they can double their income.  This means many more years of pay-out from the retirement system.  Yes, I know that Fire and Police argue that their physical demands should allow good payouts at a relatively younger age, but what I am pointing to are those who then jump to another jurisdiction’s fire/police. Or when a regular city employee retires and then jumps.  Or when an employee on disability retirement gets a full-time job and keeps the retirement and the new salary..

    In my public employee retirement system, there is no returning to work for retirees, except a few short-time 60-day contracts to finish a project. Disabled retirees are subject to earning limitations and a mandatory vocational rehabilitation planning—paid for by the retirement system. Once the disabled employee reaches one-half of prior earning level, they are dropped from disability retirement.  Any discussion of making changes like these?

    What is the new forecasted return for the retirement plan?  Is the current forecast less than the 8% in the defined benefit plan? Does the general fund still make up the difference? Has this been changed yet?

  27. Pier,
    Do you have any idea why the city charges a surcharge of 42% to the airport for San Jose Police Officers, and yet is proposing to charge the airport only 9% for Sheriff’s Deputies? More tactics to destroy our police department?

  28. Other surrounding cities don’t have TEN council memebers, why should we. I mean since the City wants 4 person Truck companies when the National Fire Protection Agency mandates 5 FF’s per truck for cities with populations over 500K (plus SJ has High Rise, 2 airports and a TON of Haz Mat) and the City wants us to go to 4 like other small surrounding cities, why not lesson the # of city council?

  29. Hmmm, I really like the idea of keeping the social contract top of mind when you work on the budget, but I might suggest you re-think that definition.

    When you write, “Police enforce the social contract. No one else does.
    The social contract allows individuals to be free from harm and intimidation.
    The social contract allows the weak to be protected,”
    you are taking a pretty narrow view of both harm and protection. 
    Think about the fact that we live in a zone where a major earthquake is not a matter of if, but when. Globally we’ve had mini-cases of pandemics that portend much more disruptive events if more virulent illness are involved, and lastly 9/11, lest we forget, was not dominated by police response, but by fire. If disaster level stuff comes down, we’ll need an army of 24/7 firefighters with medics, oxygen, ladders, hoses, axes, jaws of life, and while we’re at it, let’s add experience and commitment within their ranks.

    This isn’t a knock to the cops, nor should there be a competition between police and fire in any rational discussion of public safety. Watching our elected leaders have this discussion is kind of like watching the fall of the Roman Empire in slow motion.

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