Independent Control of MOFD

In the November 2018 election, three of MOFD’s five Board seats are up for re-election. These elections are by Division (not at large). In all three Divisions, there is one independent and one union sponsored / controlled candidate. In Division 3, split between Orinda and Moraga, the incumbent is also running. In the other two Divisions (Division 1 in Moraga and Division 4 in Orinda) the current Director is retiring.

This web site recommends (pleads) that you vote for the independent candidates, Nate Bell (Division 1), Red Smith (Division 3), or Lucy Talbot (Division 4).

When electing a board for an emergency services agency it must be understood that the employees, led by the Chief, run the District. All the Board does is oversee that. The employees include sixty firefighters with varying degrees of medical training and experience up to paramedics, some office staff and one “finance professional” who might be a book keeper or an accountant. There is plenty of “operational” (how to put out a fire or rescue someone) expertise. The financial acumen to manage a $25 million a year operation with hundreds of millions of dollars of retirement benefit liabilities, may be (is) lacking.

Nathan Bell has an MBA from Harvard and has served as CEO, chair and board member of over 25 companies in his career, many of which have required the development and assessment of new technologies in traditional industries, not unlike fire protection and medical response services.           

Red Smith has an MBA from Berkeley and a BS in finance from USC and has been the CEO of one company and is currently the president of another.

Lucy Talbot is the co-owner of a 33 year-old family business supplying industrial tools and supplies.

Their union-sponsored opponents include an active firefighter, a retired firefighter, and a retired fire department administrator. All are or were members of a firefighters union, some the same union as MOFD firefighters. They claim they have operational expertize (which MOFD already has plenty of) and that they will be fiscally responsible (but everyone claims that). Our experience, however, has been that the union has driven MOFD $75 million into debt and the new contract just voted on will give the firefighters a 13% raise over three years, not just increasing salaries much faster than inflation (as they have done since MOFD was formed) but also increasing future pension liabilities.

The one incumbent running for reelection, Steve Anderson in Division 3, voted for that 13% raise. If the current salary (an average of $163,000) had been limited to a 2.5% annual increase (average inflation over the past ten years), the district would save, over the next three years almost $20,000 per employee (over $1 million total). More importantly, this three year contract will increase the current employee’s pension liability by over 5% above what a simple cost of living increase equal to inflation would have. This adds up to tens of millions of dollars over the 25-30 years of retirement benefits each employee will receive.

Since MOFD was formed in 1997, tax revenue to MOFD has increased over twice inflation. Yet, we have the same service we had 21 years ago, 17 responders in five stations. Employee compensation increases have used up all revenue gains AND we are $75 million in debt. Giving control of the Board to union controlled directors would not be wise.

Please vote for Nate Bell (Division 1), Red Smith (Division 3) and Lucy Talbot (Division 4).