Vanguard Firefighter Brochure Hits Davis Mailboxes

The Vanguard mailed out a brochure that informed citizens about issues involving the Davis Fire Department and the fiscal challenges facing the city as a the result of overly generous fire contracts and the purchase of influence by the Davis Professional Firefighters Association, Local 3494.

Here is the brochure broken into panels below.  Click on them to expand them to full size.



Further Information

All of the material in the brochure was drawn from past Vanguard studies, stories, and analysis.  For more background information read the full stories below.

April 14, 2009 – City Budget Discussions Continue Failure to Address Critical Budget Issues

The Vanguard takes a closer look at what is a $42 to $60 million unfunded liability that will cost the city roughly $4 million per year over the next 30 years to close.

May 27, 2009 – Why Do Firefighters Make Substantially More Than Police Officers in Davis?

The Vanguard analyzes huge discrepancies in the compensation to police officers versus firefighters including some deceptive accounting practices that dwarf those discrepancies.

June 17, 2009 – The Apology: Citygate Scrubs the Deck on Fire Staffing Issue

The city uses a $15,000 study to justify current staffing levels and support the implementation of a battalion chief model.  In addition, the study recommended against a fourth fire station and instead recommended joint operations with the UC Davis fire department.  They also recommended an expansion of the response time.  To date, the city has only acted on the recommendation to implement an expensive battalion chief model (see below).

June 26, 2009 – Analysis: City Hall Bought and Paid For by Firefighters Local 3494

Article demonstrates the degree to which the Firefighters Union Local 3499 has influenced city policies.  First, it repeats a previous report on discrepancies between fire and police pay.  Then it shows the gulf between fire contributions to council and police contributions both in direct and indirect contributions through independent expenditure campaigns.

July 14, 2009 – UNSUSTAINABLE: City PERS Contributions Skyrocketed Over Last Decade

Vanguard report shows the increase of the city’s pension obligations over the last decade and argues that this growth is unsustainable.  Over the course of 2000 until 2009-10, the City’s PERS contribution has increased dramatically from just under one million dollars per year, up close to seven million by the end of the decade.

September 4, 2009 – CalPERS Debunks Myth of Shorter Life Expectancy For Safety Employees

The justification for the reason that public safety employees should receive enhanced benefits of 3 percent at the retirement age of 50 is that since public safety work is more hazardous and physically grueling than other work, public safety employees do not live as long.  However, time and again, we hear another justification, that public safety employees do not live as long as other employees.  In fact, the union President of the local firefighters has often thrown out the number 7 years as the life expectancy upon retirement.  That number has been thrown around on the Vanguard as well on the comments section.  When asked to substantiate that claim, apparently one can find various websites that show that police in the US have a considerably shorter life expectancy than the average male and there are firefighters sites that show the same for firefighters.  CalPERS study debunked this myth.

November 11, 2009 – Shell Game Produces 400,000 Dollars For Battalion Chief Under the Guise of Cost-Savings

City Manager Bill Emlen pushed the issue of the Battalion Chief Model forward arguing that it is a necessary change from a management standpoint that will enable more effective deployment than the current model allows.  He wrapped the conversation within the guise of cost-savings that would be exposed by the end of the evening as nothing more than a shell game.  However, that did not stop the council majority, a trio that has received tens of thousands in contributions from the fire fighters, at least twenty of whom were sitting in the audience to make their numbers and presence felt by the council, from voting by a narrow 3-2 margin to proceed looking into the reorganization.

December 12, 2009 – City and Firefighter Local Reach Agreement on New Contract

The city of Davis announced that the city had reached a tentative agreement on a three year labor contract with the Firefighters Union, Local 3494.  The proposed contract is on the City Council’s agenda for ratification on December 15.  The contract includes a decrease in salary over the next three years including a 6% decrease over the REMAINDER of the current fiscal year, in July of 2010 the salaries will be reduced by 4% over the current salary and in July 2011, a 3% reduction from current salaries.  Vanguard analysis determined the contract fell well short of the savings needed and allowed for no period for public vetting.

December 16, 2009 – Mayor and Council Cut Off Debate on Fire Contract

Councilmember Sue Greenwald while pressing on the failure of the Firefighters contract to address the cities structural problem was cut off in debate.  In a heated discussion, Councilmember Sue Greenwald pressed the Finance Director to explain where the inflated savings figures came from.  During the course of that discussion, Councilmember Greenwald demonstrated that the level of savings was actually considerably less in year three than the 3.6 percent trumpeted by city staff.  The Council voted 3-2 with Councilmembers Greenwald and Lamar Heystek dissenting to pass the contract.

December 18, 2009 – Councilmember Heystek Speaks Out About Fire Contract

Vanguard’s phone interview with Councilmember Lamar Heystek on the 3-2 vote that passed the fire MOU.  Mr. Heystek told the Vanguard, “The biggest problem that I have with the contract is that it does very little to address our structural challenges in any meaningful way and it sets the tone for the contracts that we are poised to consider and adopt in the very near future.”

January 13, 2010 – Council Majority in Need of a Math Lesson on MOU

See the use of new math as the Council Majority again attempts justify another passage of an MOU by a 3-2 vote, against with Councilmembers Greenwald and Heystek dissenting.  The Council Majority essentially made three points, first they argued that this contract represents a savings of $744,000.  Second, they argued that while not as much as they might have liked, this contract marks the first time that the council has decreased the size of contracts.  Finally, they argue that this contract begins to deal with the structural issues.

January 21, 2010 – Vanguard Analysis: Davis’ Cafeteria Cash Out Plan Dwarfs That Paid by Other Cities

One of the hottest topics in the recent MOU’s that the city has approved from fire and the management group has been the issue of the cafeteria cast-out plan.  The cafeteria cash-out plan applies to those employees who are covered under the health plan of a spouse.  Since they do not need to take that particular benefit, the city compensates them in cash payouts to the tune of nearly $18,000 per year.  The Vanguard did a quick survey of a few select cities to see how unusual the Davis policy is and found that Davis’ compensation dwarfs that of other cities.

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. Greg Kuperberg

    I’m left wondering how much it cost to print and distribute a color brochure — and whose interests are represented by that expenditure. The brochure uses campaign finance disclosure to accuse members of the city council of disloyalty, but it hardly discloses anything about itself as a political advertisement. It doesn’t even say that David Greenwald runs the Davis Vanguard. Is there possibly some clue on the envelope?

    I’d be surprised if the brochure cost less than thousands of dollars. To begin with, it shows good production values, far superior for instance to the chintzy flier on the “No on P” campaign. What is the incentive?

  2. E Roberts Musser

    Greg Kuperberg: “I’m left wondering how much it cost to print and distribute a color brochure — and whose interests are represented by that expenditure.”

    I assume the brochure is distributed for two purposes: 1) public education; 2) to increase readership of the Davis Vanguard, both laudable purposes. DPD, care to comment???

  3. Davis Enophile

    Stinks of political adverstising and no “paid for by….”. Or is that somewhere else on the mailer that isn’t posted here? Leaves a pretty sour taste in my mouth.

  4. E Roberts Musser

    “These are fine purposes, Elaine, but I’m asking about sponsorship. Money doesn’t get created out of thin air just to “educate” the public.”

    The Davis Vanguard is a nonprofit. I assume it paid for the mailer. Correct me if I am wrong, DPD…

  5. David M. Greenwald

    Productions costs were raised for by direct contributions from Vanguard readers plus whatever advertising revenues were generated.

    As Elaine suggests the purpose was public education and to increase readership in this site.

    Enophile: What is the political advertising? It is not in support of a candidate and the Vanguard itself paid for the costs.

  6. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]Productions costs were raised for by direct contributions from Vanguard readers plus whatever advertising revenues were generated.[/i]

    Okay, that puts us on square one. So the cost of producing the brochure was _____? How much was contributed specifically to produce the mailing, vs just contributed to the site generally? If it was the former, it means that some unnamed people wanted this brochure. If it was the latter, then could you instead have drawn salary from the donations that were used for the brochure?

    Actually it has always been strange to ask for donations with basically zero disclosure of where the money goes. Without even any disclosure of how much has been contributed. Okay, there is one tiny bit of disclosure at the payment screen: “Authorized and paid for by Friends of the Vanguard. Contributions are not tax deductible.” It does beg the question of who are these Friends of the Vanguard, and why they wouldn’t want tax-deductible status.

    Since the brochure itself asks whether the city council is “bought and paid for”, well, disclosure begins at home.

  7. Avatar

    David ,

    Imagine how much you could of helped a school or teacher with the money you wasted on this mailer . Judging from the comments on this blog they are probably thinking the same thing .

    Your school fund raising abilities has just been flushed into the toilet .

    You could of done a school mailer , still raised funds , still improved your readership , and put a little ray of sunshine out there where it is needed !

  8. David M. Greenwald

    I imagine you are overestimating what the mailer costs. I think preventing the city from going into financial collapse is a worthy effort, although I do like your idea as a follow up mailer.

  9. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]So anyone want to discuss the content or substance of the piece?[/i]

    David, we are discussing the substance of the piece. The piece asks, “Is the city council bought and paid for?” This accusatory question is based on a detailed list of campaign donations. Well, who bought and paid for a slick brochure sent to thousands of residents? Saying that “The Vanguard” paid is not much of an answer. Disclosure begins at home.

    [i]I imagine you are overestimating what the mailer costs.[/i]

    If you simply stated what it did cost — including production, printing, and postage — then no one would be left guessing.

    [i]I think preventing the city from going into financial collapse is a worthy effort,[/i]

    By attacking its tax revenues? By egging on a lawsuit against the city? No, “preventing the city from going into financial collapse” is not what you’re doing.

  10. byoungs1

    It is important that the citizens of Davis understand the details of what is happening in our government. That knowledge has the potential of huge cost savings in the long run. Well done David.

  11. Elephantintheroom

    Great effort DPD! Congratulations to you and the People’s Vanguard of Davis. Your continuous and vigilant work to protect precious taxpayer dollars by informing, educating and bringing clarity to our citizens on how city government works is to be applauded. Today’s mailer is another tool that the Vanguard is using to that end.

    Beginning in 2006, the Vanguard’s daily blog site and now in a printed publication showcases the progress and excellent efforts you have made to bring transparency and understanding to our citizens. You and your colleagues provide thoughtful analysis as well as give voice to many issues that are not known about or well understood by our citizens. This is very much appreciated.

    It takes funds to run the Vanguard, conduct your ongoing research and investigations as well as to produce and maintain the articles published daily on the blog. For the many of us who have read, commented and supported the Vanguard over the past four years we take pride in and appreciate the excellent work you do everyday.

  12. Elephantintheroom

    Today’s article addresses once again the power and influence that the Davis firefighter’s union has on city councilmembers and city management that is putting the city at financial risk. We as a community cannot afford these excessive pay and benefit contracts that the firefighter’s union demands and the council and city management agree to.

  13. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]It takes funds to run the Vanguard[/i]

    That’s brilliant, “A Vanguardian”. Unlike a city council campaign, the Vanguard takes funds of an undisclosed size, from confidential donors. Is transparency just too important to fight for transparently?

  14. Siegel

    Greg, really what’s your point? Does the ACLU disclose their donors? Move.on? Any number of organizations calling for transparency in government? Does the NY Times disclose their funding sources? The Vanguard is not a government entity, don’t you think there is a huge difference?

  15. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]Does the ACLU disclose their donors? Move.on? Any number of organizations calling for transparency in government? Does the NY Times disclose their funding sources?[/i]

    Brian, in fact all three of these organizations disclose a great deal more than “The Vanguard” does. First off, they are all legally defined organizations of one kind or another. The ACLU is a non-profit charity, MoveOn is a political action committee, and the New York Times is a publicly traded company. Thus, they all disclose who they are, and they all disclose their budgets and their major paid activities. Their activities are all also restricted in important ways.

    By contrast, when “The Vanguard” pays for a mailing, I don’t even know what that means. I don’t know how the Vanguard is incorporated or registered, if it even has any kind of regulatory existence. For all I know, “The Vanguard” could be David on Monday, a developer on Tuesday, and some city employee on Wednesday. I’m not making any accusations here, but as of this slick mailing, the total lack of disclosure is a terrible precedent.

    As for donors: Since the New York Times is publicly traded, it has to document its revenue. It doesn’t have “donors”. It is true that the ACLU does not disclose all of its donors, but to its credit, it does disclose many of its major donors. Again, it operates under restricts as a non-profit entity (actually two of them).

    That leaves MoveOn, which is the closest in conception to what “The Vanguard” is today with this bold mailing. But the thing is, everyone knows that MoveOn, as a 527 lobby, is part of a giant loophole in campaign finance law. Even though MoveOn is progressive, it is part of a shadow system of campaign influence. It can only be justified as a necessary evil, i.e. since the Republicans use so-called soft money, the Democrats have to also.

    Again, I have no specific accusation against “The Vanguard”. But the fact is that this is soft-money politics with zero disclosure. So to answer your question, that is my real point, that this way of doing politics can only be bad for Davis because it’s such a bad precedent. Some moneyed interest such as a contractor could be behind a mailing like this, if not necessarily this one then the next one or the one after that, in order to retaliate against the city council.

    David argues that the mailing is not “political advertising” but rather “public education”. But that is that is a pretty thin veil, especially from someone with a degree in political science. The brochure names names. With phrases like “[b]Do you not think City Hall is for sale[/b]” (bold in the original), it attacks two people running for public office right now, and it is an implicit attack on city taxes. Yes it sure is political advertising.

  16. Sue Greenwald

    David, I have two comments on your brochure.

    The first is that you say that Saylor, Souza and Greenwald received donations from the firefighters in 2004, and that that is why the firefighters received higher raises than the police.

    In fact, I had been strongly opposed to the contract which increased salaries 36% increase over 4 years, and that is why I was not supported by the firefighters in 2008.

    You knew this, but did not include the information.

    Second, you list the firefighter salaries, but the salaries are not the problem. The problem is the total compensation, which is over $140,000 plus overtime for every firefighter in the department save a few new recruits. This is because of the benefits, such as the early enhanced retirement of 3% at 50. Reading the salaries alone gives a false impression of the compensation.

  17. David M. Greenwald


    I think it is clear where you stand on the issue throughout the brochure. I don’t know how many times I both stated that you and Lamar opposed the MOU and the Battalion Chief Model and quoted you in opposition, it also should have been clear to people that you were not supported by the firefighters in 2008. I did not have space to explain that and thought it should have been obvious. I even stated “the two no votes, Heystek and Greenwald, were not supported by the firefighters in their last election.” To me and I think to anyone reading the piece in its entirety, you and Lamar were the heroes of the piece and I must have repeated that mantra twenty times. I simply at the end of the piece had no more room to explain other than it should have been obvious to anyone the reason why they supported you in 2004 and not 2008.

    On the second point, I understand your point, but the point of showing the chart was to show the discrepancy between fire and police. Both get about the same in benefits, the difference is in salary, hence I showed salary.

  18. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]In big bold print and underlined is the phrase “…City Services are being cut to the bone…” You never state what services are being cut.[/i]

    This is one of the remaining nods to progressive politics in what is ultimately an anti-tax campaign. If services in Davis are being cut to the bone, then Davis has really big bones compared to most cities in California.

    Also I checked in my mailbox this morning, but I did not get the free education that apparently some other Davis residents have received.

  19. preston

    In the box “Cafeteria Benefits by City” You corectly point out that the Cities of Palo Alto and Roseville contribute $0. What you omited is that both of these cities don’t have cafeteria plans. Roseville will pay close to $1200 a month for health, vision, and dental benefits, and Palo Alto covers the employees and dependants with health, vision, and dental. Neither of these cities offer a cash pay out, but these benefits should still be counted toward the total comp.

  20. Sue Greenwald

    [quote]I think it is clear where you stand on the issue throughout the brochure[/quote]No, David. The one and only person I ran into yesterday who brought up the flyer brought up this point; he had gotten the wrong message because of the way you presented this.

  21. Sue Greenwald

    I went back and found the e-mail. I had never opened the attachment. You called me about this flyer, and I had recommended against it because it seemed like an overly sensationalized approach to a real problem.

    I just read the draft flyer that you had sent me on January 13, and it does NOT include the implied misrepresentation of my actions that the final version does.

  22. David M. Greenwald

    I didn’t realize you hadn’t opened the attachment, when we talked it sounded as though you had. The only difference in the two versions is that later versions of the fliers the candidates they gave to in 2004 and 2008 were named. They gave to you in 2004 but not 2008. Most of the brochure addressed the issue of the votes. I also don’t remember you calling it an overly sensationalized approach to the real problem, I remember you wanting me to focus on the management rather than the fire department. The point on the cafeteria plan quotes you at length. As does the battalion chief. That’s the crux of the story – that the fire department bought and paid for the votes on the council majority and you and Lamar stood up against them. The other part could have been fleshed out more, but it was accurate and made no such implication.

  23. Greg Kuperberg

    [i]I had recommended against it because it seemed like an overly sensationalized approach to a real problem.[/i]

    Wow, the bull and the rhino have each told the other one to tip-toe in the porcelain shop. You should both heed the advice, for sure.

  24. davisite2

    I think that the slick brochure format was first and foremost an advertising and not a political decision. I saw this mailer as primarily an attempt to gain more readership and donation support. If it had been done low-key, it probably would have ended up in everyone’s “circular file”, unread and unopened.

  25. Sue Greenwald

    I had not read the draft brochure. I didn’t like the idea. I remember the conversation when you called me about the brochure, and I tried to put you off by saying the timing was bad or something. I probably said something to the effect if you were going to discuss getting the city on sound financial footing, that we should be looking at all the highest paid groups (as I did in my subsequent op-ed pieces), and not just fire.

    Even if I had opened the draft brochure attachment, which I hadn’t, I could not have seen the part with the misleading implications about me, because it wasn’t even in the unopened draft brochure.

  26. preston

    Why did you remove the back and forth between you and Sue? I thought you were an advocate of transparency. Boo, Hiss, Mr. Greenwald. You dissapoint me. Those brief comments gave us a look into the personality of one of our civic leaders and you censored it. So, so sad.

  27. Pingback: Sunday Commentary: Conversations About Firefighters in a Public Restroom | .:Davis Vanguard:.

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