Candidate’s Forum Part Two – Fire Service and Connectivity

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Chamber Executive Director Kemble Pope lays down the rules with Steve Greenfield on his left and former County Supervisor Betsy Marchand on his right.
Chamber Executive Director Kemble Pope lays down the rules with Steve Greenfield on his left and former County Supervisor Betsy Marchand on his right.

The five candidates for Davis City Council met on Wednesday evening for the first time in a candidates forum sponsored by the Davis Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee (ChamberPAC).

The event was moderated by Chamber Executive Director Kemble Pope and held at the Davis Community Chambers.  The format was similar to forum held in 2012, each candidate was asked their own specific question and other candidates at times could dive in with rebuttals and questions.

What follows will be at times quotations and at times paraphrases from the answers.  This is not intended to be a transcript of the event.  This is the second part.

The third set of questions once again began with Sheila Allen.  He asked about her view of boundary drop, and other fire cost savings measures.

Sheila Allen responded, “Dropping the boundary line was really smart.  That’s what needed to happen.  All calls go to the police department and now the closest unit gets there.  Very important.  I totally support that.”  She next addressed shared management, “Having the UC employee be the fire chief for the city and UC, I’m concerned about.  From a management standpoint, I know that they have a plan in place and that he has the two bosses that he will be in contact with, I understand how he got there, but I think in the long term, we need to evaluate if that’s the best thing for the people of Davis.”  Finally she addressed three versus four, “For the three versus four, I’ve talked a lot in the community on this.  I’m concerned that it was implemented as a cost-savings without thinking about the long-term implication of it.  It increases the response time for firefighters to go into a home.  I understand that we don’t have very many fires, but if it’s your house and you that’s in there, you want those firefighters to be in as soon as possible.  So I’m very concerned about that.”

She would add, “I’m also concerned that it’s going to increase everybody – home owners and businesses insurance rates because they look at the response times.  So we need to think about the economics about that.”

Kemble Pope asked Daniel Parrella about the hiring of the city manager and the criteria he would apply for the selection of the next city manager.

Daniel Parrella responded, “I did support our current city manager, it’s a shame that he’s leaving.  I think what we’re looking for in a city manager is that we should look for someone who’s not currently a part of the city.  Someone from the outside that we can draw in.  Someone preferably who experience working with cities in fiscal crisis – let’s call it what it is.  Hopefully someone whose worked in cities before who have dealt with what we’re dealing with.  The third criteria, I think what I liked about Steve is that he had strong communication skills.  He was always able to articulate where need to be made and why the cuts needed to be made.  That’s maybe the three things I would be looking for in an a city manager.”

Robb Davis used a 30-second card, “This is going to be the most important decision that a general law city that the next council makes.  We need someone with strong financial management expertise in a complex organization.  It doesn’t have to be a former city manager.  Maybe hopefully it would be good not to go in that direction.  In terms of leadership skills they need to be a team builder and be an excellent written and verbal communicator.  I need to hear things that they are – things like they’re a harmonizer, and tough negotiator.”

Kemble Pope said that the Chamber strongly supported the surface water project, you opposed it, you are also suing the city over the increase in water rates needed to pay for the surface water project.  He says there is a direct conflict in suing the city while serving as city councilmember, will you give up your law suit if elected?

John Munn responded, “My understanding that as a plaintiff in a lawsuit, that I would have to recuse myself from discussions about that lawsuit.  WE may find out from Measure P that there is no need to continue with a lawsuit.  The people of Davis may make the decision.”  He said, “I believe strongly that Proposition 218, when it says that rates are to be proportional on a parcel basis, means that.  Those are simple words and their meaning shouldn’t be in doubt.”  He added, “What has happened to us in the state of California, that courts elsewhere have decided those words don’t mean the things they say.  At some point, we’re going to have straighten that out.  I don’t see giving up – at this point, when we’ve moved as far as we have toward coming to some resolution about the clear meaning of Prop 218.  If it stands the way it is, it’s gutted.  If people want to gut Prop 218 that’s the way.  I don’t want to be a party to that.  So no I don’t plan on standing down from the lawsuit if it isn’t invalidated by Measure P.”

The next question was to Rochelle Swanson.  He stated that she voted to appoint the Downtown Parking Task Force, the Davis Chamber and other endorsed the 19 recommendations of the task force and she voted to remove two major components including the funding stream, rendering the plan unactionable.

Rochelle Swanson responded, “I’m going to challenge your question with the word, funding stream.  That funding stream was after the purchase of all the materials and that was after they were implemented.”  She stated, “The reason why I called for a pause for a return of those items in phasing in, is because nobody at the staff table nor from the parking task force could identify the actually funding stream for $1.45 million, I just think that’s too large of an expenditure without some direct funding source.”  She said they were moved aside, “They weren’t dismissed out of hand.”  She said that while she respected the process, that they came together in the end, she also felt it was important “that we further clarify and truly support the positions in how we were going forward.  I think it was important to make sure that we can have success.”

John Munn used his 60-second card.  “I oppose parking meters because parking is a service to customers  that’s provided by the businesses that they support.  In return the businesses provide financial support to the city in the form of tax revenues, rate payments and fees.  I’m also not convinced that having meters is not going to drive shoppers elsewhere.”  He added, “Shoppers have many options to go places other than downtown Davis to do their shopping.  Make them pay for parking after they drive all of those stoplights to get there, they are liable to take their business else.”

The next question was to Robb Davis.  He asked Robb Davis about his support for the Cannery subject to better bike and pedestrian connectivity and whether the process was a good example of community planning.

Robb Davis responded, “I was not satisfied with the process.  I was happy to engage directly, as someone on the bike advisory commission, who cares about the connectivity in and out of that site.”  He continued, “I was very happy to engage directly over a period of three years with developer.  But it never felt right to me that a bike advisory commission member or what some refer to as a bike activist should be directly negotiating something as important as connectivity. ”  He said that long before that, there should have been direct communication from council about the priorities regarding connectivity on that site “as the beginning basis of negotiations, not something we were doing at the last hour.”  He pointed out the availability of “foundational documents that should have been used to lay out a negotiating position with the developer in that case and it should not have been left to individual commission members to play that role.”  He added that the process was interesting and engage, they were able to get down to the nitty gritty.  “Here even as we are about to break ground, we still have not gotten the firm commitments that we are going to get the grade separated crossings that we have been discussing for three years.  That’s proof that the process was not correct.”

Sheila Allen added, “Another part that came at the very was the mix of housing.  There was a lot of concern, particularly from the senior community about the ability to have housing that was appropriate that was single story that was universal design and I’m very supportive of making sure that we have housing across the entire lifespan.  So when we’re moving forward we need to make sure that we’re looking at those kind of issues and also gray water for recycling.”

That concludes the first portion of the candidate’s debate.  They then had forty minutes of “moderated” discussion.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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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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24 thoughts on “Candidate’s Forum Part Two – Fire Service and Connectivity”

  1. Matt Williams

    “For the three versus four, I’ve talked a lot in the community on this. I’m concerned that it was implemented as a cost-savings without thinking about the long-term implication of it. It increases the response time for firefighters to go into a home. I understand that we don’t have very many fires, but if it’s your house and you that’s in there, you want those firefighters to be in as soon as possible. So I’m very concerned about that.”

    I was really surprised to hear Sheila make that assertion. The January 2014 report that presented the analysis of the first six months of the fire operations changes (see https://www.davisvanguard.org/city-staff-report-suggests-fire-service-improved-under-reforms/), clearly stated that The city reports, “Rescue 31 [the Main Fire Station on 5th Street] had a faster travel time by a low of twenty-four seconds to a high of five minutes and forty seconds. On average, Rescue 31 had a faster travel time of two minutes and thirty seconds (2:30) over that of the responding closest engine. […] The addition of Engine 34 on first alarm structure fire responses has resulted in providing an increased number of personnel on-scene sooner, in most cases, offsetting the reduction of staffing from four personnel to three personnel on each Davis engine.”

    “The primary benefit of the staffing change was the creation of Rescue Thirty-one (31) as a stand-alone response vehicle. This allowed for the response of Rescue 31 to vehicle accidents in Station 32 and 33’s response areas, while keeping Engine 31 available to cover a simultaneous call. Additionally, it left Rescue 31 available to respond to a simultaneous call in Station 31’s first-in area along with the closest available engine. Review of the travel time data for 32 calls for service from July 8, 2013 through December 3, 2013 revealed that Rescue 31 had a quicker travel time than the outlying Engine. Rescue 31 had a faster travel time by a low of twenty-four seconds to a high of five minutes and forty seconds. On average, Rescue 31 had a faster travel time of two minutes and thirty seconds (2:30) over that of the responding closest engine. The end result is that the travel time clock was stopped sooner than if the outlying engine had been responding by itself.”

    The detailed data presented to Council by Fire Chief Trauernicht simply doesn’t support Sheila’s assertion.

    She would add, “I’m also concerned that it’s going to increase everybody – home owners and businesses insurance rates because they look at the response times. So we need to think about the economics about that.”

    If this concern of Sheila’s is valid, we need to do a lot more than “think about the economics.” I suggest that she share the insurance company / insurance premium data that she has with the public and with the City so that her concern can either be confirmed or put to rest. If it is the latter, we can breathe easy. if it is the former, as I said above, we need to do a lot more than “think.”

    I suspect that this concern that Sheila has laid out will be the topic of a number of questions in the upcoming candidate forums.

  2. Ryan Kelly

    I believe that Sheila is echoing concerns of many people in town. Don’t discount her for continuing the conversation. Compare this to the “I don’t know until I look at it” answers from John Munn.

    In Davis, we have resigned ourselves to paying higher taxes and fees in exchange for slow to no growth in both residential and economic development. It is a trade off. We don’t have the revenue that similar sized communities have due to our reluctance to change. So we have to pay more in taxes to generate the revenue and maintain our quality of life. That’s just the way it is. Every cut in programs or services, we have to ask ourselves whether it is worth it. I believe Sheila is just saying that she doesn’t think that the cost savings is worth the result. And, if we had enough money, we would not have gone with the reduction. All council members are going to have to struggle with these choices. If Robb is successful, I guarantee he will have to vote down some bicycle centered improvement or delay implementation because we just can’t afford it. And people who support him will be shocked and upset, but that’s the way it works sometimes.

    1. Davis Progressive

      i think she’s blindly parroting concerns that she has now raised on fire, pou, and a few others without any real insight. her facts were completely wrong on fire.

  3. Matt Williams

    Ryan, I’m not discounting Sheila’s comments, I’m engaging them. She made a bold statement that we should expect our homeowners insurance premiums to go up. If she has supporting data to back that statement up, then I absolutely want Sheila to openly and transparently engage the community by sharing the data she says she has.

    I also agree with you that “if we had enough money, we would not have gone with the reduction.” That is a no brainer. However, not only do we not have enough money, but we have a whole series of infrastructure maintenance backlogs that past Councils have allowed to accumulate to the point where they are now going to cost us hundreds of millions of dollars to address … probably in excess of $20 million per year for the next 20 years just to catch up.

    Robb understands the trade offs, and one of the major themes of his candidacy is a realistic admission that he is going to have to say “no” and his supporters are going to have to accept “no.”

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      From the fire Audit: “Over the past fifteen years, advances in the development of fire service analysis tools and changes in how insurance companies set their rates relative to residential and commercial has caused a reassessment of the significance of the ISO PPC. In 2001, State Farm Insurance changed from using the ISO grading schedule to set residential insurance rates to its own zip code based rating system. The Subzone Rating Factor, draws on the company’s prior claim experience for many types of insured losses including fire, wind, hail, water damage, theft and liability. State Farm estimates that 70% of claims paid under the homeowner’s program are non-fire losses, so the new rating system will emphasize an all hazards approach to property loss.”

    1. wdf1

      Fremontia: Sheila gave a firefighters lap dog answer.

      I, too, find that kind of comment to be a knee jerk response made without reason. I’m not thrilled to see how much firefighters make in compensation, especially in the middle of budget cutting. I support the last best offer deal that was made, and I wouldn’t mind seeing further cuts, if that could be worked out. I think it was politically stupid for the firefighters union not to be more willing to compromise than they were.

      Yet I also recognize that a firefighter is likelier to make a better professional assessment over how to do his/her job than I am (I am not a firefighter), or probably than most other commenters, here. I think it is entirely reasonable to hear professional judgement from firefighters. Maybe we can’t act on it, maybe we can. But this is a public safety issue, and I, as a Davis resident and homeowner, want reasonable assurance and comfort that firefighters and the police force can provide adequate public protection. Having used emergency fire services more than once, I can personally appreciate their value.

      An attitude that I sense here is that if one admits that firefighters have a reasonable point to consider over how to do their jobs, then you are likely a “lap dog for the firefighters”. Would you listen to a firefighter if he made an audit of your house for fire safety? Would following their advice on a home audit make one a lap dog for the firefighters?

      I think that’s where Sheila Allen is coming from, and I think that’s entirely reasonable. So when does this “lap dog” relationship begin and end? When one has used emergency fire services? When one is a candidate for city council?

      1. Barack Palin

        If firefighters made their assessments based on fact rather than what I believe to be in their best financial interests than their opinions would hold more water. I believe when we hear from the firefighters we are just hearing the union jargon. The facts have shown that the new alignment and manpower system is indeed better.

        1. wdf1

          B.P.: If firefighters made their assessments based on fact rather than what I believe to be in their best financial interests than their opinions would hold more water.

          NIST Report on Residential Fireground Field Experiments

          Dallas Fire Department Staffing Level Studies

          Summary, 4 person crews are more effective than three person crews, for most tasks.

          It’s not hard to google on this topic and find plenty more references. I suggest the terms, “fire engine staffing study” as one possibility.

          1. Don Shor

            Since some studies show that five-person crews were even more efficient than four-person crews, I assume that Sheila (and you) support expanding all crews to five?

          2. wdf1

            Don Shor: I assume that Sheila (and you) support expanding all crews to five?

            More than anything, I point out that there is a significant body of literature and studies on this that is quantitative and that studies the performance of 3-, 4-, and 5-person+ crews.

            It is legitimate for a city executive to read these reports and ask if the service provided by 4-person crews is worth the extra expense without be labeled a “lapdog for the firefighters” as Fremontia points out, or Tia Will, who seems to say that arguing for a 4-person crew is based on emotion rather than fact.

            And part of the rationale for 4-person crews is to be able to respond to fires in accordance with the OSHA Two-in, two-out requirement.

            Do I support expanding all crews to five? No I don’t. Does Sheila Allen? I don’t know. You know how to reach her if you want to ask her that.

          3. Don Shor

            Do I support expanding all crews to five? No I don’t.

            And this gets to the heart of this issue. Why not?
            Also, can you find any position Sheila has taken that diverges from the positions favored by the firefighters union?

          4. wdf1

            The firefighters union apparently did not support the last best offer imposed on them. Sheila Allen did.

          5. wdf1

            Also, it seems that the union expressed misgivings over boundary drop. Sheila Allen supports the boundary drop policy:

            Sheila Allen responded, “Dropping the boundary line was really smart. That’s what needed to happen.

    2. Tia Will

      I think that Sheila Allen gave a much more nuanced response than Fremontia is crediting her for.

      She brought up a frequently over looked aspect of the future of public safety moving towards a new model which recognizes the changing frequency of various calls for help from a fire based model to a medical assistance based model. Sheila Allen noted the need for this change within our community during the recent candidate forum as has
      Nate Trauernicht. What I will be very interested in hearing is the firefighters position on these newer service models which argue not for more bodies on the truck, but for a different mix of specialties available.

      On a related point, I would find the firefighters positions much more credible if they were to provide actual numbers for their argument in favor of four rather than three on a truck. As it is now, this seems to be a losing argument since it is based on emotion and what if arguments unsupported by data which seems to favor the three on a truck model. I believe that for any candidate it will be important to be able to support their position with actual data, not just unsupported “expert opinion”.

      1. wdf1

        T.W.: As it is now, this seems to be a losing argument since it is based on emotion and what if arguments unsupported by data which seems to favor the three on a truck model. I believe that for any candidate it will be important to be able to support their position with actual data, not just unsupported “expert opinion”.

        Go to this link

        1. Tia Will

          wdf1

          I really appreciate you calling my attention to these studies which at least on the surface would seem to support the four on a truck model at least in terms of timed goals met. I would have some questions about how the “percent faster” or “minutes faster” would actually translate to improved outcomes. Since the OSHA 2 in 2 out rule does not apply when there is suspicion that there is anyone in the building, I can only assume that what most people would be considering here would be loss of property.

          Of course, the emotional loss of property cannot be measured, so we are left with estimates about how much property value is saved by having four as opposed to three on a truck. I am wondering if there is data from other communities that actually have extensive experience with the down sizing to see what their real world as opposed to experimental findings have been. This is not to ever discount the importance of controlled experiments which are well done, but rather to see if the data translates to real world value.

          Part of the reason that I am being so picky about the validity of extrapolating information obtained from idealized experimental settings to the real world is because of my first hand clinical experience with medications. For instance birth control pills which have a theoretical efficacy rate of > 99%, actually drop to a real world efficacy rate of about 94 – 96 % dependent upon individual compliance and physiologic variation.

          Also, while it would seem to be common sense that “faster would always be better”
          I know from 25 years of performing Cesarean sections that while it feels and certainly seems to the affected family that seconds matter, in the vast majority of cases this is actually actually not true and a few minutes one way or the other will typically not have any effect on infant or maternal well being.

    3. Matt Williams

      wdf1, thank you for the links to the studies. I look forward to reading them and to putting their findings into the context of our specific situation in Davis.

      One of our challenges in Davis is that our primary use of firefighters in Davis has nothing to do with fighting fires. That primary use is as paramedics. Therefore, an engine staffing perfornance study needs to be for that kind of scizophrenic use pattern in order to be most useful.

      With that said I’d like to point you, and Sheila to Chief Trauenicht’s presentation to Council in January. As I listened to the presentation and looked at the following presentation graphic:

      boundary-2

      I felt that the fiscal benefit of the staffing change was understated. From 1/7/2013 through 7/7/2013 the total OT was 10,251.57 hours, of which 514.5 was for State Forest Fire Strike Team OT, leaving a net attributable to local fire operations of 9,737 hours. During the same period there was a total of 8,494.7 hours of combined sick and vacation time that needed to be covered. Netting the 9,737 by the 8,494.7 (since the primary driver of OT is covering for missing employees) we get a net OT amount of 1,243.3 hours due to non-vaction/sick reasons.

      Looking at the 7/8/2013 through 1/5/2014 period the total OT was 9,295.3 hours, of which 1,403.23 was for State Forest Fire Strike Team OT, leaving a net attributable to local fire operations of 7,892.07 hours. During the same period there was a total of 9,915 hours of combined sick and vacation time that needed to be covered. Netting the 7,892.07 by the 9,915 (since the primary driver of OT is covering for missing employees) we get a net OT amount of minus 2,022.93 hours due to non-vaction/sick reasons.

      That means that non-vacation/sick operations of the fire department was able to be more efficient under the new configuration by over 3,266 hours for the six moth period (6,532 hours if annualized). That is an overtime efficiency improvement of 3.14 FTEs over and above the 1 FTE per 8 hour shift saved by the staffing change. If a firefighter FTE costs $150,000 thne the 3 FTES saved on engine staffing equates to $450,000 saved in salary and benefits, and the 3.14 FTEs of overtime (at a time and a half pay rate) represents another $700,000 saved. $1.15 million saved in total.

      So the question I had rolling through my head as the two minutes at Marina Circle was being considered was, “Were those two minutes worth $1.15 million?” I pose that same question to you, and I pose it to Sheila Allen.

  4. Fremontia

    Munn can’t talk about suing the city he wants to govern??????? A suit he lost. Why not? He lost. How about asking him how he feels about forcing the city to pay for all that legal time and how he feels about frivolous lawsuits.

  5. jrberg

    This is only an anecdote, and should be taken as such, but two weeks ago we had a medical emergency at our house, and the response was great. Because all three Davis stations were engaged at the time, Engine 34 from UCD was dispatched. They showed up in about 2-3 minutes, followed closely by Rescue 31, and finally followed by an AMR unit. We had 7 firefighters in our house, and after AMR arrived, 9 emergency personnel. This was a perfect example of the benefits of the boundary drop and the decoupling of the Rescue Unit.

    I know a number of firefighters personally, and understand how they thought about change, but on balance, I think the new management scheme works very well. It’s all about flexibility of response, in my mind. Davis and UCD firefighters do a great job, and I appreciate their efforts.

  6. Tia Will

    I am not a supporter of John Munn. However, I believe him when he says that he believes deeply in the law suit.
    I believe that he is sincere in his beliefs and would certainly not describe this law suit as frivolous and that he truly believes that he is addressing an injustice. I disagree and will not be voting for him because of our many differences in philosophy and vision for the city. However, I do not for a moment doubt his personal integrity.

    1. Adam Smith

      Tia,

      I believe that John Munn believes deeply in destroying the water project. He opposed the water project long before the lawsuit. IMO, the lawsuit is a means to that end.

      I don’t understand how you can have a city councilman suing the city over a project the city government and citizenry has approved. it is too much of a conflict of interest. He can do one or the other, but not both.

  7. Tia Will

    Adam Smith

    I am inclined to agree with your interpretation of this as a conflict of interest. I am not sure whether John Munn is actually running in order to win a seat on the City Council, or if he is running in an attempt to gain more attention to the limited number of issues about which he cares deeply.

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