City of Downey Police and Fire Staffing Charter Amendment 14, Measure B (June 2014)

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A City of Downey Police and Fire Staffing Charter Amendment 14, Measure B ballot question was on the June 3, 2014 election ballot for voters in the city of Downey in Los Angeles County, California, where it was overwhelmingly defeated.[1]

This initiative would have revised Section 702 of the Downey city charter by removing the requirement that the gave the city council full control over police and fire staffing, with voters having an advisory role in the process. It would have also removed the requirement that the city provide for police and fire personnel from its own staff, without outsourcing services.[2]

Election results

Measure B
ResultVotesPercentage
Defeatedd No7,22882.79%
Yes 1,502 17.21%
Election results from County of Los Angeles Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Election Results

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot:

Shall section 702 of the Charter be amended to remove the requirement that the City shall provide for the staffing of the police and fire departments through its own staff and to remove the requirement that a two-thirds advisory vote is necessary before the City Council may consider alternative methods or agreements for providing police and fire services?[2][3]

Full text

The full text of the proposed charter amendment is available here.

Analysis

The following impartial analysis was provided for Measure B:

Measure B is a proposed amendment to Article VII section 702 of the Downey City Charter which would have the following effects:

1. It would remove current language in section 702 of the City Charter which requires that the City shall provide for the staffing of the police and fire departments through its own staff, unless it submits for an advisory vote an alternative method or agreement and obtains a two-thirds approval by the City’s voters.

2. It would insert “police and fire” into a list of functions and services for which the “City shall provide as follows: “finance, public works, water, building & safety, police, fire, city planning and library.”

3. It further provides that the City Council may provide for contracts for the furnishing of fire services including fire protective services with a neighboring city, county, fire protection district, joint powers authority that provides fire protection services, police protection district, federal government or any federal department or agency as provided by Government Code section 55632.

4. If the amendment is adopted, under the amended Charter, the City Council would have the discretion, without prior voter approval, to decide how to furnish fire and police services.

A “Yes” vote means the voter approves the proposed changes that this Charter Amendment would make. A “No” vote means the voter does not approve the proposed Charter Amendment, and no changes will be made to the City’s Charter. This Charter Amendment will become effective if a majority of those voting on this Measure vote “Yes.”

This proposed amendment to Article VII, section 702 was placed on the June 3, 2014 ballot by petition signed by the requisite number of voters. [3]

—Yvette M. Abich Garcia, Downey City Attorney, [4]

Support

  • The Downey Fire Association was a co-sponsor of this measure and had spent $124,000 as of the end of December 2013 in support of the measure.[5]

Arguments in favor

Supporters of Charter Amendment 14 argued that the city council had already violated Section 702 of the city charter by outsourcing police and fire staff without any vote of the people. They argued, moreover, that the council had used the requirement for a merely advisory vote to do as they please with regard to police and fire staffing. Proponents said that the approval of Measure B would allow voters a real say in who protected them.[6]

The official arguments in favor of Measure B are available here.

Opposition

City of Downey Seal.svg

Opponents

  • The Downey City Council

Arguments against

Opponents of Charter Amendment 14 argued Section 702, which would have been repealed by the amendment, kept local control over police and fire services. They also argued that the only reason the Downey Fire Association pushed for the amendment was that the union had for years tried to force the city to contract the Los Angeles County Fire Department for fire services. A legal filing by the city in a lawsuit concerning Measure B said, "The Downey Fire Association is a co-sponsor of the Charter amendment as part of the Association’s long-standing efforts, dating back to 1997, to require the City to contract for fire services with the Los Angeles County Fire Department."[5]

The official arguments against Measure B are available here.

Lawsuit

A lawsuit brought against the city seeking to change the ballot language and impartial analysis of Measure B was rejected on March 18, 2014 by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin. This meant that the Measure B would remain on the ballot unchanged.[7]

After the ruling, Mayor Fernando Vasquez said, “I am delighted that the court has confirmed that the city was responsible and truthful in preparing the impartial analysis and ballot label for the proposed charter amendment. Downey voters will now be able to exercise an informed right to vote.”[7]

Plaintiffs

The sponsors of Charter Amendment 14, including the Downey Fire Association, filed a lawsuit claiming that the ballot language and the city's impartial analysis was misleading.[8]

Defendants

The city responded saying that the charter amendment did what the ballot question stated and that the union had ample time to question the ballot title before collecting signatures to put the amendment on the ballot and that had not followed the legally defined process for objecting to a ballot title.

Mayor Fernando Vasquez said, "It is incredibly unfortunate that in addition to the hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars being spent on this election, now even more public money will be wasted on responding to this lawsuit when the City Council is simply fulfilling a core Downey value to provide police and fire services with City staff."[8]

Impact report

The following report was submitted to the city council on the impact of Measure B:

Its Fiscal Impact: The fiscal impact of contracting for fire services is directly related to the cost of such services and current revenues that would no longer be provided or generated because of the contract services.

The Downey Fire Department has a gross FY 13-14 budget of $16,100,000 and a net budget of $13,828,975. LA County Fire services proposal for the same fiscal year is $12,584,000. However, this is not a comparison of a like number of firefighters housed within the city boundaries. Comparing an equal number of county and Downey firefighters within the city show that contracting for fire services with LA County is cost neutral.

The LA County cost includes a 4% increase from their current proposal. LA County has increased costs to all contract cities by an average of 4% per year for the last 5 years. The Downey Fire Department has decreased its budget by a total of 7% over the same time period. This demonstrates the ability to expand and contract general funds allotted to the fire department based on the state of the economy, something not afforded by LA Contract cities.

Its Impact on the Community’s Ability to Attract and Retain Business and Employment:

Providing our own public safety services does have an impact on our ability to attract and retain businesses. While very difficult to quantify with statistical data, our existing business community, as well as perspective businesses and developers, place a significant value on our in-house public safety services. Generally speaking, the business community appreciates the fact that there is local control and accountability, it produces quicker response times, and if a business needs to deal with a public safety issue, it can be accomplished at City Hall. In addition, maintaining a business friendly one-stop shop environment will be difficult if we are sending businesses to offsite locations to deal with public safety permitting and inspections.

Its Impact on the Quality and Quantity of Public Safety Services to the City and Residents:

The LA County proposal is for a decrease in the quantity of firefighters on duty each day within the city’s boundaries. The Downey Fire Department’s daily staffing is 21 firefighters for a total of 63 firefighters who are assigned delivering fire and EMS services within the city. The LA County proposal states that only 16 firefighters would be on duty each day for a total of 48 firefighters who are assigned to delivering fire and EMS services within the city.

Quality emergency fire and EMS delivery is directly dependent on the number of on-duty firefighters available to respond. Number of responses and staffing correlates to response times. The more staff the quicker the response time due to increased emergency apparatus available to respond with trained firefighters.

The quality of public safety services is difficult to qualify or define. All Los Angeles County Fire Departments deliver a service performed by well trained firefighters. In fact, in many ways all fire agencies deliver the exact same service regardless of geographical area. Therefore, the quality of service could again be directly related to quantity. Fire service success is directly related to the number of trained firefighters available to respond. [3]

—The city Community Development Department and the Fire Department, [9]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California

Proponents of Charter Amendment 14 gathered over 12,000 signatures to put this initiative on the ballot. Once analyzed, these petitions yielded more than the required number of valid signatures - 15% of city registered voters. Once the petition was certified the city council approved it for the ballot.[10][11]

See also

External links

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