Palo Alto Voter Approval Required for Firefighter Staffing Decisions, Measure R (November 2010)
If Measure R had been approved, it would have required voter approval before the city council could reduce the number of firefighters working for the city below 2009-2010 levels and before closing or relocating fire stations.
Palo Alto had a $7.3 million deficit and was looking for ways to cut costs. Anticipating that some reductions in the firefighting budget might be made, the local firefighters union conceived of this ballot proposition as a way to shield their part of the city budget from cuts by the city council.
The median total compensation for police and firefighters in Palo Alto is $146,000/year. This is a 64% increase since 2000-2001.
These election results are from the Santa Clara County elections division as of November 27, 2010.
Voter pamphlet arguments in favor of Measure R were signed by former Palo Alto assistant fire chief James McLaughlin, former Palo Alto Unified School District board president Alan Davis, and Palo Alto residents John Garcia and Robert Paugh.
Through early October, the campaign to urge a "no" vote on Measure R, which is known as "Safe Palo Alto", received more than $58,000 in contributions. About 150 contributions to the campaign committee had been received. The largest donation ($10,000) was from King Asset Management Corp. Former mayors Dena Mossar, Bern Beecham and Peter Drekmeier, and current council members Gail Price, Greg Scharff, Greg Schmid and Yiaway Yeh all contributed to the committee.
Scott Herhold, a Mercury News Columnist, said, "...the firefighters' initiative is simply a dubious piece of special interest legislation. It would unfairly tie the hands of the City Council in trying to balance the city's budget."
The editorial board of the Palo Alto Weekly endorsed a "no" vote on Measure R, saying, "Measure R deserves overwhelming defeat...The firefighters union is looking for special treatment that puts the police, public works and other city departments with public-safety responsibilities at greater risk of cuts. Measure R is bad policy and a cynical and self-serving attempt by the firefighters union to insulate and protect itself from economic realities."
Text of measure
The question on the ballot:
|Measure R: Shall the Charter be amended to require the City to continuously maintain in all budgetary years at least the number of Fire Department Personnel authorized in the 2009-10 Annual Budget, and to prohibit the City from implementing any proposal to reduce fire staffing levels or close or relocate a fire station unless the City Council holds two public hearings, submits the measure to voters, and a majority of voters approve the proposal?|
- See also: 2010 ballot measure litigation
Dena Mossar, a former mayor of Palo Alto, filed a lawsuit in Santa Clara County Superior Court asking that the ballot measure arguments submitted by Measure R's supporters for the official voter pamphlet be changed by a judge, on the grounds that those arguments were misleading and in the case of one sentence, "blatantly false."
Superior Court Judge Kevin J. Murphy agreed with plaintiff Mossar and ordered the changes.
Mossar contested the line made by Measure R supporters that "Such a decision should not be made solely by one or two individuals on the city council or in the city administration." Mossar said that that assertion is false because it takes a majority of Palo Alto's nine-member city council to reduce emergency service levels.
The line was changed to say "Such a decision should not be made solely by the city council."
Path to the ballot
About 7,300 signatures were collected by the Palo Alto Fire Fighters Local 1319 to qualify the measure for the ballot.
- Contra Costa Times, "Palo Alto firefighters measure set for ballot", June 16, 2010
- Mercury News, "Palo Alto could be a test case for repealing binding arbitration", July 19, 2010
- Mercury News, "Legal challenge succeeds in changing Palo Alto ballot measure argument", August 27, 2010
- Daily News, "Palo Alto firefighters outspent $58,000 to $0 in Measure R campaign", October 5, 2010
- Palo Alto Online, "Measure R deserves overwhelming defeat", October 15, 2010
- Peninsula Press, "Palo Alto voters reject firefighters' measure" November 3, 2010