Pinole Firefighters – Why are they leaving?

Fire_FighterslTuesday, August 20, 2013
The Pinole City Council reversed its decision of June 2013 and have agreed to accept a Federal $1.24 Million SAFER Grant.
The Grant was previously presented as a way to reopen Valley Station #74 for a two-year period.
But the Council, after initially approving it, decided that the cost to man the station with overtime, was excessive.
The Council rejected the Grant.
That action not only took the community by surprise, but it also did not sit well, with Mike Thompson, who had championed the Federal Grant for Pinole.
On the heels Pinole’s rejection the Rodeo-Hercules Fire District moved to obtain the grant.
On Tuesday the Council again changed its mind. This time citing the viability of new options that would mitigate the overtime costs and allow the addition of services.
Tom Lochner reports on this here.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

As was reported by the West County Times’  Tom Lochner on June 11, 2013, Pinole lost four fire fighters to other cities.
Why, I wondered, would these fire fighters make that move? Was it due to better benefits, salaries, training? What would cause them to “jump ship”?

Was it prompted by the politically charged climate in Pinole, a climate that some say is “toxic” and anti-union? Did it have something to do with Jeff Rubin, the most vocal member of the Concerned Citizens of Pinole,  the political action committee behind the 2007 recall and instrumental in the election of four of the five sitting council members and his self-proclaimed war on Local 1230?

To be sure there are serious concerns about the firefighters union and other labor unions’ salaries, benefits and pensions. Valid concerns exist not just in Contra Costa County but throughout the state. Most agree that pension reform is necessary, but many also agree that changes must begin at the State level and that true and comprehensive reform will take time. But, a line seems to have been drawn in the sand in Pinole.
I asked Vince Wells, President of Local 1230, the United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County, to comment on the exodus of fire fighters in Pinole. His comments are posted below.


Four of Pinole’s firefighters have resigned and left for other Fire Departments. One was hired by the City of Vallejo, and the other three moved next door to the Rodeo Hercules Fire District. This is due to the toxic environment that exist between the firefighters, city management, the City Council, and the group once known as the “Concerned Citizens of Pinole. One only has to go back and watch the many city council meetings where fire services were on the agenda to see how disrespectful they were to those who provide Fire and EMS protection to the citizens of Pinole and surrounding jurisdictions. I believe more of the firefighters would leave if they weren’t so vested in the department and late into their careers. I predict that the firefighters hired to replace them will not stay long either, unless there are drastic changes.

The Citizens of Pinole need to engage and hold their City Council accountable to provide them with firefighters that are well equipped, staffed, and have the training necessary. The firefighters morale also has a significant impact on the level of service provided; the current morale is amongst the lowest in the county.

Getting a job as a firefighter is very competitive. Sometimes you take what you can get until you arrive at the department of your choice. That was not the case with those that left the department. Most of them were from the area. and enjoyed working in the community in which they grew up in or around.

The City Manager was aware of the fact that Chief Hanley was going to hire three of the Pinole Firefighters. This was not something that was unknown to Pinole. It is my opinion that the City Council and City Management wanted to lower their staffing and did not want the responsibility of having to take the SAFER grant to re-open station 74. They will use this as their excuse along with the “unfair labor practice” charges we have filed against them. Do not be fooled by the attacks on the ethics of Chief Hanley, this is a smoke screen. Their desires all alone, were to get the staffing down to no more then 12 firefighters to put the re-opening of station 74 further out of reach. Mission accomplished!


This is a deadly serious topic.
A civil dialogue within the community and among the stake holders is long overdue. This public feuding has gone on far too long and has only served to alienate our firefighters and to place our city in a most precarious position, one that may put Pinole citizens and businesses in harms way.

NO to the Valley Cell Tower Wins -Maybe!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

My sources have informed me that the City Council is considering reversing its decision to reject the proposed Verizon cell tower in Pinole Valley Park.

It seems that Verizon is threatening a lawsuit based on the fact that a contract had been signed by the City Manager, Belinda Espinosa. With the city  expending large sums to fight litigation on several different fronts, Verizon’s threat to sue has given the council reason for pause.

The opponents of the cell tower, who had declared victory, are now organizing to prevent the cell tower from being erected in the Valley location. 

Sources say Verizon has approached  a private citizen to obtain permission  for the cell tower, on private property near the park.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The City Council meeting last night was chock full of surprises, more about that in a later post, not the least of which was the Council’s NO vote on the Verizon cell tower.
We now know why there were so many closed session meetings about this project. It seems as if the lease agreement with Verizon had been signed by city staff before the City Council had given its approval. That procedural misstep paved the way for the council to reject the ratification of the lease agreement voting it down 4-1 with Councilmember Swearingen the only yes vote.
Those who opposed the tower and were in attendance at last night’s meeting (15 residents waited patiently until late into the evening) were very happy and very grateful for the community’s support and for the council’s decision.
We will wait and see if the cell tower idea is reincarnated at some other location.

Matt Bielby, who spearheaded the opposition has written this “open letter”to the Pinole City Council.

Open Letter to the Pinole City Council:

Thank you for taking the issue of the Verizon cell tower in Pinole Valley Park as seriously as you did.  Also, thank you for listening to your constituents and voting this cell tower down.  I know it takes a lot of guts to stand up to a large corporation like that and tell them no.  It was heartening to see that the system works; that, although so many things in this world are messed up, some things do work.  In this case, the little person, the citizen, was able to voice their concern for a poorly planned and executed venture and the city council listened.  I know it has changed my opinion of politics in general and has made me inspired to know that one person can make a difference.

Thank you,
Matt Bielby


Skating on Thin Ice – Update


Max Glanz

Update – Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Pinole City Council by a vote of 5-0 authorized staff to execute three design contracts for the Pinole Skate Park.
By approving these contracts the City and the SK8 Park Committee have now set into motion a schedule for the design and construction of the SK8 Park.
Kudos to all for their persistence and dedication to this “vision”.

For those who have been following (for the last seven years) the progress or lack thereof of the
Pinole Skate Park, there are some recent developments to report.

On May 22, the Skate Park Committee met with City representatives and laid the ground work for the future of a Skate Park in Pinole.
This meeting was significant in that some of the most important issues were finally addressed, concerns aired and possibly mitigated.
For those of you who are in favor of the Skate Park this is good news; news that has been a long time coming. But we can expect that the proposed project will continue to be  discussed and debated before it becomes a reality. What we do know is that a major step has been taken in the campaign to bring a Skate Park to Pinole.

Below are comments from Sandee and Max Glanz, Skate Park Committee members following the meeting.

“Here is what happened at the skate park meeting last night:
Council approved the preferred larger 10k sq ft site in PV Park (located only yards from the original site). Council also approved moving ahead with the Design and Engineering aspect of the project and approved acquiring contracts with the Sk8 Park Designer and Civil Engineer who did the feasibility studies.
Most importantly, Dean Allison proposed construction to start in 2015 however Council and the Skate Park committee felt that was too long of a timeline. Council made/approved a motion to start construction in Spring/Summer of 2014!!
Our committee, the skaters of Pinole and much of the community has waited for a meeting like this for over 7 years! ”

The Pinole Skate Park Committee still has obstacles to overcome.
The preferred location in Pinole Valley Park could be an issue, and the possibility of cost overruns might present a new set of challenges. But, for this group of dedicated and persistent Pinole Skate Park advocates, these issues don’t seem insurmountable. Not after working for the last seven years just to get to this point.

Express Yourself

Monday, June 3, 2013

I have only been home for a week and already I am hearing some interesting scuttlebutt.

The City Council has been postponing the decision on the proposed Verizon Cell Tower since April. I oppose the Verizon cell tower because of its proposed location.

It is widely believed that the City Council was prepared to sign off on this lease agreement in March-April, but the Conditional Use Permit (CUP), a necessary piece of the processing, needed approval from the Planning Commission.
The Planning Commission did approve the CUP. In the interim, the community became aware of this proposed cell tower and expressed opposition for a variety of reason, most notably the location at Pinole Valley Park.
The lease negotiation appears on the Council agenda for tomorrow under closed session. There are two agendas for tomorrow, one is listed as a Special Meeting.
Regular Meeting
Special meeting

I believe the opposition may have come as a surprise to the City. They had been trying to seal the deal with Verizon for the tower on Adobe Road for about a year. The proposed cell tower was brought to the attention of the Save the Swim Center Committee last year as a possible source of sustainable revenue for the Pool, an idea the Council put the kibosh on, understandable as they were still in the throes of fiscal meltdown. The lease, as originally proposed, would pay the City a $5,000 up front fee, with lease payments of $24,000 per year.
The Planning Commission noted that Verizon had proposed other locations, but that the final location at Pinole Valley Park, was the one all parties (not including the community) agreed was best.

The City had to tighten its belt and made dramatic cut backs to services in Pinole over the course of the last three years.
We were all asked to share the pain, we did that.
To this community’s credit, they stepped up and did what was needed to retain and preserve the services they cared about.

In November voters extended the Utility Users Tax for another 8 years so that we could “Keep Pinole, Pinole”.
No promises were made, but it was clearly implied that the UUT would help retain and restore these important services, and for many it was the reason they voted, YES.
By all accounts the City’s budget situation has improved, how much we won’t know until the new budget is presented this month.

The question is, has the city’s financial position improved so much that they are now in a position to offer bonuses to staff? That is the scuttlebutt around town. Pinoleans are spitting mad about this possibility.

Services this community has supported through their taxes and fees, were jeopardized due to the economy, some of those, the Senior Center, Parks and Recreation and PCTV, have relied on fund-raising to stay in business. Volunteers have worked long and hard to raise funds to keep them in business. Why? Because they believe these services define their community and are the reason they choose to live here.

Now, volunteers have reached a point where they are asking, “how much longer will we have to do this, when is the City going to assume its rightful responsibility and allocate resources in its budget to maintain the services we want and pay for?”

If Pinole’s economy is moving in the right direction, with the help of increased revenue and the UUT, then taxpayers deserve to know how the City can possible justify any increase in salary, benefits or the handing out of bonuses, before allocating resources for these services.

It would be a dark day indeed in Pinole if the new budget does not allocate city resources for these services yet allocates bonus money or increased administrative staff costs. It would not bode well for the campaign to increase sewer rates.
Keep Pinole – Pinole, indeed.