Blogging Bayport Alameda

April 20, 2017

An ounce of fire prevention

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

Based on the twitter live updates of #alamtg for Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, the meeting appeared to be a hot mess. I supposed that’s what you get when you put a bunch of people on a policy body who can barely tolerate each other.

Anyway, one item of interest for folks should have been the Fire Prevention Bureau agenda item.  Personally I thought this one was an obvious gimme given that the huge Ghost Ship Warehouse fire that just happened resulting in a huge loss of life.  The lack of government oversight has been pointed to as one of the culprits contributing exponentially to the issue, so yeah, it should have been an obvious one for the City Council to pass because: fire death.

Here are some of the tweets recapping the agenda item:

Oh look, what a surprise,  Trish Spencer asking for requirement of city government workers that has been explained over and over again as not enforceable.

So yeah, Trish Spencer votes against the fire prevention bureau because, well (1) firefighters and (2) it’s Trish Spencer.  I can see the campaign mailer right now.  A photo a burned out Ghost Ship Warehouse.  An inset photo of Trish Spencer and a reminder that she voted against preventive building inspections.   That quote from the Oakland Firefighters union chief would be a good pull quote as well on the mailer.



  1. Yes, the Mayor should fear those mailers because that is the way it is played. Just ask Tony “Doesn’t Support Seniors” Daysog. And be sure to tell whoever writes the mailer-to-be to carefully leave out the fact that Mayor Spencer supported hiring more non-sworn, qualified fire inspectors (just as the CIty uses now), because that is the way to play it, if you’re going to play it.

    Comment by MP — April 20, 2017 @ 6:56 am

  2. I think Steve Tavares has the vote wrong. 4-1 was a vote on buying cars. It came after a 3-2 vote on whether the added fire inspectors should be sworn fire fighters (higher comp and benefits), as opposed to non-sworn professional fire inspectors (lower labor cost). Everyone on the Council seemed to support adding staff , whether sworn or unsworn professionals, for this purpose.

    Comment by MP — April 20, 2017 @ 7:03 am

    • You’re right, the vote was 3 – 2. So both Frank Matarrese and Trish Spencer are on record voting against fire inspectors.

      If either wanted to get on record as supporting staff for inspection (other than just saying that they value safety) perhaps they should have floated a motion to have City staff bring back a proposal for non sworn inspectors as opposed to only voting against the sole motion on the table to actually have fire inspectors in place. Because placating words are just that: words. It’s fairly easy to say, “oh this is important” but then abdicate on making the hard decisions to actually make that important thing happen. “No” is easy, governing is hard.

      Comment by Lauren Do — April 20, 2017 @ 9:18 am

      • Mmmmmmm. Sounds like a good mailer. I’d prefer a slightly more balanced and properly caveated mailer (even though such things don’t exist in the real world) that would read something like: “Frank Matarrese and Trish Spencer are both (sort of, and more of the procedural rather than substantive variety) on record voting against fire inspectors (because they failed to make a procedural motion embodying what they just said, i.e. that they supported additional fire inspectors and filling those positions with professional fire inspectors, non-sworn, rather than sworn fire fighters. We leave it up to the voter to decide whether such a motion would have been a waste of time given that there were already three votes for filling the additional fire inspector positions with sworn fire fighters.)”

        Governing is hard. Politics is hard, but in a different way. Writing mailers is easy.

        Comment by MP — April 20, 2017 @ 10:12 am

        • Or they could be more convincing to their fellow dais-mates to see how their idea is better, but that would require, oh I don’t know, actually compromising on other issues and treating your dais-mates with some level of respect.

          Comment by Lauren Do — April 20, 2017 @ 4:11 pm

  3. As an aside … just going to twitter and reading all of the #alamtg post from the other at night gave us a great chuckle! (Start with where the Mayor wants to know how many firefighters live in Alameda … )

    Comment by Ron Mooney — April 20, 2017 @ 8:24 am

  4. It was called the Ghost Ship. The Ghost Warehouse is where ghosts get their business suits.

    Comment by Kristen — April 20, 2017 @ 8:28 am

  5. Oh look, what a surprise, Trish Spencer asking for requirement of city government workers that has been explained over and over again as not enforceable.


    Curious why this is not enforceable. In other states I’ve lived in it was the unquestioned norm for public safety personnel to be required to live in the cities they worked for. I recall a couple of neighborhoods in Cleveland OH that were full of cops & firemen who were required to live within the city limits. When my mom was a paramedic in both Ohio and South Carolina, she was required as well.

    Is it a state law that makes it impossible here, or some other reason?

    Comment by dave — April 20, 2017 @ 8:41 am

    • State –
      Cal. Const., Art. XI, § 10(b), was added in 1976 in response to Ector v. Torrance. It provides that a city, county, or public district may not require its employees to be residents of the city, county, or district, but may require employees “to reside within a reasonable and specific distance of their places of employment or other designated location.”

      Comment by MP — April 20, 2017 @ 8:56 am

    • If a firefighter worked and lived in San Leandro and then wanted to apply to work in Alameda such a law would necessitate that they sell their house in San Leandro and buy one in Alameda. And what if their spouse worked in the Oakland Fire Department? Separate houses? This would be an unnecessary restraint on our modern way of living.

      Comment by Ed Hirshberg — April 20, 2017 @ 5:17 pm

  6. I’m saddened. Money raised from last years ballot measure could have gone to fully fund the animal shelter in the way animal advocates say is best. Instead the fire fighters are getting all that money, for the strange and convoluted reason that, because they in the past failed to do their job of checking buildings, now they should get almost all of dollars from last year’s successful measure. Sad day in Alameda.

    Comment by let's help the shelter instead — April 20, 2017 @ 9:15 am

  7. As usual, most of you missed the point entirely. The crux of the matter is: Hiring sworn vs non-sworn personnel. If you are an idiot who thinks there is no difference between the two, then this post might have some truth to it. But sworn personnel are far more expensive to hire, retain, & train than non-sworn. Non-sworn personnel make perfectly good building inspectors. The Mayor was making the very valid point that there was no need to hire more expensive sworn fire personnel who would be overqualified for the inspection job, when we need more inspections & more people to do them.

    As for where public safety personnel live:In fact. decades ago, personnel above a certain rank used to be required to live within the city limits, but California state law changed all that It is a bad law. It has resulted in scandals of some public safety personnel living hundreds of miles from where they work, especially in SoCal.

    Comment by vigi — April 20, 2017 @ 9:29 am

    • vigi, your presumptuous and condescending attitude that most of us “don’t get it” is really stale. Lauren beat you to that point in her reply to comment 2.

      The state law is pragmatic because some things can’t be legislated, like where pools of qualified people chose to live. It would be ideal if fire and police all lived here, but is just too hard to achieve. If it were a requirement it would be interesting to see who the personnel would be. The police in San Jose were living on site in campers. I think San Jose may have pushed the limit of the radius for their police. I wonder if it would be legal to weight the distance in the qualifications (like affirmative action). I kind of doubt it. But for firemen it seems like a good idea for the “BIg One”, when Hayward fault finally erupts. I hope the two tanker trucks added by AFD are enough to suppress whatever ensues when there is no water pressure.

      I’m not a union buster but I’m not a purist either. If adding inspectors means fully vested union employees, it gives me pause. We’re adding to the burden which has no solution. The impact should at least be discussed transparently. I don’t get the impression that happened in this one meeting.

      I was a member of IBEW in a category created by the union for hanging audio speakers and communication cable. Our wage scale was less than half the rank and file who require 4 years of apprenticeship. In the hierarchy of construction workers IBEW are at the top, with some of the best wages and retirement. The regular guys worked 7 days a week if they could get it, and they often did because of deadlines. At the end of the job they would go back to the hall and go to the end of the line. I think there could be exceptions if an employer requested somebody but don’t quote me on that. They hated us because we were supposedly the camels nose under the tent. They hazed us by sabotaging our equipment. Easy to imagine them voting for Trump because you know, AmeriKKKa first!

      Comment by MI — April 20, 2017 @ 4:04 pm

  8. Orange County for example:

    “Of the nine firefighters who live outside of California, many have chosen communities with large lots and lower home prices.

    Capt. Jeffrey Hoey, a 21-year veteran of the Orange County Fire Authority, lives in Bellingham, Wash., in a house surrounded by acres of woods and grassy open spaces. Located about 90 miles north of Seattle, Hoey’s home is about a 30-minute drive from Bellingham International Airport – about the same time it would take him to reach the U.S.-Canadian border.

    It’s a 1,200-mile commute to his fire station in Mission Viejo”

    OCFA officials say residency requirements would not make sense, adding that requiring firefighters to live in Orange County would hamper recruiting efforts. Other large departments – such as the Los Angeles Fire Department – don’t have residency requirements and also employ firefighters living outside the state.”

    No matter how California fire departments rationalize it, it still seems like a bad idea to me..

    Comment by vigi — April 20, 2017 @ 9:38 am

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