San Carlos City Council Votes to Dissolve Belmont/San Carlos Fire JPA…

April 13, 2010

“No Turning Back”

Despite the warning from one Belmont Council member that “If they go through with this, I for one will never reconsider them again…”

…and despite the fact that all but two of the many public speakers who addressed the Council tonight were either against the dissolution of the JPA, or asked that the Council at least delay the decision….

…and despite the fact that Belmont Mayor Christine Wozniak and Councilman Warren Lieberman were in attendance, with Councilman Lieberman speaking quite eloquently in advising the Council to not move ahead with plans to notify Belmont of their intent to dissolve the Belmont/San Carlos Fire Department….

Despite all of this unified opposition — the San Carlos City Council once again flew in the face of public opinion and voted 3-2 to approve this measure, which effectively notifies Belmont of our intent to dissolve Belmont/San Carlos Fire Department within 18 months.

For those of you who are keeping track of these key votes for re-election day, here's how the vote went down:

  • Yes (deliver notification to Belmont) : Klein, Royce, Ahmad.
  • No (do not deliver notification to Belmont) : Grocott, Grassilli.

Delay Measure Also Shot Down..

Councilman Bob Grassilli, noting that the Fire Chief and the Fire Department Union were already working with surrounding communities to investigate a possible consolidation with the existing Belmont/San Carlos JPA, moved for a substitute measure which would have delayed the vote on tonight's measure by 90 days — thus allowing the Council to get more information on consolidation options before notifying Belmont.   But this substitute measure was also voted down by the identical vote outcome as above.

The debate was impassioned on both sides.  Councilman Klein Grocott aptly noted that “all of the other agencies are watching us right now” to see how we handle this situation.   Councilman Ahmad reiterated that the city is “broke”, and Councilman Klein stated that we've had 4 years to fix this problem with the JPA in the first place, and since December of 2009 to get data on consolidation.

When The Other “Boot” Drops.

It will be interesting to see Belmont's reaction to tonight's vote, and to their receipt of our official intent to dissolve the Joint Fire Department.  But that might be a moot point anyway, because one thing is for certain — those Council members who are hell-bent on outsourcing the San Carlos Fire Department to Cal Fire just won a huge victory tonight.  Step 1 was to extract themselves from the JPA and to effectively regain 100% control of the fire service for San Carlos.   That opens the door to Step 2, which is to package up what's left and sell it to the State of California.

Regardless, it was a sad night for the members of the Belmont/San Carlos Fire Department.  Or what's left of it.

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  1. Pat B on April 13, 2010 at 7:43 am

    This Council is profoundly disappointing. I think it is critical that we develop strong candidates for next year so that we can break up the gang of three.

    I’ve been through a number of hot-button issues with various Councils, but I’ve never seen such unified opposition to the Council’s chosen direction.

    With PAMF and fake grass there were people on both sides of the issue. Even when the Planning Commission wanted to tear apart my neighborhood there were those in favor and those against. There is such a striking lack of support for this path and they are completely ignoring the citizens.

    Omar bellows, “We’re broke!” We all know that. We also know that his way is not the only way to solve the problem.

    Maybe he and Randy are only interested in serving one term, but they’re going to leave us with a terrible mess when they leave.

  2. Fred on April 13, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    What were Grocott’s thoughts on this? It suprised me to see him vote no.

  3. Michael on April 13, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    I wonder where the concept that politicians are supposed to represent their constituents went out the window…is it their way of telling us that we just don’t know any better and we are being patronized?

    I guess we as San Carlos citizens are partially to blame for our relative apathy over the years (compared to the passionate responses we see today) and not being involved enough to see (and act on) the freight train of fiscal mismanagement headed straight for our town.

    Yes, the state has made a difficult situation much more challenging, but am I alone in interpreting this latest move as the council just wanting to get this mess off of their desk?

    We truly have to look ahead and hope that we can put people in these very important decision-making positions who WILL represent the will of the people and actually work to improve the city instead of playing their violins (yes a bit over-dramatic, but I think you get the idea).

    I am encouraged that Mr Grocott and Mr Grassilli did not roll over and go with the flow, but where did that really get us? This summer will be a good test of just how busy the state and local firefighters will be…with all this rain will come LOTS of overgrown and eventually dried brush.

  4. Bill on April 13, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Congrats to the council for making a rational, objective decision in the face of emotion-fueled opposition. We are at a watershed moment in the history of San Carlos and local governance in general. The tide is turning against big, expanding government, whether on the national or local level. It’s time to simplify, streamline and get back to basics, which includes individual citizens stepping up and contributing more to the health and operation of our communities, instead of relying on government to do it all for us (and at a premium cost, I might add). Look at the article in today’s Wall Street Journal about Colorado Springs……every local community is dealing with this issue, and not all have the courage to do the right thing like our council did last night. Bravo!!

  5. Chuck Gillooley on April 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm


    Thanks for your comment. I think Matt Grocott’s vote was consistent with his backing of the JPA all along. The “no” vote to dissolving the JPA didn’t surprise me.


  6. Chuck Gillooley on April 13, 2010 at 5:00 pm


    Good points, and I don’t think anyone can disagree that regionalization is the way things are going on the Peninsula, and in other communities nationwide — particularly smaller communities. Every community up and down the Peninsula is fighting the same battle. However, I just don’t like the contentious manner in which Klein and Ahmad are approaching Belmont. If our intent is to include Belmont in future consolidation plans, we’re really going about it a strange way. I was particularly disturbed by Ahmad’s comment to the effect that he’s ok with “starting a negotiation with an ultimatum.” Fuuny, that’s never worked for me in 20 years of business.

    Waiting 90 days to gather ALL the facts would have raised the credibility to this Council in the eyes of Belmont, and would not have made much of a difference in the long run. Because in reality, once the decision is made to dissolve the JPA, it won’t last 18 months now. Belmont has no reason to work with us, so they’ll likely push for an early termination of the contract.

    Thanks for your comment.

  7. grewupinsc on April 13, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Regionalization IS the answer. The firefighters have said so, the experts have said so since the 70’s. So what does San Carlos do? Start the current process by strong-arming Belmont. The other cities that wanted to talk to us about joining forces will be reluctant now, and the very people that are negotiating for regionalization (members of OUR fire dept.) have now been sent the message that at the end of the day, outsourcing to the state (WHICH IS NOT REGIONALIZATION) is really what council and staff wants. So do you think the work toward cohesive regionalization will continue? Doubtful.

    The council chose NOT to set a cooperative tone with Belmont .The council argued having ultimatums in place would give us leverage. Make us appear stronger as we “look at our options”. I believe it will do exactly the opposite. I’d put money on it. They argued it’s too late for that, we’ve been trying for years to cooperate with Belmont. Maybe so, but now is what matters. All else is irrelevent. The fire dept now has the wrong message, neighboring fire agencies have a negative impression (they were there last night), and San Carlos made it harder on for itself. Dismantle our department and engage in a power play with Belmont while we concurrently try and invite other cities to join us.

    In my mind, this was one of the most politically immature and short-sighted moves our council could have made.Our issues with Belmont are political, not operational, and this is gong to set up a real difficulty for our progress going forward. Yes, we’re broke, yes, the failure of Measure U was an issue (I worked on the camapign), but to then say to Belmont,(and the firefighters), “pound sand” at the very time we need to be building bridges and adding more agencies to the mix…not wise. As a speaker said last night, “if you want to walk faster, walk alone…if you want to walk stronger, walk together”. I believe in that approach. Common sense.

    With all due respect to my friends on the council and on the staff….I think you really set up a bad dynamic last night. It was a big mistake and I think the city will pay dearly for it. I’m really disappointed.

  8. Eric Schafer on April 13, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    City of San Carlos constituents are gearing up to fire their current council members that are attempting to navigate through a crushing budget shortfall due to lack of tax revenue on the local, state and federal level. I guess it is the fault of the Council Members that the City is short on funds…they were elected to turn this place around and yet, have not been able to print money. What good are they if they don’t spend money that the City does not have and make cuts that the constituents don’t want. First it was artificial turf, then it was lights off for playing fields, now it is the fire department…tsk, tsk. The constituents have made it clear…spend money on programs that they want, when they want it and make cuts in somebody ELSE’s programs. Which programs to cut you may ask…well that’s the Council Member’s job to determine not mine….and I will fight them tooth and nail when they decide to cut something else….it’s their fault that the economic crisis has bankrupt our city…not anyone elses.

  9. grewupinsc on April 13, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    Eric, a total oversimplification. The economic situation is NOT solely their fault. This is happening state wide (Prop 13 comes home to roost). How the council deals with this IS their reponsibility (and the responsibility of the voters who barely turned out for a revenue measure we desperately needed). In this instance, the voters AND the council blew it.

  10. Pat B on April 13, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    I agree. This whole thing is orchestrated to lead us to CalFire as the only option. Three of our Councilmen and the management staff have decided what they want and that’s that, never mind the citizens.

    As I said last night, this is no way to start a discussion and the rest of the County is watching what’s going on here.

    I also agree that this is a very immature way of handling the matter. Matt said “childish” last night, which I don’t think is overstating the case. It’s like a school-yard dispute between young boys, except that these boys have our future in their hands.

    With all due respect, “stupid is as stupid does,” as Forest Gump said.

  11. San Carlos Resident on April 13, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    All very sad. What is happening to our little piece of heaven? I do have one comment for Bill.

    You say, “It’s time to simplify, streamline and get back to basics, which includes individual citizens stepping up and contributing more to the health and operation of our communities, instead of relying on government to do it all for us”

    That would be nice, but the fact of the matter is… not ALL citizens WILL step up and contribute more… that’s a fact! Some either can’t or simply won’t because they are greedy. Human nature, pure and simple. I see it all the time, especially at the schools. You have your 20% who donate lots of their money and their time and you have the rest that take a free ride! Why does it always seem like its those who want to take the free ride, are also those who do not want to pay taxes for the services we ALL need?

  12. Freeloader on April 14, 2010 at 2:03 am

    because san carlos resident, we’re tired of the schools floating some kind of tax bond measure every election. The school have no learned to live within their means So, we’d rather “freeload” off the the 20% that keep on giving and giving and giving………………….

  13. San Carlos Resident on April 14, 2010 at 4:45 am


    That’s unfortunate that you have such a poor opinion of what our education system does. Education is a wonderful thing. It teaches you proper sentence structure, grammar and spelling. It teaches you how to be creative and innovative. Most of all, it teaches you to think. The more we invest in our education, the less we will need to invest in our prisons. We need to get our budgets straight AND we need to stop the wasteful spending! Get ready for another parcel tax, because it’s on its way. I believe the majority of the citizens in San Carlos favor education and it’s something we should ALL pay for. If you own a home here in San Carlos, your property value reflects what good comes from good schools. As Americans, we all need to realize that jeopardizing our education system will only jeopardize our standing in the world. In San Carlos, we need this funding because, since Prop 19, the schools in California have been left behind. Hey, “No Schools Left Behind” I might be on to something???

    p.s. my daughter (9 years old) read your post and said you might want to go back to school to learn PROPER grammar. When you end a thought w/… it’s only 3 periods!

  14. grewupinsc on April 14, 2010 at 5:00 am

    actually, they’re called ellipses…(thank you San Carlos schools)!

  15. Pat B on April 14, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Eric, are you talking recall? What do you mean by “gearing up?”

  16. Pat B on April 14, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Exactly! As one of the 20% I get very frustrated with the free-ride people whose contribution is to complain. As the article in the Chronicle recently noted, these Chicken Littles are part of the problem.

  17. Pat B on April 14, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Belmont’s response showed real class. I spoke at their Council meeting and thanked Warren and Christine for attending our Council meeting the night before and pointed out that after hours of public comment only 2 people have spoken in support of what the Council is doing. I assured them that there are many of us in San Carlos who do not approve of that kind of talk.

    Their Mayor said they received the letter yesterday, they will consider all their options, including partnering with another city and regionalization, and they’re not going to do anything hasty. They have a scheduled meeting at the end of the month, although they could schedule a special meeting before that time.

    There’s a Fire Board meeting tonight, so we’ll see who behaves like an adult and who doesn’t. My money’s on Belmont.

  18. Ken on April 14, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    This city council majority is acting as if San Carlos is the only community with a “structural deficit” in its budget. Look around us; cities and counties everywhere are experiencing huge shortfalls. Are they talking about outsourcing to CalFire? Not at all. They are forging alliances among cities, looking for collaborative ways to solve mutual problems. But what do we do? We burn bridges. We light fires instead of put them out. Nothing like having a reputation as a rogue city.

    So much for giving the fire chief and the firefighters association an opportunity to discuss solutions with their counterparts in other cities. So much for trying to get along with our neighboring city. So much for giving credit to our fire department for getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants over the years to buy equipment.

    Our council majority has an obsession with cutting the cord, no matter what. I suggest that we as residents of San Carlos send letters to the Belmont City Council apologizing for our council’s bad behavior.

  19. Pat B on April 14, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Great idea! Their email addresses and phone numbers can be found at:

  20. freeloader on April 15, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Likewise, it’s not 3 periods. Proper written grammar is “three periods” But then again, I’m not a snob.

  21. Pat B on April 15, 2010 at 1:52 am

    Actually, either “three” or “3” is acceptable as long as you’re consistent throughout your document.

  22. Anonymous on April 15, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    Great Comments by Redwood City from their Monday night meeting. I guess some people do respect our council.

  23. Pat B on April 15, 2010 at 8:56 pm


    Your link got me nowhere. What did they say? Remember, they’re all politicians.

  24. Anonymous on April 16, 2010 at 2:20 am

    Sorry. You need to jump to the Staff Report section of the video in the pull-down menu. The Mayor speaks very highly of the choices our city is making. Seems to be that some people think the our Council is doing the right thing.

  25. Pat B on April 16, 2010 at 3:33 am


    I couldn’t jump anywhere or hear anything, but that’s OK. I heard their Mayor stroking our Mayor at the Chamber of Commerce meeting last week. As I said, they’re all politicians.

    Have you ever noticed when you see two politicians on TV, no matter how much they dislike each other, they always say: “My good friend….”

  26. Anonymous on April 16, 2010 at 4:06 am

    San Carlos is the only city in the area to be on its’ 11th year of cuts.

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