Irvine can replace the union-hostaged OC Fire Authority
Irvine Councilmembers Jeff Lalloway and Christina Shea have just been handed a great opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade and prove that their city can actually run something like a business. With the Great Park debacle not taking any of the DA’s time but consuming headlines, reputations and, hopefully, Larry Agran’s re-election campaign (Beth Krom will not be running for Mayor), this hit last week on Irvine certainly wasn’t welcome:
Per the OC Register on 8/7: An Orange County Superior Court judge has ruled against the Orange County Fire Authority’s plan to return millions of dollars to cities that overpaid for firefighting service, dealing a blow to the agency’s efforts to appease communities that have threatened to leave the fire authority if they aren’t reimbursed. Judge William D. Claster’s ruling backs county leaders’ efforts to prevent the fire authority from paying millions to Irvine, Laguna Woods, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Juan Capistrano and the county, who for years have been overcharged for their fire services. The county argued that the proposed payments to the members would have amounted to a gift of public funds.
Irvine is the second largest of the 23 OC cities that take fire services from the OCFA (Santa Ana was financially pressured to outsource their operations to OCFA last year):
On the ruling, Irvine Finance Commissioner Allan Bartlett wrote us that it “virtually seals the deal that Irvine will opt out of OCFA.”
Obviously, the theft of this money by the OCFA should be appealed and the Board of Supervisors shamed for tolerating it — but as well, the opportunity is there for Irvine to take on their own fire protection by acquiring the OCFA assets in their city (that they’ve been paying for years) for their book value. The creativity in this is how to staff the ‘new’ department — should they also take on the ridiculously high salaried and pensioned OCFA firefighters? Or should they not succumb to the inevitable pressure and deliberately hire NON-UNION public safety or military veterans, perhaps those from around southern California, and those that might have already retired? Municipalities never have issues hiring firefighters. And there are plenty of folks looking — due to Obama’s policies since he became President, 11,472,000 Americans have left the work force.
Despite the claims we too often hear, firefighting is no more dangerous than other middle-class jobs as former OC Register editorialist Steve Greenhut wrote last year: Firefighter one of nation’s safest jobs. He’s always opined that the OC’s “3 percent at 50″ retirement plans courtesy of taxpayers” are ridiculous and a primary reason for devastated government budgets. Firefighters are mid-five-figure middle-class laborers and should be compensated as such. This is simple economics and not a criticism of their occasional value.
Irvine could easily replace the outrageous OCFA labor and pension costs that are passed onto them with such a strategy — and THEN they might use this sensible business plan to approach other OCFA contract cities and offer them the discounted costs with the same management and service levels. Perhaps this offsets the money that was squandered by Larry Agran’s and Beth Krom’s malfeasance and crony capitalism at the Great Park.
Irvine wouldn’t expect any support from their County Supervisor for this notion — Todd Spitzer is in the tank with the public safety unions — which makes it all that more important that an Irvine Fire Department be NON-UNIONIZED.
As we’ve seen over too many years in Orange County, the OCFA is hardly the best run organization in our bloated government, and it’s long past time for either a reformation, downsizing or a disbandment. Both the union-funded Voice of OC and the Register have well chronicled the problems at this troubled Agency. Their recent audit was shameful, and the Chief’s been shown the door.
Do Lalloway and Shea (and Lynn Schott as a campaign issue) have the fortitude to explore this? We hope so and we’d hope their constituents might start asking some pointed questions and stop the continued assault on their city budget.