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The sound of emergency medical response in East County: silence

The sound of emergency medical response in East County: silence

East Contra Costa Fire Protection District firefighters and paramedics responded on Wednesday, August 16, 2017 to a rollover crash in the 1300 block of Roselinda Drive.
East Contra Costa Fire Protection District firefighters and paramedics responded on Wednesday, August 16, 2017 to a rollover crash in the 1300 block of Roselinda Drive.
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Imagine you’re walking in the back yard. Or maybe you are on the fairway of a golf course, or even on a path in a neighborhood park. You feel the sun shining, hear the birds chirping. Life is grand.

And then it happens.

The pain stabs you hard, it radiates from your chest, out through your left shoulder and arm, and you feel a pressure in your chest, like an elephant just sat on you. Then comes the falling, effortlessly down to the cool, moist ground.

You hear sounds of people right away. A strange voice says 9-1-1 has been called. Time passes, you can’t move. You wait for help. You listen, and hear the people talking, the birds chirping.  “No siren,” you think. Where’s the siren?

The property tax allocation rate for emergency medical and fire services in East County was set four decades ago, when about 8,000 people lived here. Now there are about 120,000 residents, and more are moving into the area every month.

The top managers of local government agencies refused to increase funding for ECCFPD, even slightly, because it would mean less future funding for their entity.  They oppose shifting future funds to the fire district not because it would mean cuts to their current funding or programs, but because they refuse to solve a community problem that’s not within the scope of their agency mission.

The Oakley city manager refused to consider shifting $33,000 in future annual property tax funding to the fire district to help solve the problem.  Five school superintendents, in a jointly signed letter, opposed participating in a shared solution.

When a utility user tax failed at the ballot box in November, 2016, the then fire chief, now retired, published how disappointed he was with the community he was sworn to serve, and that his new goal was to begin serving his department’s interests, not the community.

Top managers of local government agencies lack the community spirit necessary to resolve the fire district’s funding problem, which is causing a public safety emergency.  Rather, they seek funding for their individual government entity, not the good of the community.

East Contra Costa County is not alone in underfunding top priority government services.  All across the state local fire districts are struggling with inadequate funding.  East County’s situation is most urgent because of its 1,500 percent increase in population, since the allocation rate was set.

A solution to this crisis is the passage of an “emergency services additional revenue district” state law, modeled after Senate Bill 628, the Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District law, passed in 2014.  This new law would allow voters to decide how much funding should go to public safety.

East Contra Costa Fire Protection District needs its funding rate increased to at least twice the 7.5 percent it currently receives,  to provide an adequate service levels to the community.  Central county fire districts get property tax funding at rates of 15 percent and 21 percent.

While property tax funding for fire and emergency medical services in central parts of the county is $449 and $370 per-person, ECCFPD receives a paltry $94 per-person.

A solution needs to be financially sufficient to increase the number of fire stations from today’s three to at least six.  The lives of residents in East County are worth that much, at least.


Brentwood resident Bryan Scott is co-chair of East County Voters for Equal Protection, a non-partisan citizen’s action committee striving to improve funding for the ECCFPD.  He can be reached at scott.bryan@comcast.net, or 925-418-4428.  The group’s Facebook page is  https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyVoters/.

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