Monday night the Board of Directors of the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) held a special meeting to consider a resolution to call for a special mailed ballot election to be held on May 3, 2011 and ordering that a measure be submitted to the voters of the District to change from an appointed to an elected Board of Directors in accordance with California Health and Safety Code Section 13848.
California Health and Safety Code (“Fire District Protection Law of 1987”) states that to change from an appointed to an elected Board of Directors is a two-step process: 1. submitting the question of converting to an elected board to the voters, then, if that passes, 2. holding a candidate election for the board seats.
Should step 1 be successful, creation of 9 District “divisions” (or districts) will be necessary. Divisions must be as equal in population as possible, and can be drawn based upon certain factors identified in state law, including geography, contiguity and community interests. Within the constraints of proportionate population, configuration options for divisions are innumerable, with boundary formation considerations that may take into account city and community boundaries and demand and location of service resources. The complex nature of the task may require the acquisition of specialized knowledge, along with the formation of a Sub-Committee for input and guidance, at the discretion of the Board. Step two of the elected Board process, candidate elections by division, may subsequently be held at the August mailed ballot election or November general election, and will again require professional election services, either by an election consultant or Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters, dependent upon cost efficiency.
When LAFCO created the district in 2002 there was stipulation that the question of governance “shall be submitted for approval of the electorate” by December 2004. However, when the Board of Supervisors, acting as Fire Board of Directors, transferred control of the District in November of 2009 they changed the governance to appointed directors from Brentwood, Oakley and the County and did not include any mention, requirement or timing to transition to an elected Board.
The meeting included a rather robust exchange of thoughts in regards to the governance model. No one disagreed with the concept of an elected board. However, there was some initial disagreement as to when that would occur. The discussion then turned to priorities for the Board.
Earlier this year the Board put forth two goals to accomplish before the current budget year ends. Both involved special elections; one for the elected Board the other to ask for additional revenues, either a parcel tax or fee. The timing of the elections would have had the elected Board vote followed shortly by the revenue vote. Both of these elections would be paid for by ECCFPD. The two step process for the elected Board would cost $95,350 per mailing, the single vote for the revenue enhancement would cost about same per mailing.
With ECCFPD currently drawing from reserves to maintain the current and future budgets the majority of Directors could not justify the expense of multiple elections. It was stated somewhere during the discussion that “we don’t’ have a governance issue, we have a revenue issue”. At the end of the night there was a consensus to postpone the vote for an elected Board and turn all energies and focus to correcting the revenue problem.