At its board meeting last night, the MOFD board - which includes three new directors backed and funded by the firefighters union - dispensed with its historical tradition of appointing the previous-year's VP to President (much as Moraga and Orinda town councils do for their Mayors).
Under historical procedure since MOFD was formed in 1997, Director Jex would have been elected as President, but newly-elected Director Michael Donner instead nominated newly-elected Director Steve Danziger, with newly-elected Director Greg Baitx seconding the motion.
Despite several residents expressing concern during public comment about eschewing tradition and the appointment of a newly-elected director as President, the Board voted 3-2 (Donner, Danziger, Baitx voting "yes") to do so.
The following comment is from Steve Cohn in Orinda, who spends a great deal of time following MOFD activities:
The MOFD Board elections saw something that has not occurred since the District was formed in 1997: Three competitive races for three of the five Board seats (and control of the Board) in a single election (see Table II-1 at www.orindataskforce.org/tables).
The races saw three candidates sponsored by the employees’ union (which donated $34,000 to their campaigns) running against three independents candidates (who received, in total, $7,600 from members of the community). The three union candidates each won with a 52% majority of the votes cast which represented 36% of registered voters.
If there is any doubt that the three new Board members are acting as a block (if the union financial support, mostly from the state firefighters’ union, did not make it clear enough - the same individual, Shwanda Dean of Sacramento, was the treasurer of all three campaign committees), then their first action at their first Board meeting certified it. This was their action on the vote for the Board President for next year.
Traditionally, at MOFD (and on the Orinda and Moraga councils in their annual election of Mayor), the senior member of the Board, who was vice president this year, is nominated and elected by proclamation as president next year. When the current President, Brad Barber, called for nominations at last night’s MOFD Board meeting, Senior Board Member and current Vice President John Jex was not elected to succeed Barber. Instead, newly elected director Michael Donner immediately nominated newly elected Director Steve Danziger and the nomination was immediately seconded by newly elected Director Greg Baitx. They then proceeded to vote in Danziger, who had been on the Board for only minutes, as the next President of the Board. If there was any doubt that the employees union now controls MOFD, that doubt is now gone. What they do with that control remains to be seen.
If the Oakland Hills fire and the Santa Rosa fire were not a wakeup calls that we cannot just wait for it to happen here, the Paradise fire was. We need to start implementing preventive measures. MOFD has to work with Orinda and Moraga in this effort. Telling people to cut their weeds down in the spring is not enough. Will MOFD start carving funds out of its $28 million budget to help fund this or will all increases go to employee compensation as they have for the past two decades? We will see who our new Board members are really serving.