Letter to Editor of Julian News from Roger Beherendt

March 20, 2018 (downloadable version)

My reflections on the March 13, 2018 Meeting. It was the first time that I have been in attendance at a meeting of the JCFPD Board. With respect for the members service, it was clearly one of the most dysfunctional board meetings that I’ve encountered in my 62 years. A lot of history has clearly preceded this gathering. The cart is clearly being pushed up hill against the tide by informed, misinformed, emotional and irrational horses. The Board seems to be made up of a major faction (3 of 5) moving the dissolution agenda, management that is aligned with this dissolution and 2 dissenting members. The JCFPD Chief Marinelli (management) appears defiant, disorganized, pompous and frightful. The San Diego County Chief Mecham was poised, conciliatory also arrogant and tenuous.

Because the issue of dissolution had been voted down repeatedly in the recent past, but then again placed on the agenda, re-energizing the concept resulting in vote passed last February to pursue a discussion of possible terms that could be considered. That February vote was apparently misrepresented, misunderstood or miscommunicated at the time.

Now a set of divorce terms and conditions has materialized, and placed on the agenda at this March 13 meeting and was voted for in the affirmative for adoption 3 Yes and 2 No. Despite public objection, to the lack of public scrutiny, proffer of alternative terms, or discussion of the merits detractors the vote proceeded with a caveat to conduct a public event in the near future in the evening without specificity as to the intent of that meeting other than the broad concept of having had a public hearing of sorts. It reminds me of firing range commands given out of sequence, Fire, Aim, Ready.

It is clear that San Diego County is perpetrating coercive hostile campaign to take over JCFPD.

The JCFPD Board of Directors, Chief Marinelli and SDC Chief Mecham are bit players, who are acting in a manner that defies logic as they seek to impose their will.

This matter of public safety, emergency services, home and structure fire protection, forest and  wildland fire protection are fundamentally important issues to our full time, part time and visiting citizens. As such, this matter should not be left to the whim of three out of five board members and insider chiefs. Instead this matter should be fully vetted, communicated and presented to the voting public in advance of a ballot measure giving each effected constituent the right to make up his or her mind.

Recently a document was referenced which indicated a set of standards that the east county resident of Riverside, California can expect when it comes to some of the aforementioned emergency services. Although these standards don’t directly apply to the Julian/Cuyamaca community, it does raise the questions of standards.

It seems to me that the sets of standards that did, will and might apply in the future under various scenarios must be clearly articulated. We are not alone in this need for answers regarding standard of services that we should expect, other communities around the state and nation face similar threat scenarios both from natural causes and over reaching bureaucracies. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) among other organizations must have addressed these matters across or fast country.

We need to know what we have achieved in terms of the level of service we have come to expect from our Volunteer JFCPD, in terms of many measures including but not limited to response times, staffing levels, training of staff, staff and skills per type of response units, and the associated cost of these services over time.

We need to know what the County of San Diego provides and what they spend to provide minimum appropriate service levels in other parts of the County. We need to compare those service and costs to the JCFPD operating independently. We need to know what services we are entitled to as tax payers in San Diego County and at the State Cal Fire and Forest Protection levels.

We need to know how these levels of service may compare contrast and hopefully overlap to provide optimal emergency service within our community. The idea that we simply and ignorantly walk away from decades of community funded, citizen based emergency services that have worked well for our community seems irrational at best. A reasoned process of clearly laying out the standards of emergency services; historically provided; successfully adopted in other communities around the country; and proffered as a result of this dissolution are Glaringly absent and essential to knowing prior to adopting terms and conditions. Further a reconciliation of a Balance Sheet, Income statement, Cash and Use of Funds under various pro-forma scenarios is only prudent.

If it is so good for us to blindly walk away from what the local community has built over many decades, what do we get in return? Where else has this hostile take over been accomplished successfully? What are the measure of success in terms of better service measures provided and at what cost?

When this information is clearly laid out, the citizens we would be in a position to make an educated assessment leading to a reasoned vote. For a board of directors to allow themselves to be bullied into a decision to give up what the community has built without this knowledge in unconscionable. I’m not familiar with the bylaws and charter that this JCFPD operates within, but I can’t imagine that they have the right, responsibility or jurisdiction to put the community at peril to this degree.

Personally, I can’t imagine why we need to divorce versus join forces to accomplish our Emergency Services priorities. Further, because this very important community matter effects all of us in such a serious way, I’d like to see this decision made by the voters, not a Board who’s influences or capabilities appear compromised.