Opinion

Letters to the Editor - week of February 23

Measure L is about safety - not spending priorities

Allow me to introduce myself. I am Gary Gilbert the former Madera County/Cal Fire Fire Chief (seven years) and Madera County Supervisor for District 5 (eight years from 1999-2006), and a resident of Eastern Madera County for 31 years. I believe I have a unique perspective on Measure L.

Measure L is about the safety of our first responders, our families and our neighbors.

Measure L is not about special projects or spending priorities of your elected officials that you may not agree with. Regardless of your personal concerns regarding Madera County fiscal priorities, let common sense prevail and give our first responders the resources they so desperately need to protect and make our communities safer.

To assist you in becoming a better-informed voter, please take the time to read the five pages in the sample ballot regarding the expenditure plan and six pages regarding the ordinance. Also please read the opposing views. The opposition views, in my opinion, are not factual and very misleading.

On March 7, you, the voter, can decide the future of the Madera County Fire Department and the level of public safety you want for you and your family.

Please join me in voting “Yes” on Measure L to protect our first responders and our lives and property.

Gary Gilbert, North Fork

A one-person fire engine is extremely dangerous

In response to John Pero’s negative guest commentary regarding Measure L in the Feb. 16 edition of the Sierra Star, my comments come from the viewpoint of a firefighter.

Although Mr. Pero provides some valid points, I would like to state that this proposed tax will be paid not only by residents, but also by the large tourist trade that passes through and spends money in our Oakhurst area.

The need for the funds is truly to provide for public safety as wells as firefighter safety. Staffing a fire engine with only one person is inefficient, unsafe, and extremely dangerous. Madera County has been fortunate that major injuries to firefighters have not occurred.

National standards call for a minimum of two firefighters outside a burning building for every two inside. If that standard were to be adhered to, a direct interior attack on a building fire could not be made by the first arriving engine company, as they would have to wait until at least some volunteers arrive at the incident or until additional companies arrive.

Additional staffing will help to reach the goals set by those standards. The monies raised would also provide for upgrading fire equipment that in some cases is well beyond its’ serviceable life, again a major safety concern.

With the minor increase in sales tax, Madera County fire services will be upgraded to a late 20th century status, not near state of the art, but a major improvement.

Having been a firefighter for 38 years, I have seen how much the fire service has improved and how much Madera County needs to take the steps to meet the needs of its’ citizens.

Don Cohn, retired Battalion Chief, Ahwahnee

Public safety plays role in economic development

Public safety in our county communities plays a key role in successful economic development. It is with this in mind that the Madera County Economic Development Commission (MCEDC) strongly endorses Madera County’s Measure L.

Funding that is directly committed to improve law enforcement and fire protection services is critical for the successful and safe growth in our Madera County communities.

When businesses look to locate in a community, they want to be sure they are not only choosing a place their business will prosper, but also an area their employees and families will be safe.

MCEDC urges all to vigorously support Measure L and support public safety.

Bobby Kahn, Executive Director, MCEDC, Madera

Little trust

Measure L is intended to “provide enhanced fire protection” and “improve response times to save life and property.”

What caused the Junction Fire to go so far, so fast? Unmaintained vegetation? What would save properties and homes from fire would be to have less fire hazards and the ability to clear 100-feet around one’s home. Often, the 100-foot distance is on another’s property.

Many neighborhoods in the Mountain Area live next to unmaintained properties whose owners are either unwilling to maintain or unwilling to allow their neighbor’s access to clear that which lies within the 100-feet surrounding their homes. Requests to the board of supervisors to look into these fire hazards have been ignored.

The Madera County Community Wildfire Protection Plan has provisions to develop and conduct community risk assessment. The Public Resources Code 4291 establishes the 100-foot clearance. Clearance beyond the property line may only be required if the state law, local ordinance, rule or regulation includes findings that the “clearing is necessary to significantly reduce the risk of transmission of flame or heat sufficient to ignite the structure ... ”

This appears to be a solution but supervisors chose not to respond let alone assess the risk. Supervisors have had enough time to discuss their raise, but not enough time to respond to their constituents?

Measure L is important, but I too question the board’s spending priorities. I have little trust that another tax is going to make significant change in addressing the realities of fire in the mountains.

That Assemblyman Frank Bigelow is looking into addressing proper usage of the State Fire Fee is encouraging. Lastly, if our representatives do not find the time to respond to their constituents, remember that the next time they run for reelection. After all, it is our money keeping them at their job.

Mary Herrmann, Oakhurst

No on Measure L

I urge everyone to vote no Measure L. We can’t keep raising taxes and creating taxes on citizens because government officials don’t know how to spend within the already high tax rates.

We don’t have an income problem - we have a spending issue. Looking at any budget you prioritize your spending vs income.

Ask each of the following departments for an honest working budget proposal - fire department, sheriff department and D.A. - then review and fund these departments. What is left over you distribute accounting to priorities and cut budgets as needed to ensure fire, sheriff and D.A. are funded. They may need to cut payroll in other departments, lay off some, combine some departments into one, with one department head and support staff.

It is time that every county, starting with Madera County, every state and the federal government cut expenses instead of raising taxes.

We pay a fire tax yearly on our properties and Sacramento eats it up in overhead.

Personally - I would only purchase gas in Madera County. Every other expense that collects sales tax will be spent in Fresno County. I always try to support the community I live in and 1 extra cent on every dollar is not a lot but where will it stop.

We currently do most of our shopping and restaurant outings in Oakhurst and Coarsegold, lets face it more restaurants in Fresno, more retail stores in Fresno (normally less expensive cost of delivery to Fresno is less then delivery in Oakhurst).

Again 1% or 1 cent per dollar is not a lot, however Jerry Brown has already said he needs to increase and/or create taxes to help cover the short fall of California retirement plans.

California’s personal income tax is the highest in the USA at 12.2% in 2014. Wikipedia states California has the highest State sales tax of 7.25% plus local add ons in some cities and counties add up to 11%.

If Measure L Passes Madera County will have an 8.75% sales tax unless Sacramento gets another increase or another sales tax gets on the books.

With Measure L our county sales tax will be .25% less then Los Angeles County and we know most people in L.A. County have a higher income than those in Madera County.

David Williams, Oakhurst

A better choice

The Feb. 2 Sierra Star carried three letters to the editor with unfavorable comments about Dr. Bill Atwood’s recent columns. Actually, I found Atwood’s Jan. 19 column a good summary of the problems with the Obama administration.

I wish to applaud Dr. Atwood on his ongoing columns. His are straightforward, succinct, and are just as likely to focus on our local community as on our country as a whole. They are honest, positive and do not leave out critical facts.

Many of us believed that a change in the direction of our country was needed and that belief won out through our Constitution’s Electoral College process.

I am not one to write in to news publications but I felt that I could not let this edition pass by and again ignore the negative letters without expressing well deserved support to Dr. Atwood whose columns so many of us read and respect.

And like Dr. Atwood, Donald Trump was not my preferred candidate, but I too, felt he was a better choice than the other candidate.

We need to overcome that party’s political and ideological agenda which has harmed our country so much over the last eight years.

Chuck Dudek, Oakhurst

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