Non-Union MOFD Candidates Have Homes Inspected

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    During the Oct. 10 Orinda Association/League of Woman Voters forum to question the five candidates for Division Three and Four district seats on the MOFD Board, Candidate Red Smith surfaced an ugly incident that speaks to the hot feelings permeating this election. Smith, who also referenced the “Union slate” that includes Steven Danziger and Michael Donner (with Greg Baitx in Division 1), noted an acrimonious incident that colored the campaign, an incident that found two MOFD employees dismissed for “unauthorized political activity.”
    While not specifically accusing adherents of those candidates of having anything to do with the activity, Smith did say that he found it curious that it was the three “non-union candidates present whose homes were inspected” for exterior fire hazards on their properties. On Sept. 26, Candidate Lucy Talbot was issued a posted notice to abate fire hazards on her property with a large-scale, expensive removal of trees.
    Talbot’s notice was rescinded by Fire Chief Dave Winnacker the next day after a personal inspection. At the MOFD Board meeting Oct. 3, the chief indicated that he had immediately terminated the two hourly district aides responsible. Union leaders took umbrage with the suggestion that the impetus for the behavior should point at them. Talbot, for her part, termed it a malicious act.
    Chief Winnacker apologized to those affected and to the community. He emphasized that he was embarrassed by this “unauthorized incident that is a violation of the public trust.” He noted that he had instigated a thorough review of inspection policies and procedures and is conducting reset training for all aides who conduct this work.
    With the so-called union slate on one side, candidates Lucy Talbot and Red Smith (with Nathan Bell in District 1) have touted themselves as the “slate” for an “Independent Fire Board.” The third candidate for District Three, incumbent Stephen Anderson, also views himself as an independent candidate. Though worrying that it was a bit of “political suicide” providing the deciding vote in the 3-2 approval of the MOU with the union, Anderson claims that it was necessary to avoid “total chaos” and to take first steps to deal with health and pension liabilities while ensuring that MOFD employees are paid at a rate comparable to other Bay Area entities.

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