Candidates for MOFD Speak on Issues Affecting District at Large

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(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
Candidates for the Moraga-Orinda Fire District (MOFD) board of directors’ election spoke on Oct. 13 on topics relating to the district. (L-R) Steven Danziger, Vince Dell’Aquila, Michael Donner and Michael Roemer.

    This year’s candidates for Districts 3 and 4 in the Moraga-Orinda Fire District (MOFD) participated in a public forum in the Orinda Library Auditorium Thursday, Oct. 13, and answered questions about some of the biggest issues facing the district.
    The event, which attracted both an in-person and virtual audience, was sponsored by the League of Women Voters Diablo Valley (LWVDV) and The Orinda Association and followed by an Orinda Union School District public forum, which took place the same evening. Two MOFD candidates vied for one seat on each district – running for District 3 are Steven Danziger and Vince Dell’Aquila, and for District 4, Michael Donner and Michael Roemer.
    “We are here tonight as part of our key mission to educate and inform voters,” event moderator Ann Flynn, of the LWVDV, said as the forum began. Questions directed to the candidates ranged from wildfire fuel mitigation compliance in open areas owned by entities such as the East Bay Regional Park District, East Bay Municipal Utilities District and CalTrans, to the relationship between the MOFD board and the local firefighter’s union.
    “My legal experience in asking sharp questions and analyzing complex problems would be an asset to the board,” District 4 candidate Roemer said in his opening statement, kicking off the forum.
    A retired prosecutor and active attorney, Roemer has Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training and obtained an emergency ham radio license. He also joined the MOFD Support Unit and took MOFD’s Firewise ambassador training.
    With experiences serving on the board of a community bank, Roemer emphasized the financial skills he possesses would be “helpful in navigating the investment issues that must be addressed to protect our firefighters’ pensions.”
    Candidate Danziger, currently MOFD District 3 director and running for re-election, was elected in 2018 and served two years as board president. He is currently vice president and a member of the audit committee and is CERT-trained Fire Adapted Community (FAC) ambassador.
    “I am passionate about serving the public and making this district as safe as possible,” Danziger said. “I’m running for re-election in order to continue building upon the incredible progress this district has made in the last four years,”
    Danziger continued, citing the safety of the community, as well as the district’s finances, are flourishing under the leadership of the current board and MOFD Fire Chief Dave Winnacker.
    MOFD Board President Michael Donner, elected in 2018, is a District 4 candidate running for re-election. He spoke of his 40 years of fire experience and “a deep understanding of every aspect of the fire service, including fire prevention, apparatuses, facilities, staffing and much more” at the forum, as well as his work coaching sports, teaching fire safety and serving meals at local schools.
    Donner highlighted the implementation of Firewise groups in the community as an accomplishment during his term, noting “we have gone from zero Firewise groups, to over 30 groups representing more than 2,500 households.”
    Also during his term, said Donner, reserve funds have increased, from 17% to a goal of a 50% reserve fund.
    MOFD District 3 candidate Dell’Aquila, who has held roles as athletic director, department chair, educator and coach for 32 years, cited his background of 19 years of fiscal experience with overseeing an athletic budget, as well as his leadership experience, as assets “necessary to meet the needs of our community in becoming fire-adapted.”
    Dell’Aquila, who made clear his intentions to manage the community’s tax dollars “to keep one of the best firefighting districts in the state locally-controlled,” also emphasized the importance of home hardening, high-quality paramedic services and evacuation plans and spoke in support of “the best” fire prevention and emergency preparation programs for all stakeholders.
    The four MOFD candidates shared thoughts and stances on topics such as their campaign funding, solvency of the firefighter pension fund and investment of more resources for wildfire prevention – such as the North Orinda shaded fuel break project, home hardening grants and wood chipper services for residents.
    The effectiveness and improvement of MOFD’s communication with the community was also discussed, as was the idea of the district merging with joint powers authority CONFIRE.
    “I am impressed with the degree of community involvement,” forum attendee Ron Wecht said after the event. Wecht, along with his wife Sue, have resided in Orinda for 29 years.
    “The community seems to be well aware of the issues, based on the questions that were asked in tonight’s meeting,” Sue Wecht said after the forum wrapped up. “The attendees of tonight seemed to very well informed of the issues.”
    Orinda resident of 37 years, Jean Barnhart was appreciative of the forum.
    “I think it’s a great service to the community,” she said. “Very well organized and fair.”
    Editor’s Note: Complaints were made to The Orinda News concerning audience members who may have been communicating answers to candidates during the MOFD Public Forum. While there were definite disruptions from the audience during the forum, we could not corroborate the alleged communication. To see the recorded event, click here.

Andrea Madison can be reached at drea.madison.05@gmail.com.

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