Four are vying for three seats on the Menlo Park Fire District Board of Directors | New

Two incumbents and two newcomers are vying for a spot on the Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board of Directors. Board Chairman Chuck Bernstein and Board Member Robert Jones are up for re-election, with nominees Gary Bloom and Dionis Papavramidis seeking to join the board. The Fire District provides emergency services to Atherton, East Palo Alto and surrounding unincorporated communities as well as Menlo Park.

Candidates responded in writing to questions from The Almanac, explaining why they are best suited for the fire board, while addressing key issues related to financial oversight, emergency planning and how best to work with the municipalities it serves.

Chuck Bernstein

Outgoing council chairman Chuck Bernstein has served on the Menlo Park Fire Protection District (MPFPD) board of directors for nearly a decade now, but he believes there is still work to be done.

Bernstein works as an educator, serving as president and founder of Early Learning Institute, an educational organization based in Palo Alto. He also teaches Literature, Economics, and Business within the program, as he holds a Ph.D. in Languages, Literature, and Linguistics and an MBA, both from Stanford University.

Bernstein has also held supervisory positions for a multitude of organizations. He is currently a member of the San Mateo County Supervisory Board of Former Redevelopment Agencies — which controls more than $400 million in former redevelopment agency properties — and a former member of the Menlo Park Budget Advisory Committee and Council. CERT advisory.

Bernstein said he was the best candidate for the job because of his diligence, financial background, leadership experience and willingness to serve.

If re-elected, Bernstein said he aims to improve the quality of information the council receives from district staff. Bernstein said that in the past, the MPFPD has made decisions based on incomplete or incorrect information from staff.

“We board members have not insisted on participating in critical decisions because of our fear of being accused of micromanaging and probing ‘into the weeds,'” Bernstein wrote. “However, the devil is in the details, and all too often we have been content to let the devil win.”

He said he learned from his experience that it is essential to “trust but verify” when information is provided by district staff. Bernstein provided examples, saying the district moved to a four-day workweek without council approval. Bernstein thinks a public agency should be open five or six days a week. He also disagrees with senior management having two months of paid vacation, as they are essential to the district and cannot be off work for two months.

“It’s mostly the decisions we didn’t make that were delegated that I regret,” Bernstein wrote.

Bernstein also said the district has “more than adequate” tax revenue, and while he doesn’t foresee a monetary shortage problem, he sees a problem with employee compensation. According to Bernstein, the MPFPD has the highest average pay per person of any government agency in California, which he says is unlikely to continue.

One issue the board has faced recently is a fractured relationship with Atherton. The city discussed splitting off the district in 2020, following complaints that, along with its higher property values, its tax revenue made up the majority of MPFPD funding, without receiving commensurately higher services or benefits.

Bernstein said he would like to deal with the situation by meeting with constituent agencies once a year, and said he had a productive conversation with Atherton earlier this year. Bernstein said he planned to meet Menlo Park on Oct. 20 and was planning a meeting with East Palo Alto.

Bernstein said the dispute was about finances, not the quality of service provided by the MPFPD, and that he was also unhappy with some of the district’s priorities in the budget.

“(The MPFPD) does not serve the cities, towns and counties within it; it should serve its people,” Bernstein said. “However, to provide effective and efficient services to residents, it should cooperate with its constituent (and neighboring) agencies, as well as parallel agencies.”

Bernstein’s website is at chuckbernstein.org.

Gary Bloom

Gary Bloom believes he will be the best candidate for the district fire board because of his extensive experience in business management and practical emergency services.

Bloom is a retired CEO with experience overseeing organizations and managing budgets. He has also served on the boards of public companies and not-for-profit organizations as well as advisory groups.

In addition, Bloom volunteers for the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Unit, the Menlo Park Fire California Task Force 3 Urban Search and Rescue Team, and an EMT for Rock Medicine. , an organization that provides medical care at Bay Area events.

One of Bloom’s priorities is community preparedness for emergencies. Bloom previously called the natural disaster “inevitable” for the district.

“The recent hurricane in Florida proves that the community can never be too prepared for a natural or man-made disaster,” Bloom said.

Bloom also said he would prioritize the relationship between paramedics and the district, and he previously said he wanted ambulance services to be provided inside the district to combat the long wait times. ‘waiting.

He also said he wants the MPFPD to focus on diversity and equity in its staffing. He spoke at the September 20 board meeting as a member of the community to say the board was not paying enough attention to the ad hoc committee on diversity, equity and inclusion, where the future of the committee was under consideration.

“I think this is a terrible missed opportunity to send a very strong message to the community and a very strong message to every employee in the district about the importance (of diversity),” Bloom said at the meeting.

The board ultimately decided to keep the committee.

While Bloom said he didn’t have access to all of the district’s finance-related records to comment, he said it appears the district has enough funding to provide high-quality services.

After discussing the idea of ​​Atherton splitting from the fire district with two members of Atherton City Council, Bloom believes the situation could have been avoided and that future disputes can be avoided through clear communication.

“The situation could have been avoided if the council had focused more directly on relations with the various municipal councils,” Bloom wrote.

He said the council needed to engage more directly with various city councils to avoid a similar situation. Bloom suggests regular meetings with council members so everyone has a voice and understands how the fire district’s fiscal elements interact with day-to-day operations.

Bloom’s website is garybloomforfireboard.com.

Robert Jones

Outgoing board member Robert Jones served for five years and said he could tackle the issues from a practical and strategic perspective to prioritize both inclusivity and to the quality of service.

Jones has a rich history of involvement in affordable housing development as the retired executive director and founder of East Palo Alto Community Alliance and Neighborhood Development Organization (EPA CAN DO). He was also a board member of Jobtrain (formerly OICW) and a project developer for Eden Housing. Jones received a scholarship from the Housing Association of Northern California to learn the technical side of affordable housing development for 18 months.

If re-elected, Jones said he would continue to focus on diversity and inclusion, as well as developing the fire district’s community disaster preparedness and response plan and the board’s strategic plan with an emphasis on accountability.

Jones said he thinks the board should have authorized the ad hoc committee on diversity, equity and inclusion to hire a consultant. Jones said the consultant could have helped the committee analyze data and equity indicators to move toward greater diversity in the fire district.

Financially, Jones said the MPFPD is still operating within budget, but he has concerns about how financial reporting is handled and reported.

As a solution, Jones recommends an annual structural review process for strategic planning and board accountability. He hopes the council can set aside funds, if available, for capital improvement projects in the future since the district is in good financial shape.

Speaking to Atherton, Jones said he thought the MPFPD and Atherton currently agreed that the district had done a good job of protecting the townspeople.

“The Fire District is committed to continuing this service not only in the City of Atherton, but in all other towns and parts of the county within the boundaries of the Menlo Park Fire Protection,” Jones said. .

Jones does not have a campaign website.

Dionis Papavramidis

Papavramidis did not respond to multiple attempts by The Almanac to contact him. According to his Facebook profile, he was born in Athens, Greece, where he attended college and now lives in East Palo Alto.

Comments are closed.