• WEATHER ALERT Winter Weather Advisory

PA firefighters look to voters to decide their numbers

July 12, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
In Palo Alto, firefighters do not want the City Council to determine their fate anymore. They want the voters to decide how many firefighters the city should have.

No one here can name another city that has done anything like this before, but the firefighters are so serious about it, they got enough signatures to put it on the ballot. On Monday night, the City Council had to vote on this issue.

When you call the fire department, you want them to come and figuring out how to make that happen is usually up to the city council, but a new proposal would put that power in the hands of the people.

"What is wrong with asking the citizens what level of service they would like to have?" asks firefighter union president Tony Spitaleri.

Palo Alto firefighters are trying to pass an initiative that would lock in the current number of firefighters. If the City Council wanted to reduce the number, it would have to hold public hearings and a citywide election.

"They simply are a very strong union looking out for their interests in a very aggressive manner," says Palo Alto Mayor Patrick Burt.

Burt calls it a misguided initiative. Regardless, 6,000 voters signed a petition in support of it -- enough to put it on the ballot.

"I look forward to hearing what the voters have to say on it," says Burt.

"When it comes to safety, when do we say no? When do we say it's not safe anymore? Who makes that decision?" asks Spitaleri.

Both sides are confident they will win in an election, pointing to the intelligence of the voters in Palo Alto as the reason why their argument will prevail. Some residents say the city seems evenly divided.

"Anything that locks in spending that doesn't have something to do with how we're going to pay for it, is probably a bad idea," says Palo Alto resident Ed Sterbenc.

"We voted our City Council and I think that they need to be the ones. We believe in them and it should go through them and it should not go through the voters," says Palo Alto resident Sunny Dykwel.

On Monday night the City Council was expected to move this issue forward and vote on which ballot to put this issue on. It will most likely be November's ballot, but it was pretty late on Monday night before they even got to the issue.

Council members have said in the past the measure would prevent them from doing their jobs and an election would be costly.


Load Comments