UPDATED: FIREFIGHTERS TURN IN BALLOT SIGS
Updated 2:40 p.m. Thursday, May 14
Alameda’s firefighters turned in more than 9,000 petition signatures this morning in their bid to qualify a minimum staffing measure for the November ballot.
“We feel this is our only real option. We feel this is a safe level of staffing,” firefighters union rep Jeff DelBono said.
The measure only needs 6,600 valid signatures to qualify. It would require the city to staff the department with a minimum of 27 fire suppression staff per shift.
The city had maintained those levels until January 26, when the department, in a bid to conserve overtime cash, cut the minimum staffing level to 24 and “browned out” truck and ambulance companies when additional staff weren’t on duty. Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant said last week that after layoffs, that minimum staffing level will be 22, and she said the city will close Fire Station 5 at Alameda Point.
Firefighters have maintained that the reduced staffing levels will compromise residents’ and firefighters’ safety, while city leaders say that’s not necessarily the case. DelBono said the department’s current staffing is lowest it’s been in over two decades, while call volumes are at historic highs.
DelBono said previously issued city-funded reports on the Island’s fire service recommended higher staffing levels than the department currently has.
City Clerk Lara Weisiger said she’s turned the signatures over to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters to count. They have 30 working days to do a random sample check and, if needed, another 30 working days to do a full count. After that, they announce whether the petition has enough valid signatures for the measure to be placed on the ballot.
“It’s just kind of a wait-and-see process now,” Weisiger said.
The city filed a suit on March 27 seeking to stop the initiative, claiming the measure would illegally usurp the council’s ability to set budget and staffing levels. A case management conference is set for August 10.