Last year, in November, I spoke out for our community and against the North River Farms development project. I did it because I was concerned about evacuation routes, fire safety, and people getting hurt. I did it because the project did not meet environmental and housing standards and flew in the face of what our community wants and needs. We don’t need sprawl housing at high prices in extreme fire hazard zones. What we need is safe, affordable housing that provides the proper routes of evacuation and ensures the adequate protection of our environment and serves our community.
Because I spoke against this project, I have garnered the ire of several groups who stand to benefit from it.
As a Paramedic and Emergency Services professional, I stand in solidarity with EMS, the Fire Department and healthcare workers through COVID, including their right to ask for and receive adequate protective gear. I have a natural kinship with firefighters, having worked alongside, sometimes in the same station, and run many calls with Firefighters over the years. I have also had the professional experience of pulling people, animals, and belongings out of burning buildings, rescuing people from fast moving water and performing search and rescue activities with fire department members. And finally, I’ve had the experience of cutting trapped people out of vehicles and performed life-saving emergency procedures with firefighters on regular occasion.
Today, I had the opportunity to meet with the Oceanside Firefighter’s Association, Local 3736 to discuss fire department operations, emergency services, and our plan forward.
That is why it is with great disappointment that I cannot accept any endorsement that the Firefighter’s Association might offer to our campaign unless they were to publicly remove all of their ties to the North River Farms Development. They must disavow their previous support of the project, return the $30,000 they received from an entity in support of North River Farms, and stop sharing staff and financial accounting firms with ties to the unpopular building development, I cannot in good conscience accept an endorsement.
There is a difference between what union leadership calls for and how its members often feel and vote. I believe the Association leadership has lost focus on the most important goals to the individual, on the ground firefighters. Union bosses have become entangled with the North River Farms Project and in their own words today, they will not change their position because they are “in bed” with the developer. By making, maintaining, and strengthening these ties, they have failed both their own general membership and our community.
But regardless of any endorsement, I want our Oceanside firefighters to know that I will continue to fight for them and honor their best interests. I know that locally, firefighters need better pay because we are losing veteran staff to Orange County and CalFire. We need more response units and stations so that the fire department can maintain an average response time of 5 minutes or less to all emergency calls. Oceanside needs a fire department focused on these goals, not one that works hand-in-hand with a building developer on a monumentally unpopular project.
The union bosses don’t always represent what members truly want. When I talk with firefighters, they tell me they need to know that their pensions are secure, that they will be cared for after retiring, that their families are given the things they need to survive, and that the families of those who have fallen in the line of duty are taken care of to the greatest extent possible. This is also an intimate concern for my family, as my wife’s father was a firefighter killed in the line of duty. Our next Mayor must put the cares and concerns of individual firefighters first, above whatever deals union bosses negotiate behind closed doors.
I ask that you join me in calling on the Oceanside Firefighter’s Association to change their tune and speak out against North River Farms.