Retorts: Why did Dana, GGFD lose?

DANA ROHRABACHER with supporter wearing a Guy Fawkes mask in 2013 (Flickr/Gage Skidmore).

Two long-standing traditions in the area suffered historic defeats in the month of November, with implications still difficult to foresee.

Dana Rohrabacher, a Congressman from coastal Orange County – including most of Huntington Beach – found his 30-year reign coming to an end on Nov 6. A former journalist and speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, Rohrabacher was defeated in his campaign for the 48th District seat by Harley Rouda, a Republican who became a Democrat.

In the other instance, the Garden Grove City Council on Nov. 13 voted to direct the city manager to start negotiating a contract with the Orange County Fire Authority to take over firefighting and paramedic service in the city in 2019. That means a likely end to the 92-year-old Garden Grove Fire Department.

Rohrabacher was – at least in part – the victim of the “Blue Wave” which swept the Democrats into control of the House of Representatives. The liberal party flipped at least 38 seats, posing new challenges to President Donald Trump.

Dana’s ouster can’t be completely attributed to a national reaction to the controversial policies and pronouncements of the president.  The 71-year-old politician was always a bit of a maverick.  At one time a folk singer, Rohrabacher was well-known for his interest in surfing and his support for the legalization of marijuana.

On a more political front, he had a somewhat puzzling attachment to Russia and Russian president Vladimir Putin. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that a staunch Reaganite could enthusiastically embrace a former KGB officer who now presides over an expansionistic Kremlin regime.

Maybe voters were just tired of him; maybe he was just standing in the wrong spot when the current ballot wave hit shore and he “wiped out,” as the surfers say.

Somewhat more perplexing is the process by which the Garden Grove council majority (by a 6-1 vote, with Kris Beard voting no) decided to do away with the GGFD.  There’s a lot of head-scratching to be done here.

By far the major proponent of the change was the Garden Grove Firefighters Association, which lobbied, essentially, to be put out of business.  Better pay and more opportunities are probably the chief motivations here, anticipating a transfer to work in the OCFA.

That’s to be expected. It’s a union’s job to represent and advance the interests of its members. But do the interests of the union always coincide with that of the public? Maybe. Maybe not.

All parties agree that local fire service needs to be upgraded. As the city has grown, the firefighting and paramedic force has shrunk. Perhaps the switch to the OCFA is the cure for that.

A GARDEN GROVE FIRE vehicle on the scene of a power outage in West Garden Grove in July 2017 (GGFD photo).

On the other hand, voters on Nov. 6 approved a 1-cent local sales tax that will pump an extra $19 million annually into the Big Strawberry’s budget. Might not some of that money be used to bring up the standards of the city’s own fire department?

So did the council majority make a bad decision? Premature is more like it.  And certainly not catastrophic. Whenever the changeover takes place, calling 9-1-1 will still get you highly professional service.

The march toward the switch was dashing along until a city financial analysis suggested that going to the OCFA would cost an additional $14 million over a 10-year-period. Hmmm.

Eric Thorson, leading the charge for the GGFA, said, no, that can’t be right. Consider the following items …

The city financial people redid the figures and now the red ink was only … around $10 million.  The reply from the GGFA was, no, that can’t be right; it’s really only $275,000.

Garden Grove’s council is peopled with folks who consider themselves “fiscal conservatives.” In fact, two of them voted against putting the sales tax measure on the ballot.

Here’s my point – and I do have one. One of two things is true. Either the city’s estimate is off by around $10 million or the one from the union is off by around $9.75 million.

I’m not sure what’s fiscally conservative about taking this big plunge when there’s that big of a difference of opinion about the true cost.

We’ve all become weary over how long this process has taken, but $10 million will buy a lot of patience. Maybe we could ask Dana to arbitrate. It looks like he will have some free time for a while.

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts appears on alternate Wednesdays.  A Happy Thanksgiving to all, and don’t eat too much.  Patience applies to seconds, too.




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