At THC, we have some really weird habits. Drinking Mike’s Hard Lemonade with tin-foil hats on, for example. Creating odd images on Photoshop. Reading old Humboldt Grand Jury reports on rainy Wednesday evenings.
Occasionally, we accidentally do something worthwhile in the process. Such was the case today, when we decided to re-read the aforementioned Grand Jury Report. This particular report isn’t actually that old – it’s the 2014-2015 Grand Jury report, which you can also read (along with the rest of them) here. Particularly, we were interested in the Rural Safety report as it pertains to fire districts in Humboldt County. Responses to the report can be read here (Fire Chief’s Association) and here (Board of Supervisors).
So, while the hard-working Grand Jury (kudos to them for what they do, by the way!) makes some suggestions that we don’t necessarily agree with, one of their recommendations jumped out at us. Check it:
Yes, covering all of Humboldt County might be a problem. Elsewhere in the report, the Grand Jury suggests looking into creating a County-wide fire district, which we think is unfeasible for several reasons. While having multiple fire districts in Humboldt isn’t necessarily the most efficient bureaucratic vehicle, we think an all-encompassing fire district (FD) loses something in effective emergency response to the many different communities in Humboldt. More than that, we think there’s just no way in hell the people in Humboldt would go along with such consolidation. Look at how many different school districts we have for cryin’ out loud!
However, THC had a small glimmer of an idea as it relates to the Arcata Fire District. We went on at length a number of times about why we didn’t like the recently defeated Measure A tax proposed by the AFD (you can read those posts here, here, here and here. Oh, and here. And there, too. Man, we really didn’t like that tax!)
However, rather than continue rallying the pitch-fork mob, we decided there was a tax the AFD could propose that more people might actually be in favor of. What if the AFD proposed to increase the geographic area that they provide services to? This would give them a larger tax base to provide for the many equipment upgrades they need. It may even allow them enough to hire the additional firefighters they want.
A big selling point of this expansion would be that moving the AFD into areas currently not covered by a conventional fire district would mean that residents of those areas which currently pay Cal-Fire fees – which people absolutely hate, in case you hadn’t heard – would no longer have to pay that fee. Their tax assessment’s would then feed into the greater AFD honey pot, and they might actually get some fire-protection services that way, too. I mean, lets face it, while all the volunteer districts try to do a great job and some actually do, an awful lot of them just don’t have the resources to put out a burn barrel much less a real fire. AFD has the resources and wants to use them. Maybe we should let them.
Of course, THC still feels very strongly that any such changes – and subsequent tax increases – should go first and foremost to expanding the number of people that receive protection from the AFD. While we understand that the AFD was previously pushing for increased firefighter staffing levels to improve the current level of service, we just haven’t heard anyone not associated with the FD that feels current staffing levels have impacted quality of service.
Since it seems that voters are quite happy with the present quality of service, we suggest that any future proposals or tax increases go into increasing the quantity of service. More people and areas served = more fire safety, greater tax base, and a more equal tax burden for all included within the Fire District. In that sense, THC thinks that we (and others) would be more amenable to an increase in tax-for-fire-stuff because we’d see an actual benefit to the larger public.
So that’s THC’s cider-fueled take on how the AFD could expand their tax base and tax intake, while also providing a sorely needed benefit for Humboldt’s more rural residents. Unfortunately, such Grand Jury inspired musings can make you real thirsty, so we have to run down to Murrish Market to re-stock.
In the meantime, please let us know your thoughts on the matter, THC fans.