Fortuna Fire District completely torches the democratic process, cooks the book on tax vote

With everybody in the U.S. and Humboldt getting geared up for election season, we thought it would be fun to take a look at when the Fortuna Volunteer Fire District decided to circumvent the normal voting process and completely cook the books in order to get more public tax monies. Hats off to the FVFD – it sure took some creativity and gumption to blatantly disregard the need for transparency while raising Fortuna’s fire assessment by 500% at the same time.

You see – even while ignoring the actual amount of the assessment – there are several reasons that this entire process smells extremely fishy. (The stench has not improved with time and perspective, unfortunately.) You can find a copy of the “ballot” here.

First off, let’s look at a statement made at Fortuna’s September 7th, 2015 town meeting, by Plan West, a firm that the Fire District paid $30,000 to “guide and advise” the tax measure.  The spokesperson for Plan West said it would have cost $25,000 for the Fire District to have an official ballot drawn up by the elections office. The Fire District decided this was much too expensive (despite having spent more than that amount on a consulting firm that guided them towards co-opting the need for an official ballot.) Meaning that, the FVFD used an un-official ballot that was unsanctioned by the elections office.*

* You may recognize the elections office as the entity that is supposed to oversee fair voting practices.

Next, lets also mention that the votes were weighted – in favor of people who own more property. That’s correct – if you have more dirt credited to your name than those who are lacking massive land holdings, then you had more say in the outcome of this vote than your neighbor. Totally equal, right?

Then there’s the whole lack of secrecy for people who were encouraged to turn their ballots in at a town hall gathering. From LoCO: LoCO fire thingYou know, in case your mind gets changed at the meeting.

thugBut let’s take a look at the way the ballots were counted. Even if the form, distribution, and collection of the ballots was questionable, i.e. complete and utter bullshit, then it’s good news that they were counted in an official and transparent manner…by the Humboldt League of Women Voters? What the f***?

To be fair, that’s not a knock against the esteemed HLoWV. They are a totally groovy organization in THC’s book. We just question how the FVFD arbitrarily decided the HLoWV was the most qualified to count the ballots. We also wonder how much the the FVFD pressured the good ladies of HLoWV to conveniently misplace “No” votes in the waste bin.

Perhaps we can just chalk up this voting miscarriage to the Fire District being too cheap. Paying $25,000 for legitimate ballots is a big expense for a volunteer fire department – which is going to use part of the funds from this tax to pay its volunteers for their time. paidvolunteer

(Also, see “Volunteer.”)

Shit. But at least we can take solace in the fact that the FVFD wasn’t running around like the mob, influencing the voting public with threats and the like, right?

Well…not so much. On October 1st of 2015, we happened across this damning letter from Alan Mendes, a Fortuna resident, which he submitted to the Times-Standard. THC strongly encourages you to read the whole thing – Mr. Mendes raises some excellent points. We’d like to highlight this comment from the letter:

“Weeks ago, my 80-year-old mother was email harassed concerning her negative comments about the fire tax. On Sept. 21., a close friend, after writing his concerns about the tax to your newspaper, was also harassed.”

Yikes. The Volunteer Fire Department is harassing old women in order to influence the vote? Sounds like some real strong-arm intimidation tactics to us. But wait…there’s more! Also from Mendes’ letter:

“If the members of this community question the credibility and transparency of the “fire tax,” they should be able to do so without retaliation, but this is not the case.”

Needless to say, all of the shady factors involved with this tax measure are unfortunate, particularly for a Fire District that claims – on their website – they are dedicated to the ideals of “honesty, integrity, bravery and compassion.”

In closing, THC will ask you the same thing that Mr. Mendes (THC’s official hero of the week): “…what should be more important to the Fortuna citizens — an official ballot through the elections office or to question the honesty and integrity of the fire chief of the Fortuna Fire Department?….Decide for yourself.”


The Humboldt Consequential

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6 Responses to Fortuna Fire District completely torches the democratic process, cooks the book on tax vote

  1. Harold Wood says:

    The same way in Crescent City. The last increase voting card said that this is not a secret ballot, implying that we will know who voted NO ! What is it about these people? Do they sit around looking at pictures of the latest and shiniest fire fighting equipment with bulges in their nether parts? Or are they just brain washed with the insane consumerism and maybe some under the table shenanigans!


  2. Fire dog says:

    Holy crap u can’t make this stuf up. This is unbelievable. Seems like there should be a new FAIR election thru the county election department. Come on people start speaking up, this is just wrong.


  3. Concerned citizen says:

    What was the LoWV thinking jumping in bed with the firemen( excuse the pun) my respect for them just went down several notches. Back room ballot counting, intimidating grandmothers, WTF. Maybe it’s time to “Fire” the fire Chief? Darn I did it again!


  4. Arcatan says:

    This is really pretty unbelievable in a country with so many election rules. The whole idea of getting to make up your own ballot, chase down and harass voters that don’t agree with you, and then count the ballots yourself. Incredible in a place where a kids tree-house can get you fined and prosecuted. On a similar note I wonder how long it will take for Linda Sundberg and the Arcata Fire District to figure out how easy it is to scam their constituents?

    ……Coming soon to a rigged election near you…..


  5. Ronerville ron says:

    This is just plain wrong, no other way to put it. We were hoodwinked


  6. I’m surprised you are being so harsh. It reads like the folks got their positions and then made government work as cheaply as possible. Property owners get the safety measures they need and it is done on the cheap by skipping those darn accountable public elections. Where is the problem?

    Oh, yeah, the harassment and coercion. That would be a problem. Rather than bloviating on this b/c I tend to agree with you IF TRUE, here is a thought. Publish the harassing e-mail. We kinda jumped on the “harassment” bandwagon here and it’s not like your credibility is super high. If you really do want to change minds, and mine for one is relatively bias-free so I might be able to represent a persuadable reader, find and publish this “Weeks ago, my 80-year-old mother was email harassed concerning her negative comments about the fire tax.”. It can’t be that hard unless it’s not quite as damning when read out of the context which include “80 years old” and “mother”.

    Otherwise, I’m leaning toward seeing this through the prism of the “I’m a victim of government” meme which folks like tree-house Arcatan used to get hand-picked government representatives to represent the needs of those who least need representation.

    Liked by 1 person

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