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Misunderstood – Z107.7 Misses the Mark

By   /   March 31, 2014  /   35 Comments

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Z107.7 ran a story today about the meeting that was held on Saturday discussing the options available for the 29 Palms Fire Department.

The reporting of what was presented was accurate. However the reporting/innuendo of what happened in the past was off the mark.

Z107.7 wants us to think that the city of 29 Palms has already stepped up to the plate in the past by offering to “take over” the fire department by transferring fire protection services to the county AND that our Water District “balked” at that idea and decided not to proceed with the transfer of those services to the county for unstated reasons by Z107.7.

Let me tell all of you that we are in serious trouble and this continued failure of the press, both radio and paper, to do just a bit of investigative reporting is going to cause this city to go the hard way.

The Water District is proposing a vote for us citizens to raise our parcel assessments. The raise is great and the answer will be a resounding “No” from the voters.

And that “No” is righteous in light of the fact that the city of 29 Palms provides nothing, absolutely nothing, that’s right zip, nada, NOTHING to provide public safety via a fire department for its citizens.

In fact the city spurns the idea of getting involved in fire protection unless it is through the county which if that happens will be an unmitigated disaster to the General Fund that I am surprised the current council as well as staff does not fully see or understand.

The city feels pretty good right now because for each and every event that has occurred since the Lear station closed other agencies have responded to either assist or cover the use of our one engine company.

I can assure you that there will come a time when the Base as well as County Fire are involved in their own situations and will not be able to bail out 29 Palms because its one engine company is already involved in a crisis and that second or third event comes to fruition and there are no resources around to respond.

That is when people will ask “What the Hell” and then they will ask “Was Tee-Ball, and tennis, and soccer, and simple Park and Recreation more important than…….. You fill in the blank.

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About the author

Steve Spear

Former 29 Palms City Council member from 2002 through 2010. Graduate of Villanova University with a BA majoring in criminal justice. Served in the United States Marine Corps from 1977 through 1990 attaining the rank of Major in the Marine Corps Reserves.


  1. Larry Briggs Larry Briggs says:

    The city hasn’t provided financial help to the fire department since it incorporated in 1987 and that includes the 8 years you were on the city council. Which activities at park and rec do you propose to shut down?

    • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

      Your memory must be fading Larry.

      Two things that I did when I was on the council for our fire department.

      First thing was we got that ladder truck and in the end, which just occurred, the debt was forgiven and the fire department has a ladder truck that it did not buy. Rather the city purchased it. This I think is a sign that our council knows that the fire department will be an election issue this year as will the bonds.

      Some council members getting a bit worried about their inability to act and lead is my thought on that debt forgiveness.

      Second thing was my attempt to move the fire department to the jurisdiction of the city. At least I tried to make a difference as opposed to what is going on now and not making a difference at all and just looking in the other direction when it comes to public safety.

      • Larry Briggs Larry Briggs says:

        Memory isn’t as good as it once was. Also I didn’t attend as many council meetings as I do now. The fire department will be an issue in the coming election. Cutting the Park and Rec budget will also be an issue. My idea is to fund the shortfall in the Firefighter retirement account and give it to the county. You agreed that LAFCO had said yes to that proposal. It would be about 4M out of our reserves. Remember that a lot of the kids that Park and Rec support are military dependent who live in the 801 project along with those whom live in rental property in town. The base may not look kindly on slashing those programs.

        • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

          Well at least we are talking and discussing issues which is a great thing.

          I believe any move to allowing the county to take over our fire services is a disaster in the making. But you and disagree which is fine.

          As for the Base. They have used us for many years Larry.

          I remember when my kids were not allowed to participate in activities on the Base as advertised in the schools but the Base kids were subsidized by us taxpayers in 29 to play in activities out in “Town”.

          I really do not care about what the Base thinks or does not think.

          I know, and you should too, that the Marine Corps is not going to leave 29 Palms.

          We as a city must start to leverage our position AGAINST the Base and not molly coddle them.

          There is no where in the world – yes the world – that the Marine Corps can do the training that it does here in 29 Palms.

          That is a leverage tool that we as a city need to start using.

          I for one am tired of the Base getting every new business and the citizens of 29 Palms have no access to the same.

          Time for a change and time for decisive leadership instead of what we have seen for the last 4 years.

        • Giving fire services to the county is a very bad idea. The time is ripe for the city to act like a real city and help fund the TPFD. County fire will very likely cut services and close the Lear station in a few years if fire was transferred to them. That is the current thinking.

          The city doesn’t provide much of anything but for Parks & Recreation, and public works. streets. No aspersions toward the department, but the city has much work to do in the downtown area on street improvements and maintenance. The city need to get back to serving its residence.

          As evidenced from TPWD meetings when this issue was debated in a public hearings — the public doesn’t want county fire.

          The city wants to transfer all its responsibility and just focus on spending money on projects that at this time have no priority.

          If the city fails to help fund the fire department and ratepayers reject a property tax increase, the city is more of a burden and a black hole for sucking up money.

          If the city can’t help fund the TPFD, maybe it is time to dis-incorporate. What good is a city that takes all and gives little.

          • Larry Briggs Larry Briggs says:

            The city would contract with the county for fire protection just as it does for police protection. The financing would be determined by the contract. I’m sure you would agree that our police protection is outstanding.

            • Adam Lunn says:

              Larry, I do not believe that is the case. As I informed Gary Daigneault on saturday after the Water Board meeting, the city did not want to enter into a contract with the county. The city was looking to throw their hands up and have no part of the Fire Department. If you go to the January 14, 2013 meeting video and review it. Around the one hour, fourteen minute mark Dan O’Brien gets up to the microphone and brings up Councilmen Corbins possible conflict of interest. At 01:20:24, the city attorney mentions, “because we are not talking about entering into a contract with County Fire Government Code 1090 does not come into play.”
              The city was not looking into contracting with County Fire, because then they would have been breaking the law.

            • Larry Briggs Larry Briggs says:

              You are correct. I’m wrong.

  2. Steve Whitten Steve Whitten says:

    And some people in Yucca Valley think they have it bad?

  3. michaelv michaelv says:

    Unfortunately Steve, small towns and cities usually have small minded media. Time and time again we see reporting done on a one sided, no investigation basis. The fire department issue should have every citizen of 29 on the phone, emailing, or stopping into city hall to give their concerns. What I see is a complacence among the City and residence. Everything is fine, the Base helps, we don’t need any more protection, Until one day, a disaster strikes and there is no help because they are dealing with their own problems and the one truck department cannot handle it themselves.
    Until that time, which I hope never comes, the “need” for a dog park will trump the fire department.

  4. Larry Briggs Larry Briggs says:

    I understand that 7 people attended the fire department tax workshop at the water district on Saturday.

  5. Steve Whitten Steve Whitten says:

    Could you please remind us what role LAFCO has in the issue?

  6. Larry Briggs Larry Briggs says:

    They would have to OK the transfer of the fire department from the Water District to the County.

  7. Thank you Steve Spear for your fine article.

    We have cowards on the city council who f e a r the public. They answer to no one. Political Science 101 teaches that there have always been two kinds of politicians in America; i.e., the legislators and the representatives. Nope, no representative form of local government in 29. This bunch of Illuminati assholes.

    Jay Corbin is the only councilman that is worthy of respect. I may parody Mr. Corbin but I respect him.

  8. Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

    Hi Larry,

    I would shut down whatever part of Park and Recreation that costs what it needs to fund a second Fire Station.

    I know that sounds draconian but in my mind and from what I was taught in college government’s purpose is to provide some very basic things.

    Fire protection/public safety is the first and utmost priority. Park and Recreation is a distant third to maybe even forth.

    Your insistence that “we”, the city, did not provide for fire protection upon incorporation is not right or wrong. It was a decision that was made over 20 years ago with the information available at the time.

    However, things have changed over these last 20 plus years and the city MUST step up and lead and not be complacent with several imminent disasters sitting on the door step.

    • Larry Briggs Larry Briggs says:

      Does that mean you will vote for a proposed increase in the fire tax that the property owners in the water district will be asked to support?

      • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

        No I will not vote for an increase unless the city provides matching funds in the same amount.

        The city has the money. For over 20 years we put money into the reserves up until this latest fiscal report that says we will be in the red. Why? The great recession is on the wane. During its height we still put money into the reserves. Why, why, why……???

        Are we maybe buying things that we should not be buying?

        For example Larry, the bonds are costing our city, at a minimum, $7,059,644.10 over 30 years. That is $235,321.47 a year that could of been directed to the fire department but is not because somebody wanted to build a new theatre/community center complex and 40 units of low income housing.

        Again Larry the city has a job to do. That job is public safety first not baseball and soccer and ballet nor bonds that we can ill afford.

        • Gary D. declared Theatre 29 had outgrown the city building. Then the city council took out the bond debt to placate the cronies that always get what they want when they want.

          Gary why are you as quiet quite as a little mouse? Why are you so silent about the lack of public safety of the entire town, businesses, schools, churches?

          You are not a journalist, but an opportunist.

  9. Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

    I think this has been said many times but let me try again.

    County Fire is TWICE as expensive as our current TPFD. County Fire would have taken all the money from the parcel assessment that we currently pay AND then, according to Chief Hartwig, of County Fire, those assessment dollars would have came up short for the cost of County Fire come 2014.

    County Fire admitted at that big meeting that once their cost exceeded the assessment dollars then County Fire would be looking for additional money or reducing services.

    So, we would be back in the same situation we are in now however it would be county fire wanting more money instead of our own TPFD.

    The ONLY solution to this downward spiral is what was discovered years ago during the Fire Department Task Force between the city and the water district.

    That ONE and ONLY solution is to form a Joint Powers Authority between the city and the water district to provide fire protection services.

    The current assessment remains in place and any operating expenses above that assessment are funded through the city.

    I kind of like the way Gary puts it sometimes about matters. If we as a city continue to “dither” and do nothing at all I see a point in time where our fire department that costs less than county fire simply goes bankrupt.

    That is when chicken little shows up and announces “Well ladies and gentlemen, the sky is actually falling.”

  10. Larry Briggs Larry Briggs says:

    And the city keeps paying until it goes bankrupt.

    • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

      Well Larry if I remember right there are three things a community must show in order to incorporate.

      They must establish that they have a sufficient tax base to support autonomy.

      Within that tax base they must show they, by law, can provide police, fire, and infrastructure.

      It appears to me then that perhaps way back then the city did itself a disservice by not calculating in this eventuality of a fire department that could not sustain itself.

      Incidentally, should the law enforcement contract continue to increase at its present inflation rate of 3 to 5 percent per contract and per contract ammendment the city will go bankrupt also. Right now we spend 41 percent of our income on law enforcement. And as the 3 to 5 percent is applied year after year to an ever growing base number the cost becomes exponential.

      Bottom line Larry you can’t be a city if you can’t provide the services.

      If you wish to have less and less fire protection then I understand your position. I also understand the damage that will do to the city when any company at all decides that since 29 Palms has the least in regards to fire protection as compared to Joshua Tree and Yucca I think it will be clear where they build further enhancing the current death spiral.

      As Dan Mintz had the audacity to say to me one night when I questioned the value of the sign with the sheep “you have to spend money to make money”.

      Perhaps you need to have the money to provide public safety in order to make money too.

      Just my thoughts.

      If you think the voters are going to approve this proposed new assessment on their properties I think you might be daydreaming. I believe the people are fed up with being taxed and the limit has been reached.

      Heck, a sales tax dedicated to public safety might stand a better chance of passing than this assessment. At least with a sales tax even the tourists kick down some bucks for public safety.

      The sticking point on that is ONLY the city can propose and place such a thing on the ballot. The water district can not.

      But at least you and are looking outside the box and exploring new ideas. I don’t know about you but I have heard nothing from our current council members. That would a big zip, nada, nothing, which sounds very familiar when it came to their chance to provide for public safety.

  11. Larry Briggs Larry Briggs says:

    How did the county let 29 incorporate without providing for fire protection? Will they shut us down?

  12. Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

    Fire protection was basically assumed at the time to be a “given” in that the water district provided the service inside the proposed city limits.

    So LAFCO gave it a pass in regards to fire protection. We had a sufficient tax base to provide police and infrastructure so the incorporation green light was given, it went to vote, and barely passed if I remember right.

    My understanding is that if a city fails to provide the required services to be a city then measures are taken via LAFCO as well as the State to force them to comply or force disincorporation.

    A community can not take tax dollars and use them for things that are not essential such as police and fire.

    It is much more reasonable to revoke the incorporation and revert the “wayward” city or town back to county control where it is assured the tax dollars will be used to provide the essentials of police, fire, and infrastructure – roads.

    Again Larry if any city can not provide these three basic things then they need not be a city especially if they are selling bonds for a theater/community center and 40 units of low income housing, as well as building signs with sheep that serve no profitable purpose or widespread community enhancement. I will repeat over 7 million lost over 30 years for the bonds. Here we are 3 years later and have nothing to show for it other than many checks written to RSG and Rutan and Tucker.

    I think the state and LAFCO would step in. That would be years from now.

    Other powers start to look closely at a municipality that can’t provide for the protection of its citizens. People like DOJ, LAFCO, etc.

    I guess a good thought experiment might be to ask what happens to the parcel assessment should the TPFD fold. Since it was voted in to be paid to the water district for fire protection and then there is no more TPFD but rather a county entity steps in can the money legally go to the county?

    My research indicates that the parcel assessment could cease to be collected. The fire department folds. Then the city is on the hook to provide fire services or face disincorporation.

  13. Bottom line, Steve, if after the 2014 elections the council is continues on with Harris or Mintz (klink is not up for reelection) it’s Patrick Munoz call to tell them what to do. We already know the council hasn’t a problem breaking laws with their Brown act violations and ignoring the Dof, the AG, California Codes and judicial decisions).

    “Americans should not be asked to trust their government if they are not receiving effective and efficient public services”. Paul Cook, Newsletter (4-1-14).

    Likely, this is the most important elections in the entire history of this city.

    If a ratepayer’s parcel tax proposal fails to get a 2/3 majority then it’s back in the laps of the council. As we know, they stonewalled for a year on public safety in terms of possibly partnering with the TPWD/TPF. Then they voted “Not to get involved in water business.”

    Harris, Klink, and Mintz are all okay with an underfunded, inadequate and downsized fire department. This gives them a continuing flow of money for their candy store adventures. This is something pulled from thin air… the facts speak for themselves.

    People are still scratching their heads at the hypocrisy of Dan Mintz and Jim Harris. During a TPWD public hearing discussing the future of the fire department over a year ago, Harris sauntered up to the podium and said, “I SUPPORT THE FIRE DEPARTMENT”.

    Later he voted to not get involved. The problem with Harris is that he self-righteously “charges off in the wrong direction” without fully being aware of where he is going. Pretty awful when public servants don’t want to get involved in public safety.

    Mintz met informally with 2 TPWD officials in a casual setting but then obstreperously refused to disclose what they discussed. They guy is in constant stealth mode. Mintz is not a representative of the public. He has his own agenda and is a public official for himself and those local special interests. The record reflect the same.

    • Steve Spear Steve Spear says:

      Hi Branson,

      It appears this issue is important. To date over 1300 people have read the post and the comments, By far the majority, have favored the thoughts and my response to the comments made.

      Something strange has happened. lets discuss your thoughts on the councilmembers that are up for re-election.

      Mintz is thought to be a supporter of the fire department in private but his actions in public are contrary to that thought.

      Harris is thought to be a supporter of the fire department but his position changes with whom he talks to and when.

      Why they have done what they have done is for them to answer and explain come this election cycle. However it is becoming very clear to many that both Mintz and Harris are not what they appear to be when it comes to the important questions of public safety.

      Neither of them have offered a single thought or idea about how to provide for the safety of the public.

      Neither of them ever writes a letter to editor or responds to the questions posed to them on this blog.

      Neither of them will engage a citizen in debate at a council meeting when they can, but do not, because Patrick Munoz has them believing things that are not true.

      Time for change – you betcha!

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