CPF District 1 represents the counties of San Bernardino, Riverside, San Diego, Imperial and Orange.
Palm Springs Firefighters Earn Clean Sweep on Election Day
Members of Palm Springs Professional Firefighters, Local 3601 had plenty to celebrate on Election Night, with voters handing down a series of decisions that will help set both the city and the local on the right path for years to come.
On November 8th, voters in Palm Springs sent both of Local 3601’s endorsed candidates, Christy Holstege and Lisa Middleton, to the City Council, shoring up a strong public safety majority on the Inland Empire community’s governing body.
“We had a pretty strong outcome in our previous council election, so it was vital for us to keep that momentum moving forward,” said Local 3601 President Jeff Kelsheimer. “Both Christy and Lisa were strongly committed to us early on, and we were happy to stand by them on Election Day.”
In addition to the council races, voters also approved a pair of tax measures that help secure vital funding for public safety in the coming years. The first, Measure D, represented a half-cent sales tax increase that’s projected to generate an additional $7 million for the city’s general fund. Throughout the campaign, city officials pledged to dedicate a large portion of these funds to fire and police services in Palm Springs. Measure D was ultimately approved by 57 percent of voters.
The second measure, known as Measure E, dealt with the city’s taxation structure for newly approved recreational cannabis facilities, and is expected to add new revenue to the roughly $1.5 million the city currently generated from cannabis taxes. Roughly 80 percent of voters cast a ballot in favor of Measure E.
“These measures, specifically Measure D, heavily favor public safety funding,” Kelsheimer said. “We’re happy that we were able to successfully make the case for these measures with our citizens.”
To help garner support for both their endorsed candidates and the two measures, Local 3601 engaged in a massive campaign effort, one that saw grassroots efforts paired with the work of local firms such as LG Campaigns and New Equity Productions.
“Our partners in these races were vital,” Kelsheimer said. “In the two months leading up to Election Day, our members were doing almost everything imaginable - walking precincts, writing articles, phone banking and more. It was a major effort, but, in the end, the results made it all worth it.”
Longtime Corona president calls it a career
When Jim Steiner went to work for Corona Fire Department in 1986, word got back that he might have some political skills. Almost before he was out of orientation, he was involved with Corona Firefighters Local 3757, first as a political action director and then as Local 3757’s president.
Over three decades of service to his city and his members ended this past June when Steiner retired from the department and from the local. But he looks back with pride on a legacy built on giving back, getting involved and working hard for his members.
“The culture of giving is part of our makeup … part of our members’ core. More than anything, that’s what I’m most proud of.”
When he was first elected president in 2002, Steiner approached his chief seeking to build bridges from the get-go.
“Instead of padding the war chest, my philosophy was to try to prevent the war from starting,” Steiner said. “That meant establishing strong labor-management cooperation agreements. That style also comes over to working with the city council and city manager … finding ‘win-wins’ wherever we could.”
That collaboration, backed by skilled and strategic political engagement, helped Local 3747 win contracts, elections and an engaged and supportive membership.
“First, the members saw how hard I was physically working … as a firefighter and as president,” Steiner said. “They also saw the victories. When the public was praising us, they said ‘this feels good.’”
Of course, the emphasis on cooperation did not mean Local 3757 backed away from a fight if need be. Backed by his membership, Steiner would direct resources whenever the local was threatened, wherever it came from.
“We had one chief who wasn’t quite on board with our labor-management cooperation,” he recalled. “We got rid of him.”
Steiner was also a fierce and visible advocate for retirement security and union solidarity. He worked as a CPF regional coordinator during statewide initiative campaigns to protect pensions and political rights. In 2016, CPF recognized his success and influence with the Dallas Jones Award for Political Action.
Steiner’s watch also saw expansion of Local 3757’s unique union-sponsored Auto Extrication Training. Begun in the 1970s, the annual training/union fund raiser became a visible and valuable resource not only for Corona firefighters but those from surrounding departments.
“It turned into a significant cooperative effort,” he said. “The fire chiefs agreed to pay our instructors, backfill them and cover them if they take a high-lift jack to the forehead. And it’s still an association fund-raiser, with the proceeds going back to our community work with kids.”
The experience of leading the union developed an appreciation for the solidarity at the heart of the union at every level. “Having the power of numbers and knowledge is a great advantage, and working with other locals through CPF and IAFF makes a huge difference,” Steiner said.
Asked to reflect on his 30 years in the fire service and the union, Steiner emphasized never forgetting who you work for. “We work for the people, so we should put our energy into protecting the people both on and off duty,” he concluded. “We’re always going to be in a battle – nobody’s going to give us anything. We win when we work together, stick together and put people first.”