PRESIDENT'S PERSPECTIVE  |  LOU PAUSON

 

  LOU PAULSON

MOVING FORWARD IN 2017

At the ballot box, and on the fire ground, 2016 was an eventful year for the men and women that keep California safe. 

Across the state, nearly 600,000 acres were consumed by massive wildfires, despite promises that an El Niño would break the grip of the historic drought California faced for the past five years. The winter rains came and went, and still, California’s firefighters answered the call. 

As we enter 2017, we can be sure that they will be asked to do so again, understanding that our state has entered a “new normal” and that its firefighters must be ready to face a fire season that is now a year-round event. 

At the ballot box, a different kind of mobilization was required of our membership.

In communities from San Diego to Redding, our firefighter locals stood behind candidates that stood with them on the issues that matter most to firefighters – staffing, on-the-job safety and retirement security. In an overwhelming majority of these endorsements, the candidate backed by the local was elected to office, a sign of just how strong the firefighter voice resonates with the public.

We’ve long known the value of our endorsement and do not take the responsibility of granting it lightly.

You’ve read it in the pages of this paper many times in the past - California Professional Firefighters makes its recommendations on firefighter issues, and firefighter issues alone.

When California’s firefighters weigh in on a contest, we take stock of every credible candidate – Democrats and Republicans. In the end, we endorse candidates who have the best interest of California’s first responders in mind. Should the candidate be successful, we back up our endorsements with the promise we give all of our candidates: We stand with those who stand with us.

Perhaps nowhere better is there an embodiment of this endorsement relationship than now United States Senator Kamala Harris.

For years, Harris has stood alongside California firefighters, fending off attacks on public employees from anti-labor hardliners and ideologues hell-bent on gutting retirement security for millions. 

In 2011, when public officials in San Carlos were threatening to outsource the city’s fire and emergency services to the Wackenhut firm, Harris, who recognized both the value of public jobs and the overall safety of the community, issued a legal opinion that effectively took privatization off the table for every general law city in the state.

Harris had the back of firefighters once again when, in the run-up to the 2014 election, she correctly noted that Chuck Reed’s statewide pension initiative would “eliminate constitutional protections for vested pensions” when authoring the measure’s official title and summary. Reed’s failed legal challenge over the language eventually led to the measure being pulled from the ballot.

Incidents such as these are why CPF backed Harris for Senate, as well as why all firefighters can breathe a bit easier knowing they now have a friend in Washington.

The ink on the 2016 election results has only been dry for a few months now, but already, California Professional Firefighters has its sights set on the next major series of contests in 2018. In that year, we’ll elect a new governor, one who will hold tremendous sway over the fate of California public employees, and could prove a valuable counterbalance to an administration in Washington D.C. that is signaling itself to be anything but friendly to labor. 

When it comes time to endorse in that contest, you can bet that our metric will be the same as it’s always been. 

Stand with us, and we’ll stand with you.