Questions about fire assessment |

Questions about fire assessment

I have been following the Nevada County Consolidated Fire District fire assessment ballot with interest for over two weeks and found two comments in this opinion column of interest. First, Monday, Rey Johnson said, “This fee increase will be used in part for enhanced paramedic service.”

I am sorry, Rey, but it cannot. That would be against the law. I will explain in a moment.

And the second point was made by Chief Tim Fike in Monday’s column, who said, in part:

“Why didn’t you put this on the Nov. 2 election ballot? Again, our funding choices are limited. And due to the restrictions provided by tax and/or assessment laws, we chose the assessment method. This will allow the property owner, who has a vested interest, the opportunity to vote for the level of fire protection he or she wants.”

What he didn’t answer were a number of questions I have been asking him for weeks. I will repeat these question below so that he can answer them publicly.

What Chief Fike did not say was he was going for a “special benefit” assessment on real property under the terms of Proposition 218. That means that ONLY property owners vote, not the renters living in the houses. It also means that ANY property owner can vote, regardless of whether they would otherwise have a voter. A rich Arab in Saudi Arabia who owns property in the NCCFD area can vote while the renters in the house cannot. Finally, the vote is NOT one man /one vote – it is proportional to the amount of property an owner has. Why are we having such an unfair and undemocratic ballot?

And finally, Rey, the money raised may ONLY be used for the special benefit. That special benefit is an “average” six-minute response to a fire at the house. Medical emergencies are not included. They may not be funded out of the special benefit assessment. Proposition 218 is very clear on that. As a 62-year-old man, I share your concerns about medical emergencies.

In addition, I question the NON-secret ballot. You have to sign the ballot. However, that is clearly against Article II, Section 7 of the California Constitution, which says, “Voting shall be secret.” Still no answer from Chief Fike on this question.

Last, but not least, the ballots are being stored and counted by the NCCFD, which seems to me to smack of locking the hens up in the fox’s den at night.

I, like many others, am in favor of improved emergency services. But not done in this manner. This is not the American way of voting. I say, Let’s do it right! Let’s do it in an open, constitutionally correct ballot, in which ALL concerned parties may vote, including the RENTERS, for a tax, as this ballot should be. I urge all voters to join me in voting “NO,” not because you are opposed to the assessment, but to the way the ballot is being conducted. Vote NO. Then proudly sign the ballot as though you were signing the Declaration of Independence and write “Let’s do it RIGHT!” so those behind this abominable ballot get the message.


Paul Reilly was a longtime resident of Silicon Valley and worked for years in the technology world. Now retired, he lives with his three cats in Alta Sierra.

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