Fire district offers valuable service
I am an Oakland hills fire survivor and have been very involved with prevention efforts ever since. The Wildfire Prevention Assessment District was originally formed in response to the massive fires of 1991 that killed 25 people and destroyed 3,000 homes in the Oakland hills.
Since its establishment, due to the good work and stewardship of the district, Oakland has not had a significant devastating fire in the hills, while other communities that do not have a dedicated service district have experienced large fires.
In fact, earlier this spring we saw a wildfire rage in Idyllwild, which also had a fire in 2008; a fire in Joaquin Miller Park that destroyed the Sinawik Cabin but did not spread thanks to goat grazing in the park the week before; and more recently, the Morgan fire that destroyed 3,111 acres on Mount Diablo.
Over the past 10 years we've seen that regular fuel-reduction efforts can substantially reduce the risk of wildfires. We must replace Oakland's expiring measure to continue a dedicated source of funding where all funds raised will be spent in Oakland neighborhoods at high risk for wild fires and none of the funds can be used for other needs.
Voters within the borders of the current Wildfire Prevention District will receive a red envelope in the mail from the City of Oakland. We ask voters to vote yes on renewing the Wildfire Prevention District so that we can maintain the wildfire prevention services that help to protect our families and our homes. The risk of losing these services could be catastrophic.
Please mail back your ballot before the Nov. 13 deadline. For more details about the measure and how you can endorse and support its renewal, please visit www.keepoaklandfiresafe.org.
co-chair, Keep Oakland Firesafe 2013
Don't renew city's wasteful fire tax
On Sunday, I attended the pro-fire tax news conference at the Hiller Highlands Fire Memorial on the hillside, just west of the Caldecott Tunnel on Highway 24.
While listening to the speakers' rhetoric about the need to pass the tax to "reduce the fuel load" by cutting the dry brush and weeds in the hills, I couldn't help but gaze out to the hills surrounding the memorial -- and the large expanse of dry, waist-high weeds and brush covering the hillsides.
Clearly, the city's fire tax and the Wildlife Prevention Assessment District that they seek to continue isn't doing the job. It is painfully obvious that a better plan is needed. Don't be swayed by the hyperbole and fear tactics -- read the proposal and arguments in your mail ballot. Demand accountability and better use of our tax money. Vote no.
David E. Mix
Keep fire tax, end bad development
In light of the Sunday anniversary of the 1991 Oakland hills firestorm, the city's wrongheaded steps are increasing the chances of history repeating itself.
First, it has instituted firefighter furloughs: on a rotating basis Oakland firehouses are closed for three days every six weeks. This obviously can block a rapid response to a burning house or, as in 1991, a grass fire getting out of control.
At the same time, the city has adopted and interpreted zoning policies so that anything goes. It turns a blind eye to developers' potentially dangerous plans that cram multiple houses (and cars) onto already narrow, crowded streets, making emergency access and egress tougher.
This double-whammy increases the chances of another Charing Cross Road, where in 1991 a narrow street in the hills turned into a fatal bottleneck for many people trying to flee the firestorm.
Oakland is being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Sure, the furloughs offer budget savings. But these are dwarfed by the human and financial costs of fires. And yes, new houses yield new property tax revenues. But the unsafe, undesirable nature of unconstrained construction hurts the city's reputation, the value of existing homes and overall property tax revenue.
To help prevent potential fires, we should say yes to an immediate end of the furloughs and to an allotment tax for fire protection. And we should say no to shortsighted zoning policies interpreted to make another Charing Cross Road more likely.