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Firefighters, Deputies And Citizens Walk To Support Measure L

MADERA COUNTY – A group of firefighters, deputies and citizens took to the streets on Saturday to engage the community in the conversation about Measure L. They believe strongly that if residents know all the facts about the measure, they will support it.

Nearly two dozen people gathered at the Maywood Center on Ave. 12 to “walk, knock and talk” with residents about the proposed Public Safety Sales Tax slated for the Mar. 7 special election.

The supporters went door-to-door to talk about the measure, joined by two Madera County Supervisors – Tom Wheeler from the mountain area, and Brett Frazier, whose district includes the Madera Ranchos. All five supervisors are in favor of Measure L.

One firefighter of local note for the mountain area was Sean Bowe, Station Captain at Madera County Fire Station 12 in Oakhurst, who has lived in the Ranchos since 1976.

“I want people to know that this measure is 100 percent about public safety,” said Bowe. “If this passes, not only will we double our staffing, we’ll add three fire stations and response times will be cut in half. For the first time I can honestly say I’m proud of being a Madera County fireman, and proud of the way we’re headed.”

Bowe began his career as a Paid Call Firefighter (PCF – or Volunteer) in 1996, joined Cal Fire in 2002, and was promoted to Captain at Station 12 in November 2015.

Currently there is only one firefighter on duty at the Oakhurst station at any given time. While they do have a PCF program, Bowe says there are only three people participating, and two of them are over the age of 60.

Bowe says this is not a political issue, it’s a public safety issue, and he is deeply concerned about what will happen if the measure doesn’t pass.

“The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) requires two people on an engine. What if Cal Fire says, ‘We’re not putting our firefighters in danger anymore. We’re done.’ Then Madera County would be a completely volunteer fire department, and if people think taxes are high now, wait until that happens.”

Bowe says he is a conservative, and hates taxes, and is also “not a big fan of the way the Board of Supervisors has handled the money.”

“But this is about public safety,” he says. “Don’t let your negativity about those 5 people take away from the safety of 80,000. This is about you, and you, and you and me. We won’t get another chance; we’ll never, ever again have five supervisors lined up in support to get this passed.”

District 1 Supervisor Brett Frazier agrees with Bowe’s assessment of the public’s view of the Board of Supervisors, and notes that this isn’t about what past Boards have done; it’s about what this Board is working hard to correct.

“Obviously for some people it’s not about being against the deputies or the firefighters, it’s about being against us,” said Frazier, who was elected to the Board in 2015. “For that I apologize. But I’m a conservative, and I believe this is a conservative tax. And we’ve made sure this is a dedicated tax, which takes a lot more to pass; it takes a two-thirds vote.

“We don’t want future Boards of Supervisors, or even our current Board, to start changing around what we can spend the money on. If we want this to be a public safety tax, that’s exactly what we mean. It goes to public safety and improves the safety of our residents and our firefighter and deputies. It’s not a slush fund.”

Frazier said he was proud to be out walking side-by-side with supporters of Measure L, even though it may cost him politically.

“I’m at odds with my own party right now because of this, but if that means that I never get elected to another office or another term as Supervisor because I stood with you men and women, then I’d rather be a private citizen who stood up for what I believe in.”

The issue of ISO ratings was also addressed – what might be the effect on homeowners’ insurance rates? One thing everyone can agree upon, says Frazier — “if this passes, it could lower rates. We can’t say for certain that it will. But if this doesn’t pass, we do know for certain that rates won’t go down.”

As for the Sheriff’s Office and the lack of adequate patrols, people in the Ranchos complain daily about not having enough deputies, says Frazier.

“Homes are broken into, mailboxes ripped off, packages stolen off your front porch — they can’t respond to all those calls. More deputies in the mountains gives them better service there, and keeps our deputies on the valley floor so they don’t have to run up there every time there’s an incident. It just makes service delivery a lot better for everyone.”

As the group discussed the issues they would touch on as they canvassed the neighborhood, one matter of great import was assuring residents that no money would go to the cities of Madera or Chowchilla.

“We want to make sure people know this is only for the unincorporated areas,” said Frazier. “The money stays out here where it’s needed. The cities have voted for their own public safety tax. They won’t benefit from this measure.”

He also wants residents to be clear that there will be a Citizen’s Oversight Committee to ensure the money is spent where it is intended; there will be an annual audit and complete local control over the revenue.

“If you don’t like what the Board of Supervisors does, then vote for this measure, because then you will have actual control over where your tax dollars go,” said Frazier. “People just need to read the measure, and let the facts take them to a conclusion. Once they understand it, they’ll support it.”

To learn more about Measure L, visit http://madera-county.com/Proposed-Public-Safety-Sales-Tax.htm

Saturday’s event was sponsored by Citizens, Firefighters and Deputies For Measure L 2017.

For a list of public forums scheduled by the committee, click here.

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