Fire Board Race…On Fire

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Cochise County, Arizona, June, 2010

At our most recent Palominas/Hereford Tea Party meeting, Debbie and Tommy Stoner were passing out campaign literature to those who wanted it. You bet I grabbed a set. The Stoners are neighbors, one of their sons is quite a close neighbor, and this family is about as solid as they come. How solid? So solid that if a petition is being passed around and they are signing it, I’ll sign first and find out what it says later.

From the time Pam and I arrived in this area some 16 months ago, it was obvious something was rotten in the Palominas Fire Board. The tax rates we pay for service looked awfully high, for one thing. For another, Pam about had a seizure when she found out who is currently on the Board. See, my wife used to live in this area many years ago. She knew some of those names, one in particular, and what she had to tell me about that individual….

Let’s just say it was less than flattering.

Knowing all of that, I was one happy camper to see the heading on the papers I’d just picked up:

    DEBBIE and TOMMY STONER

    for PALOMINAS FIRE BOARD

Cool! We have longtime locals ready to step up, take the heat, walk the walk, carry the–hey, it was a real deal relief. See, I’d actually been asked if I’d like to run for that Board. Yee-ech! Politics? I’ll write about the stuff, okay? But do it? I couldn’t take one percent of the slop the Left throws at Sarah Palin, just for instance, without clocking somebody upside the head. Politician? I wouldn’t even do well as a garden variety celebrity, what with the first paparazzi who got in my face sporting a broken nose and various other battered body parts. Besides, the Stoners seemed to have their priorites pretty much in order.

    TAXES

    We will cut taxes!

    The Fire Board has the power to raise or lower your property taxes. The current Board has consistently raised your taxes. Currently the District budget is set at the maximum allowed by Arizona State Law. This is unacceptable and we will take action to protect you from over-taxation.

Debbie and Tommy Stoner, into the breach.

Debbie and Tommy Stoner, into the breach.

Fire Protection

Obviously, overcharging is one thing and being there to put out the fire is quite another. By the time I got done reading the Stoner campaign piece on fire protection per se, I’d learned the ins and outs of the local fire department politics like I’ve learned the ins and outs of the Founding Fathers from Glenn Beck. It took more than a few words for them to spell it out, because it turns out there is more out-of-bounds stuff going on in our Palominas Fire Department than we knew. Gotta admit it; some of this we didn’t even suspect!

    FIRE PROTECTION

    We will improve fire protection.

    We will take action to stop spending your tax dollars for services in neighboring Fire Districts. Currently, approximately half of all services provided by our Fire District are provided to people outside of our District who do not pay taxes to support our District. We support assisting neighboring Districts when they are overwhelmed by a large fire; in return, they assist us when we have a large fire. However, we do not support spending half of our District’s funds for services outside of our Fire District.

Say what? What, did the current Board study under BOB? (That would be the Big Obama Book of burning taxpayers’ money.)

  Our Fire Board is doing WHAT with our money??!!


Our Fire Board is doing WHAT with our money??!!

In The Event Of Fire, Cross Fingers

With our fire folks buzzing off hither and yon, not exactly staying close to home in case we need ’em, how does that work if we’re having a hot time somewhere outside of the old town tonight, eh? Eh? Not so well, actually…but yes, Debbie and Tommy do address that:

    We will take action to increase the number of responders. In the past two years, the number of responders has been drastically reduced while the cost to you has increased severely. The District has done away with all volunteer firefighters and has replaced them with a vastly reduced number of full-time and reserve firefighters. The numbers vary over time, but the norm for many years was approximately 24 dedicated volunteers who were doing an excellent job. Currently, there are only 2 to 3 on-duty firefighters at any given time (depending on the time of day and who is on vacation) and approximately 10 reserve firefighteers.
    We will take action to make sure that you always have someone available to help out in your time of need. Currently the few on-duty firefighters that we have are often out of district. They are often on calls in the adjacent District. They are often many miles out of our District to do their daily work-outs. They are even allowed to travel out of district to eat meals while on duty. All these (and other situations) leave our District unprotected, and it is just a matter of time unil it will catch up with us and someone in need will not receive help in time.
"Honey, they sent what they had in the District, but...."

“Honey, they sent what they had in the District, but….”

Debbie And Tommy Who?

Some of what I’ve learned is pretty unsettling. Not long after we arrived in Cochise County and set up our campsite near the border, a neighbor did have a fire that totaled an old camp trailer. The only casualty involved a diamondback rattlesnake that crawled out when the flames got too hot and ran into the owner’s shovel–he didn’t dare leave it loose around their horses. Two Fire Department vehicles did show up fairly promptly.

But.

Yeah, they showed up, but they were barely crawling as they inched past our driveway, trying to figure out where the $*!)#!! the fire might actually be. (Hint: You could see the smoke.) Pam and I did wonder even then if the firefighters driving those rigs had received adequate training and/or had a dispatcher who had any clue whatsoever about the layout of our rural, dirt-track area.

    EXPERIENCE AND QUALIFICATIONS

    Debbie Stoner has over 15 years experience serving the people of the Palominas Fire District. She is a certified structural firefighter II, as well as a certified advanced wild land firefighter. For several years, she served as an emergency medical technician on the Palominas Fire District. In addition, she has served as dispatcher and other positions.

    Debbie has many years of experience operating her own childcare business. She is highly trained in caring for children and adults with special needs. Debbie has lived in the Palominas area since early childhood and is dedicated to serving the people and the Palominas Community.

    Tommy Stoner also has over 15 years experience serving the people of the Palominas Fire District. He is also a certified structural firefighter II, and a certified advanced wild land firefighter. He served as Assistant Chief of the Palominas Fire District for more than 10 years. He was instrumental in getting the enhanced 911 system implemented in the Palominas area years ahead of the original scheduled implementation date.

    Tommy has a degree in Computer Information Systems and is employed by a prominent company in the area. He also owns and operates a heavy equipment rental business that serves the residents of Palominas and Hereford . Tommy was born in Hereford , and is also dedicated to serving people and the Palominas Community.

Wow. You’ve all heard that old saying, the one that says, “If you want to get something done, ask a busy person”. Not only that, but when I was admiring their impressive home last night, Tommy informed me that they built that, too. Not entirely by themselves, he admitted, but still. But wait! Like the infomercials say, there’s more!

    Both Debbie and Tommy consistently attend the District Board Meetings and are well educated in every aspect of the operations of the Palominas Fire District. They are also knowledgeable in the laws governing fire districts in Arizona . Together they have been standing up for everyone’s rights to view public records, and have been working diligently to insure that the rights of the public are upheld during District Meetings.

    Debbie and Tommy are the parents of 10 children, many of whom have also served as firefighters in the Palominas Fire District.

    Debbie and Tommy Stoner are dedicated to improving the Palominas Fire District and defending Palominas and Hereford residents from being over-taxed and under-protected.

    Debbie and Tommy Stoner have the experience, education, and dedication that far exceed that of other Fire District Board Member candidates.

    WE WILL WORK FOR YOU

    You own the Fire District. Your taxes buy the equipment and pay the bills. You deserve to have Board Members who protect you and your pocketbook.

    We ask for your support on Election Day, November 2, 2010, so we can work for you.

    DEBBIE STONER and TOMMY STONER

Did you catch that? Those little throwaway lines near the end? Things like, “Oh, by the way, we raised 10 kids and fought for your rights while we were at it.” Being a huge fan of the Kim Possible cartoon series, I could just hear redheaded teen superhero Kim telling someone who owed her a huge favor, “No big!”.

For them, maybe. Me, I couldn’t ride one side of that bronc with steel cables tying my tail to the saddle. But I can do one thing. I can vote for both of them on November 2nd. If you happen to live in the Palominas Fire District, hey, you can, too.

If you don’t live in this area, you can still remember the Stoners, remember that this is what the Tea Party is about, what America is about. Wherever you live in the Land of the Free, this year you can find people of similar caliber on your precinct’s ballot. You can figure out who they are, figure out which candidates are not quite what they claim to be and which candidates are truly stepping up to the plate.

Remember in November.

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Update From Sprinkler For Truth

The following text turned out to be worth publishing but just too long for a comment, so I’m adding another section to the post. It’s knocking a hole in my available time tonight that is proving to be a bit of a challenge, so please note: Any additional comments of great length that beg rebuttal as such will probably be denied. At this point, everyone seems to have pretty much had their say. Early voting is already ongoing. Let’s focus on voter turnout now, folks, and go from there.

Anyway, just this morning, a reader saw this article and was inspired to call me.

Yes, I said “call me”. We’ve known each other for more than twenty years, and this 80-something old lady (I’d never have the nerve to ask the specific age) is a real firecracker. She’s also a lifelong Palominas resident and (as I discovered) knows more about politics in Cochise County than the ghost of Cochise himself. A few years back, she discovered the joys of surfing the Internet…but she doesn’t comment online.

“I’ve got some information for you, Ghost,” she began, “But you’ll have to come and get it.”

When I saw what it was, I told her, “Looks like you’re my source, sort of like when they broke Watergate.”

She laughed like crazy. “You go and call me Deep Throat online, I’ll skin you one-handed.” So she settled on a name that could still, I think, be taken more than one way. But I wasn’t going to argue. Not with this woman. Here, then, is a direct, verbatim typing-in of the info she handed me, a report from:

Sprinkler for Truth

Who says:

In response to Josh Vander Veen, candidate for Palominas Fire Board.

The following figures were taken from the “SALARIES/WAGES” line of the Palominas Fire District “Maintenance and Operating” spreadsheet provided by the District’s Accountant.

MONTH……….BUDGET YR 08/09…………BUDGET YR 09/10…………INCREASE

July…………………$33,563.24…………………….$40,976.91……………….$7,413.67

August…………….$33,408.76…………………….$37,628.46……………….$4,219.70

September………$31,156.85…………………….$52,518.33………………$21,361.48

October…………..$46,170.30…………………….$62,665.34……………..$16,495.04

November……….$31,046.65……………………..$37,671.97………………$6,625.32

December……….$39,185.74……………………..$49,191.88……………..$10,00614

January…………..$30,015.21……………………..$38,012.49………………$7,797.28

February…………$32,731.97……………………..$42,952.84……………..$10,220.87

March……………..$33,701.36…………………….$39,911.73……………….$6,210.37

April…………………No Data………………………..$53,721.50…………………….???

May…………………No Data…………………………$40,214.28…………………….???

June……………….$38,12.90………………………….No Data……………………..???

In the 9 months that data was readily available, there was an increase in spending for “SALARIES/WAGES” of $90,549.87 from the previous year. Board Member Josh Vander Veen, running for reelection, wrote on Ghost32’s page,

“I have sat on the Board for the last year, and I believe we have done some great things for Palominas. In the last year we have slashed costs…This has saved us all about $32,000 since February 2010….”

I don’t think so.

As the above data clearly indicates, every month for which data is available shows an increase in pay, not a savings. I’m a suspicious old bird, so I think the months where numbers are mysteriously not to be found are probably even worse. Even taking just a rough average and projecting that forward gives us a “bump” from 08/09 to 09/10 of something like $220,000. In case you’re mathematically challenged, I’ll put it another way: That’s a 51% increase in wages in one year.

Shame on you, young man. You’re either a fibber or a gullible foil for someone far more devious. In either case, for shame.

I happen to be in a position to know you weren’t around when Tommy Stoner, as Assistant Fire Chief, would leave his paying job at the drop of a hat to protect the citizens of Palominas in a Board approved vehicle supplied for his use so he could respond in a timely fashion. It was in fact a hand-me-down vehicle of nominal cost which, by the way, now just sits at the fire station doing no one any good. Did you know that?

Mr. Vander Veen, I would also like to caution you about impugning the character of those you do not know well. Tommy and Debbie Stoner are two of the finest people I’ve known on this good planet Earth, and I’ve known them virtually from birth. Can you say as much?

I’m starting to get irritated now. My doctor tells me that’s not wise, so I’ll stop here with one final thought:

Could your less than credible comments have been at least partially inspired by your own desire to win reelection in a contested race for the Fire Board? I’d like to think better of you than that, but it does make me wonder enough to switch my vote. Yes, I was going to vote for you. Now I’m not. No, it won’t matter what else you might say. I’ve made up my mind. Yes, it’s true that I’m only one vote. It’s also true that I’m a stubborn old she-goat, that I have a very big mouth, and that I know almost everyone in the Palominas area.

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Update: October 6, 2013

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This post has just been moved from another site (where I wrote for nearly six years but did not own the site) to Ghost32writer (which I do own). The comments, and there were dozens of them, had to be left behind. However, since both Stoners did win on Election Day (along with Debbie Stoner later defeating a recall effort) and since the page continues to get views, the basic page has been transferred.

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