It Takes A Village and Sometimes Two or Three or...
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It Takes A Village and Sometimes Two or Three or...

Several years back the concept of "it takes a village to raise a child" came again to the forefront in our society. During my time on the Council, a significant portion of which has been during some really lean times, we have thought about this proverb as it relates to the operations of our City and this year, we are looking at it in ways that can change the very fabric of our City.

Several years ago, as a result of some great leadership by our staff, we began the process of merging the administrative services section of our Fire Department with the City of San Mateo. That has been an unmitigated success, with the City of Belmont now participating in that effort. This could not have been done without excellent leadership at the very top of our Fire Department and the foresight and hard work of each and every firefighter. I thank them for that.

Recently, we completed a pilot study of sharing a fire truck between the three cities. For those of you who do not know the basics in fire fighting – I have to admit that until I was on the Council I did not – fire engines are what fight fires and are equipped with pumps, hoses and the like and fire trucks supplement that effort with additional supplies and firefighters that they bring to larger fires and more significant events. However, fire trucks alone do not have the necessary equipment to fight a fire.

In just a few weeks we, as your Council, are going to hear about the results of that pilot study and, I believe, likely to be asked to decide if we should make it more or less permanent. Safety will, of course, be our primary focus, but assuming that safety will not be compromised, this change will have significant impact, not only financially, but in the way we operate our City though operational adoption of a shared services model.

The fact is that we live in a County that has only about 750,000 people and there is a great amount of redundancy in what we do and the services we provide in each of our cities. Clearly, sharing how we provide those services will, by eliminating the redundancy, allow us to offer the same services, or even improved services, at lower costs.

In furtherance of that effort we are now in the process of setting up a committee that will initially have on it the Mayors and City Managers of Foster City, San Mateo and Belmont and while we will start with fire service operations, it is our hope that we will eventually talk about other shared services models that we can each bring back to our respective City Councils for discussion and possible implementation. One area where I can see an immediate benefit is a purchasing coalition. We all know that the success of businesses such as Walmart come from the purchasing power they have. We should take advantage of the same economies of scale and can do so only by working together.

Each city wants to maintain a level of autonomy and self-governance and I am not suggesting that we give that up. Foster City has distinguished itself over the years, much as other cities have, in taking certain actions that other cities did not. That, however, should not stop us from cooperating and unifying with other cities, both within and outside our County, when such cooperation provides mutual benefits to all. Fire service changes are not the only way this has been happening and we are not the only cities to look at these issues, but I believe that the time to move forward with all due haste is now, while the overall economy is improving, so that when we hit the next bump in the road, we are already prepared for it.

Those are my thoughts. You can always share your ideas with me by email at or call me at (650) 286-3504.

Council Corner

April 09, 2014
It Takes A Village and Sometimes Two or Three or...

City Hall - 610 Foster City Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
(650) 286-3200