Editorial: Our recommendations for the Menlo Park fire board


Four excellent candidates are running for three seats in the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, which also includes Atherton, west Menlo Park, North Fair Oaks and East Palo Alto.

Incumbent Peter Carpenter of Atherton has decided not to seek re-election. Incumbent Chuck Bernstein and appointed incumbent Robert Jones are running along with challengers Jim McLaughlin, a retired CHP chief, and Sean Ballard, the CEO of an investment consulting firm.

All four are thoroughly knowledgeable about the district’s affairs and would make good choices for voters.

Chuck Bernstein

Bernstein, who constantly studies the district’s $55 million annual budget, has been the contrarian on the five-member board. He voted against firefighter contracts in 2015 and the most recent one in August. The August contract gave the district’s firefighters, who are already among the best paid in the state, a 22% increase over five years.

Bernstein is the least likely member of this board to simply rubber-stamp a recommendation from the district’s chief. He likes to analyze the details and make his own recommendations. Every elected board needs a check and balance. Bernstein serves as a check on the fire district board and should be re-elected.

Jim McLaughlin

McLaughlin is truly an impressive candidate given his years of experience moving up the ranks in the CHP. Before retiring, he headed the CHP’s Planning and Analysis Division, and the skills he brought to that job will make him a strong contributor to the fire district’s board.

He also studied the district in depth as a member of the San Mateo County civil grand jury, which determined the fire agency had failed to produce a multiyear strategic plan and hadn’t been successful in obtaining impact fees to cover the expenses related to growth in east Menlo Park.

Rather than just criticizing, McLaughlin wants to put his skills to work to create a long-term plan that will help the district deal with population growth.

Robert Jones

Robert Jones was appointed to the board in October 2017 to replace Rex Ianson, who moved out of the district. Jones is the board’s first East Palo Alto resident in 14 years and its first African-American member in its 101-year history. EPA has about the same population as Menlo Park, but Menlo Park residents have dominated the board for years.

Jones is executive director of the East Palo Alto Community Alliance and Neighborhood Development Organization or EPA CAN DO, a low-income housing nonprofit. Jones has also been involved with the East Palo Alto Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, and has helped increase its membership and outreach efforts.

In his time on the board, Jones has been well prepared for meetings and has avoided the drama that sometimes ensnares other members. It’s imperative that Jones remain on the board so that people on the east side of the district have a representative from their community.

The Post is pleased to recommend Bernstein, McLaughlin and Jones.

We were impressed by Sean Ballard, who has been involved in CERT and currently sits on the district’s strategic plan committee. We hope he runs in 2020 when two more seats on the board are up for grabs.