FRAZIER PARK, Calif. (Friday, Oct. 31) — Following a week full of political mailers about paramedic services in Pine Mountain, The Mountain Enterprise has found that a consultant for Hall Ambulance Service was behind a misinformation campaign aimed at voters who will decide the firefighter-paramedic issue on Tuesday’s ballot, known as Measure K. Passage of the measure would create a tax of $70 per year for funding firefighter-paramedic services.
Gene Tackett, who operates Gene Tackett Consulting Services in Bakersfield is a former Kern County supervisor and consultant to Hall Ambulance Service and other private ambulance companies.
Tackett acknowledged Friday, Oct. 31, during a telephone call with The Mountain Enterprise that he was responsible for the political mailers which flooded the mailboxes of Pine Mountain voters. Reporters also confirmed he had secured the Pine Mountain voters mailing list from the Kern County office of elections. When a reporter told him the mailers were slick, Tackett said, “Thank you, I always appreciate a compliment.”
We asked about factual errors and misinformation on the mailers. Tackett hung up on the reporter.
“Yes On Measure K” organizers have pointed out numerous half-truths and untruths that appear designed to confuse voters.
•“Measure K is not Advanced Life Support Care” one mailer says. This is false. The funding approved by voters under Measure K will pay for full-time, 24-hour a day, seven day a week Advanced Life Support (ALS) paramedics for $70 a year per parcel.
In 2007 Hall Ambulance told Supervisor Ray Watson they want $125 a year from each parcel in Pine Mountain to provide a local ambulance. They also said they want a rent-free facility for their business and personnel, built by using another $500,000 from Pine Mountain taxpayers’ CSA-40 fund. Pine Mountain residents rejected that plan.
On Tuesday, Nov. 4, voters will decide whether their village will be the first in Kern County to be served by a county-run firefighter-paramedic service in addition to the current ambulance service. Two-thirds of the voters must choose “Yes” for Measure K to pass.
The political mailers were from “Property Owners Against Unfair Taxes,” with a Voltaire Drive address in which Rick Scott, who said he worked for Hall Ambulance for 20 years, sometimes lives. Scott is not the property owner, according to county records. Tackett lives in Bakersfield. He ran a similar campaign in year 2000 using a similar name, “Property Owners Against Excessive Bond Measures,” for which he received $5,000 for consulting, according to state documents.
The Mountain Enterprise contacted Hall Ambulance’s Mark Corum on Wednesday, Oct. 29 to ask whether Hall Ambulance was involved in the mailings. Corum said, “No, I didn’t send it out. Who does it say it’s from?” and “I don’t know anything about it.”
Other misleading statements in the mailers include:
•“Measure K does not have the Support of the Kern County Fire Department.” This is false. Chief Dennis Thompson said in the October Town Hall Forum: “We already have the program developed and ready to go. We are enthusiastic about providing this service. We can be ready within 60 days.” He added that the fire department cannot officially say it supports any ballot measure because it is a county department.
•“Say no to a Part Time Paramedic Program.” This is false. Paramedics will be on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, three shifts a day with certified Advanced Life Support personnel, according to KCFD officials. Over 30 paramedics are already employed by KCFD training other firefighters and “all are eager to come up here,” fire officials said.
•“Measure K will not Change Response Time to Pine Mountain Club.” This is false. The KCFD has a proven record of arrival, often in less than 10 minutes to medical aid calls. The ambulance takes 25 minutes or longer from Frazier Park. Thompson has promised the paramedic stationed here will not leave the area, and a backfill paramedic will be called in when needed. The difference is that Advanced Life Support firefighter-paramedics will be able to stabilize heart and brain function while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.
• Misuse of Chief Thompson’s statement at a February 12 Board of Supervisors meeting implies he opposes Measure K. Thompson has told the community many times that he intends to establish a firefighter-paramedic program in Pine Mountain before he retires.
The Kern County Grand Jury in May 2007 said Pine Mountain needs a 24/7 paramedic for public safety.
Advocates emphasize that Measure K is not an anti-ambulance measure. It is a public-safety measure. Hall Ambulance Service would still provide transport to the hospital and would still be required to arrive within the time required by current Kern County performance standards.
—Reported by Patric Hedlund and Gary Meyer
This is part of the October 31, 2008 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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