Forced Fire Annexation Prompts Cable, Longest CofC Member To Bolt Chamber

The City of Upland’s move to close out its 111-year-old municipal fire department and annex both itself and neighboring San Antonio Heights into a county fire service agency has one of the area’s leading citizens hopping mad.
Bob Cable, the grandson of Cable Airport founder Dewey Cable, has renounced the airport’s membership in the Upland Chamber of Commerce. Cable Airport was, until Cable posted a letter of withdrawal this week, the longest remaining member of the chamber, having originally logged on with the organization after its inception in 1945.
Cable Airport left the chamber because it had obsequiously supported the city in jettisoning the fire department. Bob Cable said he intends the withdrawal to be more than a symbolic show of protest. He and other members of the community are formulating a strategy to challenge the changeover that will move along procedural, political and legal trajectories.
Last year the Upland City Council gave assent to studying a proposal to annex the Upland Fire Department and transfer its fire stations, personnel and assets into San Bernardino County’s Valley Fire Service Zone. By the time that proposal was fully worked up by the staff for the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission so it could be submitted to the commission itself, it had been altered to include annexing not just the 15.65 square miles within the Upland City Limits but the unincorporated community of San Antonio Heights which lies to the city’s north. Despite some opposition from Upland residents and the overwhelming opposition of residents in San Antonio Heights, the LAFCO Board approved the annexation. As part of the takeover, property owners in Upland as well as within San Antonio Heights will have to pay an annual $152.68 per parcel assessment that is subject to a three percent per year increase. Residents were given the opportunity to stop the annexation, but only through the process of a protest vote. That protest vote has to be lodged by residents in the form of a letter of protest. In this way, anyone who does not mail in such a letter of protest will be deemed to have assented to the annexation. The window to register a protest runs from today, May 12, thought June 14, 2017. Protest forms must be filled out and dated between those two dates in order to qualify.
Bob Cable, like his father, uncles and grandfather before him, is a figure of some stature in Upland, where Cable Airport is an institution. His wife was the first female deputy fire chief with the Upland Fire Department and he was current Upland Mayor Debbie Stone’s campaign manager when she ran for city council the first time in 2011, when she defeated longtime Upland Police Chief Marty Thouvenell. Last year, however, Thouvenell was brought in to serve as interim city manager in the immediate aftermath of the forced departure of Rod Butler. Thouvenell has remained in the interim city manager’s position for more than nine months.
Butler told the Sentinel last month that he believes he was given his walking papers last July because he had insisted on taking a cautious and methodical approach toward several municipal service outsourcing proposals, one of which was arranging for the county’s fire division to subsume the municipal fire department. Thouvenell had been, for a short period of time in the 1990s, interim acting city manager and interim fire chief while simultaneously serving as police chief. But his heart lay with the police department and upon his assumption of the acting city manager’s role last year, Thouvenell evinced sufficient support for the fire department dissolution plan but quickly terminated any serious discussion of bringing in the sheriff’s department to replace the police department in Upland.
Many Upland community members, including Cable, sense there was some sleight of hand in selling the fire department outsourcing concept. One of the city’s talking points was that eliminating the municipal fire department would streamline operations, provide for an economy of scale, make operations more efficient and save money. Nevertheless, after all has been said and done, it now appears that Upland residents will be paying $150 per year for fire service they are already paying for through property and sales taxes. Property and sales taxes in the City of Gracious Living will not be reduced in the aftermath of the county fire department takeover. For San Antonio Heights residents, the proposed arrangement is particularly galling because they are already receiving fire protection service from the county fire division because they reside in an unincorporated county area. They too are being called upon to now pay for a service they were previously receiving as a consequence of their payment of property tax, which they will continue to pay after the $150 per year assessment is imposed on them.
“I am no longer supporting the city,” Cable said. “The more I do the more that comes back to bite me. For everything I have done to support the city, they respond by giving me absolutely no support. I am no longer supporting the county. I am no longer supporting the chamber.”
He indicated his belief that the chamber has departed from its role of being a voice of the business community to keep a check on governmental excess, overregulation and strangling taxation and has now become a municipal lapdog.
“Welcome to the People’s Republic of Upland,” he said. “You can’t make decisions for yourself anymore.”
The residents of the city have been betrayed by their political leadership, he said, and his role as a rebel was foisted on him. “I did not draw a line in sand, but it is there now,” Cable lamented. “It is deep. This is the single most outrageous violation of my constitutional rights, ever. I honestly feel violated, totally violated. This is taxation by annexation.”
As an owner of one of the city’s largest businesses and as a resident of San Antonio Heights, Cable is acutely sensitive to the situation.
Residents who have made inquiries about the financial element of the annexation plan have been met with doubletalk, Cable said. “The county fee structure has been analyzed and they have justified everything, so that it is not a ‘tax,’” he said. “The fee structure is way higher than Cable Airport is paying now, at 20 percent more than all of the taxes we paid. They increased the fee structure by 20 percent without a vote. What they are doing is adding 17 pages of new fire protection fees and the fire protection fee schedule that comes with the annexation will increase the current fees by an average of 400 percent. The city can’t do the math. The city has no fee structure analysis. They would rather just have the county do it. The county has done the analysis and has justified jacking up costs and adjusting the fees upwards.”
Gouging residents for increased fees is less important than the negative impact the changeover will have on public safety, Cable said.
“The proposal, if passed, will permanently close Upland Fire Station #162, which is located on San Antonio Avenue by 20th Street,” Cable said. “This will cause increased emergency response times to the residents located around this permanently closed fire station, and may increase homeowners’ insurance costs due to there being a greater distance between many homes from what will be their now-closest fire station, Fire Station #12 at Euclid Avenue and 24th Street. If this proposal passes, San Antonio Heights Fire Station #12 will be covering the entire northwest area of Upland, due to the permanent closure of Upland Fire Station #162. San Antonio Heights Fire Station #12 already covers the entire area of San Antonio Heights and Mt. Baldy and now they would be adding the entire northwest area of Upland. This can equal a much slower response time for both San Antonio Heights residents and City of Upland residents.”
Cable told the Sentinel, “I want people to know they can pick up and drop off protest forms at Cable Airport.”
-Ruth Musser-Lopez in Upland and Mark Gutglueck in San Bernardino

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