Local News

Sunday, May 06 2012 02:00 PM

Ask The Californian: Why can fire fighters wade through traffic seeking donations?

By The Bakersfield Californian

Q: Why or how is it that folks dressed as firemen are able to obstruct traffic, walk in the center dividers and cross streets without the use of crosswalks to approach moving traffic asking for donations? Somebody is going to get killed. I'm sure it's a worthwhile project but so are hundreds of others.

-- Mark Price

A: Turns out a state law specifically allows this activity. Here's the scoop from Bakersfield police Sgt. Mary Degeare, whom we turned to because we assumed the police would handle such situations:

Business & Professions Code 17510.25 (a) allows for firefighters or other public safety employees to raise money for charity exactly in this fashion. The provision is limited to public safety employees and therefore a private person would not be able to participate in similar activity.

Although the B&P section allows for public safety employees to solicit charitable funds in this manner, it does not include a liability exemption; therefore the soliciting agency is required to have its own liability insurance.

Bourne of Senate Bill 582, this code was enacted in 2007 as a result of legislation brought forth by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), California Professional Firefighters (CPF) and the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) specifically on behalf of the "Fill the Boot" fundraising campaign to enable its continuing success, despite other codes or local ordinances that would prohibit the manner in which this particular fundraising event is run.

The "Fill the Boot" fundraising event is not just local; it is an annual International campaign involving fire fighter associations in the United States and Canada.

According to the MDA, the IAFF started their commitment to the MDA in 1954 and over the past 58 years have raised more than $475 million solely through this event.

Q: I am a no party preference (previously called decline to state) voter. Recently I received a form from the county elections office asking which one of only two party ballots I wanted to have for the June primary election.

How can there be an open primary as voters enacted if party panjandrums prevent open access to all ballots, thus disenfranchising independents? It's a contradiction in terms. What's the story?

-- Chris Bagdikian

A: We turned to Kern County elections chief Karen Rhea, who said:

When California voters enacted Proposition 14, it did create voter-nominated races for all formerly partisan races that it was in our power to effect.

The presidential race is governed by federal law and it is not in our power to change the way in which a presidential candidate is nominated. The card he received specifically indicated that this was only in reference to the presidential race.

Q: At night as I drive around Bakersfield, I notice so many street lights that are not working. Why doesn't the city fix them?

-- Jesse Lee Pond

A: Nick Fidler, general services superintendent in the Bakersfield Public Works Department, responded:

The city owns and maintains approximately 16,200 street lights. There are two electricians assigned to street lighting maintenance and repair. Due to budget and personnel constraints, we rely on citizens reporting malfunctioning or street lights that are out. Once street lights are reported, our typical turn-around on repairs is 10 to 14 days.

All the city-owned street lights have an assigned number; typically on a sticker on the street side of the pole approximately 7 feet above the ground. We request that citizens provide the pole number or address of property adjacent to the pole so we can find them to do the repairs.

Citizens can report the street light to the General Service Division at 326-3781 or on the city's website, www.bakersfieldcity.us. (Go to Online Services/Request City Services/Street Light Problem).

The Public Works Department has proposed a new position for an electrical technician to be included in the 2012-2013 fiscal year budget to help with street light repairs.

Ask The Californian appears on Mondays. Submit questions to asktbc@bakersfield.com or to The Bakersfield Californian, c/o Christine Bedell, P.O. Bin 440, Bakersfield, CA 93302.

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