3-28-2006 The Assistant to the Assistant...


I found the following on this internet thingamabob last night. And with all of the hullabaloo over firemen, firehouses and firefighting in general going on in this city, I thought it’d be something most of you would find interesting.

This was posted on a fire-related forum by Tom Makar, who is an assistant chief with the Wilkes-Barre Fire Department and also the firefighting union’s chief honcho.

I will refrain from commenting on it, but I thought his comments deserved a wider audience than that of which council’s chamber can provide.

The following is my presentation to W-B council. Excuse the grammer, I did not have time to fine tune it. Just went with the draft.

I would like to address W-B Council on statements made at previous Council Meetings and recently in the Newspapers by the Mayor and Council members that are untrue and have put Wilkes-Barre City Fire Fighters in an unfavorable light.

It was stated by the Mayor that the Fire Fighters Union gave him grief over hiring 10 Police Officers and Councilman Latinski stated that he served on the Police Civil Service Board and knew the Fire Fighters were mad at the Mayor’s decision to hire Police Officers.

The fact is we are mad but not for the City decision to hire Police Officers. The Fire Fighters knew the City needed more Police Officers. Mayor Leighton campaigned on it because former Mayor McGroarty refused to hire Police over a contract dispute.

The Fire Fighters, in fact, are on record as in favor of hiring Police because some aspects of our job are safer with having Police assist us. Examples:

• A person overdosing on drugs in vehicle usually have a weapon.
• Domestic arguments involve our EMS.
• At Car Accidents..Police are needed for traffic control.
We are also Wilkes-Barre residents who want safe neighborhoods. We agree with the Mayor’s statement that hiring additional Police benefits their safety with adequate manning…..we just want the same consideration.

The Mayor and Council woman Kane made comments in the newspaper that nineteen (19) Fire Fighters were scheduled the night of March 13th and “five of them did not show up”.

In fact Group 1 has only 18 Fire Fighters assigned to it and not a single Fire Fighter failed to show up. Vacation, Bereavement Leave, and a job related work Injury lowered the number to 14.

In fact, not showing up for work are grounds for disciplinary action. There are no charges against any Fire Fighter or even an investigation.

Our guess is that these statements were meant to deflect the blame towards the Fire Fighters. They are untrue….irresponsible…. and appalling. To top it off the Fire Chief has not publicly in the paper say these statements are untrue. I can understand why he, as a Department Head, did not correct the Mayor but to have it perpetuate by a Council member is a reason we believe it was meant to deflect blame.

After attending numerous Council Meetings and requesting if any study was preformed that proved that lowering the number to 14 Fire Fighters on shift was safe for the Fire Fighters and the public, I was surprised to hear, in a response to an inquiry by a Reporter if the City ever conducted a study to determine the consequences of their changes, that they did a study and even ISO agreed that 3 Engine Companies was all the City needed.

I immediately wrote a letter requesting all information. I received this single page letter from ISO to the City.

Remember ISO? This is the same ISO that you received an anonymous report/letter concerning the effects if the City closed a fire house. The same ISO that even the Administration requested me to clarify to you that it is insignificant. ISO main purpose is to come up with a rating that Insurance Companies can base their rates on. They do not recommend the number of Fire Fighters or Equipment that a City needs to ensure proper safety for the Fire Fighters or the Public. They basically have a checklist. Hose…check. Fire Engine….check. Fire fighters….check. Dispatch Center…Check The Municipal Water supply carries the most weight. I quote “The PPC program is not intended to analyze all aspects of a comprehensive structure fire suppression delivery program. It is not for purposes of determining compliance with any state or local law, nor is it for making recommendations about loss prevention or life safety.” It sounds silly but my own Insurance Company bases their rates on how close a Hydrant is to my house. Their own concern is that a Fire House is within 3.5 miles. My point is that ISO and Insurance Companies are not a reliable source in determining efficient Fire Department Operations. I will repeat myself when I say that the Lloyd study is the only Study that Wilkes-Barre ever did to determine the proper minimum level and now even refused to acknowledge it.

Wilkes-Barre Fire Fighters did not make the decision to not replace retiring Fire Fighters. They did not make the decision to cut the overtime to maintain the number of Fire Fighters on duty. They did not make the decision to reduce the minimum level of Fire Fighters on duty to 14.

The decision the Fire Fighters made was to help the City recover from their bad financial shape by agreeing to no raise in 2004, to take lower raises then what would have been awarded by an Arbitrator, to take deductibles in Health Care and higher prescription co-pays starting in 2004 and even contribute to Health Care Premiums in 2008 in exchange for job security.

Our goal is to confine the fire to the room of origin. If unable to do that, then to the house of origin. If now confining it to the block of origin is considered acceptable, that is not a decision made by the Fire Fighters.

My Vice President was told by a reporter that the President of the Fire Fighters Union is becoming the “standing joke” at the Council meetings. Always saying the decision to lower the number of Fire Fighters on duty will fail, property will be lost at the least and the worst…loss of life. Now that it happened and to simply downplay or dismiss it is astonishing.

Wilkes-Barre historically always had an Engine in service to respond to a second call.

I will agree that if that if there was an additional Engine in service and it was stationed at the Heights Station it would have been the third Engine at the Carey Avenue. But the fourth Engine, Eng. 9, would have been available to respond with me to the Welles Street Fire. Engine 9 would have been there in less than 3 minutes from dispatch. And contrary to what was stated in the paper, you would be surprised what 3 Wilkes-Barre Fire Fighters on that Engine could do.

The Mayor has stated that he was elected by the people to make the tough decisions. We all make decisions. Most of them are tough decisions. I think decisions are either right or wrong.

To raise taxes 20 mills, to institute a Public Safety Service Tax of $52, all while lowering the minimum number of fire Fighters to 14, even with the Fire Fighters agreeing to help the City with the provisions in the contract, is a wrong decision.

I will tell you that when the Mayor restores the number back to where it was, it will be a tough decision but a right decision. I will then stand behind him, alongside him, even pick him up and carry him to support him for making the prudent decision, instead of sitting in front of you….warning you.

Wilkes-Barre is not alone with this problem. Chris Buchanan and myself were in Washington DC earlier this week meeting with the Offices of Senator Arlen Specter (R–PA) and Congressman Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) getting their support to restore cuts made to the S.A.F.E.R. Act and also the F.I.R.E. Act by President George Bush. President Bush authorized both Acts but either cuts or reduces appropriations to them. Senator Specter and Congressman Kanjorski understand the need for funding both and ensured us funding will be restored.

This article I handed you relates similar instances across the country. As you will see, saying we are spending money on a new Fire House and new Fire Apparatus completely side steps the basic question are there enough Fire Fighters on duty to do the job efficiently and safely for both the Fire Fighters and the Public.

You do not need me to tell you that PFM is wrong in their advice to not hire Fire Fighters and lower the staffing to save money to pay for the mistakes of previous administrations. When you lay down tonight, just listen to that little voice before you drift off to sleep. It will tell you that I am right. Ignore it and it will only get louder.

From the e-mail inbox Mark,

I live in a parallel universe about 20 miles to the north. You may have you seen this site Doherty Deceit, it is published by a self proclaimed political activist and con artist and there is even a section for Mayor Leighton. I read it mostly for the shock value and I am never disappointed! A developer just this last week succeeded in securing financing for townhouses and retails shops in our half empty downtown without the assistance of KOZ. It takes some giant leaps of logic and some spin on top to turn that into a bad thing but if you read these posts there it is. You hear about the constitution, freedom of speech, right to privacy, yadda yadda yadda, but facts are few. There is no shortage of nitwits to jump on board especially with three municipal unions with labor issues in a distressed city. Talk about a captive audience. Anyhow, keep up the great writing.

link to comments on town homes

Best Regards,
Joe KXXXXX
Scranton

Good to hear from you.

This entire fire department brouhaha is such an unfortunate bummer, it makes me wish we could print money down at City Hall. Fact is, the FD supported Tom Leighton during the run-up to his election showdown with the previous mayor. And, as Tom Makar pointed out, the FD also made significant concessions in an effort to help the city control it’s out-of-control costs. That was then, this is now.

The heady electioneering days well behind us, the next thing I knew, we had three men per engine rather than the two that was the previous, accepted modus operandi and it’s been nonstop rancor and tumult ever since. With that said, Tom Makar had sent quite a few electronic pulses my way to try to explain the confusing goings-on to me and to be quite frank, the more he explained it all the more it confused me. I do understand that three men on an engine better facilitates a rapid entry into a burning structure, but the timing of the three man thing has had me confounded from it‘s outset. Why now? Why when the city is down and out financially?

Where once I was snapping pictures of city firemen posing for pictures with, then, mayoral candidate Tom Leighton, now they’re engaged in a very public donnybrook with him. Where once city firemen cheered my efforts on, now I’m treated like a leper with a rare penile disease that goes airborne faster than Heights residents can forget how to tell time. Where once I partied with firemen and their wives at one humdinger of an inaugural ball, now the in-your-face “Hose Dudes” and Hose Chicks” are no more. It’s amazing to me that allies drawn together because of local politics can be split into separate camps just a few months later due to the very same local politics.

And in my mind, while Tom Leighton has resorted to controlling costs for the first time in well over a decade, the folks currently allied against his long-overdue austerity plan are politicking against said austerity and little else. Be they firemen, or residents, what they seek is more firefighters, more firehouses and more overtime hours. Yet, that save my whatever bilge blog continues to point out that our apparatus is rapidly aging, so let’s add that to the growing demands list. All the activist hucksters want is more firefighters, more firehouses, more new fire trucks and unlimited employee overtime for the fire department. And according to Tom Makar, that would be the “right” decision? Incorrect! That would be a return to our pre-03’ disastrous financial ways.

Know what? I’m getting sick of hearing the same gibberish over and over and over again. Spend mayor, spend! Then at election time it’ll change to “The mayor spent too much! Off with his political gonads!” Fact is, some of these “activists” make about as much sense as anal sex does for the purposes of procreation. They’ve got financial smarts like tadpoles have metallic wings. They are to fiscal responsibility what Tom Leighton is to reckless spending. The “right” decision is to stay within our limited financial means. And anyone that suggests otherwise has the financial planning prowess of an infected spleen.

Sez me, of course.

Stay in touch.

By the way, your little guys are cute.

I have to admit I enjoyed a hearty chuckle when I happened upon the following piddle at “Save My Anonymity,” or whatever they call that gathering place of the walking brain-dead.

Anonymous said…

I moved to Washington,D.C. about 5 years ago. Now I hace a chance to transfer back to W-B. And in taking about a return a friend gave me a link to W-B Online which led me to your site. As a sort of outsider looking in I'm not surprised to see your mayor doing what small citys all over are doing. Cutting costs and reducing services. Fire Departments always seem to be the first on the cutting block so don't feel alone.

Everyone in Mongomery County, Prince Georges County and the City of Baltimore have expirienced what you're going through now. And they don't like it either. But it seems there's more public outcry in this area than in yours. Which leads me to a question: What's the story with Mark from W-B Online? Is he on the mayors payroll? Does he work for the City or does he have any family working for the City? If not, how can he be so supportive of cutting your fire service? After reading a number of his posts it seems to me that he's some sort of cheer leader for your mayor. And a rather ugly cheer leader at that. Has he ever seen what a fire victim looks like? Does he know what fire fighters go through? I doubt it after reading his rather callous witings pertaining to the guy who lost his house last week. What's wrong with this guy? Doesn't he have any compassion at all?

I used to get this sort of thing quite frequently back when the majority of the populace was still enamored of the boy mayor, but it’s become less and less frequent over the years. Well, there was a brief outbreak when it dawned on some of the nincompoops that I made it painfully obvious that I believed Tom Leighton was doing a good job, but I thought this sort of droning mental vapidity was a thing of the past.

Hooboy! Hold on to yer cuzzin’s falsies!

What's the story with Mark from W-B Online? Is he on the mayors payroll? Does he work for the City or does he have any family working for the City? If not, how can he be so supportive of cutting your fire service? After reading a number of his posts it seems to me that he's some sort of cheer leader for your mayor.

There are those days when I get to feeling sorry for folks of this limited ilk, but today ain’t one of them. Sorry, amateur guttersnipes, but not all politicians are civil serpents totally deserving of your anonymous venom and unchecked flatulence somehow passing as Monday morning poliblogging.

When your stock portfolio consistently outperforms your hoped-for results, nary a thought is given to how the companies your money is invested in happened to show such tidy profits. Oh, but if a given investment fund suddenly under performs, you’re dropping that fund faster than a fire victim can repeat the tired, pre-prepared talking points. But, as things pertain to Wilkes-Barre Inc., deficit spending is apparently perfectly fine, despite the constant calls for running local governments like businesses. Fact is, you people don’t know what you want and you make it up as you stumble along.

Am I on the mayor’s payroll? Do I, or many members of my family work for the city?

Ouch! You got me. I am the assistant to the assistant in charge of rubber bands, paper clips and liquid paper. And as such, I am paid $59,000 a year, plus bonuses and a few incentive-based extras. I work a 9-hour workweek, and I don’t do weekends. And anything over 9 hours would result in double-time being paid. I am paid a $14.50 per mile travel reimbursement. I have a city-supplied Geo Metro. My two cell phones, both pagers, personal data assistant and fax machine are paid for by the city. I get ten weeks vacation, 49 sick days and summers off. I attend frequent expensive junkets that have more to do with the physical abuse of disease-ridden slatterns than any silly govmint business, and the city picks up the complete tab.

As for my family, they also work for the city and earn much more than I do, despite the fact that they have ghost jobs. But what did you expect for my being the head cheerleader?

Dunce.

Hold on. I’m thinking. Tom Leighton gave me a hat pin with the city’s logo on it. He gave me another hat pin with a “W-B” set in the middle of a smallish American flag, but I lost the damned thing. Fudge! I was the recipient of many a trendy agricultural amusement aid during the big election run-up, but I’m not sure who paid for all of that. His top underling gave me a few oval “W-B” stickers. Ersatz bumper stickers, I think. Another one of his underlings handed over to me a nifty city logo decal for my motorized vehicle. What else? Um…he gave me a few handshakes over the years. His wife sent me a nice photo of the mayor and myself, and I didn’t even look near as drunk as I was when that picture was taken at the Ramada. (Whew!) I know! The mayor gave me his official mayoral business card. I had it bronzed. I polish it every day.

But money? Jobs? His first-born? The key to the executive hot-tub room? His Bazooka Joe comics collection? A lifetime supply of St. Patrick’s Day decorations? Nah. Sorry, hapless myrmidons. Y’all got the wrong guy if that’s what you suspect of me. I am beholden to no one, and ask not of anything from anyone.

To put things in their proper prospective, the only thing I ever asked for and received from Tom Leighton was hope.

Well, he did offer to pay for my much-needed psychiatric treatment, shock treatment and sensitivity training, but I turned down that generous offer, so…compassion this!!! Callous my healthy gonad!!!

That’s it, sweethearts. Yes indeedy.

Yee-everlovin-haw!!!

Now, where’d that foxy doxy get to?

Free of charge

Buh-bye





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