Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Can Brown Do For You?

The simple answer s that he can give you hope.

I am not referring to what he can do as a United States Senator from Massachusetts. I am referring to how he did it and using THAT as a model for those of us in the fire service that are fighting for the very life blood of our fire departments in our respective communities.

A quick political science lesson on this extraordinary accomplishment of Scott Brown, in my opinion:
1) A large segment of America is not happy with the direction that the country is going and all of the chicanery by the politicians who have gotten us there.
2) A Democrat has held that seat since 1966; Martha Coakley was anointed as the successor to the legendary “Lion of the Left”, Senator Ted Kennedy and ran with a sense of entitlement, not to mention a 20-point lead in the polls going into December. She grossly underestimated her opponent and the independent voters in Massachusetts.
3) Scott Brown traveled to the small cities, rural communities and suburbs in his pick up truck, gaining support, regaining trust and pulled off a modern day miracle.

Why should we give pause to think about this candidate and the race he ran and won?

Because we, the fire service, have to prepare for smaller government and Life after much of the federal grant money goes away…and it will!

I have always believed that funding a fire department is a state/local issue. The reason that I include “state” is because in Illinois, we have state-wide MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) and the Illinois Terrorism Task Force (ITTF). These agencies should be funded by the state for obvious reasons.

However; our local fire departments should be funded by our citizens and the communities that we serve, because THEY determine what services, if any, that we provide. It doesn’t matter if it is a full-time, career department, a paid on call or a volunteer department; the community, through their elected/appointed officials decides how that is to be accomplished or not.

We cannot be “Martha Coakleys”, believing that we are entitled to whatever level of service that WE think the community should have. We serve the people; they don’t serve us. Therefore; we cannot jam anything down their throats, using the scare tactics that are so common today in government.

We need to be “Scott Browns”, educating our citizens about what we do. They already know why, but we have to give them the information to make informed decisions on their fire protection.

First and foremost, they have to provide for our personal safety and if we have to explain why, then we do that. When the discussion turns to the bigger ticket items such as fire trucks and new stations, the road might get bumpy, but by stating the facts and keeping emotions in check, proper justifications may prove successful. At least you can argue that fire trucks are still part of the personal safety equation.

New stations, unless it significantly improves insurance ratings, may only be seen as higher taxes with no immediate, tangible benefits and the community might very well decide that they don’t want that.

Unless you can prove the value to the community for more elaborate equipment like extrication, trench and structural collapse equipment, you may be limited to providing basic fire protection.

We have to ask ourselves if WE want it more than they do and if the answer is “yes”, then prepare for disappointment, unless you have the time to raise the funds without raising taxes.

As Scott Brown proved, you’re going to have to take the small victories and disappointments and work those into bigger victories.

Until then, protect yourselves, be the best that you can be and keep moving towards gaining and then keeping the trust of your communities, because, in the end, it will be that trust that will allow you to expand your services.

And it will be with the buy in of your community.


This article is protected under federal copyright laws and cannot be re-produced in any form without the expressed written permission of Art Goodrich aka ChiefReason. This article appears under The Adventures of Jake and Vinnie© umbrella.
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  1. Art,
    Although I agree with your point number 2 (she really did think she was entitled to the seat, even with only a few weeks to go it appeared she forgot to go to the printer for signs) point 3 IMO is misguided. The only position he had was that he was against "Obamacare". He also avoided all urban areas and played off people' fears about the national health care debate. Poor voter turnout in the urban areas helped get him elected. Whenever I asked someone in the firehouse why they were voting for him the majority can only say "he's against Obama". They knew more about his daughter than they did about him. The vast majority of the members didn't even know his voting record or any of his thoughts from the state house. They seemed to have forgotten that he is against all public employee pensions (which, at least here, the majority of FFs have) and other anti-labor positions he holds.
    Good luck to him.

  2. Forgot to mention, you made some really good points about what fire departments should do.


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