On September 22, 2010, House Republicans led by John Boehner, unveiled a “Pledge to America” (http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/pdf/politics/20100922_REPUBS.pdf).
After reading through it, it made sense that the party other-than-the-party-currently-in-power would try to “re-connect” with a country that is currently disconnected. I would go so far as to say that many citizens are connecting to our system of government for the first time.
When I say that, I mean that, in many households throughout our country, government and what it does has been taken for granted. There has been this notion that the elected officials would serve the public’s best interests. And we are just now finding out how wrong we have been; regardless of political affiliation.
This blog isn’t about political parties. It is about how bad judgment and morally defective policy can hurt in our society. In many cases, it is pitting our oath and duty to act at odds with policies that are not in the best interests of our communities or our fire departments.
So; for those of you in the fire service who believe that you can “avoid” the politics?
Take a look around.
Fire departments are being decimated by the after-effects of elected officials making poor, fiscal decisions. Years of over-spending on under-funded projects have caught up with communities. The bubble that they thought would not burst has exploded into public safety reductions in manpower, rolling brown outs and stations closing all together. Yet, “government” continues to grow.
Our citizens have been force-fed this idea that public safety pensions are out of control. Firefighters are being portrayed as the bad guys. Long gone is the hero worship, but I guess heroes aren’t supposed to collect a pension anyway.
By the way, how many lives did your congressman save today? What kind of air is he breathing? Rarified, I would guess. What did he risk? A paper cut or missing a free meal, perhaps? What about HIS pension? Well, he got his cushy pension the moment he was elected and has a better than average chance of living to collect it; free of cancer, pulmonary or heart disease.
When we see cities that are in financial straits and are blaming the high costs of public safety, you have to remember that it took two sides to sit down and negotiate a contract to provide the level of service that the community insists upon. No one held a gun to anyone’s head and a contract was agreed upon; a contract that is framed around a service that is decided by the citizens!
But, you have a city government that wants “concessions” from the firefighter unions, but were the shoe on the other foot; the city would demand that the firefighters “honor” the contract. It’s amazing how quickly they forget when their political self- interests are at stake.
And volunteers; you figure into this as well, because you are being painted as the bad guys to the unions, because some city governments are threatening to replace career with “some other form of fire protection”. That can only mean two things: volunteer or privatization.
Regardless; the “budget crisis” is affecting the entire brotherhood, whether you want to realize it or not.
So; the fire service needs to pledge to their communities that we will do everything within our collective powers to provide for their safety, regardless of the political or economic climate.
I would pledge something like this:
The urgent need to re-construct, re-vitalize and re-commit our purpose to our community is paramount.
With this pledge, we vow to return to our highest traditions and sacred privileges that those who came before us willingly and without hesitation gave of their lives to accomplish.
Firefighters and citizens-together-will embrace the pioneer spirit, faith and values of our founders to forge a new strength, tempered by the unwavering will to succeed.
This is our pledge.
I believe that the time has come for the fire service to use town hall meetings to inform their communities of what they do, why they do it, what it costs and what happens if a fire department isn’t adequately funded.
As we have seen with the South Fulton, TN incident; news travels very quickly and to a much wider audience because of the many forms of media. Why not take advantage of the same forms of media to educate your communities and avoid an unpleasant situation? Leaders have to recognize the defects in their policies and get them fixed! No one should have to struggle with their conscience to deliver service or not.
Preying upon a community’s fear that we won’t be there if they call will only convey our desperation that will be spun by local government as selfish and self-serving (“they are only trying to protect their pensions”)
It should not be “you get what you pay for” or even “you want more for less”.
It should be “what do you want? Then here is what we need and what it will cost”.
Make your community a part of your team.
Remind them of your pledge to them.
You may just get a commitment in return.
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