Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bill Due

The NY Daily News is reporting that Mayor Bloomberg wants Governor Paterson to veto a fire officer training bill-and there's an important back story that the News is not honing in on: "Mayor Bloomberg is imploring Gov. Paterson to douse an FDNY training bill that he says would burn taxpayers for nearly $30 million. The Legislature-approved proposal, now sitting on Paterson's desk, would force the city to give all FDNY officers 80 additional hours of rigorous training in new building codes that were instituted in the wake of the tragic 2007 blaze at the former Deutsche Bank building."

The context for all this is, of course, that deadly bank fire-and the manner in which the city scapegoated the officers while letting the really culpable, like one Deputy Dan Doctoroff, totally scape: "The union that represents the officers says the bill will also save their members from career-ending mistakes like those that led to demotions or discipline for seven fire officers in the wake of the Deutsche Bank tragedy. "Our members were directly held responsible for not [enforcing] this rule, which was buried in the books," said Edward Bowles, the treasurer for the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. The new code changes are extensive, he said, and involve too much material to expect officers to learn the revisions by themselves. "If they want to hold us accountable, then train us," he said. "If they don't want to train us, they cannot hold us accountable."

This is the story that the Voice's Wayne Barrett reported on-with little follow up for the than Bloomberg enamored press. As we have commented: "The Voice's cover story this week, "Bloomberg's Biggest Scandal--the Deutsche Bank Fire--Should Be His Downfall" -- examined the determination of top city officials, including Bloomberg's longtime top deputy Dan Doctoroff, to ignore the risk of installing Bovis Lend Lease and its prime subcontractor Galt at the demolition site of the bank building. Doctoroff brushed aside warnings from the city's investigations department about Galt in deference to Bovis' reckless desire to hire the mob-tainted firm."

But Doctorof, a man that defecates ambrosia in the mayor's eye, had handy fall guys to take the blame: "And the city's actions in only targeting the fire officers-but not the agency head-is equally shameful. As the Times pointed out in June: "Seven Fire Department officers were censured on Wednesday for failing to ensure timely inspections before a fatal fire at the former Deutsche Bank building in August 2007. The punishment, far more lenient than could have been meted out, nevertheless drew immediate criticism from union officials, who said department brass had not emphasized the inspectional rule and had rarely enforced it."

And it is precisely those rules that the officer's union wants to insure that its members are trained to know, understand, and follow-as they said back at the time: ""But union officials said that singling anyone out for punishment was misguided because the seven men were as hard-pressed as any of their colleagues to follow the rule in question — one that requires basic inspections at all high-rise buildings, being built or demolished, every 15 days. The union said the rule was widely disregarded. One union official criticized Mr. Scoppetta and the Bloomberg administration, saying that if the 15-day rule were widely known, it should have been known at all levels and in the city government. Failure to make the rule a priority — in the face of a building boom over the last 15 years in Manhattan — rested with the departmental brass, who had been held blameless to date, union officials said."
But now the Bloombergistas are having an Emily Litella moment-telling us to forget its own past culpability and scapegoating because the city is underfunded. As the News points out: "It's a substantial expense at a time when we just asked the Fire Department to cut $118 million out of their budget," said Bloomberg lobbyist Micah Lasher. "This is about the worst time to impose a $30 million unfunded mandate."

Mayor Mike's own statement is hubris squared-and counts on the press' amnesia about the past events: "The FDNY is the entity most qualified to assess and address fire officer training, and it must be able to continue to serve New Yorkers free of unnecessary, unfunded and unfeasible mandates," Bloomberg wrote in a July letter to Paterson. The mayor said the officers don't need such extensive code training because their primary job is to fight fires - while thorough building inspections are done by trained civilians."

Of course, when a rule that is obscure, and the rank and file ignorance of it leads to tragedy, there's always the little guy primed and ready for crucifixion in an administration whose motto is: Governance is never having to say your sorry. In our view, if there is less money to go around, public safety shouldn't even be on the list for this profligate municipal governmment.