Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Fire Bugged

The Bloombergistas are looking to chop the public safety component of the city's budget by making fire fighting both more difficult and dangerous. The NY Post has the story: "Mayor Bloomberg warned yesterday that interference by the courts in the city's budget process is forcing him to speed up issuing pink slips -- an hour before two fire unions announced they were planning legal action to prevent the Fire Department from cutting staffing."

The WSJ weighs in on this as well: "The fire union is seeking an injunction to stop Mayor Michael Bloomberg from reducing the number of firefighters from five to four on the engine companies at some of the city's busiest firehouses. "When you reduce the number of firefighters you reduce the ability to put the fire out quickly and save lives. That's irrefutable," said Stephen Cassidy, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association of Greater New York."

The question that remains, is will the union action achieve its desired result? We certainly hope so, because fire and police is the last place that the mayor should be looking to cut in this dire fiscal climate-and the fact that he is, underscores his nine year misrule in matters budget. The importance of the five man crew in the city's busiest engine companies is no trivial issue-and relates to the ability of the FDNY to rapidly suppress a fire-and to adequately protect all of the firefighters who rely on their five man team for their own well being.

As the Journal points out, the UFA's concern-and that of its president Steve Cassidy-is protection of the public: "Mr. Cassidy said that the most recent New York Fire Department study on the issue is about 20 years old. But it showed that reducing the number of firefighters on the engine company from five to four doubles the time it takes to get "water on the fire." He said the fire department also averages 25 firefighters suffering some type of medical condition—from inhalation to exhaustion to burns—per shift. The five-firefighter engine crews has allowed them a pool of 60 people to plug those shortages as they happen."

Bloomberg, that old fire firefighter himself, disagrees-which leaves Cassidy righteously upset. As the Post points out: "Bloomberg said he'd been assured by Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano that would be a "relatively safe ways to spend less money," and he warned if the fire unions win their lawsuit, "we would have to close firehouses." "That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," shot back UFA President Steve Cassidy. "He also said we should line up for hot chocolate in Central Park after the blizzard on Dec. 27 when he flew back from Bermuda. This is somebody who is a little out of touch with New Yorkers."

Let's cut to the chase on all of this. If Mike Bloomberg had been a proper fiscal steward over the past nine years-addressing the over sized municipal government by utilizing the proper fiscal dietary system-we wouldn't be faced with the need to cut back on fire safety. Now, the mayor has to get out the machete instead of the scalpel he should have been wielding all along-which leaves him arguing that cutting firefighting capacity leaves us, "relatively," safe: "Mr. Bloomberg said on Monday that "you can never be too safe" but the fire commissioner "believes that this would be a relatively safe way to spend less money."

With proper leadership, New Yorkers wouldn't have to be facing relative safety in the case of a fire emergency-they would be able to embrace the real thing. Instead, we are all reaping the results of mismanagement-and an untoward third term that never should have been allowed to happen.