Times are tough my friends. There is not a day which goes by when you and I fail to see the harsh realities of the current economic state of our nation. Fire departments are being asked to come up with budget cuts which are devastating in the depth and range of their impact upon our fire service. We are seeing it here in New Jersey.
A number of fire departments are preparing to lay off members. Others have already cut their force. It is my fear that we are entering a period where human life is on the verge of losing its value. It is more about bucks than bodies. Frankly, I am not sure what to tell you. People at the local government level are battling each other for a diminishing piece of the budgetary pie.
Thanks to our new governor here in the Garden State, municipalities across the entire state have seen their financial aid packages slashed so that the state can balance its budget. There are municipalities which are looking at large-scale staff cuts. There are school districts that are about to be forced into laying off score of teachers. Given the unemployment levels in our society, it is practically impossible for us in the fire service to generate any sort of support for the public sector.
People like me who have faithfully paid their pension contributions for decades are being called crooks for stealing our pensions from the public. We here in New Jersey are merely one piece of a very serious fiscal puzzle. I would suggest that the problems are worse in other places. Like you I have been following Billy Goldfeder's work covering the rash of layoffs around our nation.
My friends, the current climate of fiscal chaos calls for a new type of leader. We need people who can make a solid case using solid statistics, supplemented by equal measures of logic and reason. They need to be able to develop a budgetary approach which includes a great deal of honesty and pragmatism.
Believe me when I tell you that the last thing we really need is a type of leader whose sole approach to these financial issues is to blaze headlines throughout the media about how any cuts in the ranks of their firefighters are going to kill people. That scare business has never worked in the past. I have heard it time and again over the past two decades and it is normally viewed with distain by the public.
No my friends, what we need are leaders who can display a sincere willing to sit down with administration and layout a solid case for the needs of their department. We need people who understand money, communication, and bargaining. However, we also need people with guts and testicular fortitude. They need to be able to create a realistic picture of their needs and then be able to present plans which show in a reasonable fashion how cuts to their budgets will impact service delivery levels.
These leaders must have the guts to stand up to their local government and state unequivocally what they will be able to provide to the citizens at each level of funding. Do not say that people will die. Portray how the closure of s station will increase response times. Then show the impact of such increased times upon your ability to provide an effective service.
Over the past decade I have written a great deal about the concept of leadership. My research, as supplemented by my interactions with many of my e-mail correspondents over the years has created an increased awareness in me that gives me cause for concern. We have a lot of really serious problems and most of them stem in some way from a lack of effective leadership, or the presence of bad leadership.
Sad to say, many parts of the fire service have absolutely no idea about what the true nature of leadership real is. Worse yet, the bad leaders are cloning themselves by surrounding themselves with people that mirror, and parrot, their views. In difficult financial times the effective leader must avoid surrounding themselves with people who say yes to every idea the boss has and nod their heads like obedient little puppy dogs.