The beauty of our democracy is that regardless of who we voted for back in November, we embrace the smooth transfer of authority from the old to the new president this week. After all, the love for the well being of our nation and our utmost respect for our Constitution is higher than the routine bickering and the partisan politics. I am as independent as it gets, and always in my articles refrain from the politics, yet discuss the policies that are fire related. With that said the opening paragraphs in this article about our current economic situation are only there to provide the backdrop for the main topic of this article, the fire grants, and are not intended to be divisive or along the political party lines.
Change is upon us, and we now have a new president in our country. To reach this pinnacle, quite similar to his well respected opponent, our new president ran a successful campaign on a platform focused strongly on the slogan of "change" and complimented that with a confident "yes we can" attitude. From a non-partisan perspective, I must admit that the current economics realities will definitely test this "can do" attitude soon. As Americans we are all in this together. So it is not only "yes we can", but we must; we don't have much choice.
Go back a year to last January and ask yourself if you could have ever imagined the $700 billion bank bailout, Fannie May and Freddie Mac crumbling down, the big three automakers pleading for the government's assistance just to stay afloat for a few months and receiving $23.4 billion and the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) failures in the former Nasdaq chairman Bernard Madoff's $50 billion embezzlement scheme case. If we thought that the failures of the years before, such as Enron and the bottomless pit of the home foreclosures were bad enough, these recent economic failures broke the paradigm and dragged us to a new low; where even the term "billion" has lost its true significance and value.
It is during these tough economic times that the fire service will be facing the challenging task of reauthorization for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program that is due to expire in 2010. In October, Bill Webb, executive director of the Congressional Fire Service Institute (CFSI), wrote an article titled "Working Together to Sustain Federal Support for Fire and SAFER Funding". In that article, Bill reminded us of the political nature of this effort, especially during the current economic environment, stressed the importance of the unity of purpose and active participation and pointed out that, "everyone in the fire service plays a vital role in continuing the grant process". In that article Bill mentioned:
"The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (FIRE Act) is up for reauthorization next year and we need to illustrate to Congress how $4 billion in funding has improved the overall readiness of our nation's fire and emergency services...Your job is to make sure that your local members of Congress understand why FIRE and SAFER play a critical role in protecting you, your peers and the citizens you have sworn to protect. You need to convince them that the $4 billion awarded to fire departments across the country was a sound investment in public safety and that additional funding is still needed."
Continuation of the AFG Program is of great interest to all of us in the fire service. It is important to recognize the great work of CFSI and the very many dedicated fire service leaders who fought tirelessly for many years, to establish the federal fire grant program. Their efforts should be applauded even more, once we recognize that, year after year, they still step up to the plate for us, and fend off the very many opponents that seek elimination of the federal fire grant program.
Bill Webb's "call to arms" to the fire service, asking us to be on the same sheet of music and to step up our efforts to support and protect and the fire grants, is my reason for writing this article.