I have a sad tale to tell. It speaks to a once great place that has fallen upon hard times. Of course this is not just one place. It is a composite of any number of places. It is up to you to fill in the blanks. For you see, I know the city about which I am writing: I know it quite well. In order to provide the fullest impact, I have decided to tell this tale in the form of a pseudo-fairy tale. It is my hope that you appreciate the thoughts contained herein, because I am writing this one from the center of my heart.
Once upon a time there once was a pretty little city. It was a tremendous place to live. The factories were humming, jobs were plentiful, and the population was growing. This lovely place boasted of its fine schools, terrific parks, a low crime rate, an effective police department, and a really great fire department.
Generations of people were born, grew to adulthood, and lived their entire lives within the borders of this fair metropolis. It was a diverse community before such things were in vogue within society. Religion served as part of the societal glue which held neighborhoods together. Houses of worship grew up in every part of the city. The downtown business district served the needs of the community and the industrial district provided jobs for succeeding waves of immigrants from other places.
Then the storm clouds of change began to appear on the horizon. Jobs were exported to other countries. People turned against each other and fought in the streets. Entire neighborhoods were vacated as masses of scared people fled to the suburbs. Over time the city deteriorated, the schools stopped delivering a top-quality education and many neighborhoods degenerated into armed camps.
Then there came a day when the money needed to provide fire protection and other vital municipal services were no longer available. Massive amounts of state aid flowed into the city schools, but there was not real, measurable effect upon the education of the students. Hundreds of police were laid off and scores more retired. No firefighters were laid off thanks to the retirements of more than 100 of the department's most experiences officers and members.
All of this has set the stage for a whole new world in the area of municipal services. As we move briskly into a new year, let me start by issuing a warning about what is going on around us. People are making some serious decisions about the fire service. Sadly these are people who do not have a clue as to what we do and have absolutely no business doing so. I am talking about Mayors, township committee people, town council members, and some really seriously mentally and morally challenged administrators.
But Harry, you might ask, how can you say such a thing about the people who are charged with running local government in a wide variety of places. Are they not supposed to provide the best possible municipal services and then cut property taxes. My friends, I can and will say all of this because it is becoming evident that we in the fire service are being deemed unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
Budget cuts are running all across the board in the United States today. If the income and the outgo are not equal, then adjustments must be made. Now I am not saying that cuts shouldn't be made. Lest you think that I am not affected by this, let me suggest that I am involved. I am playing my part in this whole budget-cutting morass. Heck, my fire department and National Guard pensions have been frozen by the powers-that-be at both the New Jersey and federal levels for the past two years.
However, I do not mind playing my part if others do too. Unfortunately, what I am becoming increasingly mad about involves the falsehoods being perpetrated by government people who simply cannot own up to the truth with their taxpayers. I am tired of people urging us all to do more with less.