This is Just one of the recent fire department related articles that have been published recently. The city administration proposed combining the Police and Fire Dept, and they are trying to take Duluth's 4th busiest rig out of service.
Duluth councilors fear fire union's influence in consolidation debate
Brandon Stahl Duluth News Tribune
Published Saturday, July 26, 2008
When changes to the Duluth Fire Department are pitched that its union opposes, the response often is: “They have five votes.”
That would be five City Council members, who together could deny any major proposed change to the Fire Department. Councilors Jim Stauber and Todd Fedora say they fear that already has happened with Mayor Don Ness’s proposal to combine the Police and Fire departments. The administration is studying ways to have firefighters and police fighting crime and fires together, a proposal the firefighters union opposes.
“The word on the street is that the fire union has at least enough votes on the council, so it could put up huge roadblocks to the mayor even attempting the consolidation,” said At Large Councilor Jim Stauber, who has long been a critic of the Fire Department. “I would hate to see or hear that any union or PAC can say they have councilors in their pocket.”
Duluth News Tribune Talk About It Icon Talk: What do you think of the state of Mayor Ness' consolidation proposal?
Brandon Stahl Archive
The Duluth Fire PAC is one of the best-funded political lobbying groups in the city, spending more than $56,000 in direct and indirect contributions during the last two City Council elections.
Stauber said he believes “there’s some validity” to his fear that the five councilors who have benefited from that funding — Jeff Anderson, Tony Cuneo, Sharla Gardner, Greg Gilbert and Roger Reinert — have already made up their minds.
The other councilors — Todd Fedora, Jay Fosle, Garry Krause and Jim Stauber — did not receive money from the firefighters PAC.
But Anderson, for one, vehemently denies he’s made up his mind. He said he’s received e-mails from individual firefighters opposed to the proposal, but he has not had specific discussions with fire union leadership.
“The unions endorsed and supported me. I didn’t change my thought process or opinions to fit with theirs,” he said. “I’ve been supportive of the Fire Department long before I was a candidate for office.”
Anderson said he does have concerns about combining the Fire and Police departments and worries that it could weaken overall public safety.
“We could use more men and women on these staffs,” he said. “I worry about what will happen with staffing when you combine the departments.”
Reinert said he doesn’t have enough information about the proposal to make a decision yet, but said the proposal would be “dead on arrival” if it meant a loss of jobs in either department. He said he was told that would not happen.
“I won’t pass judgment until we have details,” Reinert said. “Until then, we’re just speculating.”
Cuneo also said he hasn’t made up his mind because he doesn’t have enough information.
Fedora and Stauber aren’t the only ones who say they’re concerned with the actions of the fire union. In an entry posted Friday on his blog, Andy Peterson, the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce director of public policy, noted that the Fire PAC outspent all other special interest groups to “assure their interests were protected.”
“As a result, threats to their funding — even if the city can find ways to provide the same services at a cheaper price — result in political chips being called in,” he wrote.
But Gardner calls that a tired argument that’s more than 10 years old and only serves to divide rather than help the city move forward. She says she supports the firefighters, but “I’m not doing that because they’re calling in any favors.”
“The firefighters endorsed me because they appreciate my stand on public safety,” she said.“I find it very offensive to make assumptions on favors being called in on. That’s not true.”
She said she hasn’t made up her mind on the merger proposal and will do so only when she gets more information on the issue.
Gilbert did not return calls seeking comment for this story.
The city of Duluth is studying public safety models from other cities across the country but has focused on Kalamazoo, Mich., which has a combined police-fire department. Fire Marshal and fire union president Erik Simonson said the union has no problem with the idea of combining the Police and Fire departments into a public safety division, but it is opposed to the Kalamazoo plan, saying it “decimates the services the fire department provides.”
Simonson will be among a group of city officials visiting Kalamazoo to learn more about its program, but he isn’t optimistic about what he’ll see.
“It seems like a waste of money to me to look at something I know in my heart won’t help how we provide effective fire services in the city,” he said. “What I’ve seen in looking at Kalamazoo and other models that have failed, I don’t see how we could do it without negatively impacting fire services in Duluth.”
Simonson denied that the firefighters PAC has five automatic City Council votes.
He said he’s frustrated that the mayor’s office hasn’t communicated with the union, not only about the proposal to combine departments but also to eliminate a fire rig in the downtown station.
“They haven’t been interested in any alternate proposals of any kind,” he said.
Ness denies that, saying he has worked with the union in the past and plans to do that in the future when decisions are made about what to do with the department.
“We have tremendous employees and have tremendous resources in police and fire,” he said. “By increasing the opportunities to share. the result will be much better service and more efficiency.
“The speculation that’s taking place right now is serving to undermine a thoughtful and collaborative process. If folks are making up their minds today, then that serves only to protect the status quo. In the city government today, we can’t afford to have blind loyalty to the status quo.”
News Tribune staff writer Will Ashenmacher contributed to this report.
Also check out this article about combining Duluth police and fire
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Thread: More Mutts in Duluth, MN.
07-26-2008, 03:33 PM #1
More Mutts in Duluth, MN.
07-26-2008, 04:29 PM #2
- Join Date
- Aug 2004
Contact the Associated Firefighters of Illinois, they were successful in getting into law in Illinois that this type of department is illegal.
07-29-2008, 09:36 AM #3
- Join Date
- Nov 2006
unbelieveable. duluth is a great city, i did 5 years there. but the politics in that town are ridiculous. i don't understand why cities think they can "do more with less." somebody is gonna get killed someday because of inadequate staffing. stay safe up there golzy.
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