California Firefighters Want Elected Chief

San Bernardino City Professional Firefighters Local 891, the union representing 126 city firefighters, has introduced a ballot initiative proposing an elected fire chief.

In the last two years, 25 positions have been cut at the department and engine companies have dwindled from four-man crews to three-man crews, said Steve Brown, the union's vice-president.

While budget cuts factor into that scenario, union representatives say they are fed up with "politics as usual in San Bernardino."

"Too often, the current administration at City Hall has injected politics into the management and operations of our Fire Deprtment," said union President Scott Moss in a statement Thursday. "Firefighters are exploring the idea that having an elected fire chief would remove the taint of politics from decisions affecting hiring, promotions and fire protection policies necessary to safeguard the residents of San Bernardino."

A notice of intent to circulate a petition was filed with the city on Jan. 9, but the union has yet to begin gathering the roughly 12,000 signatures needed to get the initiative on the ballot, Brown said.

"We're not even sure we'll have our ducks in a row by November. It's a work in progress right now," Brown said.

The proposed charter amendment would establish an elected fire chief, to be elected at the 2014 general election, who would have complete autonomy in running the department, without interference by the Mayor and City Manager. In addition, the proposal also requires the Fire Department to have an assistant fire chief and a chief of staff, appointed by the fire chief with the consent of the Mayor and City Council.

Copyright 2012 - Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Calif.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service