It was good news for libraries and bad news for pretty much everything else yesterday as Mayor Nutter announced the latest round of cuts to the city budget.
Nutter’s revised budget for 2010-11 includes substantial cuts to the police and fire overtime budgets, as well as reductions to most other city departments. Officials yesterday submitted the budget to the city’s fiscal watchdog, the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, which has 30 days to review the plan.
“We’ve tried to do our best to balance a variety of interests here,” said Nutter. “The cuts are very broad, they affect every department and agency. But we tried to make sure they were not so deep as to decimate departments and have a significant impact on service delivery.”
Nutter did rescind a previously announced $2.5 million cut to the library system, which would have reduced service at branch libraries to four days a week. Instead, Nutter said he would use excess money received through the recent tax-amnesty program to preserve services at libraries, which were slashed during previous rounds of cuts.
“I am so thrilled with what the mayor just did,” said Amy Dougherty, executive director of the Friends of the Free Library. “During these tough times, he is making good on his promises not to cut libraries further.”
And instead of closing two Fire Department companies, as originally announced, officials instead said they would cut the overtime budget by $3.6 million, forcing “rolling closures” of about four companies each day. LINK
Take a good look at this video and remember it well. SEVEN people died in this house fire. Firefighting is a hard enough job when everything is going your way. When politicians actively work against you, when they throw enormous obstacles in your way, it can be a downright nightmare. That’s what’s in store for Philadelphia’s firefighters and citizens with the Nutter administration’s latest round of proposed fire department cuts.
The Nutter administration, the most openly anti-public safety administration in the history of this city, has decided to play Russian Roulette with the lives and property of its citizens and firefighters. In an ill-conceived attempt to reign an out of control budget, the city has devised a plan that is as cowardly as it is inept. After already CLOSING SEVEN FIRE COMPANIES, they will now implement a plan that will close an additional FIVE more companies: city-wide, every shift. That means if your house catches fire or your family is involved in a car accident or other emergency you better hope there is someone on duty at your local station. But the odds are decreasing that there will be because we have lost so many companies that those still on duty are running constantly to cover the territory left unprotected and answer the never ending 911 calls (About 800-1000 a DAY).
This attempt to balance the budget on the backs of public safety (yet again) is a politician’s cowardly attempt at avoiding the tough and unpopular decisions a real leader has to make. By equating libraries and recreation centers, for example, with police and fire protection, Mayor Nutter is doing nothing more than pandering to a vocal minority of citizens who advocate for them. The impact of public safety cuts only becomes apparent when tragedy strikes. In the internet era we live in, libraries, although important, do not rate the same priority that public safety does. A depressed economy, for example, leads to an increase in 911 call volume. We are in BIG, SERIOUS TROUBLE FOLKS. Keep in mind that we already send three to five companies to the training academy every day. Now what little training we do will have to be cut even further or even eliminated, allowing vast swaths of urban landscape to go with no fire or emergency services protection. What an appealing place to live and visit.
Of course, these decisions have to be made because of years of fiscal mismanagement on a grand scale. Finances and budget priorities in this and many other big American cities are so out of whack that we are facing financial apocalypse. Basic city services, the reason we pay taxes in the first place are being decimated, yet the big spending on unnecessary and wasteful social and green agendas continues. This is madness. Thanks to Mayor Nutter we have lost TWELVE fire companies off the front lines.
In a city department that answers 300,000 emergency calls a year, a department that doesn’t have nearly enough ambulances by half to handle its current workload, we have been crippled. The effect on morale is beyond devastating. I have been hearing for the first time in my career, firefighters questioning openly their personal commitment to the job and an administration that views them and their mission with such complete and total contempt and ignorance. Firefighters are legendary for going above and beyond the call of duty. Yet in Philly that mentality has been eroding since Ed Rendell (D) began his assault on the fire service. Now under Mayor Nutter (D), we are seeing what could be a permanent dismantling of a once proud organization.
I fought a serious paper-warehouse fire on my night work earlier this week, that’s why the blogging has lagged a bit. I needed to recover. Due to the heat we used about TWELVE fire companies to bring the fire under control. In doing so we saved this business and the thirty jobs of the people who work there, not to mention all of the stored product and associated businesses that are linked to this company. The city will continue to receive the tax revenue because we were able to get there quickly and cut the fire off. My crew and I, as well as all the other firefighters who fought this fire were wiped out. With so many companies now taken off the line, at the same time call volume continues to go up, the physical and mental toll, the impact on morale and equipment is building every shift. The results are decreased performance leading to more accidents, injuries, substance abuse and sadly fatalities both civilian and terrifyingly predictably… firefighters. It is only a matter of time before someone tries to overcompensate for these staffing reductions and makes a mistake. I just hope and pray it doesn’t happen.
But hey, we got solar trash compactors.