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This video could not be more timely. It profiles our nations most famous failed city, Detroit. As we look at the toxic past of Detroit, we may be actually be getting a glimpse of Philadelphia’s future. For the better part of my career the Philadelphia Fire Department has been an organization under siege. Under siege from an apathetic public that doesn’t understand our job and what it means to society or their own future and under siege from cowardly, corrupt politicians who have little care about the citizens they represent. Like most politicians Philly’s elected pols will stop at nothing to line their own pockets at the expense of any and everyone who gets in their way.
The story of Detroit is unfortunately a sad chapter of American politics and an even sadder chapter in the annals of the American Fire Service. It is horrifying to think that a major American City is a real life vision of a post apocalyptic horror movie. Yet it is and what’s even worse is that it remain’s that way. The easy explanation is that Detroit is the very manifestation of the policies of the left going back to the riots of the 1950’s. Detroit burned then and never recovered. Fifty plus years of American socialism later and Detroit is an urban wasteland. It is a testament to the power of fire.
Fire has historically had transformational power far greater than any other force we encounter beside water. Yet unlike epic, periodic floods, fire is with us constantly. It is usually under our control but t the same time always looking for a way to escape and grow. Cities have been destroyed by fire throughout history. Fire is also a weapon of convenience for the most diabolical among us. Arson has been used as a way to effect social protest to settle disputes, wage war and commit murder. It is arson that has been Detroit’s undoing. Unchecked fires are fought by an understaffed, overworked, overextended and demoralized band of holdouts in a place where anyone who could get out is long gone.
The social policies that have destroyed Detroit have also taken a toll on its fire department. The same thing is happening today in Philly before our very eyes. Mayor Nutter has declared war on the fire department. He is using every means at his disposal to dismantle the department from the inside out and at the same time putting Philadelphia’s very future in great jeopardy. Closing companies, rolling brownouts, racial politics, budget cuts are all manifestations of his administrations outright hostility to the firefighters of this city. Yet his advisors tell the public cynically that nothing will change. It’s an outright lie and they know it. Brownouts and closings are eating away at the neighborhoods already. Just like our decimated EMS system, our firefighting forces are headed toward the cliff.
Detroit didn’t go over the edge in one fell swoop. It died a prolonged agonizing death. Like Cancer, fire devours a city one block at a time. When a house burns out or fires go unchecked the property damage adds up. Businesses close, property becomes abandoned, residents flee, the tax base dries up, jobs disappear, corruption replaces government and crime becomes the only game in town. This is what happened to Detroit and it can and will happen to Philadelphia like Camden, Baltimore and a slew of other American cities. This is what happens when the policies of the left are allowed to play out unchecked. The Nutter administration like the Rendell Administration before has, by their policies declared firefighters and to a lesser extent police officers non-essential. They ignore the real damage their cuts do to these departments on which the prosperity of a city depends like it or not. If people aren’t safe, or if they even PERCEIVE their safety is in question it changes their entire perception of a city. This attitude if left unchecked becomes the accepted reality and the message is sent to business and citizen alike. People begin to make their long term plans accordingly. That often means less investment and eventually flight.
And before your eyes a Detroit is born.