PittsburghJack's Place: Where there's smoke, there's not always fire

PittsburghJack's Place

an outlet for political animals to share news, views and expose truths.

Where there's smoke, there's not always fire

I urge my fellow citizens to see through the smokescreen being erected by the city's firefighter union with regards to the referendum which is to appear on the general election ballot next month. Despite the wording, the referendum is not really about the issue of increasing/maintaining a standard recommended response time to emergency calls. Simply put, it's an attempt by the union to block the progress of the Act 47 recovery team in getting the City of Pittsburgh back on the track to financial good health. Union President Joe King is on record as saying that he'd prefer to "let the city go broke" rather than bring his department in line with where it should be according to the experts and compared to other comparable cities. He and the firefighters just cannot accept the numerous independent studies that question King's assertion that cuts in the department would jeopardize public safety. The fact remains that while the city's population has declined over the past ten years, the Fire Bureau budget has nearly doubled to $60 million -- even while firefighters only respond to about 60 fires a year. As a matter of fact, compared to cities of the same size, our fire bureau is overstaffed and over-stationed. And as a group, the firefighters are the highest paid city workers, eclipsing even the salary of Mayor Tom Murphy, with several earning in excess of $100,000 per year. There was a scandal surrounding the contract concessions that the firefighter union received before the heated mayoral primary election in 2001. Murphy agreed to extend the sweet contract terms, which included a no-layoff clause for the firefighters, and which was ratified just eight days before the primary election. That action cost the city dearly, both financially and in depriving Bob O'Connor the opportunity to lead. As a condition of ratification, the union reportedly had to publicly endorse Murphy, which it did. The 850-strong union backed the mayor, who narrowly defeated O'Connor by 699 votes. That action played a major role in defining the city's current financial crisis. We cannot allow the pursestrings of this city to be controlled by any self-serving group. The future of our city is more important than any labor union or city department. The firefighters of this city do their job extremely well -- nobody is denying that, but that is not what the referendum is about. And the labor unions are an important part of the fabric of the steel city, but the purpose of the referendum is not to affirm one's pro-labor stance. We cannot lose sight that the future of the City of Pittsburgh potentially hangs in the balance of this crucial vote. It's that important.
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At 10:15 PM, Blogger Mark Rauterkus said...

In many ways, I disagree.

The self-service in May 2001 with the endorsement was Tom Murphy's blunder. The firefighters didn't miss-manage this city at every turn for the past dozen years. Murphy's blame. Murphy's blunders.

Politics is complicated and full of weidness. But, democracy is simple. One person, one vote. That's easy. At the ballot box, the question is the question. Want 4 minute standard or don't want to follow and insure the standard.

King's quote about wishing the city to go bankrupt -- whatever -- has been twisted. Would you rather die with $1,000 in your pocket or would you rather live and have a penny in your pocket? Point being, we could fix the budget -- but all die in the process. Why get our financial house in order but not have anyone who would live here or who would even visit? That is the gist of the quote and message from Joe King.

Of course there has been no management of the fire breau. Murphy can't manage anyone. The fire breau needs to contribute to the solutions. But, Tom Murphy can't coordinate and listen to what the fire professionals have to say in offering their solutions. Good faith has been changed to ZERO Faith, thanks to Tom Murphy's administration.


At 11:56 PM, Blogger PittsburghJack said...

I don't disagree at all that the self-service in 2001 was Murphy's blunder -- and the city has suffered deeply because of it.
One person, one vote? This is Allegheny County ... where even the dead have been known to vote a few times!!!
Regarding the question being the question: That is true, but the genesis of the referendum, despite the wording of the question, is not about standard response times -- the referendum has morphed into either a pro-labor referendum or a pro-firefighter referendum. That's the way it's being presented. Who among us is against firefighters? Nobody is and that's probably why this will pass in November because of the way the campaign is being packaged.
I'd like to ask a sampling of those who signed the petition to get the question on the ballot how it was presented to them. Or if they even know what they were signing and the reason for it. My hunch is that the signers did so as a support for the firefighters. Period.
And as far as the management of the bureau goes, it, like all city departments should be reorganized. In particular, the staffing level and number of stations in proportion to the change in population and schematics of the city and in relation to other cities of similar size should be examined and acted upon accordingly.
Who's more at fault, Murphy of King? That's a no-brainer. Murphy has put this city in ruins. King is only doing his job as union prez and frankly represents his guys better than any labor leader in this city has in a long time. Unfortunately, the state of our city government cannot bear much more.

At 12:44 PM, Blogger Mark Rauterkus said...

The way the ballot question is being presented is explicit. The ballot question is clearly stated and leaves nothing to be implied. That is the beauty and simplicity of democracy.

Only spin misters, pundit preachers, editorial air-bags and champtions of folly would suggest that this vote is anything but exactly what the question asks. The voters need to vote upon the question -- as asked -- in good faith.

If you have no faith, if you have no respect for democracy, if you have the illusion that you are better than everyone else combined -- then you'll put a TURD in our shared well of democracy. Others around here do have the impression that their poop doesn't smell. We don't need any magic, royalty, air-fresheners.

Same goes with a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush. No way. A vote for Badnarik is a vote for Badnarik. There is no room for twisted minds in a straight-forward world of democracy. We have to call it like it is. When we can't have any agreement on the facts -- we can't get anywhere. When the language is twisted, when the obvious is discounted to falsehoods -- that stinks.

The stadium vote is another example. People are skeptical. People who twist the truth give cover to Tom Murphy and the others so that they are able to build stadiums when the people voted "NO" -- desipite the ad and PR machine on the other side.

I'm all in favor of stand-up people who speak straight. And, I'm all in favor of democracy rather than royalty running our city. This should be America's distinct advantage.

At 1:52 PM, Blogger Mark Rauterkus said...

Agree: Murphy has put this city in ruins. Agree: Unfortunately, the state of our city government cannot bear much more.

However, now it comes to what way to move. We can fall on the side of democracy. Or, we can fall on the side of more authority, more royalty, more dictatorships, more smoke, more backroom dealings, more elitism, more fear, more wars that result in outward migration.

The powerless with some assets still at their disposal have fled or are still to flee. The poor and powerless are stuck here. Serfdom? Kingdoms?

I think we need to be open, direct, obvious. I think we have to shun the attempts to 'spin' and we can't give cover to those that rely upon it at every turn. We need more light on these matters, not less. I understand that 'life isn't fair.' However, there are a few places in life where we rely upon fairness, justice and squeeky-clean actions and values -- our courts, elections and our public process. To cloud the matters by saying this is a pro-labor or anti-labor vote is to be too-smart for our own good at best. Really, it is simply a lie to say the ballot question is a pro-labor or anti-labor question.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger PittsburghJack said...

I said that the referendum question is being made to be a pro-labor/anti-labor question -- that's not my opinion. It's based in fact. The Allegheny County Democratic Committee has also 'endorsed' the referendum question and consequently, it will apperar on the official democratic slate card which will be passed out at the polls (including by an army of firefighters). Dem Committee Chair Tom Flaherty's reasoning for the endorsement to vote 'yes' to the question did not include even an inference to rresponse time -- he said because the party is pro-labor. Yes -- that is how this question is being presented.

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