False Emergencies, Real Dollars

Mayor Cicilline has repeatedly expressed concern for the burden of the taxpayer. I’m sure I speak for taxpayers everywhere when I say “thanks”.
My question is, does his concern manifest itself anyplace other than the expired firefighters’ contract?
Let’s be clear. I’m the first to ask for a fair contract between municipality and valued public worker. Commenter and firefighter advocate Tom Kenney said something nice under this post. Loathe though I am to introduce a slightly discordant note, even temporarily, he probably wouldn’t be too happy about my likely stance on the terms of the contract now in contention between the mayor and Local 799.
At the same time, the budget for the Providence Fire Department is 6.5% of the city’s total budget (FY 2008, PDF ). Does the other 93.5% of the budget get the exacting attention that the Fire Department has received, lately and for the last five years?
What got me thinking about the bigger budget picture is this nonsense, far from the first such incident reported by Michael Morse at Rescuing Providence. More important than dollar cost is the potential human cost of such a diversion of resources. Did someone wind up more seriously injured or worse while Rescue Taxicab One was attending to this woman? At the risk of stating the obvious, public services are provided for use, not abuse and for need, not greed. This woman and everyone who has done likewise should get an invoice – a complete invoice, labor and equipment – for the ride.
Now we have to ask: is this sort of thing going on with other city services? Are city ambulances called like taxicabs reflective of how the city – more specifically, the tax dollar – is managed overall?
Kudos to the mayor for his extreme concern about the firefighters new contract. At the risk, however, of sounding a tad ungrateful (really, I’m not), every budget dollar counts, not just the dollars expended on a department that accounts for 6.5% of the city’s budget. And a dollar saved from an abused city service is a dollar that can go back into the budget … or, in the most dire case, back into the taxpayer’s wallet.

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Tom Kenney
13 years ago

I have no problem with your post, but one. When you say “thanks” to Mayor Cicilline.
You write that “every budget dollar counts” yet you just dismiss the mayor’s decission to spend well over a million dollars in legal fees on 12 contractual issues he fought with no chance of winning. The issues were black & white and predictably the union prevailed on all 12.
You dismiss the fact that the mayor could have been collecting co-shares from firefighters for over 2 years now (maybe more) if he had accepted our counter proposals to any one of his take-it-or-leave-it proposals.
“The” issue which he refuses to move on and we refuse to move on is staffing. It is simply a matter of public (and FF) safety. Whether our critics want to believe that or not that is the truth.

13 years ago

It’s been refreshing thus far not to have been bashed on this forum on this issue. I know what the general view of unions are for most of the contributors on this board.
That’s from Tom Kenney
I don’t believe that the AR contributors have recently got religion for labor unions or workers rights. They cannot bring themselves to support Mayor Cicilline in any way. It’s the person not the policy. If the Providence mayor was anyone else and I mean anyone that person would have been deified on these pages. You can quess why this is. Tom , I wish you and your fellow workers well.

Justin Katz
13 years ago

Your assertions simply aren’t true. Specifically with the Providence firefighters, while there’s been heated discussion, we’ve been empathetic — especially Andrew and Monique.
I’ll admit, of course, that innate suspicion of Cicilline plays a small role in my hesitance to jump in.

13 years ago

Phil, Heck, I’ll go on the record here, too. Generally speaking, I give police and fire a lot more leeway due to the nature of their jobs. Is there some contractual stuff that raises my eyebrows? Sure…but that’s outweighed by the inherent danger of their profession (for the most part).

13 years ago

Taxi, er.. Rescue 1 was taken out of service on Thursday and replaced with Rescue 9, a piece of junk with 217,000 city miles on it. The “new” rescue is sitting at the Convention Center in case a Mayor needs it I guess, while the “old
Rescue is taking care of the taxpayers.
Don’t worry, taxpayers, you will have the “new” Rescue 1 back on Tuesday, when the cameras are gone.

Tom Kenney
13 years ago

Your post listed the fire department as 6.5% of the city’s budget. That is correct.
When the mayor called all union leaders in for a meeting regarding givebacks which would help the city through it’s 2008-2009 budget deficit Local 799 proposed changes that would have saved the city over 15% of the total deficit – more than double of our fair share.
Cicilline refused because the changes/givebacks were not the ones he wanted, i.e. staffing cuts.

Tom Kenney
13 years ago

The mayor’s radio ad says that the “average” Prov firefighter costs the city over $132,000. lol
The $132,000 figure the mayor was talking about is pure fiction. It is an average of 2007 compensation and benefits which include the chiefs (who are not part of the union but are the highest paid members of the department). It also includes excessive overtime due to the fact that the department was more than 60 FF’s short staffed. Since then (largely due to pressure from Local 799) there have been 58 new FF’s hired. Overtime has gone down.
I an an officer on the Prov Fire Dept and my base pay in 2007 was $60,000. BC/BS was $12,377. The city’s contribution to my retirement was $4,891. Total cost for me w/o overtime (an officer with 29 years on the job) was $77,268. And O/T was only $18,370 (which was dramatically reduced in 2008 & will be further reduced in 2009)
Does that sound like $132,000?

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
13 years ago

Tom-tat sounds familiar-we had almost the same numbers-I was a GS-13 when I left with 21 years on (+ 4 1/2 military active duty)-this was almost 13 years ago.Because we were on hazardous duty retirement we paid more into the pension than ordinary Federal employees.Fair enough because we could retire early.

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