NOT written by Anthony. The author wishes to remain anonymous:
I went to Tuesday’s city council meeting fully expecting good public theatre. I walked out having witnessed a tragedy for our community.
I’ll put all my cards on the table up front and say that I believe there is room for improvement in our professional firefighting force, especially in terms of our emergency medical service. Improvements that certainly were not taking place under the current system. So I am at least open to some of the changes the city seems ready to implement within our emergency response system. My willingness to consider changes is based on the following:
- We have an inefficient structure within the paid force. It is an excessively top heavy organization, with nearly one lieutenant for each firefighter.
- I can see how having highly trained paramedics might offer superior service to EMT’s.
- Given the nature of most emergency calls, with 75% of the calls being EMS, I can see how putting greater emphasis on paramedics over firefighters makes sense.
- I can see how having a pre-deployed ambulance in high demand areas (as proposed in the ICMA report) could improve our response times. So for everyone arguing how this is a safety issue, why would you be against improving response times?
- While some are arguing that cross trained firefighters and EMTs offer the most versatility, as a taxpayer I can appreciate the savings associated with optimizing the makeup of the force to better meet the emergency services needs of the community. A force made up entirely of cross-trained firefighters is an expensive luxury that is not making us any safer. In fact, if the proposals are implemented, Long Beach would actually see an increase in available emergency medical services.
You can agree or disagree with me on the above points. That’s fine. But they’re what make sense to me from a logical perspective. But this post isn’t really about that anyway.
What this post IS about is the complete and utter lack of civil discourse taking place in our city.
To our firefighter community and their supporters – your behavior is doing you no favors. You’re coming across as an angry mob that’s either unwilling or unable to engage in a factual debate. Saying a report is garbage doesn’t make it so. Saying our firefighters are somehow doing a better job simply because they’re locals is insulting. Does that mean that every NYPD and FDNY professional that commutes to work from LB is doing inferior work? Your inability to acknowledge even the most obvious inefficiencies in the way things are currently done (11 Lieutenants? Horrible relations between Professional and Volunteers? A completely outdated leadership structure!) only serves to undermine whatever valid points you might try to make.
By the way, at community meetings your attempt to intimidate our elected officials and those that don’t agree with you by your constant public outbursts is likely not helping your cause, and is most certainly causing collateral damage. By intimidating your fellow residents, you are stifling a healthy public debate. In addition to myself, I know of others that have lost respect for both your cause and professionalism. I assume this isn’t what you want, so I implore you to consider your actions and behavior moving forward.
The perceived anger, however, is not without its merit. And that’s, of course, because the City Council refuses to publicly weigh-in on or answer any questions on the issue. This is indefensible. These are our elected representatives…our fellow citizens. And they owe it to the community to explain their thinking and actions. Not just by voting one way or another on some resolution that may or may not take place, but in a way that shows they acknowledge some of the reasonable concerns expressed by their constituents.
I’ve already stated that I’m open to some of the changes being proposed. Of the council though, I’d ask this. “If you’re not willing to publicly defend your decisions, why should I?”. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. You were elected to lead, so lead. Who knows, someone like myself might just follow.
And to the rest of my fellow residents, whether it be on this blog, Facebook or on the 6th floor of city hall – please consider your own role and actions in all of this. “Give em Hell” is not civil discourse. A shouting match at city hall is not a “community awakening”. Posting half-truths and incendiary material on Facebook is NOT helping to educated our citizenry or move our community forward. It is abundantly clear that most have not read the ICMA report. It’s fine to take exception with it’s findings, but it is incumbent upon you to at least be versed with what you’re so passionately railing against.
Is it so long since Sandy that we forgot we’re all in this together? Clearly, we’re not going to agree on everything. Democracy is necessarily messy. It depends on spirited, informed debate to arrive at optimal decisions. But a debate worthy of our city can’t happen with all sides acting the way they have been. And because of that, we all lose.