December 03, 2003

Fire Department Continues to Face Cutbacks

At last night's City Council meetings, there were many heartfelt statements about the power of negotations and communication. It appeared the city would actually listen to its own agency heads. However, at 10:45 this morning, the city cancelled its 2 p.m. appointment with the Fire Department for negotiations over station closures. The meeting has yet to be rescheduled.

We called our 7 fire stations 14,000 times in 2002--more than any city our size in the Bay Area. Despite this level of service to our growing community, when the budget crisis hit, the city immediately took pot shots at the fire department for presumably single-handedly and abruptly putting the city into a precarious financial situation.

Now here are a few facts that show you where the city's priorities are and what we lose through cuts to fire and other services.

The city proposes a 25% staffing cut for the fire department, to 18 staff a day -- coverage equal to that of a typical city with under 50,000 population or a sparcely populated rural area (our population is over 100,000).

And yet:

* Current FBI statistics rank Richmond as the 24th most dangerous city of any size to live in America.

* Richmond spends more of its General Fund on Administrative Funds, and comparatively less on its fire department, than any Bay Area city.

* Like other departments, such as the library, the fire department was not "sitting pretty" when the budget year began. While the service population and area served have increased significantly--and continue to do so--staffing for the fire department has not increased.

Every city in California is facing hardship at the moment. Yet, none is laying off firefighters, and none has let their fire protection fall as far as Richmond has already.

The City voted in this year's budget and then months later unveiled the "news" that it could not make ends meet. Now, the city proposes cuts to core services without looking at other areas of the city budget that are not safety-related, and without revealing what increases were enjoyed by the central management divisions over the last several years before they took their own nominal cut.

Posted by kgs at December 3, 2003 05:40 PM | TrackBack

Just providing the latest update on the scheduled reduction of the fire department by 25%:

The city has still not presented the latest plan calling for the permanent closure of your only fully staffed ladder truck and for "browning out" a fire station every day forever. The city is required by law to meet and confer in good faith with the union on any changes in working conditions. Yet the city fully intends to shut down fire stations and lay off 18 firefighters on December 31 at 5 pm.

Deputy Fire Chief Rich Giaramita told me that the latest plan is to rotate the closure of three fire stations- Sta 61 in Pt Richmond, Sta 67@ 11th & Cutting and Sta 62 @7th & Hensley. That means the point will be without its fire station 1/3rd of the time and be without a vital responding engine everyday.

Chief Giaramita knows the consequences of inadequate staffing and said that he would be willing to explain its failings to the city council or any citizen or group. Please contact D/C Giaramita at 307-8047.

I will continue to provide updates, but time is running out- please continue to pressure city staff and the city council

Posted by: Jim Russey at December 9, 2003 11:42 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?