Jay Gusler did not ask us to highlight this comment that he recently made to our prior blog post (“Massive Overtime, Large Salaries…” December 15). We’ve been away and just saw this today. We thought it worthy of its own highlighted spot (we added the bolding). Here it is:
If I wasn’t already, I am certainly sealing my fate as a pariah among my fellow City workers by writing what I am about to.
The present administration is as bad, if not worse, at budgeting as any administration Charles Theofan ever presided over. The current regime has distracted the public with all of the “feel good” quality of life improvements while leaving the serious structural deficiencies in the City’s budgeting and financial practices woefully unattended. The layoff of the five firefighters is but an early symptom of those deficiencies, and – unfortunately – represents a ‘scape-goating’ of the fire department in order to steer the public’s attention away from the failures of the administration in reigning in costs.
For starters, neither Jack, nor the Council run our City. Rather they all take their marching orders from the unelected Democrat Party Boss, Mike Zapson. Jack and the Council shirk their duty to the public by abdicating to the Democrat Party elite the decision making processes affecting the future of our City. As such, it is futile to appeal to Jack or the Council to do (or not do) anything. Even if you effectively paint the administration into a corner, the ‘shadow government’ will override Jack and the Council and impose its will on them, and by extension, on the residents of LB. That’s our system of government. It always has been, and it always will be. Election Day is just an illusion used to placate the voters into thinking that they actually have some say into who runs this City. Jack and the Council are invertebrate puppets that sheepishly bow to the will of the party insiders. The will of the public means nothing to them except around the time of an impending election.
Turning to the specifics of the City’s financial death spiral, it really is quite inexplicable that the City suddenly claims it doesn’t have the money to keep these 5 firefighters on.
The budget was prepared by Jack (and approved by the Council) with the full knowledge that the grant funds would run out in November. In fact – try though he might to gloss over it – Jack was queried about this very subject by the Union while he was in the process of preparing the budget. Jack, in essence, assured the Union that its fears were for naught and that the positions allocated in the budget were fully funded for the entire budget year. Now he proudly waves the “stipulation” (signed under duress by the Union as a condition of the City accepting the grant 2 years ago) and attributes the layoffs to the expiration of the funding and the absence of any opportunity for the City to renew or reapply for further funding. But Jack knew this when he was preparing the budget. The Union sought – and received – reassurance from Jack that the LBFD staffing levels set out in the budget was adequately budgeted for. So, which is it; did the City budget adequately, or did Jack lie to the Unions face? It can only be one or the other.
Making up budget shortfalls with cuts to public safety should only be done as a last resort. The present City budget boasts a 1.5% reduction in spending for the current fiscal year. How do you retain a spending reduction while making cuts to public safety? This is especially puzzling in light of the hiring spree this administration has undertaken. The City workforce is bloated. We have do-nothing supervisors riding around in City vehicles using City gas. They’re hard pressed to figure out a way to fill their shifts.
Even the paid ranks within the LBFD are ridiculously top-heavy. We have 10 lieutenants in what is on paper presently a 29 person department. After these layoffs there will be about a 1:1 supervisor to subordinate ratio. There is no span-of-command model in the world where this make sense. Making matters worse, the City promoted yet another lieutenant this past August even though there was no position for that lieutenant in the budget. In fact, to this day, that position still hasn’t been budgeted for. That means that Jack is ‘finding’ money for this un-budgeted position from somewhere else in the budget. Yet he can’t find money elsewhere to prevent any of these layoffs?
After these layoffs the paid force will operate with four 5 man groups that do rotating tours of 24 hours on, and 72 hours off. 3 of those groups will consist of 3 firefighters and 2 lieutenants, and one group will be comprised of 3 lieutenants and 2 firefighters. On top of this, we have another lieutenant who serves as the Executive Officer of the paid force. This individual is not assigned to a regular tour and pretty much does whatever he feels like doing and works no set schedule. Moving the Executive Officer back to being on a group and the demotion of at least 4 lieutenants back to the rank of firefighter would probably free up enough money to prevent one of the layoffs, but the City isn’t the slightest bit interested in mitigating these layoffs.
Beyond these obvious moves within the paid ranks, there are significant savings that could be realized elsewhere within the LBFD and in other agencies of City government if, in fact, the City had any interest in really saving money and avoiding these layoffs. The sad reality is that they do not.
The infamous bank robber Willie Sutton (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willie_Sutton) is widely credited with answering the question of why he robbed banks with the oft quoted “because that’s where the money is”. When it comes to the City budget, the “money” is not in the LBFD. If the City was truly interested in saving money, they need to look elsewhere. The issue here is not identifying savings. The decision to cut the paid ranks within the LBFD is purely a politically driven one. The City is masquerading the decision as one of economic necessity, but until all other efforts at cutting costs are exhausted there is no other way to see this other than as ill-conceived political maneuvering. The City is gambling with peoples lives. I hope for the sake of the public they don’t roll snake eyes.