Bad Management — Demand Change

Our “About this Blog” page, the first thing we wrote and what drove us to start this blog, says in its opening:

“In this City, the generally held view is that City government (those running it), whether in the hands of democrats or republicans, is out for itself, first and foremost.  Contracts awarded, variances or permits given or denied, hires and fires, raises and promotions — determined by your relationships with those in power.  But what about the masses, who just want to live in a seaside town, watch our kids play ball and swim, jog the boardwalk, with pride in our town and homes, with clean, unbroken streets and well-kempt and patrolled public spaces?  Does the power simply say to itself that so long as the public has that Long Beach sand between its toes, we don’t have to do what’s best for them?  Will City services and infrastructure and upkeep and escalating taxes and debt levels always play second fiddle to decisions tainted by crony capitalism?”

The sparring between the LBPFF (LB Professional Fire Fighters) and the City has gotten the attention of many and also brings, or hopefully brings, into focus for them what we were talking about above.  At the outset, we want to say that our position on the dispute generally remains as when we touched on it  in our December 15 post – “Massive Overtime, Large Salaries…” – (i) something’s odd about the budgeting, (ii) but we are largely in favor of limiting headcount because of the out of control OT, juiced pensions and medical that lead to high taxes and broken streets.  We  would add to our view that there are very few fires in LB.  Our needs are EMS and ambulances.  We (TLBS) do not know the cost differential, but every citizen should want to know and the City should know or find out what is the best way to enhance/add to these vital services and then take steps to move in that direction.  If that is to increase or decrease the LBFF ranks, so be it.  But the decision must be guided by the safety and welfare of the residents and sound management of our assets. Period.

Sound management.  That is where we are focused.  Jay Gusler’s comment to our December 15 post, which we added as its own post a few days’ ago brings us to this point.

The City employee ranks are swollen by far too many generals in relation to infantry.  This has the following bad effects:  (a) we are paying for supervisors that are not required, (b) that unnecessary higher pay rate translates into higher pension obligations that we will pay 25 or more years after the employee left service — longer than they may have been in service, (c) the title does or can mean that such person cannot do the work that a non-supervisor does (b/c of union/CBA rules), so while the supervisor perhaps does not do work that needs to get done, non-supervisors are being paid for OT (leading to larger pensions, etc.), and (d) we are potentially not hiring needed lower cost employees because a supervisor is eating up budget.  Gusler’s post says this straight from one on that side of the fence.  The number of “supervisors” in water, sewer, maintenance, PD, FD, is ludicrous.  So why does  it exist?  Patronage, cronyism, foxes guarding the henhouse?  Yup.

Gusler states the fact that FD has too many lieutenants and also states how even reorganizing that manipulated system would free up the money needed to keep the 5 men. Why is that not being done?

Because the system is broken and corrupt and used to bestow benefits (or take them away)  for reasons having little to do with sound management.   We need to demand changes to a system abused and designed to be abused.

Those up in arms about or paying attention because of the 5 firefighters, now is a good time to take stock of our City’s employment and how it affects you and our City every day.  Demand sound management.

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2 Responses to Bad Management — Demand Change

  1. Jay Gusler says:

    The fact is that the City has already found the most effective and cost efficient way to deliver essential public safety services to its residents. That is through a combination of volunteer and paid professional firefighters providing both fire and EMS protection.

    Nassau County is protected by 71 individual fire departments (FD’s). Of those, only Long Beach and Garden City openly employ professional firefighters. The other 69 FD’s are all volunteer. Or are they?

    Every one of these “volunteer” departments relies on paid employees in order to meet their public safety obligations to the citizens they exist to protect. These paid workers are hired as cleaners, clerical workers, mechanics or ‘housemen’. Whatever the title the employee is hired into, they are all allowed to put down the mop or the wrench and jump on the trucks when the bells ring. Another common practice in these volunteer departments is to hire paid EMS providers. Even with the paid professional component within the LBFD, we are only the 15th highest FD budget in the County. That’s right; there are 14 “volunteer” departments that are MORE expensive than the LBFD is. What makes this even more remarkable is that the LBFD has lead all FD’s on LI in calls per year for at least the past 20 years. The next busiest FD in Nassau County doesn’t run half the number of calls that the LBFD does.

    The point of all this is that Long Beach is different from every other community on LI. We can’t rely on a “volunteer” FD like everyone else on the Island can. Our City fathers had the wisdom to recognize this over 80 years ago, and in response determined that a paid company was necessary to augment the volunteer force. We’ve (the professional force) been here ever since. In those 80+ years, the LBFD has morphed from a straight-up fire suppression operation into one providing a vast array of varied emergency services.

    Much is made of the perceived lack of “fires” we have here in town. Some feel that the lack of fires justifies reducing the number of paid firefighters and replacing them with paramedics to handle the far more abundant ambulance call volume. In reality, that lack of fires is a testimonial to the necessity of our current staffing levels.

    There are innumerable instances every year – probably 20-25 or so – of the professional force getting to a scene and extinguishing a burning item in a structure before that burning item causes the surrounding structure to catch fire. If the response to those calls had been any slower – and they undoubtedly would be with a volunteer only response – those incidents would have blossomed into the full-blown “fires” that we’re criticized as lacking in. So, not only does the professional force reduce the amount of damage in those instances when we respond to a working fire, but we prevent many, many more from ever getting to that stage.

    These cuts that the City is making to the professional force in the LBFD are unnecessary and unconscionable. They will make the City less safe in a tangible and undeniable way. We’re being made the scapegoats for the administration’s mismanagement. FD’s almost always are. As stated previously, if the City was serious about trimming costs they need to turn their attention elsewhere. The professional company within the LBFD is the best bargain in all of City services. Why, oh why, would anyone want to screw with that?

  2. LayItBare says:

    Jay – thank you for your continued writing on the LBPFF issue. We remain on the fence because of the larger mismanagement issue and would love to see people get excited/angered about it and direct their energies to contacting the City Council, by email, letter, phone call, cornering them at the grocery or ball game, and of course at a Council meeting. The Council has the power to change things and ran on platforms of making things better for LB and that is their responsibility. A freshman high schooler could easily see the waste of our resources. The public that is supporting the LBFF should see the far larger issue that needs to be addressed for this City to improve and they should seize the moment.

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