Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Case for Reforming City Government

Disclaimer: This particular issue is centered around my town, but can be applied to anywhere that is facing the same issue.

This blog has been typically reserved for national issues, but something in my town has me really irked, I feel it needs to be heard. Just as with the Ferderal government, my city's government is run by a bureuacracy of bean counters who only look for ways to save money rather than what is in the public's best interest. My goal is to change all that.
There was a recent battle between City Hall and the local chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters over staffing concerns at the city firehouses. The union was demadning an increase in the number of fire fighters at each house to better staff the engines in case of a call, which actually makes sense. In return, the mayor threatened to close a firehouse because he disagreed with the union. I don't know how many of you are familiar with Erie, but it's 28 sq/miles, not big, but also not small. At the time there were six firehouses, two of them dual engine companies with both a fire engine, and a ladder truck and a third had the water rescue unit. The mayor wanted to cut that down to 5 firehouses, but it wasn't clear which one would be closed as it didn't make any sense to close any. Eventually the agreement was to eliminate the dual fire houses and shut down one engine and one ladder truck. So as it stands, we have five engines and one ladder protecting the entire city, while six other fire engines and three ladder trucks sit idle because there isn't anybody to staff them. Of those idle trucks are five reserve trucks, two reserve ladder, and the engine and ladder that were shut down. We have more than enough apperatus to protect the city, but no men to staff them. And it was said response would not suffer, which I say is the biggest load of B.S. ever uttered. There was an auto accident about half a block from my house yesterday at a dangerous intersection without a traffic light (I will get into that later), and the fire engine that covers my end of town repsonded, but was tied up there for at an hour and half. Meanwhile, the entire southeast end of town is left to be protected by the firehouses that cover the south central and northeastern parts of town. But here's the rub, the one firehouse has the water rescue unit and the other covers the main road leading out of town. So if both of them had calls, then my area is screwed. My end of town is 80-90% residential and includes a college campus that has a couple thousands living there. We would be up not a creek but a river and not in a boat without a paddle but on a log, drifting aimlessly.
The reasons for all these cut backs is because in the current political climate, our mayor, like many other politicians, is afraid of raising taxes. But I have plan that can work and probably will face little opposition. Assess a $1 a week "public safety" fee on residential property taxes and $2-5 on business, depending on the size of the building. That could mean around $2 million for residential and $1.3-3.3 million from businesses. That is potentially $5 million dollars for the police and fire departments. But instead of being creative like that, the mayor continues to put the people who put him in office at risk.
Another part of the bureaucracy is the red tape one has to go through to get a stupid traffic light put up. A half a block from house is a very dangerous intersection, the one with the auto accident mentioned earlier. Two busy streets along with with a side street create a 5 way intersection that can be hard to maneuver through. There have been pushes for a traffic light for at least 30 years when my grandfather signed a petition for it. But because the fatality numbers aren't high enough, the city refuses to spend the money on it. Instead of looking at fatality, they need to analyze the number of accidents period because there are probably at least one a month there, if not more. It's infuriating how the almighty dollar takes precedence over human life.
These actions by the mayor and city council are unacceptable. But remember this, just as easily as we voted them in, we can vote him out. We did it to the mayor's predecessor, and we can do it to him.

No comments:

Post a Comment