- Letters to the Editor
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The Downey Patriot reports that a ballot measure has been filed with the City Clerk's office seeking to take away the right of residents to vote on the source of our important public safety services.
Sheila Pautsch proposes to take away the right of residents to vote on important public safety services, fire and police. While the discussion of contracting for these services was first proposed by the fire union representing members of the Downey Fire Department, this ballot measure strips voter input and gives it directly to Council. Coincidentally, the fire union is supporting some candidates for Council.
The women and men of our fire department are professionals and provide an extremely vital service to our community. The fire union presented their position on a need for contracting fire services under "public safety". The fire union points out that recent budget cuts resulting in the removal of one engine has impacted their ability to respond to calls as rapidly as they were previously able.
No doubt, responses times are one measure of agencies effectiveness. There are many questions yet to be answered on this subject. For example, would response times be better with contract service? Would paramedic coverage come from county fire stations in neighboring communities? Would all current fire stations be staffed and operated by the County and at what cost?
A survey by the Los Angeles County Fire Department is reportedly being conducted. I'm open to hearing the discussion and seeing data but believe Downey residents should vote on any change to such an important public safety service. City employees (including fire union members) faced recent cutbacks in compensation during recent contract negotiations. Fire union members may benefit from a shift to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. I think most would understand how such a change would be attractive to the union's membership.
However, the Downey Fire Department belongs to OUR community and not the fire union. Ultimately, it's the service to the residents that is primary in this discussion. We all understand the financial challenges many communities have been facing. Frankly, Downey has done a much better job at bringing business to this community than other communities. Downey has done a much better job in managing its finances. Drastic changes such as contracting local public safety services should not be taken lightly, especially for the sole benefit of fire union members. These same fire union members would become members of Los Angeles County Firefighters Local 1014.
Whether surveys and proposals for contract services are presented for fire or police, the deciding factor should NOT be dollars and cents alone. Least expensive is not always the best product or service. The Los Angeles County Fire Department or County Sheriff may present interesting data and cost projections, but what counts most is the service received when the community dials the phone for help. The Sheriff's department is currently facing significant challenges, accusations and investigations concerning the manner in which they operate.
Sheila Pautsch's proposed ballot measure removes the ability of Downey residents to have a say in who provides police services as well as fire service. Who is Sheila Pautsch, and what connection may she have with the local fire union? The timing of Sheila Pautsch's ballot measure to strip Downey residents of their right to vote is suspect; recent contract negotiations resulting in decreased benefits, and the fire union's support of candidates running for Council. Is the Downey fire union working together with the Los Angeles County Firefighters Local 1014 on a strategy to strip Downey residents of their right to vote? Does this strategy benefit their members while adversely impacting residents?
Perhaps or perhaps not, but an attempt to strip voters of their right to decide this important issue is wrong. If the proposals have merit present them to the voters.
The Downey Patriot reports the fire union is supporting two candidates for City Council. Why these candidates? Should an outside union be working to move this ballot measure forward? It would assist their membership by expanding their service area. What role is the fire union representing Los Angeles County Fire employees playing in this election? Has Los Angeles County Firefighters Local 1014 or their members provided campaign contributions to current councilmembers or those running now?
Ultimately the residents of Downey should be able to vote on any change to our public safety services. Any move to contract public safety services to the County without a specific vote by Downey residents IS a deal breaker!
I have two questions for the City Council (old and new).
1.) Why on earth would the citizens of Downey give their voting rights to the City Council? I say absolutely no to letting the council decide where our fire or police services should come from.
2.) It was mentioned that 47 percent of Downey's people vote. Why aren't the remaining 53 percent voting? Of course that 53 percent includes children, non-citizens and just plain don't-cares. Exclude them and we should still have about another 47 percent. Why aren't they voting?
I certainly hope someone can give me some answers.
Why not get fire protection contracting facts? Why should we not find out the facts pertinent to the decision on contracting Downey's fire protection to the county?
The arguments against a study keep centering on city pride in our fire department and the fact that it's been in existence so long that it is part of Downey's heritage. Now how can it be that making a study to gather information will affect anything? It should only make the issue more transparent.
Shouldn't the City Council make an informed decision on whether to contract out fire protection services rather than base their votes on emotion and hearsay information? Only after examining the data, including costs, can a proper decision be made.
The three council members that voted for a study should be commended, not accused of caving to union pressure. I can make a pretty good guess why the firefighters union is pressing so hard to contract with L.A. County but if a large savings can be achieved by the city, maybe we should do so.
The City Council owes it to themselves and to all of us to possess as much information as possible before making this decision. No matter what the firefighters union's reasons are, maybe this is a win-win situation for both the city and union. With a study we at least will know.
Published: October 18, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 27