Dear Editor:The services about which the Downey fire union is complaining have been in existence far longer than their sudden attempt to change the city charter. This move by the fire union only surfaced after cuts to employee benefits and management cost-cutting measures. These cuts included removing one fire engine from service.
Is this about legitimate concerns for potential lawsuits for perceived violations of the city charter? Frankly, members of the fire union likely stand to make more money as county employees. Is the charter petition by the fire union about a legitimate public safety concern, lawsuits or a contractual dispute?
Let us consider a few things. Initially the fire union raised concerns about cuts affecting public safety. The city stated the cuts were temporary. The city has secured grant funding to hire firefighters and put the one fire engine back into service. According to the "public safety" concerns raised by the fire union, this should alleviate the issue.
In the eyes of the fire union, the city violated the charter by staffing city ambulances with non-union employees and jail staff. The fire union's solution to these alleged violations is the extraordinary step of changing the charter. Currently, the charter requires decisions to contract for police and fire must be voted on directly by the residents. What changes does the fire union propose? That YOU (the residents) give up this right and allow the five council members to vote on the issue for you.
Should the union's measure be successful, any future decision to replace police officers or firefighters with contracted services (e.g. county, CAL-Fire, Santa Fe Springs, etc.) would no longer be up to you. Who does the fire union believe is responsible enough to make this decision? The city council is the union's solution. Remember folks, this would be the same council that approved non-union workers as ambulance drivers. The same council the union states placed the city at risk with the decision. Does this make sense to anyone else?
In my opinion, this seems less about public safety and lawsuits and more about a conflict between a bargaining unit (the fire union) and the city. The fire union's actions speak clearly to this.
As for fire union president Steve Davis' suggestion it is your responsibility to read and understand the petition, I agree. It is your responsibility as a voter to read the petition. However, I would suggest to Steve Davis that the fire union leadership is responsible for having those gathering petitions on their behalf to also read and clearly understand the petition. It is the fire union's responsibility to ensure petitioners acting on their behalf provide accurate information. It is a matter of public trust in our government employees.
We have professional firefighters in our community but the fire union leadership's actions on this issue jeopardize the credibility of their bargaining unit and their members at large. Don't be fooled by the fire union or the petitioners in front of your local businesses. Neal Mongan Downey
********** Published: Febuary 7, 2013 - Volume 11 - Issue 43