You'd be hard-pressed to find a city worker who's happy with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's latest budget proposal, or his budget committee's follow-up: Unions are forced to choose between a fat new round of furloughs or major benefit shrinkage.
But no one is unhappier than the L.A. city firefighters union, who would be deprived of 300 paying members if the City Council approves the plan. KPCC reports that “The department also would close 18 engines, seven hook-and-ladder trucks and four ambulances. All this would save the city $190 million over three years.”
Surprisingly, Fire Captain Jaime Moore backs (and actually helped design) the plan…
… admitting the department's archaic system needed an upgrade.
But all that penny-pinching only spells disaster for the firefighters union, whose main duty, of course, is to protect the jobs of those who fork over monthly union dues. (Some are also facing furloughs.)
The Fire Department has been taking small cuts for a year and a half — and, Moore concedes, there has been a small “effect on response times.” Though the new plan would quicken some responses, others would be drawn out by a few crucial seconds.
That's where the firefighters union slides home with the threat [spotted by LAist]:
“Those delayed responses will lead to unnecessary deaths,” firefighters union president Pat McOsker said.
“They're going to park empty ambulances in fire houses that are not staffed,” he said. “They call them 'ready reserve' but they're not ready for anything.”
Dun dun dunnn.
It worked, man — we're officially shaking in our boots. But it's not fair, really, and kind of cheap: No other batch of city employees have the same caliber of consequences to hang over our heads during this deficit chaos. What are library employees going to to say — you won't be able to surf the Net for porn on Mondays?
We hate to see L.A.'s everyday heroes out of work. It's no way to compensate them for years of saving lives (and adorable kitties). But as far as budget cuts go, these ones seems pretty solid. Via KPCC:
Fire Captain Jaime Moore said department personnel analyzed more than a million calls for help to craft a plan that would safely scale back the department. “We had to take a very good look at the way we operated,” Moore said.
He said while Chief Milage Peaks would prefer to maintain the size of the department, he and other fire leaders found they could get away with some downsizing. “We have some areas where we have task forces where a single engine could handle the number of fire calls they're getting.”
Note: Though many news outlets are reporting that the 2011-12 budget plan includes layoffs, Dennis Gleason (spokesman for City Councilman Bernard Parks) clarifies that there are only position eliminations.
Yeah, we know — it sounds like a bad euphemism for getting fired — but it's actually the least fiery way to phase out city employees.
“You constantly have people that are retiring, or moving, or quitting,” says Gleason. “It changes on a day-to-day basis.” So, under the new budget plan, those positions simply won't be refilled. Which, uh, may or may not lead to mass death by housefire, depending on who you ask.