Monday, May 16, 2016

Money Issues Featured at Council Meeting Tonight

   I think tonight is the night City Council considers the local law to allow an override of the tax cap. In repeated press accounts, Council seems committed to not exceeding it, so defeating the local law would seem appropriate.
   Council will also discuss naming rights at the Arena.


Anonymous said...

Fred S. McChesney is a professor of law and economics at the University of Miami who studies the intersection of economics and public institutions.

If you want to chat with a firefighter or see a fire truck up close, you can go down to the local firehouse at any time of day. The crew will probably be there, lifting weights or washing down the already gleaming red engines. Career firefighters usually live at the firehouse for a day or two, then take as many as three days off. Between eating and sleeping at the station, they mop floors, clean toilets and landscape the yard — with a few hours set aside daily for training and drills. Mid-morning, you’ll find several of them at the local supermarket doing the day’s grocery shopping.

In other words, being a firefighter these days doesn’t involve a lot of fighting fire.

Rapid improvements in fire safety have caused a dramatic drop in the number of blazes, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Buildings are constructed with fire-resistant materials; clothing and curtains are made of flame-retardant fabrics; and municipal laws mandate sprinkler systems and smoke detectors. The striking results: On highways, vehicle fires declined 64 percent from 1980 to 2013. Building fires fell 54 percent during that time. When they break out, sprinkler systems almost always extinguish the flames before firefighters can turn on a hose.

But oddly, as the number of fires has dropped, the ranks of firefighters have continued to grow — significantly. There are half as many fires as there were 30 years ago, but about 50 percent more people are paid to fight them.

This is no secret. Across the country, cities and towns have been trying to bring firefighting operations in line with the plummeting demand for their services. Many solutions have been attempted: reducing the length of firefighters’ shifts; merging services with neighboring towns; and instituting brownouts, which temporarily take an engine out of service. But often, these efforts have failed against obstinate unions and haven’t reversed the national increase in fire department payrolls.

Instead of addressing this municipal waste with patchwork plans to cut overtime and shrink staffs, many cities and towns should consider throwing out the very concept of the career firefighter and return to the tradition of volunteers.

Anonymous said...

” … many cities and towns should consider throwing out the very concept of the career firefighter and return to the tradition of volunteers.”

Professor McChesney, I have a question for you about this lofty idea. Did your statistics explain why the number of career firefighters has been rising as the number of fires fall? I can assure it isn’t just because the IAFF does such a great job of lobbying for more career firefighters.

I didn’t need a highly paid professor to find the answer to that question. Any volunteer or amateur researcher armed with Google could figure it out: Career firefighters are replacing volunteer firefighters who are no longer there .

It’s hard to get people to volunteer in today’s world. Any of the many articles in that link can explain why.

Volunteer fire departments are desperately trying to recruit new members and, unfortunately, many (but not all) of them aren’t succeeding. This is quickly becoming a crisis for hundreds of communities around the country. A lot of small towns wish they had the means to hire career firefighters to fill in for the vanishing volunteers. In some communities it’s so dire that many responding volunteers are in their sixties and even seventies with no replacements in sight.

So professor, without a magical influx of volunteers, who will respond to fires when the number of career firefighters is slashed to meet your formula?

Here’s another secret your beloved statistics don’t reveal. When your house burns it doesn’t know that there are a lot fewer fires in the United States. Fires still burn the same way they always have (actually that’s not exactly true, but I will explain in a moment). This means it still takes the same number of firefighters to suppress the fire as it did before there were fewer fires.

Let me put it another way for you professor. When your house is burning with your family trapped inside, do you want just one or two firefighters arriving on the first fire engine or would you prefer three or four followed by other similarly staffed engines and ladder trucks? How do your stats answer that question?

And let’s get back to how fires burn these days. Do your stats show residential fires are burning hotter? Do they show how modern construction promotes faster fire spread within and outside the home? Do they show how often firefighters today arrive on the scene of a burning single family home in the suburbs and find two or three other homes on fire? Of course not.

This leads to my final real world question for you professor: When your neighbor’s house is burning, the vinyl siding on your home is melting, and your house is two minutes away from igniting, would you like more or fewer firefighters showing up on that first engine?

Anonymous said...

Gardner and Macaluso leading the naming rights charges...yikes. Spending a lot of time on this to state the OBVIOUS. Let's hope Mr. Caprara comes through because I highly doubt anyone else wants to spend $$$ in the range that is being asked when there is little value to it as advertisement. And, with the negativity of this project in all aspects, the value has dropped considerably. It would be nice if this was something the community supported but it wasn't. Just keep booking the place and that will go a long way in building the community support this needs.

Anonymous said...

And so the community will burn again like the old days. Look at history. Now your taxes will stay high and your services will drop even more. How stupid can some thoughts be.

Anonymous said...

11:00am, that's good drama, but not a fact involved. Try one, just one will do.

Anonymous said...

10:13 AM, how about showing us a fire in a volunteer district that would have had different results with a 24x7 paid crew?
Or how about a community that went from a volunteer force to a paid crew? The reason for more paid positions is the unions lying about safety and forcing this bloated bureaucracy on us.

Anonymous said...

10:13 How about all new rental income and private homes be mandated to install sprinkler systems. This should be easy to approve by the council and required and enforced within all new construction by the building inspector.

Start thinking outside the box and in the 21st century. It's either that or continue to watch the Verizon employees lose their health care benefits cause they will not penny up with their co-shares.

I'm having trouble keeping up with my own health care insurance for my own family pay your own GD fair share.

Anonymous said...

thank you Mr. Walczyk for being the only one at the meeting to stand tall and VOTE AGAINST overriding the 2 percent tax cap . The rest on council are going to tax us right out of the city and into the town of Watertown where they know how to keep spending under control.

Anonymous said...

7:08 I have sympathy for you, but i think you took the wrong job..
find one with health coverage included.
there are many out there, not just here in watertown..
its a career choice and some of the blame is on you not the ones who have it.