Wednesday, April 9, 2008

ProJo in Bed With Cicilline

Letter-to-the-Editor (7-APR-08)

Dear Editor:

I am once again at a loss for words on the slanted, one-sided reporting of your paper. I am referring to the published letter by David Cicilline in the April 7th issue of the Providence Journal “Standing up for struggling families means taking on union”. This letter is filled with distortions and downright lies regarding the contractual impasse between the city and Providence firefighters. On top of this, it is a rehash of old lies by the mayor that have been printed numerous times by your paper. I, and others, have written to your editors on numerous occasions pointing out the factual errors of your articles and of letters you have published on this subject, but you choose not to publish them.

While the actions and rhetoric of Cicilline are disgraceful from a man who claims to be concerned with ethics in government, they are (at least) understandable. He has had his chances of gaining the Governor’s office dashed by his inability to successfully settle a simple labor contract with Local 799. He holds a grudge against us and is striking back with everything he can think of – whether or not it is truthful. Your editor’s actions, however, are indefensible. They have a responsibility to the people of this state to report the news as it occurs, not selectively. And although the editorial pages are a place your editors can report opinion, it is still your obligation to use facts to base your claims – not exaggerations, distortions and lies.

Cicilline’s letter stated - “220 members of Local799 earned over $100,000 last year.”
The fact is – at least 210 of these members earned this amount in 2006 ONLY because they received a retroactive pay raise that should have been paid over a 5-year period.

Cicilline’s letter stated – “City residents paid $660,000 in overtime to staff a rescue truck that would have cost no overtime except that provisions in the contract prevent the chief from assigning personnel efficiently.”
The fact is – it cost overtime to staff that rescue because Providence firefighters refused to allow the mayor and the chief to remove firefighters (and thus lessen fire protection) from active fire apparatus. The city is in desperate need of this rescue (and more), but it is our firm belief that it shouldn’t be done at the cost of adequate fire protection.

Cicilline’s letter implies that – Providence has the highest cost for firefighters in the nation.
The fact is – although the urban areas of the Northeast are traditionally (and understandably) the location of the highest cost per resident for fire service, Providence firefighters are not even the highest paid firefighters in the state.

He implies that Providence firefighters are costing the city taxpayers to face tax hikes in their property tax.
The fact is – Providence firefighter’s salaries account for a mere 3.99% of the annual budget of the City of Providence.

He implies that the main stumbling block for firefighters is a refusal to pay health care co-shares.
The fact is – the main stumbling block causing this impasse on the part of Providence firefighters is now, and has always been, the city’s insistence on reducing staffing on fire apparatus and thus putting both firefighters and our citizens in greater danger.

All these facts have been given to the editors of the Providence Journal on numerous occasions. Not only have you chosen not to publish these facts, but you continue to allow Cicilline to state these misrepresentations as fact – that is journalism of the lowest caliber.

Lt. Tom Kenney
Providence Fire Department