Friday, September 7, 2012

A War on Terror

The holes in our hearts
can never be filled
by any amount of words
And though it’s important
to remember them all
their voices remain unheard

I don’t think they call
for any act of vengeance
but rather determination
That we band together
in the name of peace
not grieve in isolation

For no act of retribution
can bring them back
to stand with us once more
But America had to respond
because this cowardly act
was an act of war

For in this age of terrorism
there’s no resolution
through diplomatic means
We must root out the evil
and destroy it entirely
to avoid similar scenes

Though we may wish to temper
our immediate response
it’s kill or be killed
This weapon of terror they employ
requires that we react
as forceful and strong-willed

We must wage a war on terror
and turn it back on them
bring it to their shore
For we Americans wish for peace
and deserve the right
to live safely evermore
From Hero to Thug

The day the towers fell people took notice
Of ones they never gave a thought
The police and especially the firefighters
Stepped up for those overwrought

As everyone else ran away from the buildings
They responded in droves to assist
And even as the situation became more dire
Their fears they managed to resist

As they perished by the hundreds that fateful day
The world learned a lesson in dedication
These men, like soldiers, who had sworn to protect
Headed to their fates without hesitation

Firefighters everywhere were struck by that blow
Everyday citizens did rally around us
They praised our courage and dedication to duty
Though we were embarrassed by the fuss

But we need not have worried about that
Public opinion changes on a whim
And within a few months of singing our praises
Their memories of heroes were dim

So when our contracts were up for renegotiation
Politicians put the blame on our backs
These leaders claimed to have no more money
They said they’d have to raise their tax

They told the public our pay was too generous
Our pensions and benefits too
When faced with having to pay more to the city
Taxpayers’ anger began to stew

Politicians and conservative types had a plan
Blame us for the recession
A campaign to label us as greedy union thugs
To force us into concessions

The debate goes on even now, ten years later
As they paint firefighters as useless slugs
Their outright lies and their editorial powers
Have turned us from heroes to thugs

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Heroes That Time Forgot


The Heroes That Time Forgot

I work in the midst of an army of brave men
Some be heroes and some be not
But in the realm of modern scientific progress
We’re the heroes that time forgot

The tubes of air we carry into battle
Are rated for thirty minutes
Though mask itself lasts for only about twelve
When we strap our face into it

Over thirty years of improvements have yielded
A bottle rated for forty-five
Yet it still gives us only enough for twenty
To allow us to survive

Wooden ladders have made way for aluminum
To make them easier to deploy
We still have to raise them and vent at the roof
Before the rafters are destroyed

Progress has given us C-G-M’s* and TIC’s*
To aid us in our work
But in order to employ these tools we need
To go where danger lurks

Modern science has made G-P-S commonplace
But our locaters rely on sound
We need to search through all the smoky debris
If our lost member is to be found

Sledge hammers, axes, pry-bars and more
Continue to serve us well
These tools of brute force, though seemingly ancient
Never fail after the bell

Engineers have made for much cheaper buildings
Via lightweight-construction
But when these structures are subject to fire
They’re prone to quicker destruction

Although they’re perfectly safe in normal conditions
They’re not designed for fire
So when a single thin member succumbs to flame
A catastrophic collapse transpires

While these engineering advances are taking place
Our job is still the same
We need to “put the wet stuff on the red stuff”
In order to squelch the flames

Just because the conditions have changed
Doesn’t mean we change our plan
We still must venture inside to put it out
As quickly as we can

So as we all enjoy the fruits of science which have
Given us what we’ve got
Let us not forget the firefighters who are
The heroes that time forgot

9-Aug-2012 -- Tom Kenney

*TIC’s (Thermal Imaging Cameras)
*C-G-I’s (Combustible Gas Meters)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Non-Liberal Democrats vs. Conservative Republicans

For those of you who are totally fed up with those in society that do nothing but stand around with their hands out might be surprised to know that many people who vote Democrat are as sick and tired of these moochers as you. Maybe not the ultra-liberal, bleeding-heart, politically correct Democrats – but many working class, old values type of people.

Life long and multi-generational Welfare recipients have to be stopped. There is no reason other than total disability that a person should be able to get paid for doing absolutely nothing. Also, alcohol or drug addictions are not total, life long disabilities.

Illegal aliens should not be recipients of any type of governmental assistance. If churches or cultural non-profit organizations want to help them out by providing them assistance, that’s fine but do not use tax dollars to provide for those who are here illegally.

Changes such as these need to be fought for via legislation – federal and state. These changes can be just as easily fought for, maybe even more effectively, from within the Democratic party. Unfortunately, at the present time most Democratic politicians in office are spending too much time and effort protecting these freeloaders and not enough protecting the working class people who make up the majority of the ever dwindling middle class.

Make no mistake – the working class people of America are not guilty of expecting handouts from the government without contributing to the system. The working class people are not guilty of taking governmental bailouts, and certainly not guilty of paying our leaders (ie: CEO’s) multi-million dollar bonuses. The working class people are not guilty of paying little or no taxes due to massive tax breaks and also not guilty of shipping millions of our jobs overseas to maximize profits.

Republicans and Tea-Baggers also want changes to the way government hands out assistance via tax money. The problem is that they are also looking to do away with most all governmental jobs. They forget that government employees are “workers”. These workers need to remain employed and receive a decent wage in order to not become a burden on the government and to spend money to contribute to our economy. This is not to say that wasteful spending in the form of paying for nonproductive jobs should not be eliminated via cutting these unnecessary positions. However, Republicans are steadily attempting to cut positions below a reasonable standard, and in the case of public safety to unsafe levels.

They, Republicans and Tea-Baggers are also attempting to eliminate collective bargaining rights for governmental union jobs. This would leave all decisions regarding staffing, as well as salary and benefits to those who have proven time and time again to have no understanding of the average American worker or family – politicians.

Republicans point to the financial distress many American cities and towns are facing and want you to believe that the greedy municipal union members are the reason for all this financial hardship. They fail to tell you that the problems regarding unfunded pension liabilities are directly due to the fact that politicians have neglected to pay the so-called required annual contribution into the systems over the span of a great many years. They fail to tell you that when the Bush tax breaks went into effect it cut down the federal tax collected by a substantial amount. This shortfall was passed on to the states via less federal aid to the states. The states, in turn, cut the amount of state aid provided to each municipal government – city or town. Is it any wonder the municipal governments around the country are on the verge of bankruptcy?

The Recession and the financial crisis looming over many American cities and towns has not been created by any working class people. During this period of time our standard of living has declined by an average of approximately 39% while the richest Americans have seen an average of a 3% increase in their net worth.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The New Way of Negotiating Contracts

The new way of negotiating contracts, from the governmental employers’ point of view, harkens back to the dark ages when employers simply threatened to fire workers if they demanded higher wages or better working conditions. These days the threat used is that of bankruptcy.

As everyone seems to fall over themselves hurling kudos at Mayor Taveras for negotiating a deal with the unions to reach an agreement regarding union concessions in pension reform, they don’t seem to be bothered by the method the mayor took along the way. I guess this shouldn’t come as such a surprise to me, but it does.

We (labor unions in Providence) have just finished an eight year span of dealing with a mayor who had no moral compass. He lied to us (and to everyone else) every time we were forced to deal with him. The election of a new, seemingly reasonable and trustworthy mayor brought us new hope and began to restore our morale. It is because of this renewed faith in leadership that his actions have destroyed, once again, our trust in dealing with politicians.

I guess we shouldn’t be all that surprised. After all, it seems that the new “normal” is for employers (whether government entities or private sector) to simply throw out contracts that don’t seem to work for them anymore. It used to be that only professional athletes could demand a renegotiation in the middle of a contract. Most of us working people felt that this was unfair in theory. After all, no athlete ever attempted to renegotiate a lower paying contract when he didn’t play up to expectations. Similarly, no employer has ever voluntarily opened up a standing contract to give the employees more money or benefits – it’s always because they want concessions from their employees.

Mayor Taveras is being hailed as a hero for being part of the, as yet to be ratified, pending pension deal. I commend him on that accomplishment also. However, I know that he has done irreparable harm to his relationships with the police and fire department’s personnel – and the retirees. While this might not be important to most people, it could come back to haunt him in future negotiations and relations.

Paul Doughty, president of the firefighter’s union, was raked over the coals both locally and nationally when he asked the rhetorical question, “What was the rush?”. He went on to state that he felt the unions and retirees and the administration had enough time and desire on all sides to “negotiate” a compromise. I guess he was right after all. The mayor and the council could have drawn up their ordinances (their way of circumventing the contracts) and kept them on hold until time was almost up for the fiscal year and sat down to negotiate in good faith with all involved. Instead they passed the ordinances in an attempt to extort the concessions they felt they needed.

I give a big pat on the back to the union leaders who put their animosity, and that of their members, aside to attempt to reach a compromise that both sides could live with. I also want to warn the mayor and all those who think this is a done deal to temper their expectations. I hope it passes. I expect it to pass, but that’s not a sure thing. There are many current members of both departments who feel that they can’t trust this mayor. There are many who believe that once he gets these concessions he’ll be back for more dramatic concessions next fiscal year. After all, he renegotiated our old contract just about 9 months ago, getting all the concessions he said he needed to get through these tough times. That’s the problem when contracts are so easily broken – it’s no longer enough to get the signatures on the agreement, you also need to trust the person who has signed.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Letter to Mayor


I'm sure you were surprised last night at the level of disdain shown to you by Local799 & the Providence FOP.

There are two factors for this and it's not because of the COLAs. The first factor is that we feel that you're attempting to solve the City's financial problems on our backs. Not only are you asking for the rescinding of COLAs indefinately but at the same time you are also looking to institute (outside of a CBA) a 20% healthcare co-share. And this is on top of attempting to move retirees into the Medicare system when none of these retired members have paid into the system at all.

Then there is the fact that you negotiated a CBA with Local799 on 28June11 which consisted pretty much entirely on union concessions to assist the City's financial burden and then (less than a year later) insist on sweeping pension changes without the benefit of negotiations which could have possibly saved the City money while minimizing the detrimental effects on individual members. That's why we consider you a liar and not a man of his word. The fact that we had dealt with a mayor who was a liar for the previous 8 years before you took office makes this even more insulting to us. We had high hopes that you were issuing in an administration with integrity and honesty.

We all understand that you have a daunting task in righting the City, and our pension system, but your proposed changes are going beyond what is needed. The system took about 30 years, since Cianci screwed with it, to get to this point of unfunded liability. It doesn't have to be fixed overnight. Changes already put in place have begun to change the direction of the system and additional smaller changes mutually agreed upon could continue that trend forward without decimating the individual retirees and future retirees.

None of these previous, pending or future negotiated changes will even come close to solving the long term pension system woes, however, if the City does not contribute its required anual payments in a timely fashion. As I've read the proposals and proposed budget, there is no intent on your part to meet these payments for the FY 2012-2013. This is only setting the stage for another financial catastrophe in the system a few years down the line despite your proposed changes. What happens then? More cuts to the benfits being paid to retirees!

Thomas Kenney

Providence Fire Department

Monday, April 23, 2012



Firefighters are simple working class people who find themselves drawn into this profession by an overwhelming desire to help and serve their neighbors. I know that sounds corny but I’ve found this to be quite accurate over my years in the “fire service”. Those rare individuals who are drawn by other motivations do not last very long. Once they experience the difficult work, the time away from family, the physical and psychological trauma and the long hours they tend to move on to another, less demanding and punishing, line of work.

A true firefighter endures these hardships as a badge of honor. He knows there aren’t many people who can do this job and remain healthy and happy. The truth is that not even those of us who continue to do this job for years escape unscathed. Many of us are beaten down by hundreds of hours on the fireground and other emergency scenes enduring countless physical trauma and unparalleled stress. The percentage of firefighters who suffer permanent disabilities is much higher than that of the average worker. So is the divorce rate.

Yet, despite all this, we survive and prosper in our profession because we feel that what we do is important – that we matter. We know how much we help people on a day-to-day basis. Most of those individuals whom we’ve assisted show their gratitude and appreciation freely. These people are never among those who publicly question our dedication, abilities or benefits. They know how quickly we’ve responded to their call for help and how respectfully we’ve treated them or their property once we’ve arrived. They understand the value of a highly trained, professional and fully staffed fire department in their city and are confident that we’ll always give a 100% effort to keep them and their loved ones safe.

Professional firefighters pride ourselves in treating every request for aid in the same manner. It doesn’t matter to us if a person is rich and influential or poor and homeless. There’s no place for preferential treatment or personal prejudices or biases at an emergency scene. We take an oath to “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America and the Home Rule Charter of the City of Providence.” We take this oath very seriously and consider our job as a noble profession as opposed to merely a career.

Professional urban firefighters are continually rated as one of the most dangerous professions and are always rated at or near the top of the list of most stressful occupations. Firefighters are also always at or near the top of any poll of the most highly respected professions.

As firefighters who are willing to go above and beyond our assigned duties on every call we depend on the benefits we’ve negotiated to protect our livelihood and/or our families in the event that we are injured on duty. We depend on responding to structure fires with adequate staffing on duty to assure firefighter and public safety. We depend on our medical coverage while active members and in retirement to adequately cover us for any illnesses we’ve contracted due to our numerous exposures to toxins and carcinogens, including carbon monoxide and cyanide, in our firefighting careers. These benefits are some of the benefits Governor Chafee’s and Providence City Council’s proposals aim to strip away from us.

I’ll be retired in a couple of years but I can’t help but wonder if the loss of these safety nets, particularly for our families, will affect the way future Providence firefighters fight fires. Will they be as willing to risk life or limb at all fires or will they tend to take a defensive posture (fighting the fire from the exterior) more quickly than presently. This would go against everything the Providence Fire Department stands for but it is safer for the firefighters, even if it would jeopardize victims and their property. I’m glad I won’t be around to see it!

Capt. Tom Kenney
Providence Fire Department

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Has partisanship ruined our government?


What has happened to the world we live in over the last twenty years or so? I ask myself that question often. It seems like there’s no room for common ground to build alliances to work together for the common good of all. It sometimes seems that everyone thinks that anyone who disagrees with them is the enemy. We need to be more tolerant of opposing views in order to meet somewhere in the middle and attempt to get things accomplished.

I believe in the motives behind the ACLU – protecting everyone’s civil liberties as guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. I believe the ACLU is right in defending the rights of a black young woman being denied entrance to an institution of higher learning based on her race. I also believe the ACLU would be right in defending the rights of a white man being denied employment based on the color of his skin simply to reflect diversity, however desirable the result might be, in the workplace.

I do not believe that the ACLU should be taking on cases of individuals who claim to be bothered or embarrassed by public displays of religious beliefs or cultural pride simply because it makes them feel different. Everyone is different than the majority in some way. Everyone is uncomfortable with others’ actions or words or displays at some time. Get over it. We are supposed to be a melting pot. People are embarrassed in the process of life. There are not only winners…there are also losers. This politically correct world we’ve begun to create for ourselves is hurting our future generations, not helping them.

There are more sides to issues than simple black and white answers can convey. The opinions expressed above are my own. You may agree or disagree with them but that doesn’t make one opinion right and another wrong. We should be allowed to disagree and peacefully discuss the issue and, hopefully, meet somewhere in the middle.

The same is true for political party affiliation. Gone are the days when most people would go to the voting booth and pull the single lever of Democrat or Republican. Most of us like to look at ourselves as independent voters. In spite of this the partisan divide in federal and state government has never been so wide, at least in my memory.

I believe that most voters vote for a candidate (or party) based upon his/her worst fears. So to, the candidates seem to pander to those fears when politicking for an office. The immigrant community, especially those who are undocumented or have loved ones who are undocumented, will vote for any candidate that promises that anyone caught being here illegally will be given an opportunity for citizenship. These individuals pretty much don’t care what the candidate’s other views are.

The rich, so-called 1%, of wealthy Americans are looking for a candidate who will continue the Bush tax breaks and be friendlier to big business and Wall Street so that they can keep more of their investment portfolio. These individuals are usually touting the evils of big government and the benefits of a free market society. Any candidate who assures them that these are his priorities also will get their vote.

The capitalists, and so-called job creators, want business restrictions lifted to allow them to make better profits in their business. Any politician who promises to ease the limits on outsourcing jobs overseas or allows them to skirt some of the environmental laws to increase their bottom line can count on their vote.

People who are part of the entitlement minded Americans who believe that the government should take care of them and their families with free housing, food stamps and Welfare checks every month do not want the government to abandon them. Many of these families are multi-generational recipients of social handouts. If a candidate threatens to investigate Welfare fraud, cut benefits and reduce the number of social programs these voters will rally around his opponent.

Many of our elderly citizens vote on the single issue of protecting their Social Security payments and Medicare coverage. Any candidate who threatens the security of these systems will face their wrath at the polls. They are scared enough regarding such proposals that virtually anything else the candidate stands for is disregarded when they are at the polls.

Many working people, especially those in unionized labor, are deathly afraid of the latest trend in anti-labor policies – the breaking of contracts and abolishment of collective bargaining. They would rather vote for someone who holds opposing views on almost every other issue than allow someone who is anti-labor be elected to public office.

And finally, the conservative Christians will only vote for someone who has the same views on the sanctity of life and when life begins. Most favor marriage being only between a man and a woman and will penalize a candidate who believes in marriage equality proposals.

While there are a multitude of factors that influence my vote the biggest factor to me personally, at this point in my life, is how a candidate feels (and will vote) on labor related issues – especially with the battle lines being drawn all around the country regarding this. Also, I could never find a candidate who would have beliefs which completely echoed my own. And I certainly couldn’t find a candidate who would vote the way I would like him to vote on every issue, because my beliefs are scattered on both sides of the political divide.

I believe that illegal immigrants are just that – illegal. They are costing the taxpayers millions of dollars in tax revenue and taking jobs from U.S. citizens. They are also cheating those would-be immigrants who are attempting to enter this country in the proper manner. When we (our government agencies) encounter illegals they should be detained and deported.

As far as the Bush tax cuts are concerned I believe that they should be repealed and set back to where they were under the Clinton administration. If you look at our country’s history the highest tax bracket has risen during or directly after our nation has faced economic hardship – after WWI, the Great Depression and WWII. Also, the tax breaks have not had the effect that they were intended to bring about. There has been a substantial loss of jobs, not job creation.

I think the Welfare system is completely broken. There are, however, many citizens who could not survive without some sort of assistance. The answer, I believe, is to temporarily put more money into investigation of fraud along with swift and substantial penalties for those who are guilty of this. Also, anyone capable of working should be required to work at least part time in order to remain qualified for Welfare payments, food stamps or subsidized housing.

I also truly believe that the Social Security system must be protected at all costs, or at least until another system is fully funded and operational for future retirees. Too many Americans rely on SS to survive and as therefore the integrity of the system is a matter of the government’s responsibility to keep that promise.

What we desperately need is a renewed era of bipartisanship to fix the present stalemate in government. Either that or a sufficient enough number of Independent representatives in government that would represent the swing votes on any pending legislation.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Can We Ever Trust Politicians Again?

Are there any politicians out there who actually stand for something? Are there any out there who actually keep their word?

Case in point – Governor Chaffee. He campaigned by stating he was behind the working men and women of the state, including state and municipal union workers. He was labor-friendly, he said. Although there were tough times ahead the sacrifices would be shared, not put squarely on the backs of state and municipal employees. He pointed to his record as the Mayor of Warwick to show that he was a fair negotiator.

Case in point – Mayor Taveras. Not only did he propose a new era in joint communication and cooperation between the City’s labor unions and his Administration at City Hall, but he actually renegotiated and signed contracts which brought about further concessions by the unions which seemed fair to both sides. Also, he was left a financial mess by his predecessor.

Case in point – Congressman Cicilline. Enough has been said about this clown. Everyone knows by now that he never tells the truth. He is a lost cause, and I hope someone runs against him in the Democratic primary.

As far as Governor Chaffee is concerned, he better wake up very quickly. Organized labor put him over the top in the last election because he promised to treat us fairly. Contrary to public opinion labor was not looking for someone to roll over and give away the candy store. We realized that times were tough all over and not getting better very quickly. We knew that there were difficult decisions ahead and that we were going to have to sacrifice just like everyone else. We wanted, however, to be treated fairly in the process. Instead, this governor is proposing what is tantamount to stripping labor of our collective bargaining rights. Giving employers (whether government or private) carte blanche to refashion the employee and retirement benefits of their employees is morally and ethically wrong. It is also probably illegal. He (the governor) is setting the stage for drawn out legal battles which will benefit no one.

Mayor Taveras. Ouch! As a longtime employee of the City I had very high hopes that Mayor Taveras would change things for the better. Indeed, I voted to approve a contract re-opening that gave away some of our benefits in order to help the City through a tough financial crisis and as a good faith gesture that we and the Administration could work together in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. What did he do? He decided to attempt to strip my retirement benefits as well. Everything he has done over the last few months has been to steer the City toward the brink of bankruptcy in order to get out from under contractual obligations. While some may applaud him for doing that, I believe he has been negligent in exploring all other reasonable options. There are a couple of options with regards to the pension system which would save as much, or more, than his present plan.

The problem seems to be that if he were to get the concessions required or simply instituted the needed changes and fight the legal fight regarding those changes he wouldn’t be able to get “all” the changes he wants. From what I understand, the meeting he held with retirees to explain the changes he was proposing is one of the things he needed to do if he were to request a judge to let the City out from under the burden of the contracts of retirees (and employees). There was no way he believed that he would be able to forge closer to an understanding with retirees by explaining his proposals at that meeting. Also, although the meeting was said to be about the Mayor explaining his justification for temporarily halting the COLAs, he got up on stage and explained that he also wanted additional changes to their retirement benefits. He wanted them to begin paying 20% of their health care and wanted to require them to join Medicare at 65. These are all costly items to a retiree and the Mayor wants all three of them! That would be a hardship.

I’m speaking about 90% of the retirees facing a hardship by these concessions. The media always points to the 10% of City retirees who receive outlandish pensions due to years of 6% COLAs. Many of these retirees collect a bigger retirement check than the active workers on their old job receive! That’s completely ridiculous.

That would be the first place I would attack if I were the Mayor. I would propose and push a City Ordinance that capped ALL Providence pensions at the current base pay of the individual performing that job now. This is going forward, as well as being applied to current retirees. This would mean a dramatic reduction in a small percentage of pensions but it would be considered, by most reasonable people, a fair solution. No one should ever receive more in retirement than the person working today at the same job!

I would also propose that no employee of the City be able to collect a service pension until he/she were 50 years old. I believe that this could be negotiated into every Providence union’s contract without too much trouble.

These 2 changes would solve the long-term problems of the City’s pension system. It wouldn’t immediately replace the hundreds of millions of dollars the City has neglected to pay into the system overnight, but it would create a sound and sustainable pension system. This crisis wasn’t created in a day, so why would we think we should fix it in a day. This is a long-standing crisis which requires a thoughtful and fair, long-term solution.

Tom Kenney

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Quick & Fair Resolution to Providence's COLA Dispute

While reports seem to always showcase the City’s “top 25” retirees, no one seems to want to talk about the average (the majority) retiree from Providence who is making somewhere between $20K - $40K – in many cases for 30+ years of service to the City.
Taveras’ plan does nothing to separate the financial burden of these two groups – and that is just plain wrong.

While most of us (if not all) would agree that making more in retirement than a current employee in the retiree’s old job is wrong, Taveras’ proposals do nothing to correct this imbalance. The mayor should consider making a single proposal, capping all current and future pensions at 100% of the current active employee in the position from which the pensioner retired. This would be a “fair” solution to the unfunded liability problem for the current and future stability of the system, even if not a popular move to some of the current retirees who would be immediately affected.

I would like to see a savings projection if this were to be implemented. My guess is that it would be substantially more than Taveras’ target of $29 million.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Who is to blame for Providence’s possible bankruptcy?

Active Providence firefighters and retirees explain that they never missed a payment into their retirement system. They say it was mismanagement (bordering on criminal mismanagement) by elected officials which has lead to the unfunded liability which threatens the entire system. They say the pension provisions, including COLA’s, have been negotiated fairly and are protected as part of their CBA, which was signed by the mayor and ratified by the City Council. They say it is not fair to blame them and the City cannot break a contract…period!

City and state officials, general taxpayers, bloggers, newspapers and other media say the taxpayers can’t afford it. There is no other choice than to nullify the contract and make the necessary unilateral cuts they deem to be fair…period!

Neither side believes they should have to find any compromise between the two positions. Something has to move.

No one wants to talk about the fact that the City of Providence (as are all other municipalities in the State of RI) is struggling in their financial efforts to avoid bankruptcy due primarily to the millions of dollars in state aid to cities and towns which have been pulled out from under them by former Governor Carcieri.

No one wants to talk about the fact that the last three mayors of Providence (Cianci, Paolino & Cicilline) continually failed to meet the City’s annual obligation in funding the pension system…or the fact that Cianci raided the pension on more than one occasion to “borrow” money from the system.

No one wants to talk about the fact that Mayor Cianci is the sole person responsible for the 5% & 6% COLA’s which are responsible for creating the obscene pensions often mentioned in reports about the outlandish sums being paid to some fire and police department retirees. He, and only he, signed the contracts for the city which awarded these unsustainable COLAs.

No one wants to talk about the fact that these previously mentioned factors are the reasons Providence’s police and fire pension system has been unsustainable…not the pensions being paid to 90% of the retirees from this system who are being paid 3% COLA’s on a much smaller based pension.

No one wants to talk about the fact that there have been numerous concessions and changes to the Providence police and fire pension system over the past several years as a result of both fire and police unions negotiating give-backs to the city when called upon to participate in “shared sacrifice” to help the city through tough economic times.

No one wants to talk about the fact that the highest single cost for employees and retirees is an out-of-control health insurance system that need to be brought under control and not just absorbing or passing on the already obscene premiums.

Some of these changes are listed below:

1. Providence firefighters have paid an extra 1.5% toward pension & OPEB (other post employee benefits) costs than the Providence police for the last 15 years or so. This 1.5% is officially being held for OPEB by the City of Providence (or at least it should be) via contract agreement. Providence police have no such agreement and don’t pay the additional 1.5% over the base pension contribution of 8% despite being in the same pension system as firefighters and having some benefits not accorded firefighters including a 5% pension bump up at 25 years and 30 years.

2. Providence firefighters earn the right to retire at 50% of base pay at 20 years of service. As of our last contract any member who chooses to retire after 20 years will have to wait for 5 years before they are able to begin collecting their pension and an additional 3-4 years before collecting any COLA. This is a change from being able to collect their base pension immediately upon reaching 20 years and the waiting 3-4 years for COLAs to begin.

3. As of our last contract Providence firefighters are required to utilize Medicare coverage as their primary health care coverage for themselves and their spouse once they turn 65 years of age. This change will add over $5,000 per year in costs to retirees plus additional co-pays and prescription costs.

4. The accidental disability pension rate for current retirees is under 20% compared to the 90-95% during the late 80’s and 90’s. Any suspected abuse of the disability pension system has been cleaned up over the past 10-15 years.

There are some things that could be done to amend Providence ’s police and fire pension system which would most certainly be welcomed by the active membership of both unions and the City should at least attempt to negotiate with the retirees.

The first (and most immediately important) is to address the COLA issue. Retirees should NEVER make more in retirement than the person who is actively performing the same job. This is common sense and although the retirees have no legal requirement to give up their annual raises they must certainly be worried about the issue going to court once again and the outlandish amount of their pension being judged by the public, the media and by a judge.

1. Cap the pensions of 5% & 6% COLA retirees where they are. No more raises…period!

2. Cap the pensions of 3% COLA retirees at 75% of the current active member’s base pay for the job the retiree left.

3. Calculate future COLA’s to coincide with active members’ raises. This way if an employee retires at a pension of 75% of his base pay his retirement will never exceed 75% of an active member’s base.

4. Negotiate a change for new employees to be required to reach a minimum age before being eligible to collect a service pension.

5. Have an audit of the system and determine if a raise in contribution percentage is required for current employees.