I’m writing as a concerned citizen of RI who has some very grave concerns about the path you’ve chosen with the Providence Fire Department. For the record let me state that I’m a Providence firefighter and have been for 35 years. My love and dedication to this department is second to none. I’ve given almost the entirety of my adult life to this department and feel I need to speak up before you single handedly (under the advice of your COO & Mr. Kinder) destroy over 150 years of proud and courageous service of this nationally recognized fire department.
You are asking every member of this department to work an additional 33% more hours for a 5-10% raise. Think about how absurd that really is. You will not save any taxpayer money. Already over 50 members have retired (with many more in the wings). Your so-called buffer of over 30 extra firefighters per group before reaching O/T has just dwindled by 17 or more per platoon. You will not cut out O/T in this way and you will look foolish when the media runs an article in a year or so stating that Elorza’s plan to eliminate O/T has failed.
This union (my opinion) will never come to an agreement with you on this issue. We (again, my opinion) will fight you through as many courts and judges as may be needed. Think about the massive legal fees, damages and retroactive pay the city will have to pay if we are successful. Remember that North Kingstown was working with an expired contract. Remember further that North Kingstown’s fire union missed a mandatory filing date for negotiating a secondary contract and that’s the loophole that created the Supreme Court decision. You are rolling the dice, in a best case scenario.
Also, and I don’t know whether you’re aware of this or not, your COO has a very strong personal agenda against the PFD. At a picket a few years ago some of the PFD members, in very poor taste, chided him and made derogatory remarks regarding his sexual orientation. This history makes him intent on inflicting as much damage as possible on the members of this department – on a very personal level.
Think about it…all those individuals who are pushing you the hardest on this issue have much riding on you being successful on this issue. They have, however, nothing on the line if you are unsuccessful. They are in the wings pushing and hoping, but not risking any precious political capital. You are the sole individual who is tied, politically, to the success or failure of “your” proposal.
Smiley is not a player in this in the eyes of the general public and will live to run again if you fall on your face. Kinder is attempting to gain clients of the other cities and towns of this state and will be in a very good position to do so if you succeed. If you do not succeed, he will state that you screwed it up and will continue to lobby other mayors – no damage done. The same goes for the other mayors and the political pundits who have praised your “courage”. They will, undoubtedly, push on and state that you didn’t follow through or didn’t have the political courage or savvy to get it done, again no damage to their reputations. As for the Commissioner, he would love to see savings in the Public Safety budget on the back of the fire department. That would allow him to strengthen the police department, always his priority, without having to lobby for extra money from your administration. He has absolutely no knowledge or understanding of what it takes to run an effective fire department!
Pardon the puns, but you are playing with fire! If you are unsuccessful, you take the heat all by yourself. If you are successful, and you force the PFD into this new schedule, you better hope that not a single death or serious injury (to the public or to a PFD firefighter) can be attributed to the effects of the extra weekly hours or the confusion of implementing the new system.
Also, you should not underestimate the fact that the general public can see right through your lies regarding “the B word”. They don’t buy the fact that you state that the current PFD system will lead the City down the road to bankruptcy, especially when you continue to find ways to spend future tax income with grandiose ideas such as the trolley system. They simply don’t call you on it because they, like the others who are pushing you, would love to see the City save taxes on the backs of the firefighters. They will, however, hold you accountable if your plan fails to save money or, God forbid, costs these taxpayers extra money – a distinct possibility!