Fire critic fails to cite data
By Tom Kenney
It’s funny how predictable a politician can be when asked to prove his
statements. The first lesson in politician school is to redirect any tough
questions and attack the questioner. Apparently Ken Block was paying
attention during that class.
I wrote a July 25 Commentary piece ("View Block's data skeptically"),
questioning the validity of his organization Watchdog RI’s conclusions on
the per capita costs of Rhode Island's fire service vs. the rest of the
United States. On Aug. 28, Mr. Block responded to my piece with his own
("Union shows disdain for taxpayers"). Unfortunately his piece contained
absolutely no response to my inquiries but attempted to redirect the
discussion and attack my character and credibility.
I have no desire to partake in a back and forth character assassination. I
do feel, however, that I first need to correct some of the misinformation
he presented about me.
He claims that I have an “open disdain” for the taxpayers of Providence
because of a satirical drawing of a figure urinating on Providence City
Hall on my personal Facebook page. While I may have an open disdain for the
administrators of the city, I have the utmost respect for the citizens of
I have shed blood and broken bones carrying out my duties as a Providence
firefighter. I have been exposed to countless carcinogens, cyanide,
asbestos, HIV, Hep A, B, C, etc., over my 35-year career. I am, and always
have been, a true professional in carrying out my sworn duty, and I take
the attacks on my character very seriously and personally!
He points out that I live in Warwick as an insinuation that I am “not
vested in the financial well-being of the city in which [he] works." This
is completely false. I have a very large personal stake in the financial
well-being of the City of Providence. I love Providence. For 50 years,
including my first 25 years as a firefighter, I was a resident and taxpayer
in the city.
As to the original questions in my article, Mr. Block answers none of them.
I have asked him, as have others on many occasions, for any link or
document to show where he accumulated his “raw data." He has not answered
any of us; in fact he has deleted some of these people from his Facebook
account for continuing to make inquiries.
In his published response to my article, he compares the state of Rhode
Island to the cities of Dallas and Phoenix. His Watchdog RI’s original
report (the one I have been questioning) states that Rhode Island's per
capita costs for fire service are the highest of any state in the United
States. If he has all the data to support that this claim, then why does he
attempt to defend his position by comparing Rhode Island to two cities out
He questions why fire departments in Rhode Island run the Emergency Medical
System (EMS). He knows full well, or should, that separating the two and
privatizing EMS would cost the same (if the level of care provided was
equal). The cost for EMS service would simply be budgeted to its own
department separate from the fire service, but the end result would be the
Responsible discussions regarding ways to save costs of all municipal and
state services are always a good thing. Sometimes we need to take a fresh
look on how things have always been done. If savings can be achieved
without jeopardizing the quality of services, especially in public safety,
I would be all for it. I’m a taxpayer too. The discussions have to be
fact-based, however, to have any validity. That is why I’ve continued to
question Mr. Block’s conclusions.
In my original opinion piece I closed with the statement: "let him prove
his conclusions by verifying his data and sharing his sources. If he does I
will stand down." I repeat that statement once again, but as of yet there
has been no answers forthcoming.