The Fire Department Skates in McGinn's New Budget

The Fremont tragedy gets a top-heavy department off the hook.

Making budget decisions based on whichever tragedy happens to be freshest in people's minds seems like the worst way to create policy. And yet that's what Mayor McGinn is doing in his mid-year budget cuts.As Casey McNerthney reported this week at pi.com, McGinn recently pitched the firefighters' union on cutting the number of responders per engine from four to three. But in the wake of this past weekend's Fremont tragedy—which couldn't have been prevented if we'd had 10 firefighters per truck—McGinn has abandoned the idea. He announced on Monday that "in light of that event, I am not proposing any reductions to the Fire Department."Other departments will get hit instead, even though Fire may be one of the city's most bloated. In a piece for Crosscut.com last month, Kent Kammerer examined how top-heavy various city divisions are, noting the following:[Fire] has about 1,100 employees. This includes eight executive positions, 35 fire chiefs, and assorted strategic advisors and captains who are largely administrative. They end up with one administrator for each 25 employees. The department has 115 employees above $100,000. None of this group of 115 are asked to enter burning buildings.The management of the city's library system appears to be "dozens of times more efficient," Kammerer concluded. Yet library staff is being trimmed while Fire is not.Obviously, sacrificing public safety is a mistake. But so is allowing the emotions of the moment to skew priorities and blind us to reality.

 
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