Kudos to U-T: Fire Union Goon Called Out for Politicizing Public Safety

Buck Turgidson Buck Turgidson 5 Comments

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In reaction to a tragic fire death in Golden Hill last week, the President of the San Diego City Fire Fighters Local 145 has come out swinging against the “brown-outs” of some fire stations used to curb overtime costs to help with the City’s budget problems.

Thankfully, yesterday’s Union-Tribune contained a column that calls out the union leader for politicizing the death of a citizen.

The U-T doesn’t buy what the union goon is selling:

First of all, an engine got to the scene of the Golden Hill apartment complex last Friday in less than five minutes. National standards say fire departments should shoot for that response time 90 percent of the time.

Ok…so it appears that the response was within the time frame that it’s supposed to be. The column doesn’t stop there:

Secondly, De Clercq might want to take a look at how the city fire department staff has contributed to San Diego’s financial mess, which has helped lead to the kind of cuts he says are putting us in grave danger.

In addition to referencing egregious pension-spiking on the part of members of the Fire Department, we read on to see this trail of gems:

In 2008, the third- and fourth-highest paid city employees were fire battalion chiefs who earned $228,000 and $209,000, respectively — more than the police chief.

In 2009, our newspaper reported how 1,560 city employees made more than $100,000 annually during the previous year. Nearly one-third of those happened to be fire department employees.

Catch that? One third of 1,560 is about 515. So, according to the U-T, we are paying 515 out of a total of 1,236 positions in the Fire Department more than $100,000 per year! As far as I can tell, that’s almost 42% of the entire department.

And let’s not forget about the gold-plated retirement benefits provided on top of these salaries in the form of pensions and retirement health care benefits (two massive unfunded liabilities that are basically sinking the city’s finances.)

To their credit, the U-T does not forget about this, either:

The city has had to make a whole lot of cuts because it’s generating less revenue and paying larger pension costs…

In the fiscal year that will start in July, the city has to pay $232 million into the pension fund, the most ever. In the fiscal year we’re in, the bill was $154 million. That’s a 51 percent increase in pension costs in one year.

Some of that is because the pension fund lost money on investments. But some of it is because more firefighters are retiring with bigger pensions thanks to increases passed in 1996 and 2002.

That’s when the seeds of the brownouts were planted.

Amen. But our faithful “public servant” union head thinks otherwise:

De Clercq maintains the brownouts are the problem, but he says firefighter pay and pensions didn’t contribute to it.

“No other department has given back more,” De Clercq said.

Really? Has anyone heard of Firefighter pension and retirement health benefits being reduced at the City of San Diego?

The U-T finishes this terrific piece off with a terrific point:

…De Clercq should spend a little time examining his paycheck as a city fire captain. He made $154,184 last year in base pay, overtime and something called retro-pay. He also got a $1,350 uniform allowance.

How will his pension be paid for? Higher taxes, or more cuts to city services.

This is just the latest example of the “public safety” political arm seizing upon the opportunity to threaten and scare taxpayers into subservience.

Recall these other recent quality examples:

The town of La Mesa threatening of its citizens to capitulate to a sales tax increase in 2008, which included

“…send[ing] out fliers and brochures that warn gangs will take over, murders will soar and potholes will go unfilled without new revenue — and, nudge nudge wink wink, there happens to be a sales-tax hike proposal on the November ballot.

Or remember a similarly classy move by the police union in Escondido?

“Seeking to gain public support in its fight with the City Council over proposed compensation cuts, the labor union representing Escondido police officers mailed a provocative flier this past weekend claiming that “gang members outnumber police officers by almost 6 to 1.” The glossy four-page mailer, which was sent to 17,000 Escondido homes and paid for by the Escondido Police Officers Association, says recent increases in crime and gang activity make it crucial for residents to protest the proposed compensation cuts at this Wednesday’s council meeting.”

…The mailer, which features photos of bloody fingerprints and several tattoo-covered gang members, paints an unflattering picture of the city.”

This public employee-political complex that has developed not only here in San Diego, but throughout California and across the country is a serious problem. A serious revisiting of the following question is in order:

“Does government exist for the good of society, or does society exist for the good of government?”

Incidents like those mentioned above suggest we are far too close to the latter.

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Comments 5

  1. I can just picture this stooge monitoring the scanner and drooling as he awaits another fatal fire call. Shame

  2. Comment I made on the article website:

    Fireman love to talk about how arduous their job is. But compared to the military, they are in hog heaven. Firefighters complain about their 10 nights a month away from the family? How about the other 20 full nights AND DAYS at home WITH the family?

    Compare that with the military who are gone for MANY months at a time, and are in REAL harm’s way, to put it mildly. Where would you ff’s rather be — at ye old fire station, or posted in some barren, hot, hostile location in Iraq or Afghanistan?

    Now, compare pensions. The military pension can start earlier, but is based on a FAR lower salary — as the housing allowance, food allowance, etc. do not count for pension purposes.

    Remember, about 72% of the nation’s ff’s are VOLUNTEERS. We do NOT have to pay big bucks for the danger — which, while real, is less than that faced by a truck driver or construction laborer.

    We can love our ff’s just as much for half the pension and two thirds the pay (and I’m being generous).

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