Saturday, October 23, 2010

Kangaroo Court

Be a critical thinker. In contemporary times, in a seemingly unregulated digital age with terabytes of unfiltered information and multiple perspectives, it is very difficult to discover the bedrock facts of an issue. And even then, there are different interpretations and definitions to be understood. Information overload.

No one should sit back and accept injustice, nor should they grab pitchforks and torches. Both are ugly extremes of the spectrum. There are many delusions of grandeur being played out by local bloggers and former political players in an attempt to placate their sense of significance and attempt a political comeback with the integrity of a sand castle.

Ask questions, even more importantly, ask the right questions. Our police department, fire department, parks and recreation, waste water, city garage, human resources, general employees help maintain and safeguard our city. This does not make them heroes, or deserving of special treatment, but they do deserve the basic respect of the honest citizen. Because of the economical climate we are in, many want answers. Residents have screamed "the civil servants are not worth the money we pay them," with no clue about their qualifications, responsibilities, duties, and sacrifices; simply by job title. A squawk was recently made about a janitor making over 40,000 a year in El Segundo; "how can someone who cleans toilets and mops floors make 40K a year?" An elementary school mentality emerges, alarmists satisfy simple prejudicial arguments and the uneducated judge based on an arbitrary understanding of how things should be. They are disrespecting the person and the profession.

Let us agree there is a point that is too much and there is a point that is too low. From there, one can establish a norm relative to surrounding areas, including cost of living and revenue. This translates into how one cannot compare a job here in El Segundo to a job in Idaho. It is called economies of scale. These unfair comparisons are the crux of many unfounded arguments. Also, it is important to realize that comparing a small department to a large department does not equate either. In fact, a member of a smaller department more often than not has a larger workload, broader responsibility, and requires an extensive skill set.

There are those who would like you to believe there is a great conspiracy and that El Segundo is worthy of a Hollywood rendition of a political scandal...hardly. There are those who claim foul, that the city is an incestuous family of incompetent fools, well, I can make up stories too. In fact, I heard through my sources that the City Council is a puppet of Scientology and has been secretly embezzling general funds to make monthly donations and that is why El Segundo is in the red. Take it and run L.A. Weekly...

Consider the decisions made by our elected council and city management; are they erroneous or are they a convenient move to save money now. Just because someone collects a pension and gets paid a salary doesn't make it wrong. Universities throughout the state are asking retired professors to teach for an additional five years while collecting their pension and getting a salary...why, because it is cheaper and they utilize their experience. But they're double dipping...who cares? This model is cheaper for the State School System. Is this model cheaper for our city and its citizens? Maybe. Again, ask the right questions. We don't need circus tent preachers trying to convince us that our city is tainted in order to boost their credibility and garner political attention.

It seems that many are willing to judge before they understand. A kangaroo court has been fostered amid frustration along side scape goat mentality. We cannot allow ourselves to be caught up in this generic attack on institution. If there are problems then they need to be dealt with, if there is abuse then it needs to be addressed and stopped. I am not trying to steer you away from the truth, but to expose a bigger picture from both sides. Beware of those who have put their ego above appropriate interpretation of the facts.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

L.A. County is the Better Option

Simply put, L.A. County Fire Department is the better option for the City of El Segundo. The current understanding is that El Segundo staffs 19 firefighters per day. This standard no longer exists. Due to budget cuts and a "run short" mandate from City Council, the staffing level has dropped as low as 14 firefighters per day. This should be a major concern to the resident and business owner. The benefits of L.A. County services far outweigh those of the local El Segundo Fire Department. Here are some main reasons why L.A. County is the right choice.

"L.A. County has more paramedic services available to El Segundo."
  • This is true because on top of the paramedics that will be staffed in the city of El Segundo, there are more available from the surrounding districts ready for immediate move-up if the rescue squad is transporting out of the city. Currently, if both rescues are out of the city, then a private ambulance or another city's rescue has to be called into the city which is a huge delay factor. With the County model, there is no lag-time in communication for additional resources.
"By transferring service to L.A. County the City WILL save money."
  • There is about a 5 million dollar savings. The cost of doing business with the County can and most likely will rise over the next ten years, but have you realized that the city is no longer responsible for worker's compensation claims, pensions, overtime, equipment maintenance, etc... And...the cost of living rises as well, it is not as if the 16 million dollar budget for our local department today will be the 16 million dollar budget in 2020 if we stay El Segundo. The cost of running our own local department will rise as well over the next ten years. L.A. County Fire is cheaper service because of the scale of economies, not because they lack skills or training. They are an efficient economic model that works, which has been constructed around a recession proof structure. Whereas our city is struggling to provide the expected equipment and staffing, and are now willing to levy dangerously low staffing and reduced service to its residents.  Not only is it a savings if we contract with the County, but El Segundo would receive equivalent and in some cases better service.
"L.A. County is a more efficient service to the community."
  • The County model is more efficient because of the contiguous training and communication throughout the district. This allows for better functionality, service and quicker responses. 
"L.A. County has more personnel available for any type of incident."
  • Referring to my earlier post, L.A. County seemingly has an endless supply of resources. With El Segundo being a high target hazard and possibility for large incidents, the L.A. County Fire Department is the best choice for protection. Many like to think we live in a bedroom community but we are surrounded by highly dangerous hazards from jet fuel pipelines under our streets, Chevron, high rises, etc...
"There are more L.A. County Firefighters that live in El Segundo." 
  • Many like the notion that their firefighters live in town, and I can understand that mentality. It instills a sense of citizenship and vested interest. There are many L.A. County Firefighters that live in El Segundo and would most likely transfer to this city.
    "Other services in the City can be revived with the immediate savings to the City."
    • Parks and Rec, Streets, Fairs, Parades, etc... all can be revived with the monies saved with County service. Jobs are also saved; saved services means saved jobs.
    "If there's a natural disaster or terrorist attack, L.A. County has the resources to protect the city."
    • Some speculate that if there is a major natural disaster or terrorist attack, that L.A. County Fire would leave El Segundo and aid other cities. This is a farce and most likely a scare tactic from opposing views. L.A. County has the appropriate resources for such an event and in fact they are more prepared than our current department; not training wise, but equipment and personnel wise. El Segundo will receive the same if not more attention in the event of a disaster.
    "County provides the very same department culture that the residents are used to, there is always an open door."
    • The County Fire Department adapts to the community they are serving. They continue to do the pancake breakfasts, Richmond Street fairs, CPR Saturdays, etc... They make it their mission to involve themselves and adapt to the community they serve. L.A. County is not a generic substitute, and there has been nothing but praise and satisfaction from other cities who have contracted with the County.
    Let me be understood that I have always loved our local fire department. It is made up of some the best individuals around and I believe they do not deserve the criticism they have endured from alarmists and arrogant bloggers. County is the best solution NOW. It will allow the city to thrive and build through this beleaguered economy, it lifts the burden of pensions and workforce liabilities, it reduces political entanglements, and simplifies local government. 

    There are pros and cons in every decision, the point here is that the reasons for transferring service are more important than holding on to our local department. L.A. County's attitude is not to take over but to work harmoniously with the city they serve, just like every firefighter, anywhere, believes.