Report From The Treasurer
By Tom O'Connor, Treasurer
Well, the unspeakable has happened…a Chief has been hired from outside the department. How did this happen, you may ask? It appears to be the result of both internal and external forces weighing in on the SFFD.

Internally, there were too many Chiefs contending for the job, and in the process, completely undermining each other’s efforts. There was also a series of public and private episodes from our various employee groups stating their “dissatisfaction” with the current state of affairs. Enough of an outcry was heard at City Hall to render our own homegrown candidates inadequate. The San Francisco Fire Department was largely viewed as what it currently is…a completely dysfunctional organization in dire need of help. Granted, Chief Tabacco was greatly handicapped from effectively fixing the department due to his “Acting” status, but that didn’t seem to matter to the Fire Commission. Considering the difficulties he faced, Tabacco did a terrific job and the Department will certainly suffer a loss without him at the helm.

External forces also weighed heavily on the decision to appoint an outsider to head our department, namely the Chronicle’s series of articles on Willie Brown’s friends and how all one needed was “juice” to get a position in the City’s departments. As a result of these articles, any fire department member with social or political ties to the Mayor was effectively knocked out of the running.

Upcoming budgetary constraints probably also played a factor in the decision. With a slowing regional economy and fiscal shortfalls seen in the days ahead, any efforts to cut at the perceived “fat” of the SFFD would have been very difficult for a candidate from within the department. An outsider has no ties to the SFFD, so any cuts will be much easier to make.

So where does that leave us? Well, like it or not, we have a new Chief from outside the department. Now, this does not necessarily mean that he will be bad for the department. Perhaps this guy will actually address a lot of our problems head on, problems like promotions, staffing, equipment, the EMS merger, overtime, etc, etc, etc. He’s our Chief now, so let’s try and work with him and make the best out of our current situation.

Most importantly, just think of some of our local “candidates” for Chief, and realize it could have been much, MUCH worse.

As long as we’re on the topic of things being worse, the Presidio has come out with a “pilot program” for the “one and one” ambulance (one EMT and one paramedic). Oddly enough, the “pilot program” involves every ambulance in the City. (Just a small experiment, not to worry.) And to make matters even more grave, it appears that the Fire Commission has already signed off on the process. There was a lot of opposition to the plan from people attending the last Fire Commission meeting, but it appeared to be a wasted effort.

The Presidio paraded out a few “esteemed” doctors from the local community who praised the new “one and one” pilot. Oddly enough though, not one of these doctors has worked a day on an ambulance, or a day in a firehouse. Perhaps I can lend my expert opinion next time they have guest speakers at UC Medical Center for a symposium on Oncology or Chemotherapy. Why not, they have doctors who are now experts on fire suppression and emergency medical transport.

Speaking of misplaced experts, it seems that some of our EMS “leaders” were very busy hedging their bets while you and I were working in the firehouses. An inside source in the Las Vegas Fire Department tells us that our Presidio leaders had a two hour meeting with our new Chief a week before he was picked by the Mayor. These guys may not be able to convince firefighters and paramedics that they have a plan that works, but they sure know how to lobby those in power. After nearly three years of consistent mismanagement, it looks like more of the same could be in store…


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