|By Tom O'Connor, Treasurer|
| Congratulations to all of us, we have done the impossible with Proposition F. No other municipality in the nation has language protecting firehouses. No other fire department or union has gone to the public to preserve public safety. WE are the pioneers nationwide in taking on shortsighted bureaucrats and accountants who didnt value the fire service. WE are the first ones to put the allocation of tax dollars BACK into the hands of the public.
But now things may get a little tricky. At recent Fire Commission meeting, the administration let it be known that City Hall expects the funding for Prop. F to come out of our existing budget. In effect, the department has to fund the mandate of the citizens of San Francisco. Fire Commission President Paul Conroy addressed this
|notion by stating that the voters did not intend to have any further cuts in public safety, and that when they voted for Prop. F they wanted funds RESTORED to fire and medical protection. Lets hope that the Commission and the administration continue to push forward with this thinking
too much time and money were expended in this campaign to just walk away from the voice of the citizenry.
A special thanks to all of those who volunteered during the long campaign. From collecting signatures, to hanging campaign literature, to attending neighborhood meetings, to stuffing envelopes, and finally to just helping to get out the vote. The names and stations are too numerous to mention here, but you know who you are and without you we would not have had such a resounding victory. Thank you.
Things continue to move along rapidly with the EMS reconfiguration. Our MOU negotiations are progressing well, and the examination process is going very smoothly. Nearly 250 qualified paramedic applicants are ready to go through the oral interviews and manipulative exams, and the department should start hiring soon. And as we all know, the hiring of these new employees is also critical to the implementation of Prop. F. The sooner we get the ambulances staffed, the sooner we get the firehouses staffed. Everything is interrelated, and the department really needs to be firing on all cylinders in order to make this happen without an increase in overtime.
Special congratulations should also go out to Chief Glenn Ortiz-Schuldt for moving this reconfiguration forward. Ortiz-Schuldt has done this virtually alone for the duration of this reconfiguration process. There have been times when he has had help, but with the budgetary woes we are facing, he has been forced to do a majority of the work by himself and like it or not, the reconfiguration will give significant relief to everyone who is working on the ambulance.
And no one is working on the ambulance more than firefighters especially the 105th and 106th classes. It is long past time to give these members some relief. Some of these firefighters have worked on the box for nearly 4 years continuously. Enough is enough, let these members go back to the fire engines and fire trucks they originally trained on.
Again, the quicker the EMS reconfiguration moves forward, the quicker everyone gets off of the Achilles heel of the fire department, the 24-hour ambulance. Ever since the Fire Department merged with the Department of Public Health, the 24-hour ambulance has been the source of most of our problems. Low morale, high sick leave and disability rates, cost overruns, paramedic attrition and most importantly, patient care has suffered as a result of this disastrous ambulance staffing. Once the ambulances are staffed on 10-hour shifts, a great many of our problems will go away not all of them, but a great many.
As long as we are on the topic of problems, the lack of a promotional process continues to plague the department. It has been over 8 years since there has been an exam and the strains of having inconsistent leadership are really beginning to show. The Chief has done a good job of filling a great many leadership spots, but more must be done. The Civil Service Commission must realize that they lost a battle in court and that they must negotiate a fair scoring process for promotional exams, and they must do it soon. San Franciscans deserve to have the best Fire Department, and a fair and open promotional process is an essential part of that. The time for exams is now, and the time to negotiate is now also.
One last item, and this one is of a critical nature to all of us. The fire department administration has a responsibility to protect its employees from all sorts of dangers; fire, sickness, cancer, workplace discrimination and now overzealous reporters who invade the privacy of firefighters. It is one thing for a news network to report on the misdeeds and mistakes of the fire department, it is an entirely different matter when a reporter uses a firefighters choice of home address as a story. And this administration has a duty to protect our personal information with the same zeal it uses to protect us from other sources of harm.
I hope the administration is investigating who leaked home addresses and phone numbers to the press with the same fervor it dedicates to investigating anonymous letters sent from the public, or mysterious postings on Craigslist.com. No fire department employees should have to contend with a scurrilous journalist crawling through their bushes while their children play this is unacceptable.