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Community Commentary: Mayor's piece riddled with errors

December 29, 2011|By Tim Vasin

Two weeks ago, as I was riding back to the firehouse from an emergency response call, a man pulled up on the passenger side of the truck, signaling me to roll down my window. When I did, he delivered the international symbol of ultimate displeasure, shouted "Greedy union firefighters!" and sped off.

It's probably worth noting that all of this occurred across from City Hall, a source these days of misinformation that creates the sort of hostility that has otherwise decent people outraged by the appearance of firefighters.

That misinformation sometimes comes straight from the top. Take Mayor Gary Monahan's Dec. 6 essay in the Daily Pilot ("Firefighters should contribute more").

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Let's start by saying we've always respected Monahan, and nothing we're going to say here should suggest we're feeling differently now. He's a successful local businessman and a longtime public servant.

But it's also fair to say we're disappointed — and confused — by his piece. From the headline, "Firefighters should contribute more," to his conclusion, the mayor's essay is riddled with errors. He seems to have forgotten that he voted two years ago to lower the retirement age from 55 to 50, part of what seemed then a reasonable way to downsize the department through retirement rather than layoffs. He doesn't remember that he voted to approve the very pension program he now regards as unworkable. He can't recall that when the city asked its firefighters to take additional cuts after that deal was approved, we agreed.

Now, "firefighters should contribute more"? We already do. Since October 2010, we've paid an additional 5% of the cost of our pensions.

Our additional contribution was scheduled to expire Nov. 5, 2011. When it became apparent that talks with the City Council weren't likely to produce a broader deal before the deadline, we unilaterally offered to continue making payments for three months while discussions continue.

Inexplicably, the mayor rejected our offer, saying it was insufficient. Let me say that again: In seeking cost savings, the mayor and council majority rejected an offer, making taxpayers contribute an additional $500,000 into the firefighters' pension fund.

We say "inexplicable," but after reading the mayor's commentary, it's easy to conclude that $500,000 is the current cost of playing politics — the cost of being able to accuse the city's firefighters of wrecking the city budget.

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