more on the “buy local for the holidays” campaign

I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that I wanted to revamp the Ypsi shopping guide that we distributed last holiday season. Conversations sprang up both here and on the Downtown Ypsi site and several edits were suggested. Then, last night, our friend Murph took all the content in the flyer and posted it at Arbor Wiki. What this means, for those of you who have never used a wiki before, is that now we can all collaborate on the document in real time. (Thanks, Murph.) Check it out, and feel free to help edit it if you see anything that needs changing.

So, things are moving forward with the brochure. As I mentioned in my previous post, Linette has agreed to lay it out for us once we have all the content, and the neighborhood associations have agreed to distribute them. All we need to do is find a way to pay for copying and we’re set. (Caf

Posted in Ypsilanti | 16 Comments

oh, yeah, there’s also that

The good news is, violence in some Iraqi neighborhoods is down dramatically. The bad news is, there’s reason to suspect it’s due to there having been successful ethnic cleansing campaigns.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

john edwards from last night’s debate

Kucinich did a good job in last night’s debate. And, consensus seems to be that his wife would be the hottest first lady ever. But I’m still not persuaded. I think, for the time being, I’ll stick with Edwards.

Posted in Politics | 6 Comments

moyers on cheney

I desperately need to sleep, but first I wanted to pass along this video of Bill Moyers discussing Dick Cheney and his 30-year crusade to spy on American citizens. If there were more time, I’d go on to write about the culpability of the American communications companies that allowed the warrantless spying to take place, but my batteries are way too low at the moment.

Posted in Civil Liberties | 3 Comments

how will the ypsilanti income tax not passing effect police, fire and ems service?

I posted a few notes from Washtenaw County Commissioner Conan Smith on the pro side of the Ypsilanti City Income Tax debate last week, and now I’d like to post a letter from the other side. This one comes from former mayoral candidate Steve Pierce. It’s a response to the City’s claim that, if the tax does not pass, we will have to let firefighters go.

I am just reporting things as I see them. Don’t take my word, check the facts and then draw your own conclusions.

Case in point. What has the supporters of higher income taxes been telling us. Vote yes or the City will cut 3 firefighters.

So lets talk fire for a moment. To have a full complement and provide all those cool services like EMS and aggressive attack fire fighting that got us our low ISO rating, the city says we need 23 firefighters including the chief and fire marshal.

The YES folks are saying they plan to cut 3 firefighters and reduce head count to 20 if the Income Tax does not pass

I think everyone would agree, right now with no cuts, we have a pretty good fire department. I would argue we have one of the best in the state.

How many firefighters do you suppose we have right now. Not 23. Not 22.

Would you believe 20. Yep you guessed it, the city has already eliminated three positions.

Moreover, two of our firefighters are on long term disability for injuries so we only have 17 firefighters working plus the chief. And one of the 17 firefighters is scheduled to leave before the end of the year. So by the end of the year, the department will be down 19 total firefighters. With two out on injury, we are down to 16 which is more than twice the number the YES folks say they will cut to if no City Income Tax.

Folks we are already at the level the YES folks keep saying is bad news if they cut three (3) firefighters. Yet EMS calls are still be answered, Fires are being fought, and heart attack victims are being saved. I don’t thing the opposition has told anyone about this. They don’t want you to know that they have already made the cuts to fire before the election has even occurred.

Now you asked a very fair question when you asked “Do you really think they would put our citizens in physical jeopardy just to make a political point?”

I hope not, I really do. But here is my concern. Having just 17 fire fighters to cover 3 24 hour shifts is causing a lot of overtime. That means you have tired firefighters which means that you are increasing the chance that a firefighter is going to get hurt on the job. Remember these men and women work 24 hour shifts. So when they pull over time they end up working a 48 hour shift.

It isn’t like being a factory rat and working 2 extra hours each day and 6 hours on Saturday. These are tough shifts and it means more time away from family and reduces your recovery time from one of the most stressful jobs in the world.

Now step back for a moment. This past summer we had a real chance at meaningful regional cooperation between the City and the Township with the joint response agreement. This plan would mean that Ypsi City and Township departments would simultaneously respond to any fire call inside the city or township. That means a quicker response to major fires, it means more firefighters on the scene which means it is safer when they enter a burning building. Great concept, little to no additional cost and substantially improve response time and save lives both firefighters and citizens.

Then remember we had not one but two fire fighters killed while off duty in the last year. The last member killed was in the plane crash while on a life flight to procure an organ for a patient at U-M hospital. Besides being a firefighter, Rick LaPensee was a flight nurse for U-M organ procurement program. He along with the rest of the crew were killed in the plane crash this past summer.

You know what the city did. They didn’t fill his position telling the firefighters they would wait until after the City Income Tax to see what they would do.

Well that is putting the rest of the staff at risk because they are working extra overtime to cover the shifts and they are working more tired because of these extra shifts.

Worse, the township is skeptical that the City was using the joint response to cover up for man shortages inside the city. When the Township learned that LaPensee’s position was not to be filled, the township backed out of the agreement. They are willing to proceed with the agreement but only if the City gets up to full staffing. But the City says they won’t do that.

So this sunk the first real chance we had at regionalization and trust building with township officials, one of the critical points in the blue ribbon report was to build trust, and this decision to not hire firefighters is putting the lives of our firefighters at serious risk.

So is this cynical. I don’t know, you need to decide. But what it does prove. That we won’t ever succeed at regionalization if we can’t even meet our partners half way and you can judge for yourself the effect of a 3 person cut on our fire staff. We are down 4 right now and down 5 by the end of the year. The City is currently operating 5 firefighters short tonight as we speak.

Should those cuts have ever happened. I say no. Should LaPensee’s spot been filled, absolutely. They had the budget last year and this year to hire new firefighters but choose not too.

And don’t buy into this argument that they don’t want to turn around and layoff a new hire if the City Income Tax doesn’t pass.

They just hired a new assistant city manager that makes over $70,000 a year and she is cut in year two or three of their plan. They also recently hired at least three new people in the clerks office in the last year, two new planners, new DDA director, and new hires all over city hall. Most if not all of those recent hires are cut in the the current Solvency Plan from the City manager by year three.

But they won’t hire a new firefighter to replace a guy killed in a plane accident. We didn’t need to hire new City clerk folks. We could have used that money for a part time clerk and contracted with the County to run elections. But the City manager with the blessing of City Council hired a new City clerk and new support staff and choose not to hire one much less three new firefighters.

So you need to decide for yourself, do you want to have planners and election clerks or firefighters. Me, if I have to make a choice, I want my firefighters first, I want them safe, and I want the department staffed so they are not at any unnecessary risk because someone is trying to prove a point about how bad it will be with 3 firefighters cut.

If we’re lucky, the firefighter who commented earlier this evening on another tax-related thread will come back and help us sort all of this out. I know a lot of people are basing their decision on the impact a No vote will have on fire, police and EMS service, so i’s absolutely critical that we have good information in this area. Hopefully the pro-tax side will also respond.

update: Mayor Schreiber left the following response in the comments section.

According to the city manager and the fire chief:

* The fire department has 23 positions including the fire chief and the fire marshall

* Two positions are open due to the retirement of Chief Roberts and the tragic death of firefighter Rick Lapensee

* One firefighter is on medical leave

According to the city manager’s solvency plan, emergency medical service (EMS) would be eliminated in fiscal year-end 2009 with the elimination of three full-time firefighter positions. With twenty or fewer full-time firefighters, the fire department can’t reliably sustain both EMS and first response firefighting. On a temporary basis, these services can be maintained without compromising the abilities of our firefighters. The decision to fill two vacant full-time fire department positions will be made after November 6. The positions will be filled if the funding is available.

The assistant city manager is also the human resources director, the (ongoing) union contract negotiator, and the recreation coordinator. This position is vital to keep the city responsive the needs of the community.

The county charges for election and clerk services. City residents are getting the best deal with a dedicated city clerk who can respond to walk-in requests and run fair elections. Even if Washtenaw County agreed to provide clerk services for the city, they would charge the full-time employee rate, with no cost savings.

Other positions that were filled provide the services that residents expect. Cutting those positions amounts to implementing the city manager’s proposed solvency plan, with the resulting loss of city services.

Posted in Ypsilanti | 77 Comments