City Manager Ralph Lange indicates that Ypsilanti is moving toward a hybrid police/fire scheme in which public safety officers will be expected to fight fires, save lives, pursue suspects and dispense lethal force

    It would seem that Ralph Lange, our new city manager, has made up his mind that we should merge Ypsilanti’s Police and Fire departments in hopes of further delaying landfall of the category-five fiscal storm gathering on the horizon. He’s admittedly in a tough spot, and I’m sympathetic. He’s trying to radically cut spending, in order to stave off bankruptcy and state takeover, without damaging the fabric of our community to such an extent that we’d begin losing the tax-payig families that we currently have, and scare off businesses and individuals who might otherwise be considering investment here. It’s not an enviable task, and I’m not inclined to attack Lange for weighing the options available to us. I am, however, curious as to whether we’ve sufficiently thought through the ramifications of such a drastic course of action.

    Before we go any further, here’s a short recap of where were we are in relation to that perfect storm of economic doom that I noted above… Ypsilanti is currently being threatened by several destructive forces, all of which seem to be feeding one another. We’re facing rapidly escalating legacy costs (mainly in the form of municipal retiree health benefits), decreasing tax revenues (resulting in large part from the well-documented crimes of the financial industry, and the closing of our local factories), evaporating state support, and looming bond payments (resulting from an ambitious, yet unfortunately-timed, land speculation deal initiated by our City leadership over a decade ago). And, of course, all of this is further complicated by the fact that working class Ypsilantians, hit hard by the recession, and living in a state where the financial burden is systematically being shifted onto the backs of the non-wealthy, have indicated that they’re unable to pay more in taxes in order to offset the impending devastation. So, we turn to our City Manager, asking him for suggestions as to how we might slash our budget to the bone, in hopes of buying us some time. And, it would seem that Lange has come to the conclusion that, in order to see this accomplished, we need to both consolidate our current public safety infrastructure, and demand that our public safety officers do exponentially more with fewer resources, less backup, and decreasing pay.

    “I think the position is… we’re going with the hybrid public safety,” Lange told AnnArbor.com. “That’s where we’re going. It’s not just about police and fire. For the city to be successful, I have to work with council to make sure the city is literally one integrated unit.” (I’m hoping that when Lange says that the whole city will be “one integrated unit,” he isn’t envisioning a scenario in which our city clerk is called on to pull people from burning buildings, and our police officers are being called on to don hairnets and ladle out school lunches.)

    If we don’t merge our public safety departments, we’re told, it would mean that we’d be forced to accept an Emergency Financial Manager, appointed by the Governor, who would not only force our police officers to fight fires, but sell our publicly-owned assets, dissolve our democratically elected local government, etc. This, of course, is an eventuality that we’ve discussed at length before. Here was my contribution to the conversation at the time.

    Does anyone remember, back when we were debating whether or not to pass a City income tax, and people on the anti-tax side would refer to pro-tax people as “fear mongers” whenever they dared to bring up the fact that public safety employees would inevitably be cut, should the tax not pass? It’s kind of funny how silent these folks are now that we’re talking about cutting our full-time fire fighters down to just three, isn’t it?

    As for cross-training public safety employees so that they can both fight fires and shoot criminals, I think it’s a great idea. I’d go a step further, though. I’d also have them picking up trash as they make their way around town, so that we can lay off a few more public employees. As long as these new firefighter-cop hybrids of ours are running down alleys after a criminals, for instance, why not have them scoop up some candy wrappers in their hand that’s not engaged in dispensing lethal force? Or, better yet, maybe they could just cut out the middle man, and just have the criminals do the work of public safety officers? Why not have prisoners fighting our fires? They’re plentiful, cheap and expendable… Before you laugh, you should know that it’s already being discussed in Georgia. This, my friends, is the future that we’re leaving to our children.

    For those who are interested, these are all things that we’ve discussed here before…. We’ve had really great conversations over the past half-dozen years about living in a post public safety world, and the prospect of having to shoot our own bad guys and put out our own fires, like good, little “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps” Libertarians, should additional revenues not be forthcoming. And, now… finally… it looks like we’re going to get our chance to truly experience the exhilarating freedom that comes with radical self-sufficientcy. Finally, we’re throwing off the shackles of modern society, and boldly stepping into a paradise the likes of which hasn’t been seen here since our distant ancestors began living to be over 30 years old. Can you feel the excitement?

    [a note to young readers: I predict that a majority of jobs in the coming decade will be in the field of private security. The rich may have decided that they don't want to continue funding police and fire services for everyone else, but they sure as hell haven't decided that they themselves should live without security and fire protection.]

    And here’s what MarkMaynard.com’s resident fire fighter had to say at the time:

    As a retired firefighter, let me weigh in.

    First, if there is a three person department, there would be one on each shift. That firefighter would maintain the trucks, do the state reports, all the other stuff, and when a fire call comes in, would drive the fire apparatus to the scene and set up. He/She would wait for arriving personnel (whoever they are), and set up for a fire attack. The fire station in Superior Township at MacArthur Blvd was a one man station, I don’t know if that’s the case today. It would be instructive to talk to some of the guys who worked that station about the ramifications of a one man station (I use “man” as the generic firefighter, I know there are women) understanding that there were other Superior Firefighters in route.

    Second, Troy has relatively new buildings, and a higher economic level than Ypsilanti and Ypsi Township. They have STRINGENT building codes and STRICT enforcement of the codes and buildings that were NOT built at the turn of the century. They have the luxury of a paid on call department that I don’t believe our area has.

    Third, My thought would be that YFD would not run EMS. I would think that HVA would now run all EMS calls, as cross training Police to do firefighting is one thing (and as a personal opinion, I disagree with this idea), but to do EMT certification is something much different with very demanding and regular Continuing Ed.

    Fourth, Mutual aid agreements… How will YFD be able to respond to it’s mutual aid partners with sufficient personnel and resources? Mutual aid is meant to be a quid pro quo, not a supplement of “weaker” departments by “stronger” departments (I only speak in terms of numbers, not in quality or competence). If Ypsilanti becomes a “one man shift”, how does the quid pro quo get met? It can’t.

    Fifth, Brian (Robb) is incorrect when he writes, “Ypsilanti would still fight fires there same way we do today. Ypsilanti would also patrol the streets the same way.” I would ask how Brian figures that is true… You, by the nature of the changes made, would NOT fight fires or patrol the streets the same”. Those PSO officers would have competing demands on their time, training, and priorities. Guess what, Police work will always win over.

    Sixth, A Fire Chief once told me, we did our jobs too well. We pushed fire education in schools, gave away free detectors, wrote fire codes. All these things reduced the number and severity of fires. Fewer people died and more property was saved. Now, in times of budget stress, the Fire Department is an easy target. What folks have to remember is that we are the best insurance you have. When the phone rings, 24/365, you will have a staffed big red/yellow truck show up to mitigate your disaster, big or small. There’s no delay, there’s no “get in line”, there’s just a response. If this amorphous proposal comes forth, that contract changes.

    Seventh, how much will your insurance rates increase when your fire department is reduced to a paid on call? Maybe a little, maybe a lot, but I’ll bet there will be corresponding rate increases. They MAY be less than any tax increase to keep a full-time, staffed department, but I’d bet you will see increases, and those increases will hit your commercial buildings at a higher rate than your homes. How will your businesses respond to this “hidden” increase?
    I hope I have added to the conversation. I realize that Ypsilanti faces really bad choices, but cutting Fire services to the extent described, I believe, would be a mistake.

    So, do folks feel as though all of his concerns have been sufficiently addressed? Are we ready to accept the fact that we may soon be participating in this grand civic experiment? I can certainly see why, on the face of it, it makes sense. We do, after all, have to balance our budget if we hope to avoid state takeover. But it just seems to me that, while we’re focusing so intently on staying one step ahead of the axe, we’re missing the bigger issue, which is that this is all part of a coordinated campaign to decimate Michigan’s middle class. Here, with more on that, is a little something that I wrote a year or so ago. I think it’s as appropriate today as it was back then.

    …Why is it that we allow the Republicans to refer to themselves as the anti-tax party, when they keep demonstrating that they clearly aren’t? Sure, they’re all for the cutting of business taxes, inheritance taxes, and other taxes that would threaten to decrease the wealth of their party’s high-net-worth donors, but, invariably, those shifts in tax policy lead to higher taxes for everyone else. Elsewhere around the United States, the shift may not be as plainly visible, but, here, in Michigan, it’s painfully obvious to all but the most delusional among us. As business taxes are being eliminated, and corporate taxes on capital assets are being phased out, the burden of maintaining public services is falling disproportionately on the shoulders of the non-wealthy, and we’re all feeling the increased financial pressure.

    In Michigan, income taxes on the poor and middle class are rising, the pensions of our retirees are being taxed, tax credits for the working poor, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), are being slashed, and, with state assistance for higher education drying up, families are going into unprecedented debt in the hopes of securing stable futures for their children. The Republicans may not see all of these as tax increases, but they are. The increased insurance payments that many of us are forced to pay, because our local fire departments are being downsized, is essentially a tax. The same goes for the private school tuition that several of us are paying, rather than suffer through the constrictions of a public school system which is being systematically dismantled. And these few examples are just the tip of the iceberg. The truth is, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for regular working people in Michigan to merely sustain life. Fortunately for those in power, houses aren’t selling. If they were, I suspect that most of us would be gone.

    And, as those of us in Ypsilanti can attest, it’s the folks who are living in Michigan’s aging cities that are feeling the brunt of this radical redistribution of wealth. With state revenue sharing for cities dropping precipitously, one-by-one communities are being asked to make the choice — either institute a personal income tax, and pay for our own city services, or submit to the rule of an unelected Emergency Financial Manager, who will be empowered to sell off our community assets at fire sale prices, dismiss our democratically elected officials, privatize city services, and break contracts with city employee unions, essentially stripping our carcass of what little meat there is left, and sealing our fate. As long as we don’t ask the wealthy in Michigan’s upscale gated communities to contribute toward the greater good, it’s all the same to the folks in Lansing. They’re allowing us to make the choice…

    In another five years, we’ll be organizing bucket brigades to fight fires, and policing our streets ourselves. The trajectory, I think, is pretty clear. And it has nothing to do with our being wasteful, or living beyond our means.

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      43 Comments

      1. anonymous
        Posted March 11, 2013 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

        Short of revolution, I don’t know what can be done.

      2. Edward
        Posted March 11, 2013 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

        I don’t blame Ypsilanti voters for rejecting the income tax. The tax burden had already begun shifting onto the working class, and everyone has their breaking point. There comes a point when you just can’t give any more.

      3. josh
        Posted March 11, 2013 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

        There were talks with the Township about merging fire departments in one form or another. It’s bloody fucking obvious, and therefor Lange single-handedly killed it. I am coming to the conclusion we went from one arrogant ass of a city manager to the next, with an interim prick in the middle.

      4. Andrew Jason Clock
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 1:24 am | Permalink

        So the new city manager has to make a tough decision to to try to stave off bankruptcy, and everyone is calling for his head.

        I’m so surprised.

        I would really love for someone to put forward a viable alternative to this plan, one that has the same potential benefits and less consequences. And I mean actually viable. Right this minute, we are two years from an EFM if we don’t make any changes. As far as I’ve heard, the Township and City have continually failed to agree to the terms of this imaginary merger we keep talking about. The last I knew, the Township wanted to contract services back to the city, which has been shown to not be cost effective. Neither the city nor the township wants to give up control of their fire services to the other, or pay for services for the other, and that’s where we’ve been for the last five years. Yes, we talk an awful lot about it, but talking (or more accurately arguing) is all that’s happened. And township voters have made very, very clear they don’t want any consolidation. Now, raise your hand if you think we can pull this merger plan off in time to fight off the immediate threat of insolvency.

        If accounts of this plan are as advertised, we keep our own fire protection, even if it is reduced, we actually gain police officers on every shift, even if some of those officers would now have firefighting duties as well, and we save over $700k per year over the first three years, even factoring in new training, as compared to $500k in the imaginary merger. And we can implement it within months, not years. There is no other municipality or extra set of unions to negotiate with. It’s attainable right now.

        This could be way, way worse. It certainly would be under an EFM; my guess is we’d loose YPD and YFD outright to contracting under a financial manager. And public safety departments have worked in hundreds of places. Monroe, for example is just as old and twice as large as Ypsilanti, with nearly 10,000 more residents, lots of old stock buildings and neighborhoods that are more dense, and they seem to have weathered the switch to a Public Safety Department just fine. And their budget isn’t half the wreck ours is.

        No, this is not what anybody wants to happen. In an ideal world, we would have a fully funded police and fire departments at levels we saw in the 90′s. That’s what we want and that’s what we will demand of Mr. Lange. But that ship sailed a long, long time ago. That ship has gotten to wherever it was going, been sold for scrap and was cut into razor blades about the time Governor Snyder took office. We lost that fight. And that leaves us, and Mr. Lange to choose from the best of bad options. And he’s chosen what he feels is best, likely concluding that a merger is not realistic in the very short time frame he has to work with. And I think he’s absolutely correct.

        I know. I’m a jerk and I’m coddling to the city. I bet they pay me to post this. Don’t I work for them or something?

        The answer to that question, again, is no. The organization I work for owes its single largest budget line item to the city every year, usually at least 1/5-1/4 of our entire budget. Because of that, I worked with the city pretty intensely over the last year. I can tell you it is a night and day difference since Mr. Lange took over. Instead of being treated like a bother, I have been treated like a customer. I was asked how the city could work with me instead of told what I was required to do. Mr. Lange mentioned the economic development aspects of public events, when that seemed utterly lost and unfathomable before. He seems determined to do his best to lead Ypsilanti through this impossible quagmire no matter what it takes, and he’s motivated those around him to do the same. I think we’ve always had some very good people working for the city, and now we’ve got a leader that’s attempting to bring them through what has to be an incredibly trying time to be a city employee.

        But he’s going to make a tough call on public safety that, even though it’s really the only option in the time we have to deal with, we absolutely don’t want. So we should call for his head. Or, we could look at Detroit or any other of Michigan’s failed cities, and be just a little thankful that we wound up with someone who’s at least trying. And our only choices are someone who’s going to make very tough decisions that we probably won’t like, and an EFM, who doesn’t care what we want as a community to begin with.

        Oh, and you all do realize they’re still talking about a merger right? It’s not off the table, it’s just not attainable right this very minute, when we absolutely must do something or go over the cliff.

      5. Mr. X
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 5:52 am | Permalink

        I don’t think anyone called for his head, Andy. People just wanted to know if the issues raised by our fire fighting friend had been sufficiently addressed.

      6. EOS
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 7:00 am | Permalink

        Merger talks are dead. City wants 50% control while paying 25% or less of costs. City has already given away most of its assets and can contribute nothing that would benefit the merger. City is on the verge of going over the cliff, but residents are still unwilling to cut services to reduce costs, and many are still looking into ways to spend more money. The city and township have forms of government and political philosophies that are too disparate to reach any consensus. Unless you repent and turn from your ineffective ways and misguided policies, you cannot be saved.

      7. Elviscostello
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

        Andy,
        I’m not calling for Mr. Lange’s head. What I hope to hear is how they expect to do this, and be in Mutual aid compliance. I haven’t heard an answer to this yet. I raised other issues as well in my initial post, and was hoping that there would be answers before moving to implement PSO.

      8. Knox
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

        Think of all the buckets we could afford if we didn’t have to pay for fire fighters!

      9. V
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

        How would this come to pass? What steps would have to happen, in which order? I imagine that the City Manager makes a recommendation to City Council, and then hey vote. Is that correct? And where do the unions come in? Do they have any say at all in the matter?

      10. Elliott
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 9:33 am | Permalink

        What is it about our generation that we aren’t rioting in the streets?

      11. josh
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 10:11 am | Permalink

        Everything I have read regarding merger with the Township fire department says that Lange is the one saying “no”. Frankly, the guy can’t even be bothered to live here (he “stays with a friend” during the week, so no real investment) and council is unable to provide real oversight so wtf is the difference between him and an EFM?

      12. Brenda Gummo
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

        Elliott and Josh: can one of you get the firefighters’ and police officers’ response to Lange’s proposal, and then we can begin to think about whether or not a demonstration is in order?

        To our Councilmembers (especially Susan Moeller, my own rep): what do you all think about this proposal?

      13. How would it work?
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        I’m reading through all of the old comments, and I’m not sure how it would work. Would our public safety officers still be able to enter burning buildings and attempt rescues? Would our mutual aid agreements with other jurisdictions still remain intact?

        I agree with Brenda that we need to hear from our elected officials and representatives from the police and fire departments. I’d also like to hear from the leaders of the Stop City Income Tax group who campaigned on the promise that cuts to public safety would not be necessary. Do they have plans to avert this from happening?

      14. Posted March 12, 2013 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        The public safety proposal is still evolving. Mr. Lange is working on the details as well as police and fire union negotiotions. As Mr. Costello pointed out, there are many interactions to be considered with a hybrid public safety department that includes cross-trained police officers and a smaller fire department. No layoffs are planned and firefighters have the option of cross training into public safety officers or remaining firefighters.

        I look forward to detailed information from Mr. Lange within a month.

        Paul Schreiber
        734-277-5446

      15. anon
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        christ, even the mayor’s borderline pro-austerity.

        look, lange came from here:

        http://www.hencoed.com/

        pretty safe to assume he’s not a big fan of organized labor. please correct me if i’m wrong.

      16. anon
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

        Sorry Edward, we rejected the income tax…twice. That was the best option. Now there are consequences. this is one of them.

      17. Megan
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        Andy – you need to stop comparing Ypsilanti to Monroe. They may have the same number of basic citizens, but Ypsi also has an additional 20k students roaming around that Monroe doesn’t have. And, population doesn’t even matter. It’s the number of calls per service.

        I think this is a shit idea. As for other ideas, how about merging with the Township? That’s come up. There’s a viable alternative that Lange just shoves his nose up the air about.

        These are my concerns, and I sent them to the Mayor who assured me they would be covered when Lange presents the whole thing to council next month:
        • I haven’t seen any positive responses to it on any of the AA News stories either.
        • How come the only one in the YPD speaking for this is Amy? I haven’t heard any of the officers say they like the idea.
        • The YPD can barely handle calls now and put off “non active” calls for days before they respond to them and all of a sudden they’re going to have time to respond to fires? That’s ridiculous.
        • You should do what Ichesco (the expert on the matter) suggested and combine with the surrounding areas.
        • How much will training the YPD cost?
        • How much is the overtime we’re going to be paying while officers are off being trained?
        • Can we afford the overtime when cops are fighting fires past the end of their shift?
        • Overtime for cops is more than for fire fighters.
        • How much is the city insurance going to increase now that cops are going to be fighting fires?
        • Are we going to do some minimum, “Here’s how you hold a hose” and hope no one dies? Or are they going to be required to complete the same exact training a real fire fighter has to?
        • What happens when searching for people in a building they come across some sort of criminal activity that as cops they never would have seen? That stockpile of guns and drugs in the closet?? Um… didn’t see it!
        • What about when the city is sued for increased property damage that wouldn’t have happened had actually trained fire fighters done the job?
        • Who’s going to create the priority list that puts a fire above a burglary call when there’s only three officers on duty?
        • And what’s the legal defense if the cops are taken off the burglary call and the homeowner is killed?
        • What’s the legal defense if the cops are kept on the burglary call and someone dies in a fire?
        • What happens at a car accident involving a drunk driver? Do they arrest the guy (lady) or administer first aid?
        • What happens when an officer has to encounter a situation where they have to give first aid to someone that was a dick to them the day before? They’re only human you know.
        • Why is it that Koryzno said for years this was a bad idea and the city couldn’t afford the consequences and now under this new Lange character it’s going to work??

        And, may i just say it, here’s another job Amy isn’t qualified to have. But that hasn’t stopped the city in the past.

      18. js
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        You know, an Ypsilanti with an income tax and functional services is a lot more attractive for me (a young professional) to move back to than a tax-free city where the cops are shooting at fires. It’s a shame that EOS and his like are going to take a lot of good people down with them, but news like this is a pretty good reminder of why I don’t want to live in Ypsi.

      19. Andrew Jason Clock
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        Look, a public safety office is going to work just like any other public safety office anywhere. While this is new to us, it’s not new. And as the mayor stated above, I’m sure there are lots of details being worked out on the fly right now, including union negotiations and talks with our mutual aid partners.While we should absolutely monitor how these issues are resolved, the endgame is a foregone conclusion. It’s the only viable choice we have.

        A morbid joke: Q: how will our new public safety department comply with our mutual aide agreements? A: a lot better than if and EFM comes in and eliminates Ypsi’s standalone public safety in favor of contracting with the county/township.

        Josh, if you seriously think Lange is the only thing standing in the way of a merger, let me introduce you to EOS, mm.com designated township representative. Notice how he’s not at all interested in a merger? As far as I can tell, that is the prevailing attitude in the township. Oh, and as far as I know, his comment above is pretty spot on. It’s not very often I find myself in agreement with EOS, but in this case, I have to agree. If you think council is failing in their oversight, take it up with them. Personally, I trust the recommendations of staff over council, but that’s just been my personal experience. And the difference with an EFM? We wouldn’t be having any of these discussions. YPD and YFD would be gone and we would have nothing to say about it.

        Anon, um, any evidence to support that claim, or are we just making wild accusations? I don’t see any evidence that a this particular community development corporation, which Ypsi has had at least one of, supports any particular political agenda. That’s kind of like you assuming our DDA is anti union because they try to lure in new business and promote tax incentives. Before he was in Ohio, from what my dad has told me, Mr. Lange was on the Monroe County Road Commission, which is not exactly an anti-union hot bed. And did Ohio go right to work while nobody was looking too?

        I’ve got a big dog in this fight. Besides being a downtown resident in a neighborhood that sees its fair share of crime, if public safety is reduced to a point where Ypsi can no longer allow special events because of a lack of staff or funding, I’m out of a job. As it stand right now, I couldn’t contract with YCSD because of a clause in the YPD union contract. So I have a very vested interest in how this comes out. And right now, I’m putting my trust in city staff, because in my experience they’ve got a pretty good handle on what’s going on around here.

        Anyway, all I’m really saying is it looks to me like we have two choices: convert to public safety, among other changes we don’t really want, or bring in the EFM. It’s Lange’s unfortunate task to have to implement this stuff, and I have read an awful lot of comments here and in aa.com that seem to blame him for these changes. He’s only the messenger at this point; the circumstances he’s dealing with were in place long before he got here. So to me, the next step is to monitor the progress and look for ways to dig out of this hole. Like focusing on economic development, which Mr. Lange seems to have had some success with in Ohio. Let’s hope he can do the same here.

      20. anon
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        “Anyway, all I’m really saying is it looks to me like we have two choices: convert to public safety, among other changes we don’t really want, or bring in the EFM.”

        andrew, with a little bit of zingtraining, you’d be a fine propaganda minister for the governor’s office.

      21. Andrew Jason Clock
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

        Ah, yes, name calling and insults. That’s a super productive part of any conversation in Ypsilanti. That’s always my favorite part of debating issues around here.

        Meanwhile, in reality, a quick look at the city’s books would show I’m not wrong.

        Personally, I think the fact that we even have and EFM law after voting it down is criminal, just like the way RTW was passed, in what appeared to me to be a glaring violation of the open meetings act. But, again, that ship has sailed. This is what we have to work with, and we don’t have very long to figure out how to work with it.

      22. Andrew Jason Clock
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        Megan, you’re right about population of Monroe, I had the number wrong. Monroe has a base population of 20,000- 23,000, depending on the source, but is over twice the size in square miles, at 10+. And while they don’t have a university and it’s temporary population, neither do they have a campus police force to supplement their Public Safety Department.

        My guess why Chief Walker is the person speaking publicly from YPD: she’s the chief of the department and as such its public face. We don’t have a press officer. And nobody likes this plan, it’s just that we don’t have another choice. So, like a good public servant, they’re putting their best face forward in a time of crisis, even if they are having to do something they would prefer not to. But I’m sure your comments have nothing to do with a personal grudge.

        You are also glossing over the fact that the plan talks about adding officers to every shift, in theory reducing overtime while adding coverage. Not to mention that the majority of your questions, like the ones about liability, are just silly. You’re acting as if Public Safety Departments don’t exist all over the country. Again, we may not have dealt with these types of situations, but many others have. And your implication that we’re just going to stick a hose in a police officer’s hand and say “here you go, figure it out” I think is kind of insulting. Do you honestly think anybody in the city government wants to put people in danger with no training? Come on, that’s just ridiculous. The standards for fire fighter/Public Safety officer training is pretty standardized and regulated in this country, last time I checked, and I don’t believe for a second that the union would let them get away with substandard training.

        This all comes back to the same place: What is your alternative plan, the one that we can enact right now, in order to stave off the EFM? The merger is not realistic in the time frame we have, and the vast majority in the township are dead set against it. So no, it’s not a great plan, it’s got some big flaws, but it’s all we have. Realistic alternatives are welcome, but there doesn’t seem to be any.

      23. Megan
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        This just makes no sense to me. Let’s lay off a bunch of fire fighters and hire cops to do the fire fighter’s jobs. That can’t possibly be cost effective!?!!! Fire fighters agreed to no pay increases and took other bargaining cuts. The YPD, if you all remember, refused to take any concessions and they laid off officers. You’re going to tell me the YPD is cheaper than the YFD?

        And besides, there are going to be HUGE ramifications like loss of life and property. I’d rather our fire fighters go get hired by the township and we contact out to them. The last number i saw was 600 calls a year. How many of those were Ypsi residents v. somewhere on EMU property? Fuck EMU. Bout time they started paying for fire coverage. Contract out to the township, keep our guys employed (even if over there), and pay only for calls on tax payer property. Sorry EMU and churches and county buildings. You’re going to have to pay your own.

        And while you can call it a grudge all you want, i call it the city telling us they were looking at budget experience (she had the least of all finalists), collective bargaining experience (she had the least of all finalists), and community involvement (subjective at best) as their top three skills, and choosing the least qualified. And yes, i have seen her resume. I actually have a copy of it.

        And no where on there was there any fire experience. Again, another job she’s not qualified for.

      24. Andrew Jason Clock
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

        Megan,
        I think the difference in cost savings is kind of obvious. They’re going to hire new officers at a lower rate of pay, with less benefits and no defined benefit retirement plans, as recently put forward in the new hiring policy and new union contracts. And when those public safety officers are not fighting fires, they will be acting as police officers, so we wind up with more police coverage. Since we’ve already figured out that contracting police service would not be cost effective, and we don’t want to totally give up our independent fire department, we still wind up at the door of a public safety department. You may be all for contracting, but the studies done suggest it is not cost effective, and no one else, city or township, seems much interested in that plan at the moment. In fact, no one from the township has really suggested that they would be willing to contract to the city at all, and there are no township fire facilities situated to realistically serve the city. Nobody WANTS to lay off fire fighters, its just that we don’t seem to have much of a choice.

        As for the chief, well, for starters, the city has already stated that a new fire chief will be hired to oversee fire operations, and Chief Walker will oversee the the entire public safety department. Despite your suggestion that she is not qualified, she seems to have done a pretty good job of running things in the two or so years she’s been in charge. Are you alleging some sort of conspiracy to employ her over a more qualified candidate?

        Look, nobody is happy about this change, including me. All I’m saying is that I don’t think the city is going to burn to the ground if we make this change, nor will crime suddenly overwhelm us, and that we really don’t have much of a choice.

      25. Jennifer
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        If anyone is curious about what it looks like when only the rich can afford public services I highly recommend “Tell Me and I Will Forget”- a documentary about EMS units in South Africa.

        http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1608217/

      26. EOS
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

        Andrew,

        Thanks for your contributions to this thread.

      27. JC
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        “The city manager usually takes the lead in promoting PSOs in a local area, and often calls in outside consultants to help make the case for merged fire and police services.

        Many individual consultants, management organizations and professional associations specialize in promoting PSO programs. If your city is considering hiring a proPSO organization, it is unlikely to get a balanced and objective assessment of the issue. If you cannot prevent the city from hiring a proPSO consultant, you can insist on having other experts brought in to provide a balancing point of view.

        Individuals with credentials as public safety directors or city managers often serve as consultants to other cities to promote PSO programs. This can be particularly misleading if the individuals purport to have expertise in ‘public safety’ as a whole and yet are actually deficient in either fire protection or law enforcement. Public officials and decision makers should carefully exam any outsider’s credentials prior to allowing influence in an area as critical to the well being of citizens as public safety.”

        The entire document is informative: http://www.iaff.org/09News/PDFs/PSOSystems.pdf

        *

        From a friend who’s a city manager in California (and a progressive):

        “In my experience, a truly combined police and fire operation really only works if it is organized this way from the beginning—upon incorporation. In California, Rohnert Park and Sunnyvale are the only two examples I know about—they both started off this way shortly after first becoming cities. There are some examples of combining management only—a Director of Public Safety rather than having a Police Chief and a Fire Chief . . .

        Consolidation is currently being looked at in other places—Davis, for example: http://www.davisenterprise.com/forum/opinion-columns/is-it-always-sunnier-in-sunnyvale.”

      28. Posted March 12, 2013 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

        Why are we worried about EFMs? Didn’t we vote that law away????
        …oh wait.

      29. Michael Bodary
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

        Dear retired firefighter: you should already know that Ypsi’s contribution to mutual aid has always been more giving than receiving, even from Ann Arbor. (I could elaborate, but not here). I also hoped that a fire authority could be seriously explored, but I became aware that the problems are not control so much as the legacy costs and baggage each side brings. No one wants to swallow that horse pill.
        As far as the anti-tax group silence at this time, its to be expected. Their expectation is in a couple of years that an EM will come in, declare an emergency, then bankruptcy, then dissolve the debt. That is not likely to happen.
        Because of Prop A, NO valuation change in property can help revenues, Water street can’t be developed fast enough to stave off the red balance sheet and the Public Safety Model, while the best thing on the table, will not provide enough $ to solve everything we’re on the hook for.
        I think it will give the city an extra year, maybe two before judgement day. Sorry to sound so negative, but I’m trying to be realistic.

      30. josh
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

        FFS, all the news reports regarding Fire Department merger/service agreement have stated Lange is the one in the way. The township is in because they want our money and they understand basic geography. EOS doesn’t run the township. Lange is against it because it means giving up at least some measure of control over the fire department. It’s worth it, for better service at a better price. I think I side with Ichesco on this one. You know, the guy that has a fucking clue what he’s talking about.

      31. Elviscostello
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

        I know this is from the Firefighters Union perspective, but I think it adds to the discussion…

        http://youtu.be/LOxV18goLjc

      32. Andrew Jason Clock
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

        Josh,

        Ok, here’s the article from when Lange declined to move forward on the merge at this time. (remember, nobody has said it’s off the table forever)

        http://www.annarbor.com/news/ypsilanti/an-estimated-500000-in-savings-not-enough-for-city-of-ypsilanti-to-explore-fire-collaboration-with-y/

        Here’s the important points:
        1. Merging will take years, not moths. We have months, not years, to work with right now.
        2. Merging is projected to save $500k per year. Public Safety, $700k. That’s a lot of money in this budget, like three PSO’s worth.
        3. If the township has control of merged authority, there is no guarantee that the price isn’t going to start going up. There are twice as many factors in determining that number and less control over the budget. We can’t afford that wiggle room. Kind of like how things turned out with the bus millage and the AATA.
        4. The people who informally talked about merging thinking it’s a good idea is a long way from a merger clearing all of the legal and political hurdles it’s going to take to actually make it happen. EOS may not speak for all township voters, but if it had to come to a vote, I still think it would be hard pressed to pass.
        5. We wind up with a bigger police force, and an overall force that is more financially stable. We keep overlooking that.

        But I get it, and you are right, keeping a dedicated fire department, even a merged one, would provide at least marginally better protection. But it is not something we can get done right now, and we have to act right now.

      33. Tammy
        Posted March 12, 2013 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        Andrew, can you point me to the specific documents or articles that say an EM if coming to Ypsilanti is we don’t consolidate cops and fire? Thanks in advance.

      34. wobblie
        Posted March 13, 2013 at 4:45 am | Permalink

        for all of those who want some form of merger with the township, please pay attention to the slow motion train wreck that is the school district merger. Also I see where Mr. Pleasant is discussing the need for more revenue and has put an income tax and increase in the millage rate on the table. It is only a matter of time before the township falls into the same situation as the city. All we can do for the near future is manage our own dissolution, and hope the economy truly turns around before an EM is brought in for the final fire sale. And of course the anti-tax crowd is silent, they can’t see beyond next week.

      35. EOS
        Posted March 13, 2013 at 4:55 am | Permalink

        Look at the city budget and the projected payments for the Water Street debt. Without significant budget cuts now, the city will soon be underwater. This is hardly a situation where a neighboring community would want to merge or consolidate. State law requires majority approval of the voters in a township for a merger. It’s not that we don’t like you, nor is it based on any historical animosity. It is very risky economically. I doubt any township would merge with Detroit these days either.

      36. Elviscostello
        Posted March 13, 2013 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

        Mr. Bodary, please elaborate here. I’d love to see your stats showing that YFD is and has been a “donor” department, which appears to be your point. As you compile those, I’d be curious not only how many times each department responded to mutual aid requests, but when they responded, what resources (number of trucks, number of personnel, number of command officers) were committed by each responding department. I look forward to your response.
        By the way, Your mom was a good teacher. I had her in 4th grade at George School.

      37. anon
        Posted March 15, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        speaking of emergency managers, check out how folks in detroit are fighting back.

        http://www.commondreams.org/video/2013/03/15-0

      38. Andrew Jason Clock
        Posted March 17, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        Why are we looking at public safety before a merger for the fire department? Today’s aa.com gives us a little glimpse of why. From a City of Ypsilanti report on merging:

        In a report Ypsilanti officials submitted to the state in February as part of the state’s incentive funding process for municipalities, they acknowledged creating a regional fire authority as soon as 2014 remains an option, but the idea is temporarily on hold.

        “A fire authority will require an agreement between policy makers, labor unions, and administration,” Ypsilanti’s report to the state reads, going on to acknowledge members of the proposed authority “continue to fail to successfully navigate these three issues.”

        So, like I was saying. Nobody in government thinks a fire authority is a bad idea, it’s just not a feasible idea. Residents outside of Ypsilanti however, seem to think it’s a terrible idea, judging by the comments.

        http://annarbor.com/news/ann-arbor-fire-chief-says-now-is-prime-time-to-create-regional-fire-authority/

      39. Elviscostello
        Posted April 4, 2013 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

        A week or so ago, a Benton Harbor firefighter (1 of 3 on the department) was called to a fire. He arrived and was burned when he started to fight the fire. His PSO Police Officer reportedly was next to innefective…

        BENTON HARBOR – The Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union today called on the state treasurer and Benton Harbor emergency manager to put an end to the city’s Public Safety Department and replace it with separate police and fire departments. The call comes after a fire fighter was severely injured while responding to a fire with inadequate backup from two public safety officers.

        “The Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union is calling on State Treasurer Andy Dillon and Emergency Manager Tony Saunders to immediately put an end to this failed PSO experiment in Benton Harbor,” said Mark Docherty, President of the Michigan Professional Fire Fighters Union. “The state is in control here in Benton Harbor, and the people in charge need to recall laid off fire fighters to properly staff a safe and effective fire department for Benton Harbor. If things continue as they are now, it’s only a matter of time before someone else get injured or killed.”

        Benton Harbor’s Public Safety Department has come under scrutiny in recent days after Lt. Doug Bell, a 13-year veteran, was injured on March 14 while fighting a house fire on Jennings Avenue. Bell is one of only three full-time fire fighters in Benton Harbor after the state takeover by an emergency manager two years ago axed the full-time fire department. In an effort to cut costs for the city, the fire and police services were combined into a Public Safety Department. The department is staffed mainly with “public safety officers” – police officers who are cross-trained to fight fires – and just one full-time fire fighter per day. MPFFU contends that those PSO officers are not adequately trained to fight fires.

        “It takes years to gain the experience needed to become a good fire fighter,” said Monty Nye, Chair of the MPFFU PSO Committee, who worked in a public safety department that was eventually reverted back to separate police and fire departments. “You can’t expect a police officer to become an effective fire fighter after getting the most basic level of fire training. When they respond to a fire call with a fully trained fire fighter, their inadequate training puts everyone at the scene at risk – fire fighters, police officers and residents. The PSO system doesn’t work, it’s as simple as that.”

        Public Safety Director Roger Lane has said that PSOs in Benton Harbor will begin daily training, which will pull officers off the streets and cost taxpayers more money. However, the Public Safety Department’s own training reports show that PSO officers don’t even get trained twice a week now.

        “Taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill to retrain PSOs who have already been trained to replace full-time fire fighters,” Docherty said. “This community should not serve as a cost-cutting experiment, especially not when lives are on the line. Benton Harbor residents should be outraged and join us in the call for bringing back fully trained fire fighters and a fully functioning fire department.”

        Benton Harbor is not the only Michigan city under emergency management or state control that has been switched to a PSO. Ecorse and River Rouge also saw their separate police and fire departments dissolved by the state in an attempt to cut costs. Other cities in Michigan that have attempted to cut costs by creating Public Safety Departments have seen their costs increase dramatically while fire service was dramatically reduced. When Kalamazoo combined fire and police services, for example, it cost the city $8 million more per year. Additionally, public safety officers typically earn higher salaries – an average of 10-20 percent more than police officers.

        “There are better ways to control costs than forcing a PSO department on our communities,” Docherty said. “It makes more sense to combine city police with county deputy services, while maintaining a separate fire department. That way you have cops being cops and fire fighters fighting fires. It makes sense and it keeps people safe, and that’s what we’re concerned about – keeping people safe.”

        Just another look at the PSO decisions…

      40. Posted April 4, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

        Elvis, have you heard the one about the farmer who’s also a hooker?

      41. Elviscostello
        Posted April 4, 2013 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

        John, what’s your point?

      42. Posted April 5, 2013 at 6:56 am | Permalink

        That you probably haven’t heard that one.

      43. Elviscostello
        Posted April 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        You’re right…wait, let me google it…Bwahahaha…There’s a great set of youtube videos…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jezSeQnfCg

      2 Trackbacks

      1. By What’s up with the Ypsilanti street light fee? on August 2, 2013 at 5:11 am

        [...] income tax, but it wasn’t passed, and so we now have assessments and stupid proposals, like a hybrid police/fire department, [...]

      2. [...] if at all, crime rates might be different had we chosen, as a community, to raise taxes instead of slashing public safety budgets. At the risk of derailing this conversation, here’s a short clip from something I wrote in [...]

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