Wednesday, January 19, 2000

Police, fire unions plan to battle city over 2% cuts

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Police and fire union officials plan to fight two proposals for cutbacks in the Cincinnati's police and fire divisions.

        The proposals — sent Friday to the city administration — were submitted by each division's chief in response to Council's demand for 2 percent across-the-board budget cuts in every city department for 2000. The cuts were ordered in anticipation of a $17 million deficit in five years.

2 fire dept. offers
        Cincinnati Fire Chief Robert Wright reluctantly offered two options — rotating brown-outs, or temporary fire company shutdowns, or eliminating one of Cincinnati's 26 fire companies. Either option submitted by the chief would shave $380,450 off the city safety department's budget.

        In a letter sent with the proposal, Chief Wright told Safety Director Kent Ryan that the fire division would struggle financially even without the proposed budget cuts:

        “...It is my opinion that any company cuts and any (temporary) disbanding of fire companies are reactive, knee-jerk proposals that deny the past successes and ignore the present performance improvements of the Fire Division.”

Safety issues cited
        Mark Sanders, president of the Cincinnati Firefighters Union Local 49, said any cuts would jeopardize the safety of firefighters and citizens.

        “I understand the city has tough budgetary issues, but I don't think it was on anybody's campaign platform to cut the fire division,” Mr. Sanders said.

        Even a temporary, rotating shutdown of a different fire company each day endangers that company's neighborhood.

        “It's like playing Russian roulette,” Mr. Sanders said.

        Keith Fangman, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Queen City Lodge 69, said the city should pull its budget cuts from other, less basic city services.

        “The politicians and the citizens need to decide once and for all: Do they want better police and fire protection, or do they want more feel-good social programs?” Mr. Fangman said.

2 offers from police
        The police proposal would reduce the safety department's budget by $587,290. It also offers two options.

        The first would eliminate $440,930 in special-event staffing funds and reduce by $146,360 the overtime budget used to beef up police patrols during more active, warm-weather months.

        The second option would eliminate the $500,000 police overtime and reduce by $87,290 the special-event staffing cost.

        Mr. Fangman said the police visibility overtime (PVO) program is crucial to community safety.

        “The PVO program, simply stated, puts more cops on the beat, which allows us to answer more calls for service,” he said. “I'd hate to see our citizens suffer by having that program substantially cut.”


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