Guest MINDSETTER™ Tom Kenney: Fire Service Clowns

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


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It amazes me that there are so many clowns in this state who believe they are fire service experts! I have been doing this job (firefighter) for 35 years in the City of Providence – which is one of the busier fire departments in the country. I would still never consider myself an expert in the managing of a fire department. I have no managerial experience. It takes both managerial experience and fire service experience from the ground up to successfully run a modern fire department.
I have done pretty much every job on the front line of the PFD as a firefighter/EMT. I have commanded fire companies, entire stations and emergency scenes in my duties as a fire officer. While I may have a broad knowledge of the ins and outs of a fire company and department, I would not be the best person to manage both the short term and long term goals and needs of the department - budgets, staffing, planning, purchasing, etc.
The person who takes on such a job should be thoroughly competent and knowledgeable at both sides. In addition, the person who will succeed in this task must also have an intimate knowledge of the city and department which he will be charged to lead. This means someone who has rose through the ranks of the PFD. Too many times the reins of a fire department are handed to a professional mercenary who drifts from department to department padding his resume but never staying in one place long enough to be seen as a failure when the department goes to hell a few years after he has left for greener, and more profitable, pastures.
Ken Block, Steven Pare, Jorge Elorza, John DePetro and many others attempt to tell the general public how fire departments should be run and why the leaders of these departments, as well as the rank and file, are doing it wrong. These clowns have zero days experience as a firefighter and zero days experience as a fire administrator. They look at numbers and assume that “everything” is subject to a 10% cut across the board. They never differentiate between clerical work, maintenance work and public safety work. President Reagan, one of the biggest voices in this country against big government, acknowledged years ago that “government’s first priority is to protect its citizens”.
As soon as the 3 platoon system was initiated in North Kingstown many cities and towns decided to study the potential savings and practical considerations of the system and the effects such a system would have on its fire service budget. Those who have studied the short term and long term effects of such a system have decided that the proposed savings would not truly be realized and abandoned any planned implementation. The City of Providence’s Mayor decided to implement the system without studying the ramifications of such. I suppose he was afraid of some sort of attempt by Providence firefighters to block or discredit his idea so he rolled it out as a complete surprise to everyone without the proper vetting.

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If his proposed plan could actually achieve the type of savings he so regularly boasts it will the taxpayers (voters) would be praising him for keeping taxes under control. Instead he has lead Providence, and continues to lead Providence, straight toward fiscal calamity. The entire control of this potential disaster is still right in his hands. He has the power to back away from this doomed system, restore the PFD to its 4 platoon system and work with Local799 in actually achieving some real savings. After all, Local799 has made contractual concessions, completely voluntarily, saving the City around $6 million per year over the last several years. Instead he continues to ignore the facts and remain obstinate in his decision.
What doesn’t help the whole situation in Providence is the ignorant advice and prodding he gets from the aforementioned clowns. Even after being publicly discredited, Ken Block’s assertions regarding RI’s fire service costs are still being used by politicians and media alike to attempt to portray RI firefighters as overpaid and RI fire departments as bloated. Why let facts, or lack thereof, get in the way of a persuasive argument. Commissioner Pare and John DePetro have no problem going on public airwaves and spreading outright lies to sway public opinion.
I would ask the citizens of Providence to study the issue and decide for themselves whether or not the system Mayor Elorza has initiated in the PFD will indeed create savings in the ballpark of the $5-6 million per year he states it will. If you believe it does you’ll support the mayor in his actions, I’m sure. Then determine whether or not it will save any money or actually lead to increased costs.  Also, find out what the financial consequences will be to the City if this issue is drawn out in court and the City loses. It would be disastrous!
Providence firefighters are not fighting this mayor for more pay or better benefits or more overtime. Providence firefighters are fighting to keep this mayor from adding 33% more hours to our weekly, monthly and yearly schedules…period. Our fight has NOTHING to do with money. We are merely fighting for our lives to return to normalcy…and to regain a normal family life!


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