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Sunday, January 13, 2013

2012 Sucked So I Will Simply Move On



I’m not going to sit here and reflect on a year that was filled with so many disappointments.

I like to think that I am an eternal optimist, but did anyone else notice the negative tone of wherever you looked? It was everywhere.

ONE positive that I noticed is that, firefighter fatalities were down in 2012. Since 2009, firefighter deaths have been well below the “100 per year” threshold. Also noteworthy is that deaths attributed to cardiac issues were also down. It would appear that health and wellness initiatives are starting to see some positive results and we should. There are plenty of blogs and books dedicated to firefighter fitness. One that easily comes to mind is Fire Service Warrior and its founder, Chris Brennan.

In fact; when you partner the work that the FireSmoke Coalition is doing with its research on the effects of gases present at the foreground that adversely affects firefighters and preventive measures AND we work to improve over all fitness, it is no wonder that there has been a reduction in cardiac-related episodes.

So, when I say that last year sucked, it is a broad response to the many personal negatives that have affected me. It is not summed up simply by saying that “my guy lost” the Presidential election. It goes much deeper than that. Since I started preparing my first article for 2013, I have lost another brother-in-law and it leaves me with the opinion that I am attending more funerals of family members than I care to.

All I know is that it has hit me like a ton of bricks and has forced me to be more introspective on setting priorities in this Life. I will strive to find the edge that saw several readers of Chief Reason blogs, but in order to do that, I have to get a couple things off of my chest.

So, this is To Whom It May Concern:

I am tired of all of the “fiscal cliff” dramedy. Our federal government has proven time and time again that the two-party system is self-destructing. The two houses of government want to go in two, separate directions with a President who doesn’t understand the art of compromise. Instead of finding real solutions to the problems that we face, they want to spend time looking for gimmicks that kicks the can down the road for future generations.

I mean; what has happened to “representative” government? When did it become this bloated behemoth of amendatory bills and points of order and all of the trickery and chicanery that it has become?

How is it that, in Congress, John Boehner decides what goes or doesn’t in the House and the singing duo of Reid and Pelosi decides what goes to the floor of the Senate?

Did you know that you don’t even have to be present to filibuster? Now, all you have to do is notify leadership of your “intent” to filibuster. You know; “phone it in”, as they say. Jimmy Stewart (Mr. Smith) must be rolling in his grave.

And why are legislative bills 2700 pages long? I actually know the answer to this one. It is because of all of the “augmentations”. Let’s call it “pork” or “sausage”. Regardless, it goes through the meat grinder known as Congress and is packed into a prophylactic to make it easier to shove…well, you get the picture.

And for the record; Illinois has its version of Boehner, Reid and Pelosi. It’s called Mike Madigan, the “most powerful politician in the state”.

Having little influence THERE, I will spend my time focused at a local level. As a trustee for our fire protection district, I will not use the federal budgetary process as a template for our fire district finances. For me, that means a balanced approach. Borrowing will be limited and money will never factor into discussions of firefighter safety. Firefighter safety will always come first and we will tax and budget for it. Period.

I have seen too many fire districts struggling just to pay the interest on apparatus or a new building that they can’t afford. If either was needed, then a budget plan that included savings, applying for available grants, increasing tax rates or calling for a bond referendum should have been in the plan. You don’t just wake up one day and discover these problems. They can be years in the making, if you don’t exercise restraint.

Next; I am tired of the pension banter. Illinois has the distinction of having the most underfunded pension system and the worst credit rating in our country. So, again I say;

To Whom It May Concern:

You believed that it was your civic duty or your “calling” to serve on your city council or in the state legislature. You sat there while your loyal public servants were negotiating employment contracts-legal, binding contracts.

And even though you didn’t bother to look at actuaries, investment statements or take the advice of financial analysts; you kept agreeing to new contracts; knowing that you would have to borrow money to pay them or skip payments all together.

Why would you lock in return on investment at 8.5 %, even though statements were showing anywhere from 0 to 5% and then express total shock to hear the economy was driving everything down?

In the Land of Lincoln, pensions are underfunded by $95 BILLION. And because pensioners are expecting YOU to honor YOUR word, you are now labeling them “selfish and greedy”!

Do you even realize that a contract is a legal and binding PROMISE? Because if you do, then quit whining and figure out a way to pay them without sending my taxes even higher than they already are; keeping in mind that I am trying to save for my own retirement.

Two years ago, Governor Quinn got a 67% increase in the state income tax to pay past due bills to medical care providers and schools, to name a few. It was only to be for one year and it has been two. He lied. He also said the added revenue would go for the purposes that I stated. Instead; the money went to pension funds. He lied again.

I am so fed up with the convoluted process known as politics that I a swearing off blogs about politics UNLESS they directly affect the fire service. You may quote me.

And last; to my friends at NIOSH:

Since we are seeing fewer firefighter deaths per year, can we see a more timely and detailed fatality report? Could you possibly widen your pool of resources and end the “template” approach?

I, for one, appreciate the work that you do, but let’s be honest; can “poor communication” or “a lack of leadership” be present at every fatal incident? You might be right; I am just asking, but consider that there is a culture to change in the fire service that may require stepping outside of the box, because without compelling, well written reports; fire departments will continue to dismiss NIOSH firefighter fatality reports as “same old/same old”.

To my fellow bloggers and critics: I am bringing back a strong voice of reason in 2013. However; I will continue to be uniquely qualified in matters of opinion.

TCSS.

The opinions and views expressed are those of the article’s author, Art Goodrich, who also writes as ChiefReason. They do not reflect the opinions and views of www.fireengineering.com, Fire Engineering Magazine, PennWell Corporation or his dog, Chopper. All articles by the author are protected by federal copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without expressed permission.