Union money should not displace longstanding private fire service - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Union money should not displace longstanding private fire service

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Posted: Monday, May 19, 2003 11:02 pm | Updated: 2:00 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

As Scottsdale voters go to the polls today, all they need remember are two words: Union. Government.

The Tribune is recommending a NO vote today on both Propositions 200 and 201, either of which will create an unnecessary municipal fire department.

The worst result of this unwarranted campaign is that, once all the baseless and unfounded scare tactics about safety are stripped away, what remains is the national firefighters’ union’s utter contempt for privatization. This was the genesis of infusing more than $500,000 of out-of-state union money into the pro-200 and 201 effort, virtually its entire financial support.

The campaign never could draw ordinary residents with no ties to firefighters, becuse most residents do not believe that Scottsdale-based Rural/Metro Corp. has done anything to justify its costly removal after 52 years as the city’s internationally renowned private fire protection provider.

Residents see a well-run fire department with well-trained employees and caring, creative leadership. If its customers, the people of Scottsdale, so desire it, Rural/Metro is capable of increasing its service level, as it has in the past — without wasting an estimated $6.4 million to fund a needless transition to a government-run operation.

This election is about municipalization for its own sake while Scottsdale is in its worst budgetary shape in 30 years — and today’s measures lack most of the things the union sought: a previous-years-of-service pension, whose city cost estimates start at $25 million, and an “automatic aid” system whose city cost estimates start at $10 million. Automatic aid has not yet been proven to justify that kind of cost and the union has refused a yearlong invitation to negotiate a pension Rural/Metro, not taxpayers, would fund.

Union. Government. These are not the words residents employed to build this great city. Surely different words — innovation, ideas, freedom — appeal to us instead. Then keep the only fire service Scottsdale has ever known. Keep the green fire trucks. Vote NO on both Proposition 200 and 201.

Fountain Hills voters should vote NO today on Proposition 400, which creates a property tax for a possible new fire district when other funding sources should be tapped. In Cave Creek, Proposition 405, which would extend for four years a “home rule” provision that lets the town decide its spending based on revenue, deserves a YES vote.

(Editor’s note: Since March 2002, Tribune Publisher Karen Wittmer, who is married to a member of Rural/Metro Corp.’s board of directors, has recused herself from any involvement in the direction or preparation of editorials, commentary or news coverage about Rural/Metro.)

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