Our Opinion: Council made good call on fire department schedulePublished 10:05am Wednesday, March 20, 2013
It is always a welcome development when good sense reigns, as was the case at Monday evening’s city council meeting when a majority of council members gave the fire chief tacit permission to actually run his department.
At issue was a long-standing question of how best to schedule firefighters. In the normal course of events, one would expect a key department head to evaluate staffing needs and budget limitations, and set up schedules to accommodate both. For some reason, as has often been the case with the Austin Fire Department, the issue became fodder for a city council decision. Why any council members think they know better how to run a fire department than a seasoned, professional chief is hard to understand. As we have noted before, council members would probably know better than to believe they could instruct an engineer on how to build a bridge. Nevertheless, the question of firefighter schedules came to the council, and eventually to a vote; council members Janet Anderson, Steve King, Judy Enright and Jeremy Carolan agreed with the chief’s scheduling plan.
That a simple question of how best to schedule firefighters can even become a council matter suggest a weakness in the city’s organization – one that has been noted before in regards to the Fire Department. It is to be hoped Monday night’s decisions represents a trend towards elected officials letting the chief do his job. It’s the council’s job to set budgets and policy, not to micromanage details.