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Our Opinion: City council should trust the fire chief

Published 11:22am Wednesday, March 6, 2013

As a rule, city council members are not elected because of their expertise in specific subjects. Council members are not, for example, expected to understand and manage municipal accounting procedures. They don’t need to have degrees in civil engineering and no one expects them to decide how to build a road or bridge. Instead, the council sets budgets and broad policy expectations and leaves the details to staff experts. It’s time the Austin City Council take the same approach to the city’s fire department.

In the latest chapter of a seemingly never-ending debate, council members this week considered weighing in on how city firefighters’ schedules should be managed. The question of scheduling firefighters is undoubtedly important. As a group, they’re expected to be ready for action 24/7, and working out the details of how to accomplish that with limited budgets and resources is a difficult task. And it is precisely because it is a difficult, technical task that it is ridiculous for the council to be involved. The city has a fire chief who is, by all accounts, very good at his job. There is no reason not to think he can build effective staff schedules. So it makes no sense for the council to be considering the question of whether firefighters should work a so-called 10/14 schedule or a 24-48 schedule. The chief should decide.

We expect the question will come before the council again in a couple of weeks. At that time, the correct response would be for the council to do the following: Tell the chief that as long as his department lives within its budget and is prepared to carry out its duties, he has the council’s full confidence. To do anything else is to undercut the chief’s authority.

There is no reason to think members of the city council — except for the one member who actually is a firefighter — have any expertise on firefighter scheduling. The council needs to know how to set policy, and ought to stick to its own job, rather than meddling in the details of departmental management.


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  • disqus_64knBSXxih

    Let the paid PROFESSIONALS run their departments or fire them if they can’t be trusted to!

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  • disqus_64knBSXxih

    This seems like a complete no brainer to me? This new Fire Chief seems heads and shoulders more competent then the last hack running the department. I can’t understand for the life of me WHY the city council would want to piss the new Fire Chief off? Why risk him leaving and having our Fire Department return to it’s inglorious past???>

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    • disqus_64knBSXxih

      Part of me wonders if slapping the new Fire Chief in the face is the goal of some of our “leaders”?

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  • disqus_64knBSXxih

    By the way if anyone thinks this new Chief hasn’t been good for the citizens and the city then lets compare and contrast his attitude compared to the last guy and compare and contrast Sako Market to the last downtown fire!

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    • disqus_64knBSXxih

      Game, Set, Match!!!

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    • Demo-man

      The building was a total loss had to be gutted and completely rebuilt… There was a masonry wall separating Sako Market from the building next door making it harder for the fire to spread! You know the saying apples to oranges…

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      • disqus_64knBSXxih

        You sound like a disgruntled former employee to me? Did you not measure up? Was it to tough being a firefighter? Did they not appreciate you enough? Do you feel the need to “get those people back”? Or are you the former Fire Chief or one of his sycophants down at city hall????

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      • Demo-man

        Glad to see you can’t argue with my logic… just resort to name calling and guessing to make a point…

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      • 306

        Demo-man please be accurate in your postings. Any building with active fire in it will need some type of repair. Sako does need interior repai but the main structure was not damaged due to efforts of firefighters. Your response time comment from other article is physically impossible to accomplish. A staffed station will always be faster than unstaffed. You truly need to do more research before trying to discredit our fire department.

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      • jk

        Hey Demo, masonry walls didnt stop the downtown fire from spreading. Having a moron for a chief at the time didnt help either.

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  • pashusa

    Can I comment without being bullied about, or is this forum for only one persons opinion? If I remember correctly, and I may not, but I think the present schedule was set up as a kind_of “we’ll try it and see if it works” thing. if the current chief thinks it is not the right way to do things the council should quit micromanaging the department and let him change it. Maybe we wont have to keep messing with time schedules and and concentrate on the publics safety.

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