I debated as to whether or not I should add this as a comment or a post, but tonight’s meeting has truly made me see that this cause is the appropriate course of action. And that more board meetings will need to be attended. I’m going to let everyone into an area of my thoughts that I haven’t previously, as I have been reluctant to address the Fire Department issues solely and directly, instead preferring to highlight the reductions across all the public safety departments – so yes, this post violates my previously stated boundaries. I do so because it’s high time somebody offered the counter-point to what the Trustees and Manager are willing to put into the paper. These comments aren’t approved by anyone but me, and they represent my own opinions and free speech as a taxpayer/employee/resident person.
Until the Trustees can get off their over-time, “don’t believe what the firefighters have to say”, misinformation, talking point disillusionment that they are stuck on – they aren’t going to see the truth. The truth is that the trustees could give the full time firefighters a 100% raise – they could approve 1 million in overtime and they could pay for all the benefits with no deductions to the employees – it isn’t going to stop the truth from coming out, or abate my concerns as to the reduced service levels that they’ve enacted in our public safety departments. My concern as a firefighter, and my concern as a resident is that the Village CAN AFFORD to provide the proper level of service with the fire department and police department, but decides to allocate the funds to over-staff VILLAGE HALL and consequently reduce the over all service to the village. I’m not asking my readers to believe me because I’m a resident, because I’m a firefighter or for any other reason. In fact, I don’t want you to blindly believe what i’m saying. I want you, the reader to go over my documents with a fine toothed comb, I want you to go and add up the numbers in the budget – to go and foia on your own, and to come to your own conclusions. This hasn’t ever been about over-time or money. It’s been about giving you, the reader, a moment of pause to realize that there’s more to the story than what’s being told and to inspire you to go find out the truth and form your own opinion. It wasn’t done until the service was ACTUALLY reduced. It is my idealistic nature coming out and believing that residents in my town want to know all the sides to the story – and are smart enough to go find it; speaking out about something I believe in passionately – but until the Trustees can see that the people speaking out are speaking out of ideology and not greed, the facts, numbers and data from Village Documents are going to be running circles around their baseless talking points.
To be quite honest with everyone reading this: I love the work that I do, I love the town I chose to do it in, and I think I make a decent wage for what I do. I have great benefits, and a good retirement plan. I work with exceptional people, all of whom have a level of dedication to the profession unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of. I also get to work with police officers and public works guys (mainly the mechanics at PW garage) every single day, all of whom I believe have the highest level of integrity and who perform their duties unwavering every day. As a village employee – I am quite satisfied with my job – right up to the point where I wish I could say, as i used to, that I can fulfill my duty to protect the lives and property of the citizens of Carpentersville. If I didn’t live in this town and didn’t have a family in this town – I might be able to live with that one disappointing aspect of my job, and instead leave it to those that should actually be speaking up! But those that should be speaking up aren’t, I do live in town, my family are residents being protected and my wife and I do have family that lives here. She has lived here her whole life, just like her mother who still lives in town, and just like her grandma and grandpa. The longer that the Trustees hold onto the notion that I am speaking out because I want more money or have some hidden agenda – the more damaging it is going to be to their reputation when they realize that I’m fighting for something that is worth far more to me than money ever will be – my family.
Let’s making something really clear for the general public – the Village Manager and the Director of Public Safety have no education, training or experience in Fire Service Operations, Command, Control, Administration, Tactics or Strategy. It would be like asking the Hospital Administrator if your loved one who is in their hospital and having a cardiac arrest is going to die and believing them when they say “Absolutely not – we’re the best!” So either of them assuring the trustees that the current level of service is perfectly safe and viable for the public doesn’t hold much weight. How about this – why doesn’t the board get the Deputy Fire Chief and the Battalion Chiefs to stand up in front of them and say that the current level of service is just as good as it was before. Those 4 people actually have the experience and training to make such a claim. Why haven’t we heard from them? Is it because their emails already reveal that they don’t believe that? If so that is a primary issue that the Village Trustees have to deal with. Those with the knowledge say it’s been reduced, the firefighters say it’s been reduced and the board is taking the word of 2 untrained people over the entire fire department and residents. Does anyone else see an issue with this? Oh – I forgot, don’t believe the firefighters.
I would also like to make something perfectly clear – although I have spent some time talking about the Director Public Safety in a light that might not be that great, I count him as one of those truly exceptional people in which I have the pleasure of working with and for every day – he has had an exceptional career as a Police Chief for our town and for his previous town of Streamwood, and from what I’ve heard, his intentions and ethics have always been beyond reproach. I do not mean to imply (in case some might view it this way) that he is misleading the board as to what is best, simply that he doesn’t have the professional training to make the claims that he has. Director Popp was put into a very bad situation and asked to make something better out of it, and not given the tools or training with which to do that.
The next part is something that some may make an issue of – or tell me shouldn’t be said – but frankly, if the Village Trustees and Manager are going to be quoted in the paper talking about the contract issues or talk about it at public meetings, I should be more than clear to do the same thing….
When the fire department lost a position through attrition last year, we were told it was to “curb” out-of-control over time. The village had “projected” that the fire department would use more over time than had been budgeted (yeah – we know how good they are at projecting – 10% accuracy.) In reality, we were so under-budget for that anyway that it didn’t matter – and the “loss” of overtime wasn’t exactly sorely missed. Was it nice when we got it, sure! Do any of us count on it to make ends meet, no – it’s more like a “go into the Christmas fund” kinda bonus. If the village doesn’t want to have overtime on the “short” shift – then hey, replace the firefighter that left and you won’t need over time at all. If each shift has 12, 4 of us can be off with no need for over time – and by all means, put part time firefighter/paramedics to fill in! What’s supremely ironic is that the reason for not replacing the guy that left was to make up for used (and budgeted) over time hours, and now it’s one of the main CAUSES of additional overtime hours. What the Manager and Trustees didn’t count on was that we all love our job, our village and take our oaths so seriously, that we would take it to the public to decide if it was right or not when they reduced the service. But, to set the record straight, what we proposed was 8 full time firefighters minimum daily staffing with the complete concession of the substitution act and removal of minimum vehicle manning language during negotiations this year. The village could have used 20, 30, 40 part time members per day – and deployed them and us however management wanted – we didn’t care. What we eventually ratified was done through negotiations and with the assistance of a nationally recognized Mediator. We just wanted to protect the jobs of the members – not really that much to ask – given that MY loss of $14,000.00 in wages and benefits from the last contract’s concessions AND my taxes were used to fund new employees and raises at Village Hall after the Village claimed it was hurting so badly from the recession. Of course, now that they are moving our officers out of station 3 and putting them with another officer at station 1 and replacing them with a part time member with no requirements other than to be a paramedic, we also want an Officer or Acting Officer (someone on the Lt’s Promotional Exam List) to be assigned to every open station. Again – action, reaction. And it’s not that crazy of an idea. Are there any residents that think that’s too crazy of an idea that we think there should be a ranked officer or promotable full time member at each station in charge.
I hope that the residents are understanding what’s really happening here. Instead of looking at WHY firefighters, employees and residents are speaking out, the Trustees are trying to change the reason to be about something that has to do with an internal dispute. The public issue is Reduced Staffing and service capabilities. They aren’t addressing the problem – they are saying, hey public, while we shove this problem under the rug over here, we want you all to look at this thing we’re going to call a problem over there! It’s smoke and mirrors, and it’s a disservice to the community if the Trustees believe that the residents aren’t going to see past the trick. Trustees – this has been used on us so many times, by so many politicians, for so long that it just doesn’t work any more! People are sick and tired of governments trying to spin and cover stuff up. Just admit it was a mistake and ask for input on how to fix it. Why is that so difficult? We, the electorate, the residents, the citizens who go to the polls every other year to either keep you or throw you out, will speak through our vote if you won’t listen to our words. We will circulate a petition to effect some changes within our Village. Political action is on the horizon, the residents are paying attention and deserve to be heard!
Trustees, as I have always said, you may call me at any time to talk about my concerns or about the information that I presented to the board tonight.