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Friday, April 20, 2007 | I strongly feel that our San Diego firefighters and rescue personnel are an equal part of the public safety structure, along with the San Diego police.

Let’s say that you or someone important to you is shot or stabbed by a perpetrator and critically injured. Immediately following such an incident, what do you want and expect? You rightfully expect the police to respond and take the perpetrator into custody. But that’s not all you want. You need fire and rescue personnel to respond to the scene, possibly to save your life. This is a pointed example, but not an unreasonable scenario. In my mind, that makes fire and rescue personnel an equal partner in the public safety equation.

I am a fiscal conservative, and applaud the effort that Mayor Sanders is putting into saving our city government, by presenting a proposed FY08 budget that balances the service needs of the citizens and taxpayers of San Diego with available and projected revenue. I do not envy him the task. And I understand and respect the mayor’s weighing of market conditions and retention challenges as part of the formula for determining compensation for public safety personnel.

However, I do not support that aspect of his budget proposal that grants increased compensation to the San Diego police department, but nothing for the fire department. A couple of years ago, San Diego firefighters agreed to reduce their pay by over five percent. In that time, the cost of living has certainly not gone down in San Diego. I firmly believe that the funding can be found somewhere in the budget to provide the six percent compensation increase that the firefighters are seeking. At this time, because of the budget constraints that the city faces, I would not support the additional two percent compensation increase that Local 145 is seeking for recruits and FF-I personnel. Again, this six percent compensation increase would merely restore what was given up before.

Yes, I understand that overtime work increases the take-home pay of fire personnel. But that firefighter overtime work is mandatory. It’s required because elected officials in the past have chosen not to fund and build the additional fire stations and hire the personnel that would bring San Diego Fire-Rescue up to national accreditation standards.

I urge the mayor and city council members to work together to come up with a budget compromise that provides the San Diego fire and rescue personnel with the six percent compensation increase that they are requesting. To me, it’s an issue of simple fairness to a group of men and women who are there every day to ensure our public safety.

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