Reader JF says pensions only went up from 2.77 percent times the number of years to 3 percent times the number of years. But that was only the latest increase. Look back to 1977, and I feel confident you’ll find firefighter pensions were still juicy, yet much more reasonable. I don’t have the figures (they aren’t online, apparently), but I’d guess no more than 2 percent times the number of years times the highest (or last) three years’ salary, versus today’s 3 percent times the single highest years’ salary — hence we’ve increased the formula more than 50 percent. 

Conveniently ignored by Reader JF is that the year a police officer or firefighter can retire was recently dropped from age 55 to 50. That’s a huge increase in payouts, as one can draw pensions years earlier than in 1977, when I suspect the retirement age was about 60.  Plus, all current firefighters can go into the city’s double-dipping DROP program and work for five more years if they want.

Reader JF laments the 90 percent cap on his pension. Poor baby! That complaint is a prime example of how elitist public employees are. They haven’t a clue what the pensions are in the private sector n you know, the taxpayer yokels who fund the high salaries and pensions for public employees. In stark contrast to firefighters retiring earlier and earlier, those of us looking forward to our social security are having to wait longer and longer before we can start drawing our modest pensions.

Several firefighters rightly point out that they seldom fight fires anymore. They didn’t phrase it that way n they instead touted the medical emergency response function that has become their prime duty, since they don’t have much else to do 97 percent of the time. 

But if we were serious about improving medical emergency response using our firefighters, we’d break up the four-man fire stations into two two-man teams. One would be the “main station,” with the big fire truck. The second auxiliary station would hold only an emergency vehicle and more rudimentary firefighting gear n but be located away from the main station to provide quicker response to relatively outlying parts of that district. The auxiliary station could be a small leased home with a decent sized garage.

If there were a fire, both fire houses would respond, of course. Indeed, if both respond every time, we’d still cut our response time dramatically with relatively little extra cost.

But, trust me, firefighters like the current foursome arrangement. More camaraderie, etc. And enough comrades to play Hearts or Bridge. When it comes to increased public safety vs. doing it their way, for firefighters, it’s really a no-brainer. And given that firefighters pretty much own most of the local politicians, no such reforms n indeed, any reforms n are likely.

—RICHARD RIDER

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