Read the material below and then write a 5 page paper on how you would handle this problem and what groups you would enlist to assist you. (This problem is adapted from an actual situation that occurred in Baltimore Maryland a few years back, and there is a great more to this than meets the eye. I recommend that you do some research before answering the question.) Submit this to Assignment Two.
You are a recent appointee to the position of chief in a career department of a large and very old east coast city. You have been struggling to meet the severe strictures brought about by the decline in tax revenue and the need for service levels that are increasing as many neighborhoods continue to decline.
The former city Fire Chief wrote an Op Ed in the local newspaper that your plans to close two fire companies in a budget-cutting move would jeopardize the safety of firefighters and residents. The former chief said the city is at a point where they are going to have to do less with less further stating that your plan was not a new idea, but an idea that’s been tried before and proven ineffective and deadly for firefighters and residents alike. The former chief was relieved of his duties and left the department under a cloud after the death of a firefighter candidate during a training exercise. The article that appeared in the paper has been shoved at you by the city manager and you note that the former chief has gone on to say that all that your plan will do is save money and cost lives. He then added, “But how can you put a value on a life?” The city manager seems to be beside himself with anger and is demanding that you defend your budget decision and your plans. The plan that you have proposed will not lay any firefighters off and the department will still have the same manpower level as when the former chief was in office, the only difference is that some firefighters and equipment will be redeployed. Two companies will be cut, and those cuts alone are expected to save $3 million in next year’s $2.3 billion city budget. The city council has not voted on the budget yet and members are getting particularly nervous about the comments in the paper made by the former fire chief. The former fire chief is also using his political leverage, and local contacts to call for keeping the two companies open and stating that there are other places in the city’s budget that could be cut. Of course, the unions have criticized the budget plan and they are now airing radio attack spots with the claim that response times will rise. It appears that the former chief is cooperating with the head of the union who also was reassigned during the change in administration. There is another problem. The fire department took the brunt of public safety budget cuts this year and the police department received a small increase. In order to meet your budget reduction targets given to you by the city manager, your budget proposed mothballing two of the 55 trucks and engines that service the city. Your plan also cuts over time severely, and ends the practice of calling firefighters in to fill vacancies when people are absent. The two companies that will be abolished answered a large number of alarms during the year previous because the truck company was dispatched on over 3000 alarms with the ambulance and not fires. The reason was that almost half of the alarms the truck company was dispatched on were for medical service and for the most part all they did was respond. The same is true of the engine company that you are cutting – 60% of its 2300 calls were for medical service. In both cases only 22% of the alarms that those two companies responded to were for fires. Looking at response times, because of the location of the old firehouse to the alarms that these two companies responded to resulted in much faster response times than the city average, and even with the closing of those two companies the response times in the impacted neighborhoods should still be acceptable. You have to admit that the cuts will require the remaining firefighters to work faster and harder. That was pointed out also by the former fire chief who noted that increased workload can be dangerous emphasizing the increase in heart attacks and injuries when fire companies are closed and this own experience with that. In previous comments you have acknowledged that your personnel will work harder but that you are also applying for something that was not done before and that is a federal grant to cover baseline physicals to identify health problems and treat personnel early.
To put it mildly, all at City Hall are not pleased by the remarks of the former fire chief considering his record of safety violations. To this point the politicians have been supporting you, but you are also concerned that that support comes because they put you in there as political cover for the difficulties in the past which they overlooked. What are you going to do and how are you going to handle this situation?