Saturday, March 25, 2006

When organizations listen to the workers (the unions) they profit...

This is a link is to an article from the Christian Science Monitor. It tells the story of one airline whose management listened to what workers had to say - and turned their red ink into black.

I link this in response to Dep Mayor Lynch's desire (sent through Marlene Feist's email) for city workers to read a recent editorial from Spokane's Journal of Business. This article alludes that unions are to blame (at least partially) for the city's financial state.

And speaking of the city's financial state, a casual observer traveling our bustling streets would conclude that business has never been better. Are we still in the hole? Strange.

Those of us who were at the Public Safety Committee, meeting months ago, remember Mr. Lynch's umbrage when city council members wanted to revisit the AMR contract. He was downright angry that the union, along with the city council, wanted to open the contract up for scrutiny. This scrutiny has opened the door for city coffers to swell with potential penalties paid by AMR to Spokane for contract violations. More importantly, this scrutiny has righted a wrong, and has served Spokane's citizens well.

I think our citizens are beginning to see Local 29 for what we are - an organization that wants to see that citizens are well-served, an organization that wants to protect citizens' lives, property and their pocketbooks. In short, our citizens are beginning to realize that this union (and many others) are in their corner. And knowing how Mr. Lynch feels about us, this has got to hurt.

I wrote an editorial for the Journal of Business last November. I will ask Mr. Lynch for equal time using our city e-mail, as he has.

In the meantime, spread the link above. Unions are saving businesses. Unions are protecting the notion of livable wages in the United States - and a middle class. Unions are protecting the family. Unions have been, and always will be, a voice that calls for accountability, scrutiny and clarity in our government. Ours is one of the few voices left. Don't let it be silenced - our country and our city are depending on us!

John Griffith
Local 29

Friday, March 24, 2006

Line of Duty Death - Ocean Shores

Ocean Shores Captain Robert McLaughlin died during a surf rescue drill. Memorial service is on March 29th at 2:00 pm. More details at the link above.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

LOOKING BACK - A post from December 30 2004 - From Bill Jackman: SPOKANE FIRE CHIEF FACES TOUGH DECISION

Just when you think things around here can't get any worse, we havereached a new level of bungling in our EMS system. For the past couple years, every 911 patient transport has been billed at the higher ALS rate. Yep, even a simple BLS transport for constipation has been billed at the higher ALS rate.

Even if all the ALS work is done by the Spokane Fire Department, the patient is still billed for ALS by the ambulance company. Furthermore, 60% of the patient transports were suppose to be billed at the lower BLS rate. Since they are now billed at the higher ALS rate it means an extra $700,000.00 dollars per year for AMR! And consequently, the people that we are supposed to protect - are forced to pay for something that they are not receiving.

It's like ordering basic cable service (BLS) and receiving basic cable service - but people are being forced to pay for deluxe cable service (ALS). The really reprehensible aspect of this, we provide most of the ALS care at no expense to the patient.

EMS is 80% of what we do and nobody I've talked to in Spokane knows anything about this billing practice . You would think with the EMS levy just barely passing, we would take EMS issues around here more seriously. AMR billing in Seattle was contacted and they confirmed this billing practice - it's called ALS Emergency Mandated.

There may be a ray of hope out of this mess. People have been charged for ALS when the SFD Paramedic accompanies the patient to the care facility. This is a prohibited charge under the contract. Just guess how many times a year our Medics ride-in where the fine can be as high as $5,000.00 dollars for each violation. The penalties could be in the millions, but our Chief has to make the effort to fine the ambulance company.

The down side of this is how public perception about SFD EMS might change. In the future people may think EMS stands for Emergency Medical Scandal. Fundamental reform and investigation about this matter is warranted.

Happy New Year!

Bill Jackman

Monday, March 20, 2006

Strengthening our levies...

Thankfully, we passed our lid lift levy last year. Our citizens spoke up for us overwhelmingly and we were able to maintain the same understaffed level of service. The alternative would have been disasterous for the fire department and the citizens of Spokane.

I guess where I'm going with this is, I am very interested in making sure the public knows we are good servants with their money. A lot of the editorials about the situation at Stn 17 really made me aware that the citizens view the fire stations as their property and rightfully so. I believe we will soon be looking to renew the levy which helped build new firehouses, perform upgrades on exisiting firehouses and purchase new apparatus.

We heard from citizens who wondered why we were building new stations, as we were laying off firefighters. We awkwardly explained the "two different pots of money" phenomenon.

In my opinion (and it may be an uneducated opinion), the two most important levies we face are the lidlift (up for renewal in another year and a half) and the EMS levy (up for renewal in another 4 and a half years - I think). These are the levies that keep firefighters working for the city. The EMS levy must pass by over 60%, and it was real close last time.

Before we start on the remodel of the administration building and Station One, a remodel that will relocate equipment and personnel out of the area they protect, I would like to know how much money is left in this levy.

If there is a substantial amount, is there any mechanism to allow voters (or the city council) to put this money aside for paying to keep firefighters on the job? Maybe it could be a fund we draw from for the next 10 years. Maybe we could even give the money back to the taxpayers to show that we've been, and will continue to be, good stewards. What kind of message would we send the taxpayers if we said, "We've accomplished many of the big projects we wanted to do, with the money you've given us. But, we know that we're going to have to ask you for money later - just to make sure we have firefighters who will respond to your home in an emergency, and times are tight. So, we're going to give you back the remainder of your levy money, or we'd like to set it aside for personnel costs - your choice."

I don't know if this is something we could legally do, or if it's even a good idea. I would sure like to hear what you think. If you have some ideas, or want to comment, just click on the comment button and you can leave a post.

Thanks, John