Support Defined

Support at what Cost?  An analysis by a Leander Firefighter.

By Charles Garrison

 

A quote from Leander Council women Andrea Navarrette; “I always have and will support our Leander firefighters, I, however, do not support civil service.” 

 As I ponder this recent statement by our elected council person, I have had to ask myself what support looks like.  In recent years we have been inundated by various slogans including: “Support Breast Cancer Research”, “We Support our Troops”, “Support the Red Cross in xxxx disaster.”  But what does support look like?  What is the cost of supporting a person, an organization, a belief or cause?   I took a brief look at an online dictionary to get a glimpse of the essence when using the term support. It reads:

 

1. To bear the weight of, especially from below. 2. To hold in position so as to keep from falling, sinking, or slipping. 3. To be capable of bearing; withstand 4. To keep from weakening or failing; strengthen: The letter supported him in his grief. 5. To provide for or maintain, by supplying with money or necessities. 6. To furnish corroborating evidence for: New facts supported her story. 7. a. To aid the cause, policy, or interests of: supported her in her election campaign. 7. b. To argue in favor of; advocate: supported lower taxes.

 

As I collected my thoughts, the statements by local council resonate and disturb me.  In the Impact Newspaper of 4/18/2013, Ms. Navarrette states “I always have and will support our Leander firefighters, I, however, do not support civil service.  Both sides of the issue agree-civil service will cost the taxpayers greatly and not improve services.  To vote against civil service is not a vote against firefighters.”

 So how is this support demonstrated?  Supporting our firefighters is not simply allocating funds or securing bonds for new trucks or firehouses.  These are the basic tools to do our job.  One cannot simply say you support our water department without providing a pipe wrench for them could you? Can we support our troops without equipping them with the best possible weapons and equipment?  Is that the means and limits of our support? 

 Support is exemplified by placing one’s provisions, resources, and efforts toward the benefit of another’s welfare.  The Leander Professional Firefighters Association (LPFA), as a unified and collective body, believe that the protections afforded by the Texas Civil Service law is not only essential but is in direct SUPPORT of our firefighters.  Among the standards of this law enacted by the state are basic tenants that are necessary to ensure proper and consistent hiring, promoting, and disciplinary practices incumbent to the city that adopts the code.  The transparency and oversight for and by the citizens of our community are an added benefit as well to our community.  

 Ms. Navarrette goes on to say that there will be a great cost to the taxpayers.  This notion is further hailed by our City Manager in a recent YNN news cast where he suggests that the Civil Service referendum is a bureaucratic mess and will cost money with nothing in return.  Is it that our city council believes that a cost to the taxpayers does not justify direct support of our firefighters?  As a resident of Leander, I am acutely aware of the exorbitant tax rate we have in comparison to all the surrounding towns and cities here in central Texas.  I also advocate that the city council be diligent in the stewardship of our tax dollars. However, the basis of these statements are and have continued to be without factual merit and are for the sole purpose of political posturing. 

 A few months ago, Mr. Cagle, our city manager, had determined and stated to our citizens and our council that the cost to the city be OVER 1 MILLION dollars.  These costs included $607,000.00 to replace our volunteer firefighters and an additional $91,000.00 for administrative costs.  Adding to his presentation, he suggests that passing of the referendum will have an additional costs associated with decreased productivity of our firefighters, loss of control of our firefighters, and allowing firefighters to have a political influence in our community.  As a sidebar, I am seething at the inference that I as a professional that loves his job, loves his community, and loves his country would somehow do my job LESS for my community, perform my job LESS for my superiors, and would somehow be acting with treason for actively taking part in our democracy by electing and supporting representatives of our city, state, and country that sincerely care and support our fire service and the communities that we protect and serve.

 As of this writing I have yet to see any definitive financial impact statements by our city leaders that oppose the referendum.  This “guess-timation” was severely flawed, had grossly misrepresented the actual impact to our taxpayers, and continues to be the war cry of those seeking reelection on a platform of being fiscal conservatives.  When we, the representatives of the LPFA were given a chance to state our case regarding Civil Service in the same council meeting, we were abruptly cut short on our presentation to council and public and were prevented the opportunity to make known the facts we had determined which more accurately reflected the impact and cost.  These financial determinations which were 70% lower were determined by our research and subsequently validated by a third party accounting review.  To be blunt; There is no replacement nor cost to replace volunteers.  The inflated administration cost more accurately is generously estimated to be $1000.00.  The impact on me and you, the taxpayer, is between zero and negligible.

 If the financial impact or loss of our volunteer firefighter support is a non-sequitur so then where is the support by our city leaders?  Where is the demonstration of support by the leaders elected to represent the will and welfare of the Leander community and its employees? 

 To be frank, this civil service referendum directly supports the professional men and women that make up our local firefighters.  We understand that this career is about serving our community and is a vocation that carries an honor and a devotion to service for those in our neighborhoods.  Will there be no improvement of services as a result of civil service?  Who provides these services?  The reality is that the men and women that work every hour of everyday (including holidays, our children’s birthdays, and our anniversaries) protecting our city are doing so to best of their abilities and at the direction of our superiors and our community.  Anything less would dishonor our service, ourselves, and those whom we have been sworn to protect. 

 Will this referendum affect future service?  By recruiting and retaining the best available city employees in the area should always be a principal initiative for our community and city leaders.  We should not position ourselves by seeking out the leftovers that will not be hired by the other progressive cities in central Texas that willfully and purposefully provides competitive pay, benefits, and civil service policies to their emergency responders as deemed appropriate by their respective communities.  Anyone with a job fully understands that the best workers are attracted and retained by the organizations that best supports its employees.

 As a citizen of Leander, I have voted FOR Civil Service for our firefighters.  I am asking you, my fellow citizens of Leander, to join me in supporting us with your vote for this initiative.  We have been blessed to have among our ranks to have many of the best firefighters in the state and we should support them.  In recent times we have in fact lost some very capable firefighters (both paid and volunteer) to other city departments in our area.  We should be diligent and position ourselves to attract the best firefighters as the economy improves and Leander grows in size and population.  And finally, we should work firmly to support the provisions necessary to retain our valued firefighters.   At what cost is it that we should demonstrate our support?  That question can only be answered by each individual.

 As the incumbent candidates seeking re-election rally and state:

 “With civil service on the ballot, this couldn’t be a more important election for the future direction of Leander.  The facts speak for themselves

 You can raise your voice as the citizens of this community to DEMONSTRATE your sincere support of your firefighters.   And I ask you to contemplate Ms. Navarrette’s statements including “To vote against civil service is not a vote against firefighters.”

 If a vote of AGAINST is not a vote against firefighters, the same ones that that are asking for it, then what is it?  Support?

 I support the responsibilities and expectations of my service to my community to the degree that I and my fellow crew would risk our lives for the welfare and benefit to our families, friends, and our neighbors.

 In closing, thank you to all that continue to demonstrate your support, love, and prayers to each of our firefighters working each day in Leander and across our state.  Your kindness, generosity, and your sincere support is valued and never taken for granted.

 

John 15:13 (KJV)  13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

 

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Leander Firefighters for Civil Service