Contempt for firefighters won't solve L.A.'s budget mess
You'd think a proposal to cut 18 fire companies and four ambulances from the Los Angeles Fire Department would outrage readers; that they'd argue public safety trumps $53 million in savings; that they'd demand the city explore other cost-cutting measures. But no. Readers are thrilled, at least judging from the comments on this L.A. Now post about the proposal, which claim that firefighters are lazy, overpaid jerks who're laughing all the way to the bank -- with our tax dollars. And I thought the contempt for teachers was bad. Here's a sampling, with spelling corrected for clarity:
I urge the public to stop by a firehouse during the afternoon and especially the evening to see exactly how their tax dollars are being spent. Bring a snack for the movies and energy for the video game marathons.
Highest paid manual laborers on earth.
Can you name an occupation where you spend the bulk of your time NOT doing your job? Firefighters are like bridge attendants: the majority of their is spent NOT doing their main duties. I mean, firefighters go grocery shopping, get little Fluffy from a tree,take Sparky the dog to schools for Fire Awareness Day, exercise, wash and wax their trucks, etc. Seriously, %-wise, in a typical work-week, how much of their generously-paid time do firefighters actually fight fires? The point being, this is not at all the doom-and-gloom scenario that the firefighters' union and spend-at-all-costs politicians will make this out to be. Want proof? Drive by any fire station any hour of the day or night and see if anybody's home and what they're doing.
--Leonard C. Marshman
What do you call a fireman in the firehouse? A vacation.
A similar sentiment even appeared on the discussion board of Tim Rutten's latest column about the California budget:
I wish this state would hurry up and go Bankrupt. Get rid of the unions fire all of the state and county STROKES. A.K.A. Police, Fire and DMV workers to start.
I’m sure there are plenty of cheaper people out there. Plus if they want their jobs make them all SALARY.
Get Browneye out of office only a moron would think he was going to help out.
The most surprising comment on the firefighter proposal suggests that the city start a volunteer fire department.
I wonder if the readers really know just how well and overpaid our "heroes" are. There are fireman making in excess of $250,000.00 a year, to sit around and watch big screen TV's and shine fire trucks.
Ask yourself, just how many fires do you see in any given week or month?
Civil service was never intended to make one rich, but to provide for a living while also providing a public service. A huge portion of the LA City fire dept are "rich", according to the current administrations definition.
The city of LA would be much better served by having a volunteer dept., by cutting 75 % of the paid fireman.
The mystique of the under paid and overworked fireman is difficult to break.
Right. When a fire starts, it'd be much more prudent to gather a bunch of amateurs from around the city and then remind them -- the ones who bother to show up, at least -- how to use a hose and maneuver in their uniforms while the clock ticks and the fire burns, than to rely on trained-and-ready professionals. When it comes time to pay for the damage, at least we can take comfort in the fact that we got a really good deal on the firefighters.
Next thing you know, a commenter will suggest that teachers fight fires during their summer and spring breaks -- you know, so they can really earn their paychecks.
But personally, I think they'd be better off getting some perspective from Jim Newton's March 1 column on the subject: Budget-cutting at the L.A. Fire Department is no way to protect core services or those who provide them.
--Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: Los Angeles city fIrefighter Ryan Laterreur. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times