The “it’s for the children” campaign is now in full swing. Just look at the “State Children’s Health Insurance Program” (SCHIPS.) This has been pushed through congress as some kind of huge, bi-partisan, children’s health care program. A breakthrough if you will. I mean what politician could walk away from saving the children during the campaign season. They’ve gotten so serious about saving the kids with this one, they’ve even included the kids of parents who make up to $83,000 a year. I’ll tell you straight up, I don’t lose much sleep worrying about the health insurance woes of people making more money than I do. And I’m sure not willing to pay for it with the massive tax increase this program would require.
Enough of that for now, I’ve spent most of this week out of town and I gotta tell you, it’s been nice to get away from all the drama this town keeps dishing out. I can hardly wait to see what’s coming once we get past our current “Fire Chief” crisis. Speaking of the Fire Chief. Howard Gile’s do the right thing. If you can’t handle the job, step aside. If you believe you can do the job, step up to the plate and do it then.
Look, I’m not looking for a fight with the union. I was in the teamsters union for about ten years myself. I finally decided I didn’t really fit into the group way of thinking that was increasingly demanded of me. Besides, I never really felt the need to have someone speak for me. No, I’m not anti-union. It just didn’t work for me.
But hey, just for the fun of it, let’s throw out a what if situation today. Consider the ramifications if the circumstances were reversed. For example, what if the Mayor, the City Manager, and the entire City Council were publicly demanding the resignation of one of their union brothers. Let’s say they were all doing daily interviews with the local newspapers and television stations. After that, they turned their efforts to the local airwaves of one of our most popular, radio talk shows like “The Jim Cates Show” to tell the public what a loser this person was. What if they decided to picket the fire station this person works out of until they were finally humiliated enough to give up and resign. There’d be hell to pay, that’s what. The lawsuits would be immediate.
I realize I’m on the outside, looking in. But it appears the whole thing boils down to the fact that the firefighters don’t like their boss. The complaint I’ve heard most often from the union is that the Chief wants to change things. He doesn’t do things like they’ve always done them. Maybe things like holding union members accountable for things that are required of them. Things like being required to live in Shawnee County to be a Topeka firefighter in the first place. I personally know of more than one instance of firefighters living outside the county. Think it doesn’t happen? Think again. Oh yeah, how about the long standing practice of taking care of personal business on company (tax- payer’s) time. Things like working on friends and family members lawnmower’s, cars, trucks, and motorcycles while they’re on duty. No, I won’t mention names here, but believe me when I tell you it happens all the time and it’s been going on for years. I don’t suppose you’ll ever hear the union talking about any of this. You know, what happens in the union brotherhood, stays in the union brotherhood. Besides, people aren’t supposed to know about any of this.
To me it comes down to one simple issue. Is the fire department able to respond to fires and other emergencies when called upon to do so. Again, from the outside it would appear they’re very capable of responding and doing so in a very professional manner. To me, it looks like the fire department is working. Could it be better? I’m sure it could. But has Howard Giles really done anything he deserves to be fired for? So far, I’m not convinced he has.
How about both sides scheduling another meeting to resolve the issues that are the most pressing. Resolve them, and quit acting like a bunch of damned kids. The non-stop drama coming out of this town is making Topeka the laughing stock of Kansas.
Kevin McGinty can be reached at email@example.com