New Bedford Firefighters Are Too Important to Lose [OPINION]
The City of New Bedford is attempting to deal with the fiscal fallout from the Chinese imported COVID-19 virus. Firefighters are on the casualty list.
Nobody could have predicted the COVID-19 virus and the massive devastation it would bring to America. The loss of life has been staggering. The required economic and social limitations will have a more widespread negative impact than most currently understand. Some businesses and jobs will never come back and most will never be the same.
The loss of business taxes in all forms is starting to impact the ability of municipalities to fund their governments. The biggest local departments are police, fire, and education. There isn't a lack of need for these services – in fact, there is an increasing need for police and fire professionals in many American cities.
The riots and protests since the death of George Floyd have placed additional burdens on local government services. The city of Minneapolis, where Floyd was killed, is currently asking the federal government to help cover the cost of their riots – some estimates put the damage by radicals at $500 million. Poor leadership held back the police and fire departments and allowed the rioters to loot and burn Minneapolis.
The men and women who serve and protect as firefighters are what economists call "skilled labor." The people who qualify as skilled labor can't be drafted into service at a moment's notice. A firefighter, like a nurse, a teacher, a soldier, an engineer, a police officer, etc. must be educated and pass a battery of examinations before they are available to be hired by the community that needs them. This is a reality that can't be overlooked by the public or the people they elect to office.
The recent widespread damage done by the rioters in America appears to have been done by arson. New Bedford knows about riots and arson all too well.
The City of New Bedford, like all municipalities, is being forced to plan for an extreme belt-tightening due to the Chinese virus. The question is how to do it and what can be cut at this time. The loss of skilled professionals who do the life-saving work of firefighters might not be the best place to start. I remember life on September 10, 2001, and I haven't forgotten what it was like the following morning.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.