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Guest column/City not asking for concessions to be made fairly

September 18, 2011
By CHRIS BLACKBURN , The Herald-Star

Once again, City Council has decided that the best way to balance the budget is by cutting fire personnel and closing the Pleasant Heights Fire Station. The administration is trying to meet the city's projected deficit of more than $800,000 in 2012. Council once again is asking for concessions from the employees of the city, along with the closing of this station.

We understand that this deficit is largely the result of Gov. John Kasich's cuts to local government funding. We also understand that an error this past spring was made that cost the city approximately $300,000. The 0.3 percent levy was not filed in time to meet the deadline for the primary. To this date, all we have is finger-pointing as to who is responsible for making this mistake. In response to repeated questions over who was responsible for this issue, all we have been told is to the view the city charter.

It appears that no one has owned up to this mistake or been disciplined.

Now, five firefighters in the city may lose their jobs because of this malfeasance. In any normal business, what would you do to a person who cost your business nearly $300,000? I cannot be certain, but not even a reprimand was handed out for this blunder. Now, the fire department is looking at losing several firefighters and a station. These men and their families have made a commitment to protecting and serving the citizens of Steubenville.

The fire department has taken many concessions over the years. To this date, we are currently still taking concessions to save the city money. In the past, we were the only union that willingly took concessions to save jobs. This time, we were not given a realistic chance to provide assistance in solving this problem.

Fifty percent of the deficit reduction plan is targeted to come from the fire department.

I feel that it is unfair to ask one department to shoulder the burden of half of the deficit that is projected. We take this as a personal attack on the fire department and its members. We feel that concessions are not being asked fairly throughout the city or the administration. We believe administrators, part-time employees and members of City Council all should take part in reducing the projected deficit. Council and the administration have to lead by example and show the citizens they will take concessions also.

We would like the citizens of the hilltop neighborhoods and the rest of the city to know that no matter what plan is enacted, the firefighters will do our best to protect and serve you, which is our primary purpose.

We are supposed to have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. We would hope that our city leaders understand this quote and listen to their constituents when making these decisions that affect each and every one of us.

(Blackburn is president of Firefighters Local 228.)

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