Cutting Fire Protection in Lawrence is not the Answer: Valley Patriot Editorial, May-2014

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera has come into office with a great deal of good will from the public and the media.

He has made some critical moves in his first few months to make Lawrence’s city government more efficient. We applaud that.

But, Rivera recently cut fire protection in Lawrence, temporarily closing stations and shutting down trucks in a move he says needs to be made because of Lawrence’s budget problems.

We don’t buy that.

We believe this is a move to squeeze the firefighter’s union and force them to give up benefits already in their contract.

This is unacceptable.

We know from his performance as a city councilor that Mayor Rivera is somewhat hostile to public safety unions. He voted to lay off 24 firefighters and 25 police officers when Lantigua was mayor. He supported the $35 million bailout loan for Lantigua and also supported the removal of Fire Chief Murphy, who was quite vocal about how cuts to the fire department were putting the lives of the public at risk, not to mention the lives of his firefighters. Rivera still defends that decision.

Mayor Rivera now has a chance to run the city without putting lives at risk to make a political point, as his predecessor Willie Lantigua did.

But instead of cutting administration, or frivolous government programs, instead of trying to find more revenue by raising taxes in Lawrence and forcing Lawrence resident to pay more of their “fair share”, he chose to close fire stations and hold his breath hoping nobody gets hurt. That’s not leadership.

Firefighters in Lawrence are overworked. They are using outdated equipment and often go into life and death situations minus the manpower to back them up.

Trying to balance the city budget on the backs of heroes who put their lives and the future happiness of their families on the line is irresponsible and should be opposed by the Lawrence City Council and the many neighborhood associations in the city.

We know Mayor Rivera has a monumental task ahead of him. We recognize that taking over Lawrence’s city government after four years of theft, waste, fraud and corruption under Willie Lantigua means he has to make unpopular and difficult decisions.

So far, Rivera has shown great leadership in firing political hacks, demanding accountability, and even micromanaging rogue city departments that need leadership. 

We believe every new mayor deserves a honeymoon period to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes before being hammered and attacked in the press.

The one exception to that is when people’s lives are in jeopardy.

We are not sure why Mayor Rivera is hostile to public safety unions, and frankly we do not care. What we do care about is making sure a city like Lawrence has adequate fire and police protection, and right now they don’t.

We call on Mayor Rivera and the Lawrence City Council to find another way to close their budget gap without putting our heroes and our citizens at risk.