What I'd like to address in this blog entry are Nytes' comments made just before the IFD special district tax rate was approved.
Now, Councillor Nytes gets points from me for being quite consistent in the matter of more money for government. She makes no bones about it and will ignore her caucus' position on matters when those matters will produce more revenue for some component of the City-County government or for downtown. Her constituents knew her stand when they voted for her and she has not veered from that stand. So, she gets points for that. But, I heartily disagree with her comments and the underlying positions, nonetheless.
When then-Mayor Peterson was pushing consolidation of the various fire departments, critics claimed it would cost more, cause layoffs, and lead to township fire equipment and manpower shuffled into the old IFD district. All that was pooh-poohed as untrue. It was said that the merger would save money and lower taxes to boot. When Ballard became mayor, he pushed consolidation even more fervently than Peterson had. But, he dropped the claim that there were savings to be generated through consolidation, since the proof was abundant that it did not. In fact, Mayor Ballard began to leave the merging township with the debt from their fire department and took the assets into IFD.
It seemed to me then and it still seems to me now, that the merger was just so township tax resources could be pulled in to help fund IFD.
Now we have the current affair of the proposed removal of ladder truck 21 from Station 21 in Washington Township, and within Councillor Christine Scales' district. The College Commons neighborhood responded and have posted an informative letter online that I recommend folks read for the details. One interesting paragraph lists the loss of services located in Washington Township since consolidation:
As stated above, Station 21's primary fire response has gone from 10 to 8, to very soon 4 firefighters. What else has the North-Side lost since consolidation with I.F.D.? Here are the fire/rescue services that were provided on the North-Side of Indianapolis and have since been removed by I.F.D. Remember, these services are now gone: The Hazardous Materials Team from Station 21, Heavy automobile extrication from Stations 4, 6 and 21, (They are still "light" extrication companies, but the heavy extrication comes from Station 14 at 30th and Capital.) Rope Rescue from Station 4, Medic 4 has been marked out of service, Ladder 17 has been marked out of service, The Ice Rescue Sled from Station 6 is gone (taken away the day after it was used to rescue a dog on the ice in a nationally televised story. It is now in storage collecting dust.), all of the engines and ladders in the former Washington Township response area were front line ALS (Advanced Life Support = paramedic) responders, (eight trucks in all) now only 2 are frontline ALS responders, and of course, come this December, Ladder 21 will be gone. Did you know this much has been taken away? Are you paying correspondingly less in taxes for having all of these services removed?So, its not just a matter of the ladder truck - it is the decrease number of firefighters as well.
Nytes castigated the public and fellow Councillors to get with the new reality of the merged fire department. Well... promises made were that this would not happen. Those promises should be kept - not just what was written down in the merger documents. AND it is the responsibility of a Councillor to advocate for and support the needs of their constituents. Which is exactly what District 4 Councillor, Christine Scales, did in getting the decision to decommission Ladder Truck 21 reversed.
Here is another paragraph from the neighborhood organization's letter:
District 4 Councilor Christine Scales is working feverishly to try to organize the homeowner's associations in her area to act. She has spent countless hours on researching response times, NFPA standards, insurance ratings, actual driving distances and times between firehouses, and documentation of fire burning rates, as well as many other fire related statistics. She is fully against Ladder 21 being shut down. All of the officials contacted seem to be concerned, but no one is willing to act. She isn't the only person within the City Government working in your favor, but she is the most diligent.Scales is a well regarded Councillor, not just in District 4, but throughout Indianapolis. She does her homework on issues, and like Nytes, does not always follow her caucus if she believes it contrary to what is best for her constituents. I have said it before and I will say it again. Christine Scales is a gem of a Councillor. Her work to restore Ladder 21 is just one more example of her indefatigable efforts on behalf of the residents of District 4. Indy could use more Councillors just like her.