Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ballard / Vaughn Reneging On Promise

An abrupt reversal has been announced on the fate of ladder truck 21 that currently services Councillor Christine Scales' district.  Lame duck Director of Public Safety, Frank Straub, is the nominal decision-maker on this matter, but it seems more likely that Mayor Ballard and/or new Chief of Staff Ryan Vaughn are the ones actually at the center of this change of policy.  Paul Ogden over at Ogden On Politics has blogged on this recent development (see "Councilor Scales Calls Mayor Ballard Out on Failure to Live Up to Commitment Regarding Keeping Ladder Truck 21 at Northside Station")

Last year it was announced that Washington Township IFD Station 21would lose its ladder truck.  Many residents became concerned and involved their Councillor in the effort to keep their ladder truck and the protection it afforded their families, homes and businesses.  Scales led the charge by immersing herself in national fire protection protocols, best practices, and best standards.

The combined effort worked out well and Mayor Ballard, personally and through his then Chief of Staff, Chris Cotterill, promised that funding for ladder truck 21 would be provided at least through the end of 2012. Vaughn knows all about it, having gotten Cotterill to reduce the promise to writing.  Knowing that their word did not include any funding beyond 2012, Scales continued to ramp up her information base regarding fire equipment placement, response times, and more.

The June 20 announcement that the ladder truck would not be left at Station 21, but removed on July 1, left little time for the community to mount an effective and vigorous campaign to reverse the reversal.   That was probably deliberate.  The way our City budgets work, there is nothing special about July 1.

Scales shot back, sending out three documents that review the importance of keeping ladder truck 21 in place.  I have uploaded them to Google docs ("What do ladder trucks do", "The decision last year to remove ladder truck 21 was fought by firefighters", and "Councillor Scales statement").

Scales notes that Washington Township has more tall buildings than anywhere outside of Center Township, there are only two White River crossings which limits response times, and the current construction on the Allisonville Bridge with its attendant super-congestion makes this an ill chosen time to remove the ladder truck 21.  She also mentions that she had many private conversations with knowledgeable firefighters who side with her on the need for this truck in this location.  And, she asserts that the City could be opening itself up to a lawsuit should it make good on this latest threat and actually remove the truck.

From the public perspective, this looks bad for Ballard and Vaughn.  Even if you find yourself in positions of power, your word is still your honor.  The commitment made to residents and firefighters should be followed through to completion.  If there is any entertainment of not funding this truck at Station 21 in 2013, then it should be thoroughly discussed with the affected community prior to a final decision.  AND the reasons for that decision should be fully explained to the community.

Mayor Ballard still likes to say his is an open and transparent administration.  Yet, there is little evidence of that.  It is instances like this one that makes a running joke of using Ballard and 'transparency' in the same sentence.  Hopefully, the Mayor will follow through on his word, leave the ladder truck where it is, and pursue real dialogue and real transparency with the residents and firefighters affected by Station 21.

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