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February 20. 2012 5:34PM

Fire politics: Choices in Manchester

To his credit, Ward 4 Manchester Alderman Garth Corriveau came to the scene of last week's major apartment fire that displaced 40 families, all his constituents. It is nice to see aldermen take that kind of personal interest in their wards. Afterward, however, Corriveau let his emotions get the better of him and played politics with this awful fire.

Writing on his public Facebook page, Corriveau used the fire as an opportunity to criticize those who have advocated changing the benefits formula for city employees, including firefighters, to save taxpayers' money.

“... City Hall has not risen to the challenge when it comes to public safety,” he wrote. “It infruriates me there are officials who are pro-firefighter on 9/11/11 but not on 2/16/12... We are told time & time again that we can do more with less. When it comes to public safety, however, the truth is: we can't. Nor should we.

Actually, we can and did. The district fire chief noted that all necessary personnel and equipment were on the scene within seven minutes, and the fire department was not understaffed. That was the case even though the city lost 13 firefighters last summer.

Why did that happen? Corriveau would have voters believe it was because his political opponents don't care about public safety. Nonsense. No one wanted to lay off firefighters. If the firefighters union had accepted benefits changes similar to what city police officers accepted earlier this year, the jobs could have been saved. The union chose layoffs over benefit cuts.

This isn't a choice between paying firefighters more or being against public safety. It's a choice between accepting the reality of the economic situation the city finds itself in or not accepting it.


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