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Fairness

Scott Cate is a man who has everything you would want: A yacht, a private jet, a speedboat, and other toys. He also is passionate about the athletic program of the High School where his sons went to school, where he volunteers to coach football. As a self-made millionaire, he made a pile of money when he sold the company that he built from the ground up and retired. He decided to spend his time coaching high school football as a volunteer, and also funded many projects to help the school. He built $4 million worth of projects: A turf field, a weight room, a press box, and other projects.

He also funds an after school program that tutors high school students. In short, he is the kind of guy that the school system should be delighted to have as a booster. 

How did the school district thank him? They passed a rule prohibiting him from volunteering his time. It seems that many parents accuse him of doing this to build an all star team around his son. The problem with this accusation is that he has not had a child in school since 2006. It seems that the real problem here is that other schools in the district didn’t like the fact that the school was successfully recruiting athletes from other schools because of the successful tutoring and athletics programs.

On any given afternoon, players can be found in the study hall with
former college stars like Kaufusi. Cate retains the tutors, who double
as assistant coaches, with a personal services contract. He pays for
their advanced degrees or teaching certificates if they agree to spend
five years working at any high school.

 The man says that he will take his time and his money, and donate it somewhere that it will be appreciated. Another case of class warfare and jealousy making equality more important than excellence. The idea here is that other schools were jealous that they did not have their own donor, so to make things “fair” decided to deprive the school of a substantial source of support. Never mind that this school was taking failing students, and turning them into A students.

Bills counted 11 players living
within the Kearns boundaries on rival Hunter High’s sideline during a
lopsided loss this season. “You don’t mind getting beat,” he said, “but
you hate getting beat by your own kids.”
Certain schools are magnets
for parents who think their children can thrive athletically and
possibly earn college scholarships. Recruiting allegations have swirled
for years, most notably around perennial power Skyline.
Lately, talk has shifted to
Cottonwood, a team that until last year endured 17 straight losing
seasons. The Colts lost in the 4A championship game last November and
are poised for a state title run this season. The team’s star running
back, Stanley Havili, lives outside the area as do several other top
players.

This is the end goal of socialism: to place everyone on the same plane, even if that plane is at the bottom. This is what “fair” looks like.

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Unions and elections

My opinions for Unions have been expressed before. In fact, I have done so on more than one occasion. I have worked in two different workplaces that would be considered a union shop. One of the biggest problems with a union shop is that they are run as a democracy, with the majority making decisions that everyone must abide by. Another big problem is that certain members of the union use power and influence to control what the majority thinks and votes for. This can result in some pretty underhanded dealings.

The most recent union shop is the one that I am about to retire from. The issue that has brought this to light is a recent vote that was taken by the union at my current employer. Let me begin by saying that I am retiring in 5 weeks, and will not be affected by this vote, but that doesn’t mean that I approve of how it was done.

The vote is to change the fire department schedule from a 24 hours on, followed by 48 hours off, to a schedule where firefighters work 48 hours on duty, followed by 96 hours off. This topic has come up for debate every year at contract time, for about the last five years and has not ever been approved. There are a lot of conflicting opinions on this, and I will not debate or air them here. Instead, I want to talk about HOW the vote was done.

There is a core of firefighters that want the schedule to change, and they have been pressing for it for a few years now. An election was recently held for union president, and the new president is in the 48/96 camp. As his first act, he decided to lobby everyone for the schedule change and held a vote, which he said would require a 65% supermajority to implement. Everyone would be able to vote, even employees who would be affected by the change, but were not even union members. Sounds fair, right? I thought so too, but the devil, as they say, is in the details.

The vote was done by secret ballot. Each voter was given a piece of paper and told to write which schedule they preferred. There are 90 firefighters who work for the fire department, and the vote was close to not passing with the required 65%: There were 60 votes for, and 27 against, meaning that the new schedule was approved by one more vote than was required.

There is a catch: At least three votes were not counted. Mine, another firefighter who has said that she is leaving in February, and a firefighter assigned to a 40 hour work week in the front office. The excuse for that is because two of us were quitting, and the third was not going to work that schedule, our votes shouldn’t count. Additionally, there were people who wrote “I don’t care” and another who wrote “I have no opinion until I see details” and both of those were counted as “yes” votes.

Complicating things further, the president, who was the one pushing for the new schedule, was the one who collected and counted the ballots, which he claims to have thrown away after counting them.

This whole issue is like our elections process in miniature.

And before anyone comments here about how unions are evil, stuff it. Corporations are no better: Enron, Citigroup, GM, and many others have proven that people are the problem, not the organizations that they create to gain power.

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Admissions meeting

I am flying 1,200 miles to see the admissions committee of a college, so that I can attend Physician Assistant school. I hope to get in, because I think that I am ready to move on from EMS. I still love patient care, and I enjoy what I do.

The problem is that I no longer enjoy the setting. It began when a rash of poor care by fellow paramedics was being actively covered up by my administration. It culminated in my mother being one of the patients who were shortchanged. This planted the seeds of discontent. Now I understand that no profession is immune. I have worked with plenty of nurses and doctors who screw up just as badly, and private ambulance companies are no better, been there, done that. I was willing to suffer through things, since I couldn’t see anywhere or any job where bad employees were not tolerated and protected. I sucked it up.

Until recently, when the public began jumping on the “cushy” pay for firefighters, and the “public employees are evil” bandwagon. I am tired of being spit on and underpaid. It is time to go.

That’s right- underpaid. Starting pay for a firefighter/paramedic is $13.77 an hour. After two promotions and 15 years with the same department, I make $19.23 an hour. I began working a part time second job as a paramedic in a local theme park less than six months ago, and we only perform BLS procedures. Starting pay for a medic with no experience is $16.50 an hour, and $17.50 an hour if you have two or more years of experience. The health plan is better, the hours are better, and the working conditions easier.

So, I am trying to get into school to get my master’s degree. Like me, many firefighters are leaving the profession. Out of the 100 men and women in my department, we have lost 9 in the past year:
1 now drives an ice cream delivery truck
1 left to return to college
2 have left to be nurses
2 left to be firefighters in other states
1 is now a radio DJ
2 retired, and I have no idea where they are now

I also know that one just tested for a department in Colorado, one tested in Arizona, and three have notified the department that they will be retiring between now and June. And now me. If all goes well, I will be leaving by December.

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Government complexity

The government makes EVERYTHING more complicated. When it comes to performing maintenance, the US Navy has a complicated system in place (or did when I was in)called the Material Maintenance Management (3M) system, which controls all PMS (Planned Maintenance System). PMS is time consuming and overly complicated. The procedure for each maintenance action is written on an MRC (Maintenance Requirement Card.

 What makes the system so complicated and cumbersome is the fact that government bureaucrats have managed to turn the system into a set of procedures that make doing your taxes seem easy. Failure to follow the procedure exactly can and does end with sailors being courts-martialed. Maintenance is scheduled for each work center, and the work center supervisor schedules each person for his maintenance. Let’s take a look at a required daily maintenance activity (D-1R). We are scheduled to perform that activity toady, so we look for the MRC, on the Maintenance Index Page (MIP) and confirm that it is correct MIP by checking it against the LOEP (List Of Effective Pages) after checking the effective date to ensure that the LOEP is the current one. After locating the current MRC, we confirm that it is correct by checking its effective date against the one on the MIP.

So take a look at the card here. Granted, this one is a joke, but looks remarkably like the real ones. There is a section that has the information about the equipment on the card and the frequency of maintenance. Then an area that specifies who may perform the maintenance, and the man hours it will take to complete. There are sections that specify safety regulations that must be followed, along with a list of every tool that is required. If the card calls for a 6 inch screwdriver, you better not get caught using a 4 inch or an 8 inch screwdriver. The procedure is then listed, and it must be followed exactly as per the card. Failure to do so can land you in prison.

These are the numbskulls that are getting ready to run our health care system. How do you think that will work out?

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Worse Idea

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that Washington, DC was implementing a bad idea when they decided to use firefighters to plug the gaps in their police force. I was proven correct when shootings happened right in front of the firefighters, and there was nothing that they could do.

Now the criminals are breaking into fire stations and stealing. This idea is worse and worse.

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I told you so

Just ten days ago, I posted that Washington, DC was using firefighters as an unarmed reserve police force. I said at the time that it was a bad idea that would not work. Turns out, I was correct.

At least three people were injured in four shootings in the District over a 24-hour period Sunday and Monday, according to fire and police officials.
Two locations that officials responded to for reports of shootings were just blocks from corners where D.C. firefighters have been stationed as crime deterrents.

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Paid administrative leave and the Constituion

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I am not shy about pointing out when cops have overstepped their bounds. I am not a cop basher, I just call em like I see em, bashing them when they screw up and I support them when they deserve to be supported. This is one of those times.

Whenever a cop does something stupid or controversial, he is placed on paid administrative leave pending investigation, and many people are quick to scream “paid vacation” and “cover up” because they feel that the cop is getting away with the act. The truth is actually quite different.

Since a cop is potentially going to be deprived of something (his job) by a government agency, he or she in entitled to the same rights and protections as an other person in this nation, and as many are quick to point out, cops are civilians the same as the rest of us, and need to be treated in the same way. This means that the government agency, his or her employer, cannot deprive him of his liberty or property without due process of law. When I studied for my degree in Public Safety Administration, we had to take classes on Administrative Law. I will excerpt some of my class materials/papers below, and attempt to explain:

The Fifth Amendment to the U. S, Constitution states “no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” Originally this amendment was construed to be applicable only to the federal government. Later, the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified to provide “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.” The Fourteenth Amendment clearly applies to municipalities as well. City of Mobile v, Bouldin, 446 U.S. 55 (1950). Further, Section 1983 of Title 42 of the U.S. Code prohibits any person from depriving another of his or her civil rights under color of state law. Section 1983 covers municipal actions as well.

Here we are concerned about a public employee (cop) who is called by the employer to answer for some transgression and punished. The employee appeals, claiming that the public employer violated the employee’s rights by depriving him or her of property (in this instance, the job) without extending due process of law, and deprived the employee of liberty (in this instance, his or her good name in the community) without providing due process of law. A public employee with a constitutionally protected property interest in that employment must be afforded the process prior to termination. Cleveland Bd. Of  Educ, v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532,105 S.Ct 148 (1985).

Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions address these questions: Board of Regents V. Roth, 408 U.S. 564 (1972); Perry v. Sinderman, 408 U.S. 593 (1972). The decisions in Roth and Sinderman involved tenured teachers who were fired and who subsequently claimed violation of due process as to their property and liberty rights. These decisions were applicable to all public employees, whether tenured or non-tenured. The court held that a public employee has a property interest protected by due process if he or she could show a “legitimate claim of entitlement” to the job – a contract, or tenure, or even oral or implied understandings – creating a reasonable expectation of continued employment.

A recent decision in the third circuit, Schmidt v. Creedon, F.3d (3rd Cir. 2011) (pdf) makes clear that absent extraordinary circumstances, prior to suspending a police officer for any reason, a police department must provide the officer with notice and a hearing. A good explanation can be found here.

So when you hear that a cop has been suspended pending investigation, it isn’t a Union that is protecting him, it is the same Constitution that protects everyone.

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A bad idea

The city of Washington, DC is using firefighters as an impromptu unarmed police force, deploying them to patrol high crime areas. So what happens is that the unarmed firefighters are increasingly looked upon as an extension of the police department.

The one thing that allows me to enter high crime areas is the knowledge that I am not a cop, and I am not there to bust anyone or take sides, I am just there to take you to the hospital. Once we as fire and EMS are viewed as the enemy, we will be treated like the enemy. An unarmed, relatively defenseless one. At least I can take comfort knowing that if my agency decides to enact a similar policy, I can legally be armed while doing so (even if it will likely get me fired.)

I would also like to point out that the program employs 14,000 people for six weeks, and was $30 over budget in 2008. That works out to $357 per week per worker that the project was over budget. The youths in this program work 16 hours per week. The full cost of the program is $55 million (including the $30 million overrun). That works out to $40.92 per hour per worker costs the taxpayer.

What are the taxpayers getting for that money? One of the jobs is that the kids are being paid to paint pictures on the sides of buildings using spray paint. We are paying these kids to paint graffiti, and demanding that firefighters then follow them around to make sure that they stay out of trouble.

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My busy life

There hasn’t been much posting here, because my life has become quite busy this year. There are a number of issues that have been demanding my attention as of late. Since the first of the year:

  1. I work two jobs: Firefighter, which takes up 56 hours a week of my time, plus the 202 hours of overtime I have worked so far this year, and I also work in Health Services for a local theme park.
  2. I am currently attending college, and trying to tie up the last of this degree. I am taking 25 credit hours this semester, and finals are next week. All 8 classes are A’s thus far, with one possibly a B. I graduate magna cum laude with my fourth college degree in June.
  3. I took the GRE exam to enter a Master’s degree program next year. I spent quite a bit of time studying for that, and it paid off: 630 verbal, 780 math.
  4. I also studied for and passed the Amateur radio technician’s license.
  5. I am representing myself pro se in my mortgage foreclosure case, and in a lawsuit against my mortgage holder. I settled the lawsuit for a hefty sum, and it looks like the court will be dismissing the foreclosure case, so I get to stay in my home awhile longer.
  6. and I am a season ticket holder for the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team, and I have to drive 70 miles each way to attend hockey games.

So, as you can see, blogging sometimes takes a back seat to the rest of my life. I am working to get into graduate school so that I can go do something else once they cut my pension benefits as a firefighter. I can do better than what I am getting paid. I have not had a raise in over four years, in fact I make 20% less than I did four years ago. There will be no raises in the foreseeable future, and now they are cutting pension benefits in half. No thanks. If the cuts go through, I am done. The only reason I didn’t leave years ago was that pension.

I am a hard working, intelligent employee who brings a lot to the table. I think I can do better. I will be getting my Masters of Health Science and go be a Physician’s Assistant now. More money, fewer dirtbags.

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Politics as usual

I hate to keep harping on this topic, but this is such a big change to my life at this point, I just can’t let this one go. You know how the Florida governor is claiming that he wants to cut the pensions of public employees to save money?
Then explain to me why he is giving his senior cabinet members $20K a year raises…