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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bull in the china shop

The outrageous Portland disabled fireman story -- the one where the supposedly disabled guy was making a living slaving over a hot stove as a chef and a restaurant owner -- has taken an interesting turn, although we can't tell whether the new twist makes the case more outrageous, less outrageous, or the same as it ever was. After collecting disability from the city's taxpayers for more than 10 years, the guy is now being re-employed at a fire bureau desk job. But only after his restaurants failed and he apparently has nothing else to do.

The city's illustrious (albeit sensitive) fire commissioner, Randy Leonard, made the decision to hire the guy back, even while the city battles it out with him in the Oregon Court of Appeals over three years' worth of disability payments that the city says he's not entitled to. At least one of the other members of the City Council, Legend Dan Saltzman, thinks the city should have forced the guy (and the firefighters' union) to give up the litigation before it rehired him and started re-fattening his city pension. But no.

If it were up to Leonard, the city wouldn't even be fighting the fellow about the three years of back disability; it would be caving and paying him that, too. The council vote on that one was 4 to 1, with you-know-who voting for the union, which he used to run. As the school mom used to say, "Does not play well with others."

The city's unfunded liabilty for retiree pensions, health care, and other benefits -- most of it attributable to retired and disabled firefighters and police -- currently stands at about $3 billion, and is growing. That's "billion," with a "b."

Comments (10)

Well, Randy's decision is either a thoughtful way to let everyone save some face and work towards bringing some resolution to this sorry episode, or it's him again looking out for his Fire Bureau "brothers" at the expense of the city and its taxpayers. I'd like to think it's the former, but I just don't see him going to bat for BDS or Water Bureau employees the way he does for firefighters. It's worth keeping in mind that in most other places of employment (and even many CoP bureaus) Hurley would have been fired a long time ago.

I appreciate that Randy's years as a firefighter and firefighter union boss were important, formative experiences for him. I suppose we could also see it as refreshing, in a way, that he's beholden to some blue-collar-ish public servants instead of the usual developers and West Hills swells (although he's showed a troubling amount of deference to them as well on some issues).

He just appears to forget sometimes that he's not a union pit bull anymore, and that he's now "management" with a responsibility to represent all of his constituents, not just the 900-odd ones in the Fire Bureau.

One wonders how many better qualified candidates for the job existed than Hurley, who hasn't worked in the fire industry in 17 years.

Qualified candidates? Plenty of them...

How many of Randy's supporters have kids who are unemployed and can pass the drug screen? That's the candidate pool.

Maybe, among other things, we ought to consider doing something about not having the fire department respond to every medical emergency, along with the private ambulance service operating in the City. Does that protocol makes sense to anyone other than the fireman's union and the ambulance company? I know it is almost unpatriotic to suggest it, but is it possible we just have more fire dept. employees than reasonably necessary.

Randy looks out very well for those who put and keep him in office.

And he also looks out pretty well for the usual developer gang. Perhaps a little less than his other colleagues, but he still jumps when they say jump.

But I would say the net cost to the city for the former far exceeds the savings from the latter, if you could call that a savings.

As for the other 95% of his constituents, forget about them.

There you go with that "hate speech" again.

/snark mode

Who has responsibility for monitoring employees on disability? I would think there would be some kind of annual review.

There you go with that "hate speech" again.

You know, that crossed my mind as I composed my comments. And I once again read Randy's rage directed at Jack the other day, and wondered if what I said above would solicit the same. Then I realized that as soon as I started accommodating what I perceived as Randy's tolerance level for public criticism, I realized he had already won.

So I just hit the "Send" key.

John R - Actually comment was for Jack's post in general. However, if you feel it applies to you too by all means. The Fireman certainly is a sensitive jack wagon who might benefit from therapy from that TV commercial drill sergeant turned therapist.

Maybe, among other things, we ought to consider doing something about not having the fire department respond to every medical emergency, along with the private ambulance service operating in the City.

I don't know about this as a larger issue, but I've often wondered about having 2-3 man teams that could drive vans or some other fuel efficient vehicle for medical emergencies. Example: two years ago my dad had stroke symptoms, and 911 was called, and a firetruck with four guys showed up. Why a truck? Fuel costs, vehicle costs, etc. for that thing are much more substantial than some sort of alternative vehicle. I mean, if there's no fire, do you need a fire truck?

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