Last week our city held a safety meeting. The panel was the mayor/safety director, the law director, the city prosecutor, and the police chief.
Who was missing at the “safety” meeting? Our fire chief, Douglas Zook.
Our police chief spoke for maybe 85% of the 90 minute presentation, discussing mostly crime statistics from the 2016 police department annual report (which is not available online).
In contrast, we have not heard from our fire chief since the fire union issued their vote of no confidence against the chief on June 2, 2017. With that, the union presented the city, at the June 5 and June 19 city council meetings, a letter explaining the no confidence vote, together with a three page list of complaints, deficiencies, and safety concerns. One page of these issues dated back to a January 2016 letter to the city. Two additional pages were added since.
The fire chief has yet to comment. He has yet to answer for staffing reductions; he has yet to answer for discontinuing the smoke alarm program, discontinuing the child safety seat program, discontinuing the community CPR program; he has yet to answer about scores of EMS calls to East Cleveland (a city with whom we do not share a border), costing us resources while leaving our city less protected; he has said nothing about the lack of a dedicated fire inspector since his tenure; he has said nothing about sending a crew of two instead of three on EMS calls; he has said nothing about no longer using the ladder truck at car accident scenes to create a safe zone for our safety forces to work in; he has said nothing about outdated safety gear, passing on training opportunities for our fire fighters – you get the idea. Don’t take my word for it, the three page list is HERE.
In talking to residents, I hear a lot of safety concerns. Police matters, sure. I hear concerns about the drive by shooting (and shootout) on Silsby and Edgerton, the 12 hour standoff on Claridge Oval (to get a warrant, despite seeming exigent circumstances to enter a home without a warrant, only to find the suspect was not in the home) and the shooting on South Taylor, which we are told actually happened in Cleveland Heights even though the shell casings were found in University Heights. These were dismissed as isolated incidents in the first ten minutes or so of the safety meeting, so we could then move onto a lengthy review of city crime statistics (which, by the way, don’t look all that bad, so naturally we discussed those at exhaustive length).
I’ve also heard about property crime and crimes of opportunity, unlocked cars being plundered, packages taken from doorsteps. The kinds of crime that could be discouraged by an increased police presence in our neighborhoods. Having clearly marked cars on patrol -- instead of parked eleven in a row next the police station -- could only help.
But the safety concerns I hear the most from residents are the concerns over our fire department. The problems identified by the fire union in June that the fire chief won’t comment on.
I have faith in our fire fighters. Our fire fighters are dedicated and more than competent. They are committed to our safety, and are used to putting themselves at risk for us. Here, instead of running into a burning building, they have gone public by calling out this fire chief, who is making their jobs unduly difficult while compromising their safety and ours.
When I am mayor, I will take safety seriously. When I call a safety meeting, both the police chief and the fire chief will be there to address citizen concerns and answer citizen questions. I will be candid in discussing our safety issues. I will not ask anyone to spend an hour going over shoplifting, parking tickets, and moving violations statistics that ought to be available online (but aren’t), to avoid discussing a three page list of serious problems with our fire department. That three page list will be my To-Do List for 2018, starting with finding a new fire chief.
I submit that I am the only candidate for mayor committed to restoring the fire department. I know this to be true, because Chief Zook still has his job in our city. We need a fire chief we all can have confidence in, our fire fighters and our citizens. A fire chief who doesn’t disappear or have to be hidden from the public to avoid answering questions.
What do you think?