This is a major, major public issue. Boston's residents, property owners, and businesspeople must be able to trust that the personnel who respond in an emergency will be professional, well-trained, and ready to perform. If firefighters were sent in while drunk or high, that represents a serious breakdown of the public trust. (Side note: the judge who tried to suppress the info was until last year the city's counsel.)
Meanwhile, the Boston police were finally testing last night a gunshot-detection system that was supposed to be in place before the summer. (And should have been earlier, but Mayor Menino fought it before giving in and co-opting the idea from councilor Rob Consalvo.) The delay was caused by protracted negotiations with the vendor. As I've mentioned before, shootings rose dramatically this summer while this system was awaiting the go-ahead.
It has long been the opinion of some that negotiations between the city and its firefighters' union (and patrolmen, and others) have repeatedly settled for financial advantages for the city at the expense of the ability to effectively oversee and control the workers -- drug testing being just one example.
In both cases, has Menino been trading our safety for a few bucks?
If there are any political hopefuls willing to go at Menino in '09, I would say now is the time to start swinging. (Perhaps a certain young-faced city councilor in the West Roxbury district where the fire took place?)