BFD's Predictable Tragedy?

A little over a year ago, the Phoenix ran this editorial about the ridiculous stand-off between Mayor Menino and the Boston firefighters' union. I didn't write it, but much of it was based on my input, from what I was hearing from people.

It was enough to make you tear your hair out. Menino was trying to ram drug- and alcohol-testing down the union's throat, after letting it slide for years until it became a big public fiasco. The union was refusing to accept this obvious public-safety necessity, without getting something in return. But the mayor didn't want to be seen as bribing the union for something they should agree to voluntarily.


But here was what really put me over the edge: one of the main union demands, I was being told, was that the city spend some money to upgrade its old, rundown, unreliable equipment. No joke -- our city's firefighters were riding around on crappy old equipment, and the city perennially turned a deaf ear to pleas to upgrade it. So now that had become a bargaining chip. Which, from the mayor's standpoint, looked politically unfeasible.

Here's how the Phoenix put it in that editorial:

...any major trade-offs that Menino promises the union (salaries, equipment upgrades, etc.) would need to be included in the budget, which the council reviews. Imagine this exchange: “Why are we taking $X million out of child services to bribe the firefighters into taking drug tests?”

So in other words, two things that there was no excuse for not doing IMMEDIATELY IF NOT SOONER -- drug testing and equipment upgrades -- were each being prevented because the other wasn't happening. And this scenario was likely to go on in perpetuity. Or at least, as the editorial concluded, "until the next disaster or tragedy."

And hey, look where we are, a year later and not a bit wiser.

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