This is what it has come to around the country. Firefighters in San Bernardino, California are so fed up with cuts and the related politics from City Hall they think the way to remove or reduce the political factor is to have an elected fire chief. While the ballot initiative IAFF Local 891 wants to propose to the citizenry is still a work in progress, what they are talking about seems to be the kind of structure that provides the kind of autonomy an elected sheriff usually has.
In recent years San Bernardino has seen 25 firefighter positions vanish and minimum staffing drop from four to three.
The firefighters will need 12,000 signatures if this idea is to make it on the ballot. Under this early version of the proposal, the first chief would be elected in the 2014 general election and would run the department without interference from the mayor or city council. The chief would also have the power to appoint some key staff members.
"Too often, the current administration at City Hall has injected politics into the management and operations of our Fire Department," said union President Scott Moss in a statement Thursday.
An elected fire chief, Moss said, would remove the taint of politics from decisions affecting hiring, promotions and fire protection policies at the department.
Sixth Ward City Councilman Rikke Van Johnson said he is unaware of any municipalities in California that have an elected fire chief, and that only 4.5 percent of city firefighters reside in San Bernardino.
"Out of 179 fire firefighters, there are only eight that live in the city. That's problematic to me," Johnson said.
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