I have been in the fire service for 20 years now and what is going on here in Ohio shocks and hurts me in ways I can't explain in words. And I'm an author. I have dedicated my life to helping people and risking my own life in the process.
Unfortunately, my career has come under attack this year. Let me take a second to explain what has happened for those of you who don't live in Ohio and then I'll tell you why it is hurting firefighters along with teachers, police, and all of Ohio's public servants. I will speak mostly about how it affects firefighters since that is what I know best.
Here in Ohio, Governor John Kasich passed a bill in the spring called Senate Bill 5. By all opinions within the fire service, it is a terrible bill for our future safety and for our future in protecting the public. The initial backlash to this bill was incredible with 1.3 million Ohioans signing a petition to have the bill go up for vote in November. Voting no on Issue 2 (as Senate Bill 5 is now known) will repeal the bill.
Because the governor has a high political stake in this bill, he and his wealthy supporters have poured millions of dollars into getting the support of the voters on Issue 2 in November. It is unfortunate that their constant barrage of ads on TV have started swaying some of the public into disliking their local firefighters (along with police and teachers). For example, Issue 2 supporters have ads showing how public employees pay less than the general public for their insurance in hopes that the voter will want us to pay more. People seeing that ad might think, "Hey, that's reasonable," and so they decide to vote for the bill. But that's the problem. Insurance and pension contributions are only one aspect of this flawed bill and it ignores all of the points that the majority of firefighters are against.
With that said, let me get to the point of this blog. Here is why I am so shocked and disheartened by what is going on in these months leading up to the vote. Supporters of this bill have campaigned to make firefighters and police and teachers look like overpaid mooches on society. Their ad campaigns and public speeches have portrayed us as the reason the country is having such economic woes. To people struggling, they are giving a face to their misery. The opposition's rhetoric of blame and anger at public employees has created a hostile environment toward us, which is something I never thought a politician could or would do.
In the last few months, I have been called a parasite and an idiot because I'm a firefighter. Other firefighters have been followed and video-taped while working so that our opposition can "catch" them making mistakes. We have been confronted by people hoping to get us to respond negatively so they can portray us as being rude, or angry, or whatever helps them prove that we are, in fact, your enemy.
Never in my career could anyone have convinced me that people would be so against us as many people are right now. But here we are. Now, you might say that I'm exaggerating and that people can't hate firefighters and cops and teachers here in Ohio. Well, all I can say is that Issue 2 has a good chance of passing despite our pleas that it makes us a lot less safe and efficient.
Most people who support the bill like a few of the key points and I understand that. The problem is that Governor Kasich and his supporters have included several articles within the bill that endanger firefighters and the public in general in the long run. Things like stacking the deck against the firefighters during negotiations by giving final say to the politicians in every aspect of the contract. Most people don't realize that our safety is part of our contract negotiations and, yes, increased safety sometimes means increased cost. For more on how the bill affects our safety, I have included links to two of my previous editorials if you want to learn more.
In the meantime, the point of this blog is to, yes, vent a little, but also to give readers a small glimpse into how the demonizing of firefighters affects us personally. I go back to work tomorrow. At any moment, my life could be at stake. In saying that, I can't believe that I am involved in a situation where I am trying to convince the general public that firefighters aren't the enemy. I can't believe that so many people are trusting a member of Wall Street-turned-politician over the very people who teach their kids and save their lives.
As an added note, the governor has excluded his own office and politicians in general from the bill. If it is a good bill, and he is a public servant, why do you think that is?
I'm sorry if you are for Issue two and are offended by my comments, but I ask you to look at everything this bill does and vote with what you think is right. I have never felt so attacked by politicians and I hope Ohioans come to firefighters' defense in November.
If you live in Ohio, please vote NO on Issue 2. Thank you.