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Guest column/Public safety will be jeopardized by Issue 2

October 16, 2011
By MICHAEL P. TAYLOR , The Herald-Star

Firefighters, first responders, emergency medical technicians and paramedics in Steubenville and throughout Ohio take pride in being well trained and ready to maintain the public's safety wherever and whenever we're needed. We're duty-bound to protect property and save lives.

When our shift is over, we spend what time is left in our day, like most working Ohioans, with our families. We have little time and even less interest in politics, but the problems created by Senate Bill 5 and the attempts to validate its deeply flawed "reforms" by putting Issue 2 on the November ballot, have made it essential for us to oppose these measures.

It's bad enough that firefighters, police officers, teachers and nurses are being blamed by politicians in Columbus for the economic mess that Wall Street created. For instance, by law, we already pay 10 percent toward our pensions and are all contributing more to our health care than ever before, so any claim that passing Issue 2 will save taxpayers money isn't just delusional it's a flat-out lie. Worse yet, Issue 2 makes the worst provisions of SB 5 permanent by giving the final say to politicians on issues like fire safety, equipment purchases and firefighter training, as well as crucial issues like classroom sizes and staffing levels for nurses.

The issue of how best to maintain public safety is one we have always addressed thoughtfully and cooperatively through collective bargaining.

By stripping us of this right, the politicians are silencing our professional voice on issues crucial to the safety of our neighbors and our communities.

The problem with this misguided approach, frankly, is that politicians know even less about public safety than we know about politics.

Our neighbors throughout Steubenville and Eastern Ohio have voiced their outrage that our commitment to protecting their health and safety has been debased by being made the target of partisan politics. We welcome their support and look forward to working with them to ensure that the voice of our profession is restored in decision making on public safety issues.

Fortunately there will soon be an opportunity to do just that, by voting "no" on Issue 2, which will be on the November ballot. Simply put, voting "no" on Issue 2 will repeal SB 5, preventing it from becoming validated as law.

But voting "no" on Issue 2 does even more. It gives Ohioans a citizen veto a voice in saying to the politicians in Columbus that enough is enough and that partisan schemes go too far when they silence the voice of workers who know what's best for protecting Steubenville.

Firefighters usually aren't politically active. But politicians in Ohio have forced our hand by passing anti-worker legislation that takes aim at those of us who simply want to do our jobs in the safest environment possible.

So in the remaining days until the Nov. 8 election, firefighters will use our voices to the fullest extent to ensure that politicians don't silence us and don't jeopardize the safety of our friends and neighbors by leaving firefighters out of the process.

(Taylor is an assistant chief for the Steubenville Fire Department and vice resident of the Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters.)

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