As surely as LAUSD officials knew enough — and should have know more — to avoid the child molestation scandal, City Hall officials knew enough to have done something to avoid what we are now learning about the impact of $200 million in Fire Department cuts.
Lives were lost and people terribly injured because of the cuts that took firefighters and equipment out of served at nearly half the firehouses and the breakdown was compounded by outdated communications systems, long-term failure to maintain equipment and LAFD’s own inability to keep honest and accurate records.
Starting 10 months ago, citizen activists Mike Eveloff and Jim O’Sullivan of Fix the City/Tract 7260 started a crusade to get accurate data from the Fire Department under the California Public Records Act, eventually hiring a lawyer and finally getting raw statistical data in November which they analyzed. (LAFDSTATS–FixItLA)
They gave their information to some news outlets and candidates for city offices, including Cary Brazeman, candidate for City Controller, and mayoral candidate Austin Beutner, who used the data to question the response time data LAFD was using to claim that budget cuts had not impacted service.
Brazeman’s analysis concluded “emergency response times increased across the board from 2008 to 2011, following budget cuts,” achieving goals only 60 percent of the time.
Together with Beutner’s challenge of LAFD’s data and warning of the threat to public safety forced, the department to come clean and has led to several shocking news stories, the latest appearing on the front page of Sunday’s LA Times and in Steve Lopez’s page two column on Sunday.
You can and should read these stories because you need to get mad as hell and understand that all 18 of the officials we have elected to protect and serve us have failed miserably and do not deserve to ever hold public office again even if the LAFD breakdown was their only failure and not one of a thousand failures.
There must be an independent commission appointed of independent citizens to determine what political pressures were placed on Fire Department officials, what the politicians knew of the department’s needs, what they did about it and whether LAFD has the ability to fix itself.
And you have to ask yourself after reading the stories and seeing what Fix the City found whether the mayor and Chief Brian Cummings were lying last week when they claimed the severe budget cuts did not endanger the public safety.
There is no higher priority for the government of any city than to provide for the public safety and the failure to do so is the most severe a violation of the public trust, requiring accountability by all those responsible.