Fri
Jan 27 2006
10:18 am

Much to my surprise, the front page headline story in today's Knoxville News Sentinel is a report on Knoxville Fire Department Chief Carlos Perez and his remarks at an Old North Knox neighborhood meeting last night. He addressed rumors about Station 3 closing that were circulated by way of anonymous fliers stuffed in neighborhood resident's mailboxes. Read more after the jump...

UPDATE: Here's a link to the flier in question (that I somehow didn't see in the sidebar of the KNS article on the web). Thanks to fire fighter "BrockPlasma" in comments for bringing it to our attention. Lots more good discussion in the comments.

Perez told the homeowners that, rather than close the fire hall, he's actually planning to expand the station's personnel and their training, including a new tactical response team to be headquartered at the station.

"I say as much knowledge as I can give the firefighters, as many skills as I can give the firefighters, the better off this community is," said Perez, who took command of the Knoxville Fire Department some 14 months ago as the first chief chosen from outside its ranks. "I can assure you that you will be very proud of Station 3."

And those anonymous fliers? Firefighters at Station 3 owned up to distributing them:

Fire Officer Lloyd Strawn, the newly elected president of the Knoxville Fire Fighters Association, also attended the neighborhood meeting with several of his fellow firefighters from Station 3.

The controversial flier came from his fire hall, Strawn confirmed, as an attempt to "tell the other side of the story" about Perez's plans for change.

Regarding the fliers, Chief Perez said:

"...I don't mind debating," he said. "But you can't use lies, you can't use threats, you can't use intimidation to make your point."

According to the article, Perez believes that some firefighters from Station 3 are concerned about being transferred and replaced by a more highly trained "tactical team".

As reported earlier in the Halls Shopper, Chief Perez was invited to the neighborhood meeting by Councilmember Rob Frost to address their concerns about Station 3 and the anonymous fliers. Frost apparently got numerous calls from constituents about the rumors.

I'm happy to see the KNS covering this "other" side of the story instead of taking the GOB party line as they did in Korda's previous column. My guess is there is a lot more to the story. It will be interesting to see how it develops and how KNS covers it. By my score they are back up to almost "objective". Hope they keep it that way, and that they're not creating cover so when the swiftboat load of mud comes tooling around the bend they can say they've been fair as they start piling on.

OK, then.

Bbeanster's picture

My big question is this: Why

My big question is this:

Why has there been no disciplinary action taken against the distributors of this propaganda? Seems to me that people who are paid to watch out for the public safety shouldn't be out there trying to panic little old ladies.

Good for the chief, but the mayor should have already taken direct action. Those leaflets came out in late Nov/early December. There's more to this story....

Oren Incandenza's picture

BBeanster: I have a couple

BBeanster: I have a couple of ideas for you. (I'm a fan of yours so please accept these as an attempt to be helpful and not as mere snark.) First, disciplining a public employee for anything is no simple proposition. They have civil service protection and can appeal almost any disciplinary action for review and get a hearing; this process gums things up for weeks and months. It is entirely possible that some kind of punishment has been given, then appealed, and that no one will discuss it because it's on appeal. So maybe try to explore that.

Second, disciplining public employees for their speech is also complicated. They have a First Amendment right to speak out on matters of "public importance" and can't be disciplined for doing so without creating a constitutional case. Lots of people can (and do) argue all day about whether statements are of "public importance" and the firefighters could argue that their speech is just that -- even if it's misguided, erroneous, or upsetting. Now, if they defamed the chief or anyone else, that would be different and no protection would attach.

All of that's to say, as much as prompt discipline might be desired, it's difficult to do without buying yourself a lawsuit. And if this city/county needs anything, it's fewer lawsuits involving the government. I hope discipline is coming for the miscreants but I also hope it's being done carefully enough to thwart more expensive legal challenges.

Bbeanster's picture

Your points are well-taken,

Your points are well-taken, and upon reflection, I agree with you, at least in part. The first thing I would expect in this situation would have been swift action from the mayor to correct the misinformation. No legal pitfalls there.

I am baffled as to why he didn't step in. At the very least, he should have sent a letter to the neighborhood groups -- or even to everybody in those neighborhoods -- and reassured them that their firehall was not closing down. This should have been done weeks ago.

I was not at this meeting, but I understand that there were as many as 16-20 firefighters, including some of the probable offenders, there, and that many of them were ON DUTY. Sure makes me go HMMMMMMMM.
What these guys are doing is a public display of insubordination, IMO.

Disciplinary action should come later, after an investigation.

rikki's picture

The fact that the

The fact that the firefighters owned up to distributing the fliers is an even better sign than KNS balancing their coverage. It suggests Perez has the skills to handle internal squabbles with diplomacy and restraint, something KFD sorely needs. Not long ago, that kind of thing would have precipitated transfers, demotions, or some petty retribution, which would have spawned petty countermanuevers, which would...

Was Korda's column printed in the actual newspaper? I thought he was banished to online publication at one point. I'm not sure he's much of a gauge for the thinking of the editorial staff, and it's not fair to measure the news department by the work of columnists.

Bbeanster's picture

This is one of those "tip of

This is one of those "tip of the iceberg" stories that you are only seeing little pieces of.
This much is clear: Haslam hired this chief and told him that part of his job was to change the culture of the fire department. Now, however, he is not standing behind this chief as he tries to carry out that mandate, and those who oppose Perez do so without fear, and on city time.
Inquiring minds should wonder why. Can you imagine police officers openly opposing Chief Owen's right to make decisions that are clearly within the scope of his duties?
These guys feel free to undercut their chief. Why?

Bbeanster's picture

Also, the Channel 10 story

Also, the Channel 10 story about the KFD being over budget is a head-scratcher. When's the last time "The News Starts Now" did a local government budget story? When's the last time Channel 10 did a local budget story halfway through the fiscal year? When's the last time Channel 10 did a local budget story halfway through the fiscal year about a department that is 2.5% over budget?
Bill and Robin made it sound pretty sensational when they teased it, but when the reporter (to her credit) got to the bare bones facts, there really wasn't much to it -- KFD was understaffed and had to pay firefighters overtime to fill the shifts. 28 new recruits graduated in December, which should pretty much remedy the problem. (I've been told that the city cannot hire new firefighters until the old ones on the DROP plan actually retire, and then there's a six-month lag getting them trained up, hence a chronic staffing problem that long preceded this chief's tenure.)
This story was done at a time when the chief is embattled. Channel 10 was the only local media outlet to do this story. Why???

Anonymous's picture

KFD and Channel 10

Apparently no one has put together the fact that Mayor Haslam's right hand woman, Margie Nichols used to be news director for channel 10.  I'm sure it is no mistake that she is the common link and is firing on Perez perhaps to to repay her political debts or to fulfill her employers political agenda..  Tonight's story probably came from one of two places: the Knoxville City Finance Department or the KFD administrative office.  (There is a direct connection between Station 3 and the finance deptartment too. A fireman's wife works directly for the finance director.) As far as the other potential source, KFD administration,   Perez has reduced the authority of the KFD finance man . Perhaps all this is to get even.  If Mr. Haslam really wants "the politics out of the fire department", he should let the Chief run his own department and choose his own staff. He should also be willing to let a few Corker supporters go by the wayside.

 

A fearful city employee who want to remain anonymous

 

 

 

R. Neal's picture

it's not fair to measure the

it's not fair to measure the news department by the work of columnists.

Sorry, I disagree as it regards KNS. In my opinion, you have to take them as a whole. And as a whole, it is my opinion that anything to do with the City of Knoxville, UT, or for the most part TVA, and the local business community at large is very carefully filtered and vetted and fine tuned at the highest level.

Now you will ask me to cite specific examples that would lead me to this conclusion. Coveraqe of Perez is one. But mostly it's just a sense I get after reading their paper off and on for more than 40 years. And that's fine. They should be boosters of the city and the region. They should try to focus on the positive aspects as well as the cock fighting and the meth labs.

It's just that after you get to know them for a while, it becomes pretty clear where they stand on certain issues and you start having to read between the lines to make sure you are getting a full picture without some editorial (or publisher's) bias or outside influence.

BrockPlasma's picture

As much as I loathe Fox News

As much as I loathe Fox News I do like their tag line, "Fair and Balanced News." So as a firefighter for the City of Knoxville BUT not involved directly in the situation concerning station #3 I would like to say a few things about the comments that have been made concerning this issue.

First, just as it has been pointed out firefighters are protected under the Constitution just like everyone else and as long as their comments are concerning matters of public importance, they can say whatever they want.

Second, The letter that went out to the residents of that neighborhood said NOTHING about the firehall closing down. What it did say was that there was going to be change in equipment and manpower at the station. I don't know what Chief Perez' final plans are but the point that I took from the letter was that the equipment being proposed for station #3 will be operated differently than it is now with an engine and ladder stationed there.

I don't know if the firefighters at station #3 know the full set of plans or not. I have no idea where it got started that the station was possibly going to close down.

Third, mentioning that firefighters were on duty and at the meeting means nothing because we are permitted to go out into our territory while on duty. I would hazard a guess that most, if not all, of the firefighters that were there were from station #3, which puts them in their territory. Give the Chief some credit, if it had been on duty firefighters that were out of their territory, I have no doubt that he would have ordered them to return to their station. And if they had refused to do so, then THAT would have been insubordination.

Lastly, I am in no way trying to start an argument on this board and I also have taken no sides in the matter concerning station #3.

But as Mr. Neal says, there is more to this story, which I'm not about to get into, 1st amendment or not.

Bbeanster's picture

Second, The letter that went

Second, The letter that went out to the residents of that neighborhood said NOTHING about the firehall closing down. What it did say was that there was going to be change in equipment and manpower at the station...

Then it was so poorly worded that a LOT of people who read it believed that's what it was implying. Either whoever wrote it was incompetent, or they MEANT to scare people. And if they didn't mean to panic the neighborhoods, why did they not come back correct the false impression?

R. Neal's picture

Why doesn't somebody get a

Why doesn't somebody get a copy of the flier and post an image of it? Or at least exactlyl what it says. "Rumors of closing" sounds a lot different than "change in equipment and manpower".

Bbeanster's picture

Below is what I believe to

Below is what I believe to be the text of the leaflet. This is taken from the 37917 email list, where it was posted. I redacted the name of the person who posted it and the e-mail address of the sender. There may have been some other communication, as well.

.................................................
From:
Date: Thu Dec 1, 2005 10:24 am
Subject: Firestation serving Old North and 4th and Gill to close down?

I received this message today. Does anyone know more details about
this plan? XXX

----- Original Message -----

Sent: Thu, 1 Dec 2005 08:02
Subject: Fwd: FIRESTATION # 3 / Baxter Avenue

Hello,

I would like to talk with someone about the firestation located on
Baxter Avenue, Station #3. There is a plan in place currently to
relocate the Ladder Firetruck at Station #3 to Fountain City Station
#15 and take the personnel from all three shifts on Ladder #3 and
move them to west Knoxville Station #18 to man a Hazardous Materials
Apparatus.

My concern is that the general public doesn't realize that this will
take the only Ladder in the historic are of 4th and gill and many
other areas out of there back yard and place it in a place that the
ladder already responds too. With that, the personnel that have
worked on Ladder #3 have been there for many years and are friends
of the neighborhood. They have attended neighborhood meetings,
studied the layouts and streets of the area surrounding their
firehall, and have the experience of knowing how to
respond "Quickly" in under a minute in some cases. These are the
people we rely on and need at a moments notice. The new changes
would put new personnel in place "DAY ONE". The old shifts on the
ladder move, New personnel moves in! This is not a good thing!

I would like to talk further with your group and anyone interested
if you have the time.

Thank you for listening and I look forward to speaking with you soon.

BrockPlasma's picture

Computer problems. This will

Computer problems. This will be the third time I have tried to post this.

http://web.knoxnews.com/images/news/0127perez.html

or if that doesn't work, just go to their website and click on news and you will see the link to read to letter.

Bbeanster's picture

Wow! So two communications

Wow!
So two communications were sent out to the residents -- were there more? And why was this one anonymous?

BrockPlasma's picture

This is the first I have

This is the first I have heard about any e-mails going out.

Was the e-mail signed by someone in the department?

As for why the letter wasn't signed, I have no idea. Like I said, I'm just a firefighter but I have no connection with station #3.

Bbeanster's picture

the e-mail was anonymous.

the e-mail was anonymous. Had a screen name on it, but nobody's real name. I believe there was some follow-up communication, also.

R. Neal's picture

Well, that's certainly a lot

Well, that's (the e-mail) certainly a lot different than "closing Station #3". I don't see that anywhere in it. And there does seem to be a legitimate public safety concern about removing the only ladder truck in that neighborhood, bit I'm not a fire fighter and don't now anything about it.

But I can say that if I got a notice like that, either from the City where I live, or the Fire Chief, or someone at a local fire station, I'd probably be concerned. About my insurance rates if nothing else. So, did Perez say the ladder truck was staying or not at last night's meeting? The paper doesn't say.

R. Neal's picture

Hey, BrockPlasma, I guess

Hey, BrockPlasma, I guess I'm blind and didn't see that in the sidebar on their website. Thanks.

The flier does not say anything about closing Station 3. It does, however, have a lot of scary sounding information, similar to the e-mail about the ladder truck, that I can see would cause concern. It also calls one or more people "liars" (but doesn't say who) and it isn't signed or doesn't say who is providing this information or give any contact e-mail or anything if someone had questions or wanted more information about the details.

Some of the detials sound like technical/logistical issues, and others sound like personnel/labor issues. Did Perez address each of these points, and if so what is his reasoning for the changes?

Bbeanster's picture

First, Thanks BrockP, for

First, Thanks BrockP, for posting that link.
Randy, I think it pretty clearly accuses Perez of lying in that graf that calls him "a grant writer." Whether or not this transferring equipment around is a good thing depends on who's talking about it.
I've heard both sides, and it is frankly confusing. But to my lay-persons ears, Perez' explanations are more convincing.

What appears to be going on here seems to be a clash between bunch of guys who have been at Firehall #3 for a long time and who do not want to be moved and a chief who thinks it's best to transfer them. They tried to rally support in a way that has frightened some people.

I also know (because I have gotten phonecalls and e-mails from them)that there is a clique in the fire department that has been out to get Perez, the first outsider ever hired to head up this department, since the day he took the job. The "Pedro" stuff started a long time ago, and was not an isolated slip of the tongue by one guy.

BrockPlasma's picture

I have not talked to anyone

I have not talked to anyone who was at the meeting.

I will try and go through the letter and give you some vanilla comments because I have seen nothing from the admin's side concerning the proposed re-structuring.

Rescue 1 is staffed with 2 firefighters. Each engine and ladder in the department are staffed with a minimum of 3 firefighters. At present I personally do not know if once the rescue is moved to station #3 if it will continue to be staffed with only 2 firefighters.

The "Quint" truck mentioned is supposed to be staffed with more than 3 firefighters but will it? I cannot say.

(I just re-read where it talked about when the city closed down station #8 on Caldwell Ave and re-located station #3 to Baxter Ave. That may be where the "Closing of a station" came from)

At present the Rescue truck does answer city wide. Once again let me say, that this could all be changed by Chief Perez.

I have no idea about the ISO rating and Grant money issues mentioned.

One point that was mentioned was, "and the personnel that have worked there for many years" where I think the letter was going with that is that when I came on the department, one of the first things my Captain told me was that I have to know my territory like the back of my hand. That is one thing that the firefighters take pride in and that is being able to get a run and know exactly where it is without looking at a mapbook. I know of several firefighters that are so familiar with their territories that they can even tell you what type of structure is located at any given address.

Essentially, they are referring to a possiblitiy of increased response times due to firefighters assigned to that station not knowing the territory.

I hope that helps.

Bbeanster's picture

Thanks, BrockP-- Here's

Thanks, BrockP--

Here's something else I found from that same e-mail list. It contains an email from Rob Frost, which I don't think he would mind my posting here, since he put it up as public info. It also contains an e-mail from Perez, where he states his case:

From: "tennlawawgd"
Date: Fri Dec 2, 2005 1:44 pm
Subject: Re: Firestation serving Old North and 4th and Gill to close down? tennlawawgd
Offline
Send Email

Here's the email I received from the chief. Also, on the phone, he
told me that there will be additional firefighters added to #3 (see
below) and it is absolutely untrue that #3 is closing.

thanks,

Rob

Councilman Frost:

Unfortunately, some of the information that you have received is
incomplete and not totally accurate. The Insurance Services Office
(ISO) has reviewed fire protection for the city and they set the
insurance rates for homeowners and commercial businesses. They
recommend strongly that we provide aerial services to North Knoxville
in the Fountain City Area in order not to increase the cost of
insurance rates for North Knoxville. In addition, we're going to
increase North Knoxville's fire protection by adding a 100' aerial
ladder. That area does not have an elevated ladder truck and the
closest 100' aerial to Fountain City comes from Station 3, and that
is a long distance. Therefore, we will be moving Ladder 3's vehicle
to the Fountain City area to address that shortcoming in the North
Knoxville area.

At the same time we plan to place a new 75' ladder truck at Station
3. This ladder truck is currently out for bid and the RFP closes
December 9th. Station 3 has a backup 135' aerial service down the
street at headquarters and another 105' aerial at Station 9. This
move will allow us to significantly improve services to the city as a
whole.

The men and women of the Knoxville Fire Department are required to be
able to work at any of our 18 fire stations. When one or two of the
firefighters are off for any reason, other firefighters must come in
on "day one" and work that area. That's one of the major reasons
that personnel should never be kept at one station forever. They are
responsible for the entire city. Promotions require us to move
personnel, and personnel themselves request transfers on a regular
basis. As you can see, it's vital for the training and growth of our
department that all employees experience different types of
communities, different supervisors and not be allowed to settle in
just one neighborhood. That would be dangerous for the
organization.

The changes that will soon be taking place at Station 3 will make it
the premier firefighting and rescue team, not only in our city, but
in this region. The men and women who apply for this team will be
subjected to a very rigorous physical and mental regimen before being
selected and trained to the highest level of rescue certification.
By their very nature, these are also great firefighters. The new
apparatus that will answer out of Station 3 will be a brand new,
state of the art, "Quint," which serves as a 75-foot ladder truck and
as a 1500-gallon-per-minute pumper, and our Heavy Rescue unit. The
staffing will increase at Station 3 from six firefighters per shift
to eight firefighters per shift when the next class graduates from
the Fire Academy. Station 3 will become a showpiece for our
Department, our City, and our region.

Thank you for your interest in the situation and if you have any
further questions, I'm always available to discuss them with you.

Chief Carlos Perez
595-4468 (Office)

--- In 37917@yahoogroups.com, "tennlawawgd" wrote:
>
> I emailed (yesterday) and called the chief (this morning) about
this
> and I'll pass along the info once I hear back.
>
> thanks,
>
> Rob
>
>
>
> --- In 37917@yahoogroups.com,XXX wrote:
> >
> > Further communication with my anonymous source (a firefighter)
> > indicates this will be happening January 1. > >
>

Anonymous's picture

It sounds to me like some of

It sounds to me like some of the firefighters at Station 3 want to stay in the firehall and not serve the city.  If the truck stays in the bay all of the time is it really providing a service to the city? 

How come Rural Metro doesn't have  public insubordination problems? Perhaps their leadership is better than that coming out of the mayor's office. One would think that Pilot Oil would produce better leaders.  More food for thought....Cynthia Moxley is employed by both Pilot Oil and Rural Metro. Do you think Haslam's agenda is to do away with KFD and contract with Rural Metro?  If the firefighters kept this up, they may be out of a job to complain about. 

rikki's picture

    Taking the KNS as a

    Taking the KNS as a whole ought to include understanding the difference between a columnist and a reporter. Obviously there are people in the media biased against Perez. Korda is one of them, and he's well connected to the GOB party-line crowd that includes Bill & Robin, but isn't he a bit of a pariah at KNS? Are they running his columns in the print edition again?
    KNS may well be biased against Perez, but Korda is a poor indicator. Your surprise at the content and front page position of today's news report supports my sense that you may be jumping to an unfounded conclusion. That's not to say your conclusion won't later prove to be true, but at this point I think you're giving Korda too much credit. You're reminding me (slightly) of wingnuts who dismiss a news report from a NYT correspondent on the ground in Afghanistan because the Times runs Paul Krugman on the editorial pages.

R. Neal's picture

understanding the difference

understanding the difference between a columnist and a reporter

I do. The question is, does the KNS? Sometimes it's hard to tell.

Rachel's picture

Korda is *not* in the print

Korda is *not* in the print edition. In fact, I'd forgotten he had an online column. I haven't even looked at it in ages.

Oren Incandenza's picture

Here's what's abundantly

Here's what's abundantly clear at this point:

(1) Plenty of KFD firefighters don't like their new chief and aren't afraid to use bare-knuckles, and even racist, tactics to challenge him.
(2) The Mayor either chooses not to defend the chief he hired or is neglecting to do so. Either way, that's weak leadership. Which should surprise no one, since he's had exactly one previous job in which he did not report to his father.
(3) The only thoughtful and probing discussions of these issues in the entire area are taking place on this website and in BBeanster's "community" paper that doesn't reach the whole area -- at least not in its print edition. The KNS's ongoing ineptness (and that of its partner WBIR) is only part of this story, but nothing happens around here without those two trying to shape the perception, and someone needs to be asking -- as BBeanster is -- who benefits from this "coverage" and why.

Anonymous's picture

KFD conflict and city/county unification

In the short term, the old guard" will benefit; but, in the long run it will probably be Rural Metro.  Making KFD look bad will be the first step in doing away with KFD. Haslam and Ragsdale  will be one step closer to unified governtment. The sad thing is that apparently a FEW outspoken  firemen are playing right into their hands. 

If I'm not mistaken, Jim Haslam was a big supporter of "Unified Governement". Maybe that's why Bill ended up mayor.  Unified Government looms in Knoxville's future and  it appears  FEW firemen are leading the charge.

 Their time would be better spent trying to do something positive for the men and women who risk their lives in service to others.

Someone who has woken up and smelled the coffee

Anonymous's picture

Unified government would

Unified government would probably mean the end to rural metro in knox county.  They could not provide a level III service to such a large area.  We saw the reactions to 1 neighborhood with just the thought of losing their ladder truck, imagine telling the enitre city that there will be only 1 or 2 men on their fire trucks with a county wide response area.  Metro has had to pull out of such attempted operations in other areas of the country, including their original area in scottsdale arizona. They have some fine firefighters that would hopefully just come to work for KFD.  Regarding the issue with overtime in KFD, Chief Perez had 30 recently promoted captains work 8 week stints at the training academy while the last group of recruits were going through.  For six months overtime was being paid to cover these spots.  This is a huge reason overtime was a problem!!  He has not mentioned this in explaining why he is over budget.

R. Neal's picture

Looking at the flier again,

Looking at the flier again, towards the end there's a statement that "On any given day you will drive by and see the doors closed to station 3 closed and no fire trucks inside! This is the future of the station!" Maybe that's where the notion it was closing came from.

The flier says there will be fewer personnel, Perez says there will be net two more personnel per shift. The flier says the ladder truck is going away. Perez says it is being replaced. The flier counters that it is being replaced with a multi-purpose unit, and that other personnel are being replaced by rescue units that stay busier, so the net is that the station will be spread thinner than it is now, i.e. they will be busier and have more work to do and therefore less capability to respond in the neighborhood.

From all that it's still hard to say who's "right or wrong", or even if there is any such thing v. just differences of opinion. From the remarks made by both sides, it sounds like there is a basic disagreement over assignments, with firefighters believing it is better to have one role at one station so they know their job and neighborhood better, v. the chief who believes cross-training and transfer flexibility gives the department a better overall capability to respond and provides for more efficient allocation of resources. I'm not qualified to know one way or the other, but Perez seems to make a more compelling argument if for no other reason than being calm, straightforward, and at least signing it.

That all seems like a fairly legitimate debate among pros and between "management and labor". And it's fairly routine for staff to grumble when a new guy with a different approach comes in and makes changes. If they work it out it seems like everyone could stand to benefit.

But it certainly doesn't seem to justify racial namecalling, City Council having to get involved, the Mayor having to issue reprimands, the TV news suddently and breathlessly reporting out of the blue about the mayor calling the chief on the carpet for insignificant budget overruns and a dispute at his former employemtn, or the KNS running a column questioning the chief's character and leadership abilities.

When stuff like that starts happening, anybody who's paying attention ought to be asking what's going on. The info discussed here makes the underlying issues a lot clearer than what we've seen in the media, but the whole situation sure is puzzling. That's all I'm saying.

Bbeanster's picture

It's tough to sort out. But

It's tough to sort out. But the bottom line here is this: It's not my job or your job to decide these things, nor is it job of the rank and file firefighters (although I understand Perez has an advisory board of firefighters who give him input). Perez was hired to make these kinds of decisions, and specifically told to change the culture of the department. It looks like that's what he's trying to do. I also understand he goes down the civil service list to hand out promotions -- this is a first. Used to be, these guys were promoted and demoted depending on whom they supported for mayor. Evidently, some like the old ways better.

BrockPlasma's picture

As a member of the rank and

As a member of the rank and file, I have to agree that no matter whether I like a decision the Chief of the Department makes, this Chief or any of the others we have had, it is still my duty to carry out those orders.

As for the promotions, yes it is a first. If memory serves correctly you know first hand what the practice of skipping around has cost the firefighters local in the past.

JWL45's picture

Just wanted to chime in on

Just wanted to chime in on this column, as I have many close friends in the KFD. They have been talking about this for some time. It all boils down to the fact that some of the rank and file wanted a chief from the ranks (support for particular candidates was divided pretty evenly from what I hear) so that their buddy could take care of them during promotions, incentive payments, duty stations, etc. The different factions all pulled together after the announcement of an outside chief and have been trying to run him off since. From what I hear, the chief does have support from a good bit of the department - primarily those who don't really play the political games.

From what I've been told by several firemen, the chief that was disciplined by the mayor has been a huge problem and is pretty much dispised by the entire department. He seems to have a problem with abusing his authority. Several months ago, one of the local papers (I think it was the Powell Post) reported that he was intimidating newer firemen to alter the vote in the union election. His influence must have worked because the union leaders have changed. My neighbor told me that all but 1 of them works or recently worked at station 3. From what I understand the only "platform" they had was to get rid of the chief. Several of my friends didn't vote, but said they heard it was the lowest number of ballots cast in the union's history. Does that indicate the firemen were happy or just didn't care about the anti-chief platform. I heard that the old union guys were said to be too close to the chief. My friends all supported Mark Brown, who is the old union guy. Maybe Julia Tucker should have given a more moderate candidate her advice on a write in campaign.

Sorry, I can't let this one go:
Public employees are entitled to freedom of speech just like every american. However, they are limited to what they can speak about especially if it is not true or could cause public unrest. From what is sounds like, they came close to doing both of these. Also, most cities and counties have strict rules about employees trying to undermine the government.

I can tell you that if this happened at my firm or any other private business, we all know that they would be standing in the unemployment line. In my career, there have been many times I would like to let our clients know what management was doing. I knew better. These firemen know better. The mayor said he was going to bring his business skills to our city and run government from a business prospective. I guess he forgot the disciplinary side. He should track these guys down and punish them up to and maybe including terminating them. I bet you won't have firemen out scaring the public anymore after that.

The mayor needs to give this guy some support and see if he can get the politics out of OUR fire department. From what I understand, none of the union leaders and very few of the firemen against the chief even live in OUR city. Maybe they need to listen to what the taxpayers want. They have never asked me. I want the best protection possible for my family and I think this chief is working on that.

Just my two cents!

-Jon

Skidwell's picture

The infamous flier. Every

The infamous flier. Every Tom, Dick and Harriett has a way of interpreting it. We may have to get the CIA to send us a cryptographer to unlock the secret meaning. Read it yourself. It may not be a literary masterpiece but it’s not hard to understand what the writer is trying to convey. Until he decides otherwise, his identity shall remain anonymous, but I have talked to him personally. I am a captain in the KFD with over 28 years of service. I also work at Station #3 on the “B” shift. Understand I am subjective concerning this situation. On the other hand, I am objective enough to know I am. (Convoluted? Think about it for a few minutes and it might make sense.) Every point made in the flier is justifiable. Not one lie can be found. Just the facts. I am not going to do a line by line analysis. If anyone has a question about the veracity of its content let me know specifically which part you don’t believe to be true and I will be happy to give you an explanation.

Mhearn's picture

Mr. Skidwell

Since you were nice enough to offer assistance with the clarification of the flier I would like to take you up on it. I understand you are somewhat biased here but I would like to know why you agree with the flier as a whole. The statements made in the flier only focus on half of what is happenening. For example the flier states there will be no ladder truck in station #3 where as the statement issued by Chief Perez explains that the exsisting truck is being moved to where it is needed most and another ladder truck he being placed in station #3. The flier also states that the man power will in fact be reduced where as again the statement released by the chief says that it will be increased. Given these examples and your statement that not one lie can be found I am curious which one is infact true.

I would also like to know how you would handle the issues needing to be addressed by the chief. It stikes me as odd that they would bring in an outsider if everything was fine. One would think that if everything was running as well as it should then it would make sense the simply promote from within. That is obviously not the case because as it has been stated by many on this thread that the changes needed to be made and that was the whole point of bringing Chief Perez in. So given that you are familiar with the way things were and the way they are now what would you do differently than the chief to bring these changes into effect?

Another point I would like to bring up is if there is a conflict why not simply discuss what needs to be done and find a way to do it instead of having to resort to things like this flier? I also noticed a great deal of posts discussing how his ethnicity has been brought into this and I fail to see how that will in any way help either side of this obvious conflict. Could you please explain to me why it has resorted to this instead of being handled internally?

Skidwell's picture

Response

Thanks for responding and asking educative questions. Contrary to what you’ve heard, the ladder truck is being replaced. The engine/ pumper is also being replaced. They are being replaced by one piece of equipment called a quint. The quint is a combination pumper and ladder truck. In any fire department, each piece of equipment plays an important and job specific role in fire rescue and suppression. Each have separate duties on a fire scene which make the operation more efficient. Combining the two reduces one piece of equipment. For example, if the quint arrives on a scene first and is needed as a pumper, the aerial ladder capabilities are lost. The other job specific duties of a ladder such as search and rescue, ventilating, lighting, putting up ground ladders, cutting electricity and natural gas to the structure involved are also lost. In rescue and firefighting, time is a critical factor. Two job specific trucks, an engine and a ladder company, each doing what they are trained to do, are more able to control and affect a positive result. The ladder truck that is currently stationed at station 3 is a 110 ft. aerial truck. It is to be replaced by a 75 ft. aerial device on the quint. As to where it is needed the most, you be the judge. The station it is being sent to is #15 in Fountain City. Can you name one high rise in that part of town where a 110 ft. will be beneficial? St. Mary’s Hospital, Guy B. Love Towers, and Broadway Towers are within approximately one mile of station #3. A 75 ft. aerial truck cannot service those buildings. A service truck with ground ladders is already stationed at #15. An engine from station #14, with elevated water stream capabilities, also responds to that area.

Currently there are 6 firefighters stationed at #3. The chief’s plans are to put a rescue truck at the station along with the quint. At the present time there are two men assigned to the rescue truck. The chief envisions putting 4 men on each truck which will make a total of 8. We would like to see 4 men on each and every truck throughout the city. That is what the International Fire Service Training Association and the International Firefighters Association recommend. The reality is, our staffing levels are woefully deficient. This is not the chief’s fault. This is a policy of our current and former city administrators to under staff the trucks. We do not have the manpower at the present time to do this. The chief also wanted the same staffing levels for his hazardous materials team at #18. He planned to put 4 men on each truck (engine and hazmat truck) for a total of 8. At present there are 5 men assigned to #18 (3 on the engine and 2 on the hazmat truck0. Sound familiar?

The whole point in making changes to #3 stems from the chiefs desire to form a tactical rescue team (TRT). The need for such a team is debatable, but for the sake of argument let’s assume one is needed . Question is, where is the best place for it? Station 3 is a two bay station. A two car garage so to speak. A TRT would need space that #3 does not have. Headquarters, which is downtown, is a more logical choice for this operation. The facilities can more than house the equipment and trucks, and it is geographically ideal.

There were qualified candidates from inside the department to choose from. The mayor’s hand picked committee had two of the five finalists from within the department. No dishonor to Chief Perez, but he wasn’t one of them. The people on this thread mean well but all they hear is the squeaky wheel. That represents a very small minority. Change starts at the top. Not with the chief, but with the mayor. Change could have come from within, but not without strong leadership from the administration. Playing politics starts with politicians.

Your last point is why not talk to the chief to resolve these conflicts. We have tried. When I discussed these same issues with regards to # 3 being to small he said, and I quote, “ You can’t let that stand in the way. If I need to I’ll buy the warehouse across the street or add on to fire station.” Interesting since all he has to do is put it at hdqts. and problem solved. Apparently money is not an issue. How do you counter that?

Lastly, his ethnicity has nothing to do with this nor should it. Again, what your doing is hearing the squeaky wheel. Do not blame the whole department for the actions of a few. Again, thanks for asking questions and not jumping to conclusions.

Mhearn's picture

Mr. Skidwell

Thank you for replying I do appreciate your willingness to discuss this with me. In refference to the quint are the other two trucks he mentions (the 135' aerial at headquaters and the 105' aerial at station 9) not viable solutions to compensate for the moving of the 100' to Fountain city?

In regards to the Tactical Rescue Team, I can actually see the logic behind this. I would rather have one and not need it than need it and not have it. This shows that Chief Perez only has the best interest of the community and his fellow fire fighters in mind.

The personel issue seems to be solved by the next class of the Fire Academy. Do you feel that this will not be enough to offset the current staffing issue?

Also I was wonder why there would be an issue with either using the warehouse or adding onto the exsisting fire house if money was in fact not an issue.

I am also curious as to your opinion of the reason these things are being taken to such a public route for resolution. Granted this may also be a squeeky wheel scenario but even if that is the case do you not feel that this is setting a precedent as to how disputes will be handled in the future if the squeeky wheel gets it way? Do you feel this is more of a political battle and the focus is on the Chief  as a result?

And lastly do you think what Chief Peerez is trying to do is in anyway wrong for the city as a whole? If so what would you do differently?

I thank you again for your kindness in replying and hope that this can be resolved with all parties involved coming out the better for it.

Skidwell's picture

Response #2

Fire trucks cover other districts when those initial response trucks are on another call. The 135’ truck covers the downtown area and the 105’ truck covers U.T. On most occasions these very same trucks respond to the same call. That leaves the 110’ truck at #3 to cover the responses in these two territories in addition to its own. Having a 110’ aerial at an outlying area where it is not needed is logistically unsound.

As I stated before, the TRT is a debatable issue. At a time when our staffing problems need to be resolved and our reserve apparatus is in question, there are more important matters to address than a special operations unit that may or may not be needed. Bear in mind that Knox County has, what many consider to be, the preeminent rescue squad in the southeast. The Knox County Rescue Squad has specialized units in trench rescue, swift water and diving teams, building collapse, and high angle rescue. These are the very same disciplines that the TRT will have. If the need arises, I can assure you that we will have the best this part of the United States has to offer! These very same people are certified instructors and teach this all over the southeast. It would be nice to have our own ,but not when we have more pressing needs.

As I stated before, personnel issues do need to be addressed and this is something the chief has no control over. It is a city administration matter and that onus is on them. But the fact is you have to do with what you’ve got and the chief doesn’t have the required manpower at this time to take on special projects.

I wish money wasn’t a factor. I wish we all had all the money in our personal and business life to do what we wanted, but I know and you know that is not realistic. If the TRT is paramount, then why not at headquarters. The additional expense of a warehouse or construction project would not be needed. That is the responsible thing to do.

I’m sorry I wasn’t clear on the squeaky wheel theory. That was in reference to the minority that is often heard, while the majority opinion is usually silent. I believe I can speak with a certain amount of assurance, that this is what the majority of the rank and file believe.

I don’t think this is a political battle. I think this is doing what is right for the safety of the citizens of Knoxville and the prudent spending of their tax dollars. The members of the Knoxville Fire Dept. do care about doing the right thing. If after reasoning and meaningful debate, we still see things that diminish the most important responsibilities of our profession, which are saving lives and property, we must take any means necessary to insure that our concerns do not go unheard.

I think when the Chief came to town, he had an agenda. That agenda was to form a regional hazardous materials team and a regional tactical rescue team. From day one he has focused most of his time, energy and money on achieving these two goals. These are not bad ideas. However, these are not the most important things the fire department or citizens of Knoxville need at this time. Let’s get staffing problems and other needs up to acceptable levels first, then take on these personal projects.

Car Guy's picture

from Skidwell: Can you name

from Skidwell: Can you name one high rise in that part of town where a 110 ft. will be beneficial? St. Mary’s Hospital, Guy B. Love Towers, and Broadway Towers are within approximately one mile of station #3.

What about the high rise behind Kmart on Broadway?

Skidwell's picture

Response #3

Station #3 also responds to Northgate Towers. When compared to station #15, it is a dead heat. You lose nothing in terms of response time. 

Anonymous's picture

KFD

Just a few comments (personal opinions) from a fire fighter with over 15 years with the department:

If the discussed moves and changes were not affecting Station #3, most of the fire fighters there would not care.  I am friends with many of them and think they are an asset to the department.  However, they have long considered themselves "special" for working at #3.  I feel station 3 is the wrong location for the rescue team but disagree with the flier that was sent out, that I think was just a scare tactic.  The newly elected president and vice president of the fire fighter's association just recently joined the union.  Many feel it was just to try to keep them from having to move stations.  And just to clarify an earlier post, the rescue truck only answers wrecks and fires east of Pleasant Ridge Rd. now.  And yes, some of the same group that are trying to run Perez and Haslam out, are the same group that probably had Haslam stickers on their truck.  And as far as the negative Halls and Powell Shopper articles, almost everyone knows the source and that he his not truly concerned with the department as much as mad about what happened to him.

Bbeanster's picture

"And as far as the negative

"And as far as the negative Halls and Powell Shopper articles, almost everyone knows the source and that he his not truly concerned with the department as much as mad about what happened to him."

Hey now, Mr. Anonymous, I appreciate your candor, but take issue with the paragraph I pasted above. -- Please don't presume that I have only one source. You'd be seriously wrong.
Question: Why do you think the guys who are now in charge of your local got elected? Do you think they represent you well?

R. Neal's picture

Stepping in for a moment...

I appreciate the civil and informative tone of the conversation about this issue so far.

I would suggest, however, that everyone confine their remarks to verifiable matters of public record or information about which you have verifiable first-hand personal knowledge, and that in that case you should sign your post or at least register with a verifiable e-mail address where you can be contacted. This is not intended to be a forum for anonymous rumors and speculation. This is not directed toward any specific individual or post, it is just a friendly reminder.

Regardless, keep in mind the rules you agree to by using this site. The operators of this website are not responsible for content posted by others. The original author is solely responsible for any content they post here.

Carry on.

Skidwell's picture

During my short time on this site......

During my short time on this site, I have tried to field legitimate questions and give, what I think, are applicable answers. The issue at hand is, what is best for the citizens of Knoxville. Any dialogue should pertain to these matters. I have tried not to impose personal attacks on any individual or group. Every firefighter is an asset to the department. As far as Mr. Anonymous’ assertion that we consider ourselves special, he is right. If special means pride in your fire company and fire station, and you honor the people you work with and are enthusiastic and devoted, and try to do the best job possible, he has hit a bulls-eye. He must also feel special. It is called esprit de corps. That should be the ultimate goal of any fire company. I’m glad that he agrees that station #3 is the wrong place. The majority of the fire department feels the same way. It’s sad he has to single out individuals and their families. I hope we are above that. To the comment, “It sounds to me like some of the firefighters at Station 3 want to stay in the firehall and not serve the city. If the truck stays in the bay all of the time is it really providing a service to the city?”, we do other things in the community apart from answering emergency calls. We do home inspections, install smoke detectors, and conduct “Kids Safe” programs. In addition, we have a continuing education program called a daily fire school in which we study various aspects and evolutions of our profession. We do these duties within the borders of our assigned district not miles away. That was the reference to the empty bays. Personally, I would like to never answer another call. When we do, it is to alleviate someone’s misfortune. Reality is, people do have catastrophes and it is our job to relieve them as quickly as possible. I have a deep respect for all members of my profession. Whether it is a paid department or a volunteer organization, we all have one common goal and that is to render aid to the general public within our respective jurisdiction. Conjecture and innuendo have no place in civil discussion. Thanks R. Neal for pointing that out. By the way, and I can only speak for myself, I have never had a bumper sticker and I have  never taken part in a city election. I was never interested in the dangling carrot.

Anonymous's picture

wow, so much for the first

wow, so much for the first amendment.
knoxrocks's picture

KFD changes:

 most people do not realize the quints that are to be order is a way to reduce staffing, and to make one truck do the work of 2 different types of trucks,bottom line. many communities went this way many years ago only to return to engines doing engine work and truck companies doing truck work. seems to me maybe all the changes in the north area, maybe someone could find out any changes in the south area. they combined 2 stations and made one on chapman,but now the city has annexed way out chapman and john sevier areas, but nearest fire station is on chapman at overbrook.

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