Albany firefighters, incensed over Mayor Kathy Sheehan's budget proposal that would eliminate Ladder 1, have kicked their public awareness campaign to save the company up a few notches.
On October 1st, Mayor Sheehan released her 2015 spending plan for the city. Her plans to shutter Ladder 1, located near the Port of Albany and neighborhoods bordering tracks used by "oil trains," did not go over well with firefighters.
The firefighters, who last year responded to more than 22,000 calls for help, fear taking Ladder 1 out of service will imperil the entire city.
In efforts to heighten public awareness, firefighters have taken a three-pronged approach: company members and local community activists have been going door-to-door, dropping off fliers that implore "Please support our efforts to keep you and your family safe." Bob Powers, a 16-year veteran firefighter, is president of the union representing Albany’s 232 firefighters. "The way that the system works now is, we have four ladder companies throughout the city, they can actively cover their territories, plus overlap into other territories. By removing a ladder company from this system, you are going to create a domino effect or a cascading effect of lack of apparatus to be available for response. And I'll give ya an example of it. Not this past Friday but the previous Friday, there was a fire call on Cottage and Wellington Avenues in the Eagle Point neighborhood of the City of Albany. Ladder 1 responded to that because Ladder 4 was out of service. They again covered Ladder 4 territory on Cardinal Avenue for an oil alarm, which is off Whitehall, so there is a system in place that covers stations when they are out. By removing Ladder 1, that system is no longer going to work efficiently."
The firefighters are also holding neighborhood meetings to educate citizens. "I would like to have the public come out to the town hall meeting at New Scotland Avenue John Bach Library tonight, and John Howe Library in the South End tomorrow night, both at 5:30, as well as the budget presentation by the fire department to the Common Council on Thursday at 5:30 at City Hall."
The firefighters are employing social media:
Some critics of the Sheehan administration have suggested the mayor is holding Ladder 1 as a bargaining chip to force red light camera legislation through the Common Council: the red light camera ordinance was unanimously voted out of committee last week with a favorable recommendation.
Albany 11th ward Common Council Member Judd Krasher believes the red light camera issue is all about the vendor lobbying the mayor and has nothing to do with keeping Ladder 1 open. "I think it's a scare tactic to push red light cameras down the council's throat. So I hope that as we deliberate this as a full council, we will realize that this $2 million figure is not reliable, but furthermore, the implementation of red light cameras is not going to save Ladder 1. What's going to save Ladder 1 is finding the appropriate streams of revenue and or cuts that will not impact city residents. That's going to save Ladder 1."
As for the red light camera initiative, 10th ward Council member Leah Golby favors the measure. “We’re really going to try to model ourselves after Nassau County, which according to AAA, has the highest marks in New York State for transparency or their process of implementing the red light camera program… I plan to ask for a vote on the ordinance at the October 20th meeting next Monday. I hope that it will pass so we can get this program up and running."
The Sheehan administration did not return calls for comment in time for broadcast.