Thursday, February 11, 2010

Q&A between a Concerned Citizen and Mayor John Shine

Question from a Concerned Citizen:

I have been following the comments made about story in the Times news on January 28 2010 “Resident's letter irks Jerome Council” as well as the comments made by Jerome fireman and their spouses. I find it interesting that the majority of the letters supporting the city council’s actions are coming from those that benefit from their dissection. I recognize that it is difficult to see the forest for the trees but try. The point of the letter has nothing to do with the fire department. Let me say that again, the point of the letter has nothing to do with the fire department. It has everything to do with government spending our tax dollars frivolously. That is to say that they had other options that they did or would not look at, this would have been the responsible thing to do. The second problem comes in to play when the city council under the direction of the mayor fails to respond to a citizen concern in a respectful and professional manner. Our elected officials need to be reminded from time to time that they work for us. We have a responsibility as citizens to keep or elected officials in check and if they fail us it is our responsibility to replace them.
The fact that our city fathers are so cavalier when they decided to spend $3360 so frivolously screams of being irresponsible and leads one to believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg. You fire fighters out there may understand this analogy better, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If the city fathers learn nothing more from this disaster they need to learn this: 1, treat citizens with respect even if you disagree with what they have to say. 2, all complaints have some fraction of truth and you need to look at them as an opportunity to look at how you are doing business and determine if you can do better.
I would personally like to ask the Jerome city council to step back and reconsider their decision to spend $3360 with a private contractor at this time in our economic history. I would also ask the council if they have forgot that they just asked us to pay more for our water and they also just increased our property taxes. If you are not going to be responsible with our money we are not going to be as likely to in trust you with the awesome responsibility of looking after the affairs of the city.

Response to the Letter from Mayor John Shine:

Dear Concerned Citizen,

Thank you for sharing your concerns about the City Council’s decision to relieve firefighters of their lawn and snow removal maintenance duties. This issue has received a lot of attention with many people sharing their opinions in public forums, many of which are based on misinformation and an incomplete knowledge of the facts of the case. Unfortunately, no one has taken time to ask the Mayor, the City Council, the Fire Chief or the City Administrator directly for an explanation which we all would be very happy to give. Our explanation is given further on, but first I would like to point out that participation in the affairs of the city means more than airing opinions publicly. A largely overlooked area of citizen responsibility includes but is not limited to getting informed and participating in public meetings. The Mayor and City Council have supported the implementation of many new communications strategies to accomplish the goal of getting the public more informed about City operations through Facebook, the City blog and the City e-newsletter and mailings. On behalf of the City Council, we invite you to come to our meetings and get more involved. There are several boards and commissions where interested citizens can also serve to make a difference in Jerome.

As for the Fire Department, and this issue is all about our Fire Department, many people may not realize the many challenges our little but growing department has faced over the last three years since our long-time Fire Chief, Jim Auclaire, retired. With several turnovers in Fire Chiefs and Deputy Fire Chiefs the department has not received the continuity of management to keep the direction of the department on a steady course. With every change in management priorities shifted leaving our firefighters with no clear objectives or goals. This has been a very difficult time for the department, and I am relieved to say that time is behind us now. Fire Chief Mike Hatfield was hired in August 2009 to bring order, discipline, training and so much more back to the Jerome City Fire Department. Also, since Chief Hatfield joined the department we have hired four new firefighters with monies from federal grant funding, filled two openings with new firefighters, created two Captain positions and are attempting to restore our badly depleted ranks of on-call volunteers. With the overwhelming task of bringing all staff in the department up to Firefighter Level 1 and Level 2 standards, there is little time to afford for non-critical firefighting functions like lawn care and snow removal. It is with this objective in mind, that the Fire Department will recover from the difficulties of the past and set out to achieve a higher degree of training, professionalism and leadership in the fire service for the citizens of Jerome. Perhaps, there will be a justification for Jerome City Firefighters to resume their grounds-keeping duties at some future date once their Firehouse is in order and all have met the required training standards. Please rest assured that we did not make this decision without exploring numerous alternatives before selecting a solution to this problem that would be in the best interest of the taxpayers.

As Mayor, I would like to make one more observation about the level of public participation. It strikes me as interesting and a little bit odd how some are so quick to criticize an expenditure of what amounts to less than 0.02% of the budget and yet do not even question or bother to inform themselves on the other 99.98% of where and how their public monies are being spent. Please know that I take the responsibility for the welfare of the City and how its funds are spent very seriously. The City has nothing to hide and in fact, we have just published a new budget summary to help make the city’s finances more transparent to the public. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, we are always happy to hear them. The City of Jerome will always be better for the concerns and interests that citizens put into the public process. I am grateful for this opportunity to serve as Mayor for the citizens of Jerome.

Mayor John Shine

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