Letter to the Editor
To the Editor:
Last week, Town Manager Michael Embury penned a scathing indictment of the North Kingstown firefighters, directly questioning the integrity of a dedicated workforce that has endeavored to overcome the incredible adversity it has been faced with over the past two and a half years. To say that his venomous rant is baseless and without merit is an understatement. One thing was unmistakable however; his unfettered contempt of the members of the North Kingstown Fire Department.
It is unsurprising that Mr. Embury has taken yet another opportunity to attack us in the media. What is surprising and beyond reproach is that he has now chosen an issue that is important not only to the NK firefighters, but more importantly our families. They were outraged at being excluded from the highly regarded NK Rotary event at which they were “honored” by our Fire Chief, and they are still angry that their daily sacrifice over the past two years was used in such an offensive manner. That is why we voted to submit the letter expressing that outrage, a vote that was unopposed I might add. The NK Rotary does not have to host such an event, and as such we extend to the Rotarians our heartfelt thanks, and will always hold their annual acknowledgement in the highest regard.
While elements of Embury’s letter seem incoherent, the parts that aren’t involve easily refuted, untrue nonsense. This response addresses the larger, more important issues. The most ridiculous accusation is that there is a concerted effort on behalf of the union to “break the system” by not working extra shifts in addition to the 56 hour week to meet the Town’s response needs. Break the system? The system was broken the day it was implemented. This accusation may even be worthy of another Unfair Labor Practice, but hey, what’s one more! After all, the taxpayers will pay the legal bill which results from such foolishness, adding to the nearly $1 million already spent. Shameful.
Even more disturbing is Embury’s position that “If in fact stress exists” and “if there has been an inability to adapt” to the brutal schedule, the blame is with the firefighters. Even though he refuses to evaluate the countless negative effects of three-platoon system, he asserts that it MUST be the firefighter’s fault that problems exist. He is currently the Public Safety Director; however he accepts NO responsibility for the current state of affairs, conveniently ignoring the fact that we now have 57 firefighters meeting the same staffing requirements that 76 satisfied only a few years ago. It is clearly time to re-appoint an independent Public Safety Director, so that advocating for the safety of the community can once again become the top priority of the position, instead of a clearly personal agenda.
Additionally, Embury’s lecture on issues of “brotherhood” and “solidarity” is poorly received. In referencing each of these terms, he has done nothing more than demonstrate a thorough lack of understanding of both. Mr. Embury, perhaps you could actually visit a fire station for the first time, talk with NK firefighters, and try to understand issues beyond the ledger. While unlikely, you might even gain a modest appreciation of what we do every day, and develop an understanding of what these words truly mean. Your firefighters are not just a “union” sir, we are human beings doing an incredibly difficult job, and all we ask from our officials is a reasonable chance of executing our duties safely and efficiently in the best interest of our residents.
For our residents, I apologize that you must read this response to Mr. Embury’s attack. His letter was clearly designed to place the Fire Department issue front and center, perhaps to deflect attention away from the other high profile issues facing the current Town Council. Whatever the motivation, Embury has gone through great effort to portray my fellow NK firefighters as “sophomoric” and “unprofessional”. To the contrary, they have immeasurable class and strength, and our families do as well. I am blessed to work with and represent such an incredible group of individuals. There are no words to describe their sacrifice. Regardless of the noise that undoubtedly follow this letter, be reassured that we will do our very best to provide you with the highest level of service, despite the challenges thrust upon us on a daily basis.
President, North Kingstown Fire Fighters L-1651