NK Partisan Politics Harmful to Firefighters and Residents
North Kingstown – The following letter to the editor appears in response to multiple letters printed in local print newspapers throughout the month of September.
The back and forth narrative that began with the displeasure felt by one North Kingstown resident, Susan Coletta, with the North Kingstown Firefighters Association IAFF Local 1651 (NKFFA) endorsement of GOP incumbent, Representative Doreen Costa (R-31) caused both Costa and Raymond Furtado, Union President to respond.
The first letter, appeared in the Northeast Independent on September 11, in disparagement to the day, the department and those who were lost. Rep. Costa responded on September 18 and Coletta continued the written battle on September 25.
To the Editor:
Over the past few weeks, there have been a number of politically charged letters submitted to this paper for publication. While we all know this is common prior to elections, the recent personal and hateful attack by Susan Coletta against the NK firefighters, published on September 11 no less, was both unwarranted and poorly timed. While we generally stay above the bickering nature of political submissions, the level of uninformed venom displayed in Mrs. Coletta’s letter warrants a response.
In the North Kingstown Fire Department, our work situation is in turmoil to say the least. We are forced to work an excessively unsafe amount of hours, our equipment is aging, and the demands of the community are forever increasing. We work tirelessly to improve the situation, and despite the multiple findings of the Superior Court and State Labor Relations Board in our favor, the Town Council has chosen to press on with their agenda. We have done our best to maintain the highest level of service to the community, but the negative effects of the shift structure and radical personnel cuts are becoming painfully apparent. The system is breaking down on every level.
The unfortunate reality is that the elected officials charged with making these decisions often do so based on political ideology, personal agendas, or a willful ignorance of the facts. As an example, the current NK Town Council has committed numerous Unfair Labor Practices (ULP’s) in their pursuit of a system that is not only failing, but has generated millions in potential taxpayer liability and legal fees. What has been missing is an honest, open assessment of the damage already done, and a plan to return normalcy to your Fire Department. Other elected officials, as well as numerous current candidates for public office, have asked for our input on the situation, and are shocked when they see first-hand the sad reality that we face on a daily basis. Some have asked what they can do to help; Representative Doreen Costa has been one of those people.
Although we may have political differences, Rep. Costa understands that you as taxpayers have a right to expect high quality public safety services. She has made a genuine effort to ask the right questions, spending time with many of our members, and vocally advocating for an end to the current situation. Specifically, she has called on the current Town Council to end the dispute and “listen to the Judge and the State Labor Relations Board”. She’s also said repeatedly that hard-earned taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be wasted on needless litigation. We wholeheartedly agree. In this regard we are “similarly situated”, wanting nothing more than the safe provision of Fire/EMS services in a fiscally responsible manner. As a result, a committee elected by our members earlier this year voted unanimously to support Rep. Costa. If that is a source of tension for Mrs. Coletta and those engaged in typical partisan politics, so be it.
The unified message from the NK firefighters is simple: We support those that support us. As a member of the NK Democratic Town Committee, Mrs. Coletta is quick to accuse me of “union busting” among other things. Evidently, the only paper she has read in the past four years was the September 11 issue that contained her vicious, unsolicited rant. If more informed, she would be directing her venom toward her fellow Democrat currently serving on the Council, who spoke passionately and often against the 24 hour shift schedule, until he was elected. Since then, he has become complicit to advancing the anti-labor agenda of a select few against the core principles of the Democratic Party. This is precisely why we support the candidate, not the party. If you want to lecture someone on supporting anti-labor initiatives, we suggest you start with your colleague Mr. Welch and the rest of the current Town Council; they are far more deserving targets of your anger and aggression.
In closing, we will continue to assist and educate candidates as they develop an understanding of your fire and rescue services. As the residents we have faithfully sworn ourselves to protect, we respectfully ask that you consider the importance of the issue when electing North Kingstown’s future leaders. Look past partisan politics. Never forget that we work for you, and your elected officials do as well. When a candidate knocks on your door and asks for your vote, challenge them and ask their position on the issue. Remember, no Town Council member or any elected official for that matter has run for office on the promise of reducing your level of safety or the quality of services you receive. However, unknowingly or by design, that has been the result of the actions taken by the current Town Council. They owe you an explanation, and you have the ability to have your voice heard on November 4. Let them know that you are tired of the usual partisan politics in North Kingstown, and that you want reasonable, informed minds making reasonable, informed decisions that benefit you, and not the political agenda of a select few.
North Kingstown Fire Fighters Association