At Mondayâs City Council meeting John Hieftje evidently wanted to make sure he understood exactly how deep in his own personal pile of horse manure he was standing. So, Hieftje pointedly asked the new Fire Chief, Chuck Hubbard (below), a 20-year member of the AAFD, âif the city would actually experience better service if it hired 30 more firefighters and increased staffing levels at each of the five stations.â
In April of 2011 HieftjeÂ arrogantly told AnnArbor.comâs editorial board he âwas comfortableâ with the cuts made to police and the decimation of the fire services. He even went on to claim, âWeâre getting some pretty good opinions that our initial response times probably wonât be affected on the fire side.â
AnnArbor.comâs editorial board predictably never checked Hieftjeâs facts, or asked him from whom those âopinionsâ were being solicited. Itâs a pity, because in December 2011, it was revealed in a long-awaited consultantâs report on the cityâs fire services that Hieftje had once again lied to the public and used AnnArbor.com to do it. The consultantâs report revealed that Ann Arborâs fire services did not come close to meeting national standards in terms of response times.
So when Hieftje asked Hubbard if more firefighters and equipment would lead to better serviceâno doubt hoping Hubbard would hem and hawâHieftje looked stunned when Hubbard instead replied, âAbsolutely.â
This was a different cast of characters than in 2010, when newly-hired Fire Chief Dom Lanza stood before Council.
On May 18, 2010, just a few weeks after being hired into the $108,000 per year position, Lanza stood before City Council, his own firefighters, and the Press and told a gigantic fairy tale for the benefit of Roger Fraser, the re-election campaigns ofÂ John Hieftje, Fourth Ward Council memberÂ Margie Teall, Fifth Ward Council memberÂ Carsten Hohnke and First Ward Council memberÂ Sandi Smith. And, of course, to protect his own professional hide.
John Hieftje postedÂ AnnArbor.comâs repetition of Lanzaâs deliberate fibs to his [Hieftje's] campaign web site to prove that laying off firefighters was no problemo, and that anyone who said so didnât have the story right. In that May 18, 2010 AnnArbor.com piece, Lanza tells City Council that âthe elimination of five positions in the fire department isÂ manageable. He said fire stations will stay open, and the city still will be able to get at least fourÂ firefighters on the scene of a fire as quickly as it does today.Â Lanza also said the city would be able to put 18 firefighters on the scene of a working fire withinÂ eight minutes, maintaining the cityâs insurance rating. He said it may take adjustments in the fireÂ departmentâs administrative staff to accomplish that, but it can be done.â
On May 20, 2010, the firefighterâs union issued aÂ refutation of Chief Lanzaâs claims that fire safety would not be compromised by the loss of positions. Lt.Â Craig Ferris told AnnArbor.com, âWeâre a substandard fire department right now.Â We want to get the right information out there. We canât have someone stating things that arenât true. When a person stands up in front of City Council and the mayor and says things that are that inaccurate, and in the end are leading to cuts in the fire department, we have to take a stand.â
Ferris and the union claimed that Lanza had misrepresented the facts to City Council and the public. In response, Lanza threatened Ferris with an âinvestigationâ to determine whether the AAFD Lieutenant has broken any rules in speaking out to the press.
Then, Lanza decided he couldnât take the heat and got out of the kitchen.
Less than one year after heâd taken the job, he handed in his resignation. Only then, did Dominick Lanza tell the truth. Months earlier, with the same number of fire fighters that Ann Arbor has now, Lanza claimed coverage was adequate, âmanageable.â Then, in his March 18, 2011 letter, however, Lanza writes,
Current staffing levels areÂ below nationally recognized standards and make the Ann Arbor Fire Department a âone-fire incident department,â Lanza writes.Â âI urge you to move forward cautiously, pursue regional fire protection as a way to save and be more effective. Paid on-call and volunteer are not the answer. Your jobs are difficult but I implore you, be strong, make the right decisions, do not further undermine the effectiveness of your fire department.â
Not shockingly, neither Roger Fraser nor John Hieftje would talk to AnnArbor.com in response to Lanzaâs tell-all. Never one to shy away from an opportunity to make herself look somewhat addled, First Ward Council memberÂ Sabra Briere was quoted by AnnArbor.com in response to Lanzaâs admissions as saying, âI feel as if Iâve just been told the truth.â
Itâs March 2012 and Chuck Hubbard is, in essence, repeating what Lanza said in his March 2011 letter to AnnArbor.com. Hubbard is repeating what Craig Ferris told AnnArbor.com in 2010.
First Ward Council member Sabra Briere (left)âwho has made no secret of the fact that she wants to lead Ann Arbor as Mayorâdemonstrated during Mondayâs City Council meeting that she is just as dishonest, disingenuous and confused about the truth as Hieftje.
After Hubbard spoke before Council on March 12, 2012, Briere piped up and said she ârecalled the city discussed the issue of fire response a couple of years ago and she remembers being told everything was OK.Â We were told that two people coming from Station 1 and two people coming from Station 3 could converge on the fire and everything would be covered.â
Briere recalled being told âEverything was OK?â In her dreams, maybe, but not in Council chambers.
The wanna-be city leader obviously forgot blabbing about her sudden epiphany in response to Lanzaâs March 2011 confession to AnnArbor.com concerning substandard fire safety services: Â (âI feel as if Iâve just been told the truthâ). Oops.
For that matter, one has to wonder whether Sabra Briere wasnât paying attention when AAFD union leaders stood before Council in May 2010 and told her that staffing levels were below national standards. Representatives told Council and the public that cuts were slowing response times and putting residents in danger. All of these assertions were confirmed in the embarrassing December 2011 consultantâs report on the cityâs fire services.
At the March 12, 2012 City Council meeting, after Hubbard spoke, Briere asked if the information had changed or if the data Hubbard presented was just a different way of looking at the departmentâs staffing.
Hubbard replied, âThe information hasnât changed.â
Hubbard presented a plan to close fire stations in response to budget constraints imposed on the AAFD by City Council. He also very clearly stated the city should keep open all of its stations and hire 30 more firefighters to meet national staffing and response standards.
The latest absurdity from Hizzoner concerning his preference to funnel money to construction projects, multi-million dollar perks for city managers and generous retirement packages for city employees who work as few as five years, instead of rebuilding public safety services?Â Hieftje was quoted as claiming on Monday night: âItâs a little unusual because people think of closing stations as a diminished service, when actually this plan would give usÂ better service to more areas of the city.â
Sabra Briere said nothing and nodded in agreement.Â