I wanted to put a letter out regarding the newest fire levy. I am sure many will disagree with my thought process, and I will gladly embrace that. This is America and we should be allowed to disagree in a civil manner.
To start, I voted no on the last fire levy. I will never be under the assumption that because someone is a firefighter, police officer, or soldier, they deserve more money. For credibility’s sake, this is coming from a OIF veteran (Operation Iraqi Freedom) who hails from a long line of war veterans and civil servants. I enforce fiscal responsibility within the company that I work for, and I expect our public servants to do the same. The last fire levy, in my opinion, sounded like the story I have heard so many times from various folks: I had a big chunk of change, I blew it, I ran up a credit card bill, and now I need a raise. There is no way I will endorse, accept, vote yes for, or embrace a leadership team that behaves the way the EFDs previous leadership team did.
Fast forward now to a new chief, a semi-new leadership board, and a few less firefighters who are handed the exact opposite of what the previous team was handed: a brutal combination of an accelerated demand for their most critical services, but little finance to pay for their required upcoming equipment replacements while trying to keep a minimum amount of life saving personnel on the clock.
As a citizen, I was interested in the new board positions. I asked the chief if I could take a few minutes of his time to understand the details of the position. Instead of a few minutes, he gave me a few hours. Throughout my conversation with Chief Fehr I realized that we now have a man of integrity and principal who truly wanted to give the citizens of Enumclaw the best bang for their buck. He is interested in making sure his employees are getting the equipment necessary (and legally required) to do their job, and that the citizens of Enumclaw have access to his employees when they needed them. In addition, as a lifelong resident of the area, he has a vested interest in quality care. I walked away convinced that Chief Fehr was open and transparent with me in not only his facts and figures, but also his intentions (a rare but treasured trait). For the record, I did not officially put an application packet in for the position and I truly do appreciate Chief Fehr’s willingness to meet with me.
In my lifetime, I have never voted yes for a tax increase. I’ve either felt they weren’t necessary (after reading into the details), or I felt they were presented in a manner that was missing transparency (i.e. the previous fire levy or last years’ school levy). For this levy, I feel that we have no choice. The EFD’s (Enumclaw Fire Department) previous leadership team made some pretty bad decisions in the last decade and we are all suffering because of it. While it frustrates me to no end to know that the money myself, my parents, and my grandparents paid to help out with these expenses was splurged, I recognize that these decisions were not made by our current leadership, and they still have legal requirements to meet.
As a community, I challenge us to recognize that we have a new leadership team at the EFD and give them the support they need. Many will say they need the money because they are heroes. Some will say that they need it so our home insurance rates don’t go up. I am likely with a minority group that doesn’t care about these matters. I am voting yes because if I don’t, the many citizens in our community who need access to life saving care will not get it. Meaning when they call 911, the ambulance or fire truck just might not show up in time.
To the EFD, I challenge you in another way: I am personally thankful for the group of citizens who exposed the financial decisions in the past, even if I disagree with the tone in which they did it. I ask that if this levy passes, you make decisions that don’t require the use of that groups services again. Understand that many citizens are going to be put in a tough place financially over this lid lift. A latte a month could be the difference between making it and not making it for a few. Consider these matters are serious as they sound and recognize them in every aspect of your financial decision making.
Thankfully, I’m confident you’re already doing this.