“HERE’S YOUR 20”: Fire Union President Sounds Alarm at Council Meeting

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Below is a speech given by Jason J. Cafarella at the City Council Meeting on 9/25/2019.

By: Jason J. Cafarella

I am a Captain with the Niagara Falls Fire Department and the President of Fire Officers Local 3359. I am also a life long resident of the City of Niagara Falls. 

City Council Members, I do not envy you. You have a very difficult decision to make. Last week, and then again tonight, I’ve heard the complaints from concerned residents. Frankly, I can’t disagree with their complaints. All costs continuously go up and the residents are asked to pay more for City services. I sympathize, as do my union brothers and sisters. Last year, both the firefighters and police officers made a series of concessions to the City to help reduce the City budget. With these concessions, we agreed to reduce our take home pay. We have been forced to do more for less. And yet we still, everyday, put our lives on the line to serve this City, and to serve our residents and every visitor that steps within our city. 

So now the City Council has to make the decision, either find new revenue to balance the budget, or cut 20 firefighters and 25 police officers. The Council is being asked to create a garbage user fee, which will cost the average homeowner 65 cents a day. If the user fee is not created, then the Council may have to slash public safety.  But cutting public safety is not the answer. As I am sure you all know, according to the FBI statistics, Niagara Falls is the most dangerous city in New York State for two years in a row. Our fire department is equally taxed with a record number of emergency calls last year. In fact, this year, we are on pace to exceed the busiest year on record by 1,000 emergency calls. These are fires, car accidents, heart attacks, first aid calls, and every other emergency that is imaginable. Our City cannot afford further cuts to public safety. 

When the Council approved our contracts, it must also, as part of its job, make sure that the City honors those contracts. That means funding them. You have to make the hard decisions to raise revenue to pay for these important and necessary services. Cutting the number of police and firefighters is not the answer.

I understand that you are under extreme pressure. I know that there are voters that are threatening to hold each of you accountable if you support this garbage user fee. But it is your job to make the hard decisions to benefit the entire City. 

When each of you were sworn in as Council Members, you took an oath to: “faithfully discharge the duties of the office of the City Council.” This is an oath to all residents of the City…whether they are taxpayers, or not…whether they are voters, or not.  

And I thank those residents that came here tonight, and last week, to express their displeasure with the proposal. Their voices are important. But you have to consider the voices of the people that cannot be heard. You have to consider the children, the infirm people, and the elderly people that are unable to come here tonight to discuss their concerns with you. Their silent voices are just as important. Will you look at our children, at our older residents, at our infirm residents, and tell them that when they call 911, there may not be enough police or firefighters to answer their call? Will you tell them that 65 cents a day was too much to pay for their health and safety?

Do you know what happens when you lay off 20 firefighters and 25 police officers? You not only hurt valued and loyal city employees, but you hurt their families as well. 

Twenty firefighters. Twenty Five police officers. Forty-five employees that put their lives on the line for you and everyone in our great city every single day that they come to work. Will you reward the twenty firefighters for their selfless dedication by laying them off because 65 cents a day is too much? If so, then you should thank them for their loyalty and selfless service to you and our City: Jason O’Toole. Michael Daniels, Gifford Harris, Peter DiFrancesco, Joshua Magnuson, Joseph Dobmeier, August Nienburg, Luke Marin, Jonathan Scott, Joshua Carey, Gary Smith, Joseph Tardibuono, Lee Canning, James Majka, Christopher Wolf, Brandon Dixon, Andrew Atkinson, Jesse Clyde, John Sisler, Aaron Malstrom. 

These are your twenty.

 

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