Our Fire Companies Should Not be Political Pawns

Working together, the volunteer firefighters of Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies serve  Tredyffrin Township.  Many of our residents and their families are involved in the volunteer firefighting effort and proudly serve our community.  Firefighting is demanding. There are hours of training involved, requirements to be met, standards to uphold, and volunteer firefighters are not compensated in the traditional way. There is no big paycheck or large monetary bonus to work harder.

John DiBuonaventuro has served as a volunteer firefigher for the Paoli Fire Company for many years and is passionate in his support.  In his position as a member of the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro also serves as the fire company liaison.  As an audience member in this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting,  I witnessed an uncomfortable exchange between Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Warren Kampf in regards to the fire companies and their funding.  Understanding DiBuonaventuro’s long-standing support of the  fire companies vs. Kampf’s vote against full-funding of the fire companies in the township’s 2010 budget . . . one might question Supervisor Kampf’s sudden interest in our local fire companies and their funding. 

Our volunteer firefighters deserve our community’s support . . .  but I think we would all agree they should not be used as pawns in a political campaign. Today’s Main Line Suburban newspaper includes the following As I See It opinion article, The continual politicization of our fire services, which speaks directly to this topic.

    As I See It: The continual politicization of our fire services

By John V. Petersen

As if the big cardboard-check moment during the Dec. 12, 2009 Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting wasn’t enough, we had another play at Monday night’s BOS meeting involving the fire service as a political football. As we all know, Warren Kampf, current Tredyffrin BOS member and previous chairman, is seeking to challenge Rep. Paul Drucker for the State Representative seat for the 157th Legislative District. At Monday night’s BOS meeting, Mr. Kampf stated that he met with members of the Berwyn Fire Company and the topic of a stable long-term firefighter-funding source was discussed. What Mr. Kampf failed to tell the public was his visit to Berwyn was in connection with his 157th candidacy, not in his capacity as a Tredyffrin supervisor. For the record Supervisor and Paoli firefighter John “J.D.” DiBuonaventuro serves as the fire liaison.

 In that capacity, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro has had such meetings concerning the fire task force and funding with Berwyn and Paoli FDs and updates on that progress have been shared with the public, most recently at the March 1, 2010 meeting. On that same day Mr. Kampf sought the Montgomery County endorsement for the 157th and therefore did not attend the March 1 meeting and clearly was not aware that the matter was already discussed during the previous meeting.

What I find disingenuous is Mr. Kampf on one hand stating the importance of finding a stable long-term funding source for the fire companies and on the other hand, most previously in his role as BOS Chairman, supporting cuts to the fire service and at the same time retaining funding for the annual July 4 fireworks display. These two viewpoints are completely irreconcilable. It should also be noted that earlier in his tenure on the BOS, Mr. Kampf served on fire task force. Accordingly Mr. Kampf has already had an opportunity to address the issues that are currently being addressed by Supervisor DiBuonaventuro. It is clear that the only motivation here is Mr. Kampf’s pursuit of higher political office. And to that end he is seeking to use the fire service as a pawn in his political chess game. Between the big cardboard-check event and last night’s meeting, it is clear Mr. Kampf is using a public forum dedicated to township business for his own political purposes. In a word it is inappropriate.

When the firefighters and EMTs perform their heroic work, they don’t ask about party registration. To be used as a political football of sorts is to denigrate that heroic work. Ultimately Mr. Kampf is free to run his campaign as he sees fit. As citizens we have forums like this to hold candidates and office-holders accountable. All I would ask is that Mr. Kampf campaign on his own time, not during the time when the business of Tredyffrin Township is to be addressed. Further, I would ask that all candidates leave the fire service out of their political calculus. There are plenty of other matters ripe for politics. The fire service is not one of them.

John V. Petersen lives in Paoli.

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Fire Company ePetition Administrator Speaks Out

I am hoping that this will be the last entry on the firefighter’s ePetition.  Last week, I posted TTRC Chair CT Alexander’s Letter to the Editor in which he stated that he signed the firefighter’s ePetition.  Research on the ePetition showed that his name was not on the list which caused a major debate about whether or not Mr. Alexanders’ name was simply removed.  Only one person who could answer those accusations – Laurie Elliot, the firefighter’s ePetition administrator.  It only seems fair that I post her response on the subject – a Letter to the Editor which is in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life.

Included in her statement, Laurie includes a link to the ePetition if anyone wants to check the signatures.  Laurie created the ePetition as a vehicle for residents (like herself) to show their support of the fire companies and to encourage the supervisors to reinstate the fire companies budget cut.

On the same subject, it has been a month since the unveiling of the cardboard check at the December 21 Board of Supervisor Meeting.  To bring you up-to-date on the promised contributions, yesterday I emailed Supervisors Lamina, Kampf and Olson for an update on money collected.  My latest information is that the supervisors have collected $8,950. I am hopeful that more money has been turned over to the Berwyn Fire Company for distribution, but as of today I have no further updates.  On the $5K in matching funds from the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee, Mr. Alexander’s last correspondence indicated that just about all that money has been delivered to the fire company.  In my last phone call from Supervisor Olson, he stated that the $23,200 total would be delivered to the fire company by March 31st. 

This is all about making sure that the volunteer firefighters receive their promised money — nothing more, no political agenda on my part.  Since the township’s 2010 budget was passed with the fire department cut, I take it seriously to make sure that these volunteers receive the total contribution as promised by Supervisors Kampf, Lamina and Olson.

Fire companies need support

To the Editor:

This is in response to a letter in last week’s paper by Tredyffrin Republican Party chair John C.T. Alexander. In it he claims to have signed the “Internet petition in favor of reinstatement of the Berwyn Fire Company’s budget cut from the [Tredyffrin] township’s 2010 budget.”

As the administrator of that e-petition, I monitored it during its 10-day online life and closed it on Dec. 21 when I presented a copy of it to the Board of Supervisors at their meeting that evening. The petition and all those who signed it can still be viewed at tredto.epetitions.net.

In total, 534 people found their way to the Web site and signed the petition. But John C.T. Alexander’s name is not among them.

Further, it is difficult to understand why Mr. Alexander would claim he signed it. His very public position that the long-term needs of our volunteer fire companies can be met through ad-hoc private donations misses the whole point of the petition and clings to a Band-Aid approach.

The fire companies not only needed their 2010 funding restored, but they need a comprehensive, long-term solution that provides support for their operating and capital expenditures in the future. And not until such a plan is in place can the community “move on” as some are suggesting.

Sincerely,

Laurie Elliott, Wayne