I concur with Mayor Andy Berke's pension plan. A five percent pay cut across the board is not too much to ask, and raising the retirement age to 58 seems modest in my opinion.
I doubt that Chris Willmore, president of the pension board, speaks for the rank and file when he states, "If this goes in, fire and police from all ranks will up and quit."
And if they do, It's a nifty way for Mayor Berke to raise taxes, because the gangbangers will have a field day upon the good citizens who vote. In private industry, we call this tactic, "Exploiting the irrational passions of the gullible fools, in order to filch power and wealth unto the city's coffers."
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First off I am glad that the mayor has to find a friend as far as Knoxville. Also, what you and the citizens of Chattanooga need to realize is I have options to protect my family. My first option is hope that the pendulum swings back the other direction, which I doubt before I die. Option two is expand on my two year fire science degree and obtain my professional engineering degree in fire engineering.
You see the mayor can’t have it both ways, low wages and poor benefits. I make less as a lieutenant then the workers at McDonalds expect. I had friends out of college making a lot more than me ask, “Why are you a firefighter, they make such a low wage?” My response was I love the job, it is recession resistant (stable), and the benefits are great (pension and healthcare). Well healthcare has all but crumbled.
My point is, I still have options not necessarily what I planned on, however firefighters that have 15 years or more to go do not, I am on the bubble with 12.5 years. People with less time than myself will leave and the new people coming in will not be the best quality because the city has downgrade the standard. Most everyone the last four fire academies are college degree holders. Some will hold out hope because they do not have a wife and kids yet. When they do their outlook will change.
Walk a day in a firefighters or police officers shoes, much less 30 years and see if you want a 55 to 65 year old trying to get you out of a house fire or chasing an 18-year-old gangbanger down the street.
These are not scare tactics, but reality. You get what you pay for and I will go back to school and make $70k with private sector benefits, no bluff there, just reality.
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To Mayor Andy Berke, Chief of Staff Travis McDonough and the Chattanooga City Council,
What have the fire and police ever done wrong to you? Why are we at cross purposes?
Decades of experience are walking out the door and can never be replaced. Officers who could have stayed have not. We are dying from slow hemorrhaging . And why? All we are asking for is to be treated as respected and valued members of this city. We ask for nothing more than what was promised and in return we have had more and more heaped on. More and more taken. Why?
We do what our job requires. We keep our word. Keep yours. Lead us to a better city. Show us the way. Stand with us to help bring this city forward to better times. But please, please, don't cut us off at the knees. Don't let our sacrifices be for nothing. Or used as a political stepping stones to something you see as better. Don't use us as bargaining chips.
This city is a good one and could be a better one if we all pull together. Don't make a revolving door for fire and police officers. Don't say public safety is your number one goal and then try to do this to us, your officers. Don't make the only retention tool you have be the promise of better times that start at the end of your first and only term.
Take care of us as we have taken care of this city. Help us and we will help you. Lead us. Lead us well. We will follow.
26 years with the city