Monday, January 24, 2011

Recent History

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

The Fire Starter was recently in the public library reading the Press & Sun Bulletin in an attempt to get a better grip on the Village's situation.  It was really quite an education.  Our paper of record had extensive writings on the subject that were extremely informative.

We found a story in which the reduction in fire department manning was discussed.  The mayor claimed that the Village could not afford the fire department.  The Mayor argued that occasional or permanent closures of a fire station may be required.  Although we had not recalled this, the fire chief made grave predictions about the cost in safety to citizens and fire fighters noting "the fewer men you have, the more injuries you're going to suffer.  The number six is not a safe number".  We were struck by what a "stand up guy" the chief is.

We also found angry letters to the editor from residents concerned with the decreased protection.  One in particular charged that the mayor is "more worried about overtime expense than the safety of village homes and lives."  We could not agree more.  Others charged that "if you give up on services you're going to lose all of your people".  The Mayor responded that "the trustees are faced, in my opinion, with tax increases that will lead to a dissolution of the village".

We found numerous articles in which local fire officials were critical of any attempt to go to a mixed paid and volunteer department.  The obvious increase in burden on surrounding paid and volunteer departments was repeatedly sited.  Also noted were decreased response times and effectiveness.

We found an editorial which noted that the Mayor's "supporters will no doubt claim that he improved things in the village while detractors will insist he has made a mess.  Both sides will agree that his term brought tumult, turmoil and a near-total lack of civility to village government".   The mayor's term will go down as "one of the most contentious -- and expensive -- terms in village history."

Everything seemed to meet with our recollection of the last 18 months.  All except the "stand up guy" as fire chief.  We did not recall Hrustich being a "stand up guy" at all.  In fact quite the opposite -- all Hrustich has done is promote himself and his bank account while placing residents and fire fighters at risk.

Suddenly we noticed that we were in the archive section of the library and the newspapers were from 2002 and 2003.  The fire chief concerned for the safety of fire fighters and residents was Stephen Andrew of the Endicott fire department.  And the shortsighted and vindictive mayor was not Dennis Hannon but Michael Colella. 

Fire starter was struck by the fact that Hannon has been singing from Colella's hymn book.  The rhetoric and the scare tactics are the same.  The Hobson's choice remains the same -- slash the fire department and safety or all will be lost.  The petty demonization of village employees.  The only new twist is Hannon's abuse of disciplinary charges to persecute his enemies.  This was apparently a trick Hannon learned as police chief.

The end of the Colella story is as instructive today as it was seven years ago.  Colella's destructive policies and personal bullying left him the disgraced former mayor of Endicott.  True leaders led the Village of Endicott out of the mess Colella created.  The fire department was saved and the public protected.  Colella was relegated to the dustbin of history.

Now Hannon and Bertoni have gone down the same road previously trod by Colella.  Could their political demise be far behind?

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