Firefighters Compensation issues to bankrupt Dade County
-may destroy hundreds of firefighter jobs-
26 Nov 2009
My grandfather, Hoyt Eller, was a union member when he moved here in 1923 to help build the Boca Raton Hotel. At that time, in order to get into the union, it was necessary to have at least two years of formal training in your craft and own your own tools. Granddad was not just a regular carpenter, he was a skilled “finish carpenter” and did the fancy wood work that still enhances the entrance lobby of the Boca Raton Hotel today. Therefore, because of my respect for my Grandfather Eller, I made sure I hired a carpenter union member to lead the building of my own house in 1971.
Boy was that a mistake. Unbeknownst to me at that time, almost anyone could get into the carpenter’s union by then. You didn’t even have to know how to hang a door or install roof joists correctly. By the time I figured it out, and in addition caught my union carpenter building things on my job site for other people while charging me, I’d bought myself thousands of dollars of education.
Fast forward to a current union situation a effecting all of us in South Florida: In Dade County, there are dozens of firefighters, according to the Miami Herald, who are grossing more than general surgeons ($228,000) or obstetricians ($203,000), even though firefighters only need a high school equivalency degree. Capt. Raul Fernandez, a firefighter/paramedic crew leader in the Brickell area is one of the leaders in compensation with estimated earnings of approximately $349,279. He responded to the Herald saying: “Now, here’s this pot of gold in front of you, and you just want to stick your hand in it. Do the numbers look bad? Yeah, they look bad. But I worked the hours!”
He is one of 19 firefighters in Dade costing taxpayers more than $300,000 a year in compensation and benefits. Another 161 of the 630 sworn firefighters are making over $200,000! And that is just from the government, as most of them work 24 hours on and 48 hours off as firefighters and have other jobs and businesses going on the side.
No wonder these jobs, while they last, are highly coveted. Last February, Miami advertised 35 more firefighter jobs, and more than 1,000 people stood in line and camped overnight for a shot at getting one. Unfortunately for the general public, most jobs are also “wired” ahead of time, by those on the “inside” making friends and taking certain courses ahead of time to get an advantage.
Although Dade County is used as an example here, the same type of thing is happening in Broward, Palm Beach and other counties. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer is threatening to lay off a sizeable number of their firefighters in order to get costs within an affordable budget. So are places as far away as Los Angeles and Oakland. Other cities are preparing to shut down the gravy train for the few and privatize the whole system. As they’ve done to the automobile and other industries, the union is bringing its own ultimate demise on itself.
–David Eller, Publisher
Dion in Deerfield Beach
15 Oct 2009
Dion, who has earned 12 gold records so far in his career, including such hits as “A Teenager in Love,” “Runaround Sue,” “Ruby Baby” and “Abraham, Martin and John,” now lives in South Florida. He sang four of his hit songs for Kiwanis Club members recently when he came as a friend of one of the members to perform and share his testimony as a Christ follower. He talked about growing up in the Bronx, New York City, learning to play the guitar as a teenager and then joining some friends on nearby Belmont street to form a band which they called Dion and the Belmonts.
They were good enough that a New York record company signed them and they cut their first record: “I Wonder (Wonder) Why,” which hit the Top Ten nationally. Shortly thereafter, Dick Clark put them on American Bandstand and they were off performing all around the USA on tours with Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and other up-and-coming musicians.
However, two things were missing in his life: his girlfriend, Susan, and God. He took care of Susan, eventually, by marrying her in 1963, and they’ve just celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary. However, God got his attention in a different way. Although he was a once-a-year attendee at the New York neighborhood Catholic church, and enjoyed bantering on the sidewalk with the priest on occasion, like many others he just ignored his spiritual yearnings most of the time. But then came Feb. 3, 1959. Buddy Holly invited Dion to get on the small plane with him, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper to fly from Duluth, MN in the middle of a snow storm to their next gig in Fargo, ND. Dion thought about it, then declined, telling Buddy the $36 per person cost was too much.
Dion continues: “The next day, I stood in the lobby of the hotel in Moorhead, MN. There was a television on the wall announcing that the plane carrying Buddy, Ritchie and the Big Bopper had gone down in the storm. There were no survivors. From that moment on, I knew God had a plan for me.”
Dion shared his testimony and spiritual journey as a Christian as he encouraged others to do the same and get in a right relationship with God. Dion closed by playing and singing “The Wanderer.”
FPL’s abuse of power
17 Sep 2009
How stupid do they think we are? When FPL writes max-out checks to every elected state politician in Florida, both Democrat and Republican, each election cycle, they apparently figure it gives them the right to have their “financial way” with us, the public! In a way you can’t blame them. It has been working for them for decades. It is obviously their “business plan.”
However, they are now so bold that they are going for a 31 percent raise on all of our electric bills in just one year. When it was discovered that their Chief Executive, Lewis Hay III, paid himself $12.5 million in compensation a short time ago, and paid numerous other executives huge amounts, way above normal in the industry, and some members of the legislature demanded a public disclosure of their top 100 or so executives, Lewis Hay III and FPL executives went ballistic. They are fighting the disclosure of their compensation packages all the way to the Florida Supreme Court.
Now, unless you didn’t know it, this is not a regular free enterprise company. It is a state-authorized monopoly. Their pay, therefore, should be made public. Most importantly, we need our state elected officials to refuse FPL’s contributions and start representing the people, instead of this abusive monopolistic Power Company. For instance, it has been revealed recently that some of the five Public Service Commissioners, who are supposed to be watching out for us, and some of their staff have been going to social parties sponsored by FPL. To send a message, they should all be fired immediately. Then, a full investigation initiated by state authorities to investigate FPL’s business practices from top to bottom should start.
David Eller, Publisher
Question: Why are people moving from South Florida?
3 Sep 2009
Answer: We are taxing them away!
For the first time in history, more people are moving out of Florida than are moving in, including several of our good friends who moved this year. When asked why they are moving, the answer is most often the same: “I can’t afford (to pay) the taxes on my home (or business) here anymore!” People in the real estate business tell us that they have lost many a sale when clients find out how expensive their property taxes are going to be. The result is hundreds of houses and condos simply abandoned, and “for rent” signs on business buildings all over town.
It should be obvious to our elected officials by now that something has to give. The largest single budget item for all our cities, including the City of Deerfield Beach, is labor costs. Most private companies, including our own, have had to downsize in order to stay financially viable. Downsizing, of course, means that employees who are kept on may have to work a little harder; and some labor outsourcing will need to occur when “crunch times” come during the year.
However, local government also needs to out-source some services. It is tough to do in government because government employees pack the chamber room whenever the issue is brought up. Our elected officials, however, need to look at the big picture and the welfare of the entire community and direct the City Manager to look into what services could be completely or partially outsourced.
Afraid of losing your job?
28 Aug 2009
A lot of people will lose their jobs if Obama and the Democrats in Congress continue on their announced plan to pay for their excessive spending by raising taxes on small business owners. What the politicians are overlooking is that these same business owners, before they pay their taxes to the government, typically have had to borrow money from banks to pay for their buildings, equipment and even their employee payrolls. Most of the money they “make,” therefore, and that is showing up on their tax returns as “income,” actually goes to pay the bank back, often leaving relatively little left over for the business owner. If the government takes more of the business’ money in taxes up front, then there is less money left to pay the bank loan or to pay to the employees. This makes banks more reluctant to lend and stifles employee jobs and raises.
Obviously something has to give. The government will put the business owners in jail if they don’t pay their taxes, and the bank can take their buildings and equipment. The only place left for the business to get the additional funds needed to pay the additional government taxes is by laying off employees. Thus, the victims of higher government taxes are actually the employees of private businesses.
But, government employees shouldn’t get too smug either. Because as financial pressures mount on the business community, businesses close and people lose their homes; government will also have to downsize too. In other words, if you work for the government, you may be next.
Thus the best way to protect all jobs and get out of this recession is to lower taxes, not raise them. This will encourage business investment, create jobs and put people back to work.
Ethical witch hunt
26 Feb 2009
The rush by the current City Commission to pass a sweeping ethics ordinance being pushed by Commissioner Pam Militello seven days before our municipal election on Mar. 10 is nothing less than breathtaking. The 20-page document contains 5,471 words of blather written by local attorney Tom Connick. It is apparently intended to hamstring and harass the mayor, each of the commissioners, the city manager, city employees and everyone seeking to do business here and even candidates for office as well. Without boring you with all of the complicated details, which will be impossible for anyone to understand and to comply with, those officials and candidates who would be under the hammer of this ordinance might find it very stressful and potentially expensive to even work for this City. The first vote of the Commission took place on Feb. 17 with District 1 Commissioner Militello (who took only four years to produce the ordinance) voting for it, ironically along with Marty Popelsky, who has often been accused of violating the existing code and interim District 4 Commissioner Colleen Simpson-DiDonato. Mayor Poitier and interim Commissioner Gloria Battle wisely voted against it.
One of the problems is that this ordinance could cost the City, and, therefore, us taxpayers, potentially millions of dollars spent with Tom Connick or other “outside” lawyers. This is because it contains enforcement procedures which authorize the city attorney to refer a matter to an outside lawyer and then to retain a retired judge to hear the complaint with appeals to the Broward County Circuit Court. Since the City would be obligated to pay the legal costs, just imagine the additional expense this ordinance will cost the taxpayers, especially considering the fact that the State of Florida already has ethics laws 68 pages long on the books.
If the legal notice provisions are met and this ordinance goes to a final vote on Mar. 3, we sincerely hope that Commissioners Militello and Popelsky will reconsider, in light of the potential additional legal costs for the City and that Commissioner Simpson-DiDonato will abstain and allow whoever is elected in her district on Mar. 10 to study this matter, hold public hearings to get the input of the citizens and to act in the best interests of all of the residents and officials of Deerfield Beach.
Meet my neighbor and friend … Joe Miller
5 Feb 2009
Candidate for Deerfield Beach City Commission, District 1
I have lived my entire life, other than my college years, in Deerfield Beach. My wife of 41 years and all three of our children and nine grandchildren also live here in homes on the same street. Our neighbor living across the street for nearly 20 years is City Commission candidate Joe Miller, his wife Carol and their adopted daughter Jasmin. Their two grown sons, John and Jim, also grew up on our street and are both now out of college, married, and own their own homes in The Cove section of Deerfield Beach. These young men now run the very successful family business: Miller Pest Control.
In the last few years, as his sons took over the day to day responsibilities of managing the family business, Joe started getting more involved in civic activities, professional organizations and charity work. He had already been State President of his own professional association: Certified Pest Control Operators of Florida. So he became more active in the two main charity service clubs in Deerfield Beach: Kiwanis and the Rotary Club, where he was elected president.
Joe and I were chatting in our front yards a few months ago concerning the rundown appearance of parts of our neighborhood along A1A and a rumored prison release facility being located in one of the motels only two blocks from our homes. Additionally, he thought The Cove Shopping Center needed improvements and more parking capacity and something needed to be done to avoid the traffic jams which occur every weekend on the beach and on Hillsboro Boulevard. The subject then turned to our concerns about local tax rates on our homes and businesses, which could prevent our children or grandchildren from being able to afford to live here.
A few days later, Joe told me he was seriously thinking of running for the Deerfield Beach City Commission so he could do something positive about these problems which have lingered for years. I warned him that, in my opinion, the City is about to run into some serious financial problems as certain fire union pension contracts are going to require the City and its citizens to find some additional $30 to $40 million of additional tax dollars in the not too distant future. Joe assured me that he was used to dealing with employees and cutting all kinds of expenses when necessary during hard times.
As regards “saving our beach,” Joe is as committed as his opponent is to accomplishing that “apple pie” – type goal. The difference is that unlike his opponent, Joe doesn’t need an out-of-town lawyer as his surrogate to represent him at political events. This same out-of-town lawyer, incidentally, actually sued our city last year on behalf of a private party trying to confiscate one of Deerfield’s city parks on the beachside Intracoastal waterway through some outrageous legal trickery. The incumbent commissioner from District 1 did nothing as far as I know to stop her lawyer from doing this. We citizens on the beach, including Joe Miller, had to get a petition going and actually join the lawsuit with the City in order to save our park. We eventually won and defeated her lawyer, but at great expense to the City, you the tax payers, and some of us private citizens wanting to preserve our park space. So if you really want to save our beach and also our parks, better get involved to help Joe Miller get elected in District 1.