it is dangerous business. I cannot help but think, every time that I administer the oath to a new firefighter, that I might be assisting them in entering into a compact with the citizens of the City of Niagara Falls, the result of which might be that they are asked to sacrifice their life for the lives of their fellow citizens. But that’s part of the bargain, right?
In exchange, we owe them our utmost support, and that extends not just to providing good leadership, to providing good training, and to providing the very best equipment that we can provide. It also means that we need to make certain that they are fairly compensated during the time that they are working for us, that they have proper health care, including coverage if they should become injured or disabled on the job‐‐which of course is a constant threat, and that when they have served up their years in the Niagara Falls Fire Department we will look after them in their retirement. I renew my pledge today, to be certain that we take care of these very important things, as well as the first three.
I think we have a special responsibility here. We’ve got responsibilities for everyone who works hard for the City of Niagara Falls, and all of our city employees work hard. But there is something different about the public safety services, because I understand when I administer that oath, that any of these young men or woman that put on the uniform for the City of Niagara Falls could lose their life the very first day on the job. It’s possible. It can happen. So, from the very first day of their service, we have a very, very special responsibility to them.
At this point in time, I feel as though my responsibility to lead here in Niagara Falls means that I have to defend my public safety services under some very difficult circumstances that we now face. Everyone knows that the City of Niagara Falls is undergoing some major financial hardship as a result of the failure of the Seneca Nation of Indians to deliver revenues to the State of New York, which means the State of New York has no revenues to deliver to us. It’s somewhere, I suppose, around $60 million that we’re now owed. And if you are wondering how we spent casino revenues when we had them to spend, look right in front of you at the new equipment that we have been able to purchase for the Niagara Falls Fire Department with those revenues. How ironic it is here on the anniversary of 9/11, when we are talking about the gallant efforts of NYC firefighters to rescue people from a high-rise office building in downtown Manhattan, that the entity that creates perhaps the greatest firefighting challenge for the City of Niagara Falls is not paying their fair share of our public safety services.
I know it’s a difficult thing to have to discuss on the anniversary of 9/11, but it’s a cold hard reality that I have to face as Mayor, and I’m rapidly reaching the point where I might have to talk to my Fire Chief about whether I would ask my firefighters to respond to a contingency in that high-rise hotel at a time when the Senecas are not keeping up their part of the social compact. How could I lay off firefighters, and then ask them to respond to a fire at the Seneca Hotel without having taken some sort of dramatic step somewhere along the line to make sure that the casino pays its’ fair share. As I say, these are difficult issues to try to discuss on the anniversary of 9/11, but I felt that it was something that absolutely needed to be said. There is a social compact that exists here, there are certain unwritten rules leave aside the legal agreements that underpin our society.
< BACK NEXT PAGE >