As mayor, as a legislator and as a citizen and small-business owner, I’ve always treated firefighters, police, EMTs and our military as heroes and that’s never going to change. Whether it’s raising charity funds for and with them, small personal touches like delivering pies and cakes on Christmas morning to police stations and fire houses, or voting to add millions or spend tens of millions of dollars in funding to ensure they have the equipment, training and manpower they need, my lifelong record is unabashedly pro-public safety.
The challenge with battling public safety unions is they hide behind the heroes on the front lines. It’s election time and union bosses are again filling the airwaves with bogus claims. So here are the facts.
While our per capita GDP is not as high as wealthier cities like Chandler, Gilbert or Scottsdale, Glendale spends more per capita on law enforcement than any of them.
Contrary to claims that we shortchange fire or police, Glendale spends more per capita on public safety than every city in Maricopa County we have data for.
We know these statistics because they’re part of the research that goes into our contract negotiations with police/fire. So how about those contracts? While the union bosses cry that our firefighters are underpaid, thanks to the recently completed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), Glendale firefighters are the highest compensated fire union in Arizona.
While the average Glendale family earns just $58,000 per year, the base firefighter costs the city almost $160,000 per year for salary, benefits, insurance and retirement. On top of that, they work the equivalent of 5.2 40-hour weeks less than any other fire department in the state of Arizona.
Making three times what your average family makes while enjoying more time off, along with a stout pension/retirement plan, is why rank-and-file firefighters are happy in Glendale and why we can get over 600 applicants for a single position when they become available.
The union bosses claim Glendale has failed to put into service a single Advanced Life Support unit. Not true. Glendale has added two low-acuity response teams over the past three years, which ensure the city’s Advanced Life Support resources are available when needed. Additionally, even in today’s bleak, virus-impacted economic climate, the city budget for next year proposes four additional firefighter positions to create a high-acuity medical response unit as well.
The union bosses want to whip voters into an angry mood, so they claim the city voted to forgive more than $1 million owed us by a billion-dollar company. That’s another lie. The city agreed to delay a payment by our largest hotel, which also manages our convention center, as encouraged by the governor, president and other leaders. The city will receive every penny owed, just 10 months later than originally expected. Not a single cent was forgiven.
The ugliest lie that gets people most upset is that I and the council turned our backs on a firefighter who had a cancer-related workman’s comp claim denied. At all times, that firefighter had access to the city’s top-of-the-line medical insurance offered by Arizona Blue Cross Blue Shield, but his additional claim was denied by an independent board whose decision was reportedly binding on the city.
I disagreed with the finding and insisted we find a way to appeal or overrule it. When our city manager confirmed we could set it aside and approve the claim, we did so, and that firefighter has been able to get the treatment he needs while he and his family are protected financially.
Partisan unions don’t always represent their members well when it comes to politics. In 2016, the fire unions attacked Glendale police, claiming crime was out of control when the data and facts were quite different. For the fire union bosses it was just politics as usual, but to the people of Glendale it was ugly, dishonest and wrong. The fire unions lost. Now, they’re following the same playbook for 2020.
Contrary to their lies, I value first responders, and our city does, too. That’s why our compensation packages are tops and why we get them what they need to do their job. As one recent article about these union attacks wrote, “It is clear that in Glendale, Mayor Weiers cares a lot more about his firefighters than their out-of-Glendale union bosses do.”
Those who wear the uniform each day deserve our best.
And in Glendale, they get it.