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Posted on Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

Ann Arbor fire chief heavily critical of city in new letter to City Council, decries looming cuts

By Ryan J. Stanton

In a new letter to the Ann Arbor City Council, departing Fire Chief Dominic Lanza criticized the city for reducing staffing in the fire department to potentially dangerous levels.

Lanza said last month he was resigning from his post after a year on the job for personal reasons. Had it not been for that, Lanza wrote today, he would have left for the "lack of support" and the "systematic destruction" of the department.


Ann Arbor Fire Chief Dominick Lanza is heavily critical of the city of Ann Arbor in a new letter to the City Council

Ryan J. Stanton |

Lanza's resignation last month was to be effective March 25.

"Public safety, while costly, is the most important service that government must provide," Lanza wrote. "Ann Arbor Fire Department is at a point where public safety is jeopardized. Our city is full of homes and commercial structures that were built over 100 years ago; they have questionable wiring and lack current safety standards built into the codes."

Lanza's letter comes as the city is considering deep cuts to the fire department over the next two years. The city already cut five firefighter positions last year.

Current staffing levels are below nationally recognized standards and make the Ann Arbor Fire Department a "one-fire incident department," Lanza said. By that, he said, he means one substantial fire is all that can be handled at a time — there does not exist the reserve equipment or personnel to handle two significant incidents simultaneously.

"I urge you to move forward cautiously, pursue regional fire protection as a way to save and be more effective," Lanza wrote. "Paid on-call and volunteer are not the answer. Your jobs are difficult but I implore you, be strong, make the right decisions, do not further undermine the effectiveness of your fire department."

Matt Schroeder, president of the firefighters union, said he had no comment on the chief's departing letter, other than to say it stands for itself.

City Administrator Roger Fraser could not be reached for comment, nor could Mayor John Hieftje.

"I feel as if I've just been told the truth," Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, said in response to Lanza's letter today.

Briere said she feels the city's administration has spent the last year telling City Council how uncooperative and unwilling the fire department has been in negotiations.

"What I haven't heard from anybody on staff is anything positive about the other side," Briere said, noting Lanza's letter finally does give the firefighters credit. "I never heard it from the fire chief, I never heard it from the chief of police, I never heard it from anybody in HR. What I'm seeing is that there's a discouragement of information flow to council perhaps."

Lanza pointed out the firefighters are the only unionized employees in the city who have taken pay cuts of 3 percent as well as an additional 1 percent pension contribution.

"Are they thanked for their willingness to assist," Lanza wrote. "NO, they are told to give more before other unionized employees give any?"

Lanza criticized the city for deciding recently to temporarily close one fire station in lieu of overtime payments to firefighters. He said response times are lengthened and property damages and potential injury or loss of life increase when that occurs.

"Ours is an aggressive offensive fire department, which means they enter the building, search for victims and extinguish the fire quickly," Lanza wrote. "As staffing continues to drop, it will be forced to become a defensive fire department that means they rarely enter buildings and focus on saving surrounding buildings."

Lanza used a sports analogy to drive home his point. "By the continued cuts in fire protection, I can only compare it to playing baseball with a basketball team," he wrote. "Being short the people needed to field a full team, we will certainly lose."

The City Council recently was presented with options for trimming nearly $1.2 million from the fire department's budget over the next two fiscal years. That includes eliminating up to 13 firefighter positions. The council is expected to make a final decision in May.

Council Member Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward, said she read Lanza's letter today and takes the concerns the chief raised very seriously.

She pointed out the city has hired a consultant to complete a staffing analysis in the fire department. The city continues to consider implementing a new system that would blend full-time professional firefighters with a staff of paid on-call firefighters.

"I do know that we are doing a study in the very near term, so it's something that I look forward to getting the results back," Smith said. "We kind of find ourselves between a rock and a hard place and none of us want to compromise the welfare and safety of any citizens, so it's a very tough call. And we're not alone in this if you look across the state."

Asked whether cuts can be avoided in the fire department, Smith said "I think there's going to be cuts everywhere." The city estimated a $2.4 million deficit at the start of the budget process, but city officials think the hole could be as large as $3 million or more now.

"It's our job then to listen to our constituents and prioritize," Smith said. "Not everybody's going to come out of this clean. It's a matter of balancing what the community needs are."

Before he turned in his badge and hung up his hat in fall of 2009, previous Fire Chief Samuel Hopkins sent out a similar goodbye letter telling Ann Arbor firefighters he'd pray for them.

"During these tough economic times, it is difficult to make up for the poor administrative decisions that were made during more prosperous periods," Hopkins wrote in a Sept 2009 e-mail to the entire city fire department.

"Therefore this city finds itself in financial difficulties," Hopkins continued. "In order to salvage the budget problems, the decision makers are planning to ask our members to sacrifice so that this city can attempt to recover economic stability going forward. In leaving, I pray that your safety and the safety of this beautiful city isn't part of the casualties of your sacrifice."

Schroeder noted last month there have been four appointed chiefs of the Ann Arbor Fire Department since 2002, as well as four interim chiefs. As with any organization without consistent leadership, he said, the department has suffered as a result.

"This most recent vacancy adds to the long list of chiefs with very short tenures who could not meet the demands placed upon them by the city administrator," he said.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.


Cynthia Plaster Caster

Mon, Mar 21, 2011 : 2:54 a.m.

The cuts to basic fire protection show how out of touch this city administration is with the people of Ann Arbor.

Dr. Strangelove

Mon, Mar 21, 2011 : 1:21 a.m.

Our elected leaders seem to have learned the lessons of the Shock Doctrine well; never let a crisis go to waste. Who would ever dream that Fire Services would be on the chopping block? But throw in a national economic crisis and all of a sudden our fearless leaders can justify something they've wanted to do all along. CJenkins seems to epitomize the logic; of course we need to cut essential services, it's just the natural order of things, right......wrong, wrong and wrong! showed a graph not too long ago showing how property tax revenue has grown since 2001 (revenue went from around $55 million to over $80 million today.) According to the inflation calculator at <a href="," rel='nofollow'>,</a> $55 million in 2001 is about $69 million today. That means Ann Arbor has realized way more revenue growth than should have been expected if revenue had only kept pace with inflation since 2001. Note that in 2001 Pfizer was still expanding, so today's property tax collection is still more in real terms that what it was when Pfizer was paying property taxes in 2001. So what has the city done with the bounty? They've squandered it on a new City Hall Annex and an unneeded underground parking garage; the city's debt has skyrocketed as a result. The city is facing two fiscal time bombs this Mayor and Council majority have done nothing about: 1) pension costs and 2) road repair. This is not an accident; the implicit plan has been to load the city up with debt incurred through white elephant construction projects while neglecting basic services for residents. By the time the residents get wise to what is going on, it will be too late to do anything about it. The debt will become the excuse to cut basic services while Hieftje's developer cronies will be gorging themselves on the largess.


Mon, Mar 21, 2011 : 12:09 a.m.

Several months ago, there was a fire in a single family house on Georgetown Blvd. in the middle of the night. At the time it was reported that every on-duty firefighter in Ann Arbor was needed to put out the fire and prevent it from spreading to surrounding houses. It was also reported that if another fire had occurred in Ann Arbor at that time, the city has agreements with fire departments in surrounding communities. What if Pittsfield Township firefighters are fighting a fire? How far away would firefighters need to come from? How long would it take? How many firefighters would come to Ann Arbor and would that be enough. It appears that Ann Arbor's fire protection isn't as predictable as some of us would like. What if there is a house or apartment fire on a football Saturday afternoon? Many years ago a house two blocks from us had a severe fire on a pleasant Saturday afternoon. It was in the walls of a brick and aluminum house less than 20 years old. There are many wood frame buildings in town. There's construction in which workers could need to be extricated and that's a fire department call. Besides risks to human lives first and property second, there could be increased fire insurance costs. How much have we paid consultants to study whether we need more firefighters? Is the consultant paid as much as it would cost to employ another firefighter for six months or a year?


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 11:55 p.m.

Why are we asking protectors, healers, and educators to take one cut after another, while giving more to S-Corps of all sizes, including those S-corps earnings of over a million dollars a year? Yes, small businesses are S-corps, but so are Bechtel and private energy related companies with billiionaire owners.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 3:37 a.m.

Yawn. More logorrhea.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 8:27 p.m.

In an earlier article about staffing standards this chief said the dept could still respond efficiently even with the cuts, yet now he is saying the cuts are one of the reasons he is leaving...... Make up your mind Chief


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 12:13 a.m.

&quot;I credit Lanza for going out with a letter that exposed the truth.&quot; I agree with most of your posts but not this one. I agree, he would have been fired if he had not towed the company line but what would have been the difference? His credibility would be intact is one thing I can think of. He was the hired fire professional and should have given Council an honest opinion about AAFD staffing or not comment. That was his job despite what his bosses wanted. He could have joined the long list of AA whistle blowers that get $$$$$ when they don't tow the company line. Would you lie to the public if you were in his position? Based on your posts, I don't think so.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 11:40 p.m.

When you're told what to say by your boss, it's kind of hard. Reasons like that are why he couldn't do it anymore. Same as former Chief Hopkins. I credit Lanza for going out with a letter that exposed the truth. He would have been fired for sure had he gone against the 'script'.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

@ Lester88 The &quot;journalist&quot; was just trying to help promote the mayor and city managers plan by bringing up Bay City, not comparing them. Sorry if it confused you or anyone else.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

@ Ryan Stanton, if you weren't comparing why bring it up?


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 5:28 p.m.

I agree with the message but question the timing. This statement should have been made before Council and the public when he was the chief. Were you a liar then or now Chief? @ Ryan Stanton Bay City as a comparable? MY only response is: LOL!

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 12:19 a.m.

I was reading the story and felt it relevant to share it with those who want to be informed of what other communities in Michigan are doing in regard to fire services in response to budget problems.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 11:39 p.m.

Thanks for responding. Why did you post it and what was your intention if it were not to compare?

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 6:26 p.m.

I wasn't trying to compare the two cities.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 4:27 p.m.

This whole saga is a bit surprising. Everything comes at a price. Its just too bad that many cities are putting public safety on the chopping block before any other non-essential services. The &quot;paid on call&quot; model just won't work with REAL city. The City of Troy are a bunch of industrial parks that completely empty out after dark and also a bunch of newer built homes that are dormant during the day. How many times do people here in the &quot;comments&quot; section have to make reference to this? Its quite obvious. I guess it must be a big scam that all large cities have full-time firemen even though they started off with &quot;volunteers&quot; and &quot;paid on call&quot; firemen. The City of New York was once a bustling small city with volunteer fire departments. The fire service was so ineffective as the city became to large, the Insurance companies actually funded their own fire departments! (In fact, it just closed down a few years ago). The City of Ann Arbor is a REAL city full of life and dynamic events that NEED someone seconds away from the fire engine; not 15 minutes out with a vollie service. I do understand - vollies and paid-on-call'd firemen have their place in most of the USA, but NOT in a BUSY environments. Remember, they have their own REAL jobs and families which are their FIRST priority with the fire service being their SECOND priority.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 12:33 p.m.

Thank you Chief. And for those who continually believe in cutting so deeply into the services provided by the GREAT firefighters of Ann Arbor (or throughout the country) , if it were your house on fire, you definitely would want a department with a quick response time to arrive and take care of the situation -- volunteers (although are great) just cannot to respond as quickly. AAFD has given back to the community by taking cuts and have had stations closed. It is time for the community to support them in all that they do -- I thank them all and commend them all. And remember, I do believe that home insurance companies take into consideration the availability of fire services and others to your home. The lower the rating of the fire department the higher the insurance. At least that was the way of it in the olden times. When I look at the massive building and the funding expended on that, I wonder who is making the decisions for how the tax payers funds are being spent. Too many times, I keep hearing &quot;we can't take from this fund to use for that project&quot; -- when times get tough, maybe this is something that really needs to be looked at--using the funds for more important services -- like fire and police protection. Just yesterday, I saw two street clearners in the same area along with a truck following behind -- the rain will take care of the dirt in the street -- do we really need sweepers.

say it plain

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 3:19 p.m.

The sweepers would be better used to sweep some piles of dirt into the ruts on Miller Road and elsewhere in this city!


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 12:31 p.m.

In Wisconsin, the fire chief and the unions have taken a strong lead in organizing to stop municipal and State underfunding and corporate welfare, low and ineffective taxation, and giveaways to the rich. Their efforts have strengthened the hands of teachers, teaching assistants, other workers and the public's mass revolt. The US is not broke. Michigan is not broke. Ann Arbor is not broke. We need to stop &quot;walking away&quot; from this problem, and do something about it. Join the rallies in Lansing. From or join a group like the Washtenaw County Emergency Task force for Economic Justice (at <a href="," rel='nofollow'>,</a> which will be meeting Monday evening at the Friends Meeting House on Hill St.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 11:58 a.m.

Strange that this article was removed from the site unless you do a search for it. Hieftje and Fraser must not have liked what the residents had to say.

longtime AA

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 8:17 a.m.

Its simple everyone. When your house burns to the ground, just move into the city subsidized homeless shelter. And for recreation, you play golf on one of the city subsidized golf courses. Remember, its your tax dollars art work.

Stuart Brown

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 7:36 a.m.

Another point for Ann Arbor voters to consider: the millage that pays for street repairs is coming up for renewal and the fund that receives the revenues from this millage has a surplus of about $20 million dollars (enough to fix the Stadium Street bridge). Since Ann Arbor has the third worst roads in Michigan while excess funds have been piling up in the street repair fund; voters should not approve the millage renewal when it comes up soon. When the city uses street repair funds for street repair then voters should approve a renewal; only then! Since the street repair fund is one of the infamous buckets that Chris Taylor says can't be used by the general fund; voting down this renewal should not affect fire services which is funded out of the general fund. So what gives with the $20 million surplus in the road fund? Why would the city not want to spend road repair funds on road repair? One can only speculate with this administration, but if one assumes past behavior is a guide to future behavior, one can assume the city is using the surplus to either dress up the city's credit rating with the bond rating agencies (so the city has plenty of money to blow on more white elephants like the hole next to the library) or that Hieftje has some grand scheme in mind to build roads to nowhere while the rest of the city drives on cratered, moonscape roads.

say it plain

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

Seriously?! The city has a *surplus* for road repairs!? I was thinking we should be en masse protesting outside the new City Hall building *demanding* that the roads be repaired immediately, and I didn't even realize that there is a *SURPLUS* in the fund for it?! Has anyone driven on Miller Road lately? I'm surprised there hasn't been a head-on collision yet, because at some points really you have no choice but to slow down to 10 miles an hour *or* swerve into the on-coming traffic lane to keep your car in one piece. Astounding. A surplus. No kidding. Now I will certainly vote against a new millage. What's their plan--to get a new millage voted for by people who'd like to stop needing their car worked on constantly because of the shockingly bad roads in this 'city', and *then* announce that the road-repair 'bucket' has sprung a leak?! grrr....this town is getting so frustrating it might be time to just add to the exodus numbers already. (Disclaimer for those who might accuse me of whining: I *did not* vote for the current axis of city 'leaders'. )

Stuart Brown

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 3:33 a.m.

Cjenkings said, &quot;Of course our fire response and service will go down, but can we help that in these times, NO. Everyone's service is going to go down.&quot; For those not in the know, cjenkings is the consumate political hack and &quot;Friend of John.&quot; We can blame this situation on John Hieftje's asleep at the switch, let them eat cake leadership. I can think of numerous ways the fire department funding can be preserved if the political will existed amongst Hieftje's crew. But sadly, what this situation shows is that there simply is no priority for the needs of the residents of Ann Arbor. The priorities are to take care of the developers whose money finds its way into the pockets of all of John's friends. Here is an example of what could be done: tell UofM that due to budget cuts, the city can no longer offer service to the UofM campus after a certain date and the city looks forward to working with the expanded public safety department the U already has (they can train the campus police to respond to fire emergencies on campus, heck the city can even give back the fire truck the U bought Ann Arbor some years ago!) Note that the previous is impossible due to the fact that John's employment with the U and his wife's employment with the U would be in jeopardy if such a demand was given to UofM. How about not spending $5 million on re-skinning Larcom so it matches the recent expansion (that was another example of a cost not included in the original cost estimate presented to the public when the proposal and cost benefit analysis results were made public.) Or even better yet, how about re-purposing the Green Belt money to save the fire department? It would probably require a vote of the public, but why would that be so hard (Oh, I forgot, the consultants and Friends of John would be very upset with this if it passed)? People need to wake up and understand they are getting the shaft from this mayor and his cronies--the cuts to the fire department pro

Kai Petainen

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 2:37 a.m.

The AAFD responded to a spill. That responsibility was passed to the UofM DPS. That spill was big enough that the AAFD ran out of equipment for that spill. Emergency Management in Ann Arbor felt that a petroleum spill that covered the river (I saw it) had no enivornmental impact, and they weren't in the mood to spend more resources on solving it. I know the value of the AAFD -- they were the heroes that day. It's the others involved who for some reason didn't have whatever equipment / training /drainage maps that were needed to solve it. We need more people,training, AAFD, equipment -- not less.

Kai Petainen

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 2:17 a.m.

&quot;Public safety, while costly, is the most important service that government must provide,&quot; Lanza wrote. &quot;Ann Arbor Fire Department is at a point where public safety is jeopardized. &quot; compare that with this next statement, where the city wasn't willing to solve the huron river spill that the AAFD responded to &quot;No entity has found any significant impact or known cause for the release of what has been clearly been identified (by more than one source) as a petroleum based product.&quot; &quot;No further professional resources will be expended on this incident, we are moving beyond this incident.&quot; -- Emergency Management, A2


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 12:49 a.m.

The guy at the freeway ramp is the vangaurd. Wiill (fill in blank) for food. Rich people will not invest in Michigan unless they can have the majority of the proceeds. They have the power and they can demand it. Collective bargaining was the only way that an ordinary citizen could bargain with the power of wealth. The destruction of collective bargaining is the destruction of the middle class. We essentially will be slaves to those with wealth. We will work for meager housing and a meager meal and be glad to have it. Meanwhile, the Snyders of the world will be raking in more than they can ever use.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 12:05 a.m.

Why are we always cutting the fire department? A few years back city council said the fire dept. was cut to the bone and no further cuts would be made. Now it's OK to have less firefighters? The U of M supposedly owns approximately 50% of the property in the city, and they have there own police dept. to patrol it, then there is the sheriff dept and state police that also cover Ann Arbor. With all that coverage the A2 police would be the place to cut back, if it works in Pontiac it'll work here. So why don't we make cuts in this area? Oh right, the police chief is in charge of safety services and isn't going to cut his department.

Cendra Lynn

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 11:15 p.m.

This is not news. Those of us concerned with public safety have been warning about the effects of cuts to police and fire. Not only can we not handle more than one significant fire, we also cannot handle two significant police actions. Remember a few years back when we had a bank robbery at Packard &amp; Stadium and a murder at Blockbuster on Jackson across from Westgate? With today's size of the police department, officers would have to choose which event to respond to. Probably no one will do anything about this until their own house burns down, which could have been saved with sufficient firefighters, or a sniper in their neighborhood cannot be responded to because of hostage situation on the other side of town. No, volunteers or members of other departments will not arrive in time to be useful. We have lost whole apartment buildings due to a kitchen fire in one unit because the equipment was being used elsewhere. It doesn't matter what the fire chief or the police chief says. What matters is what you say to your council person. If you behave as most A2 people have done, you won't bother to say anything.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 11:03 p.m.

BTW... Bay City runs about 1/2 the call volume of Ann Arbor. Also... What big ten university is located in Bay City again? Apples to oranges.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 2:36 p.m.

Maybe Ann Arborites voted to aspire to be Bay City.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 10:56 p.m.

Thanks Ryan. And more relevant to our area, how about talking about all the former POC departments that have shifted to all paid due to the issues behind POC. Pittsfield, Ypsi, Ypsi Twp.... Seems they've all gone down that road and made adjustments to what their townships needed. Ann Arbor is going backwards.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 10:31 p.m.

Elsewhere in Michigan: Bay City moves forward on plans to implement a paid-on-call fire department <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

Cause ann arbor and bay city are so similar?????


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 9:08 p.m.

Dominic Lanza for Mayor! A city official who delivers his message without the usual B.S.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 9:53 p.m.

It's a dream isn't it? A politician who says what he thinks? And the walks away with a smile. Good for him. How many have walked away and never said &quot;boo&quot; complaints? Make it easy for themselves. The whole place bunch of &quot;yes men&quot;....well, not Mr Lanza~

Stephen Landes

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 8:53 p.m.

So City Council is awaiting the results of another study? That means to me that they do not know what to do. Impossible! We have enough revenue, but we have very poor abilities to determine what we should pay for the things we say we want or need and then to prioritize among them. There are questions we can ask and we don't need a consultant to answer them. I would start with the following: What kind of benefits can we afford? What kind of benefits are consistent with the private market these days? Should we move all city employees to defined contribution plans? Should we find other good jobs in city operations for police officers and fire fighters when their physically demanding days are passed (to reduce pension costs)? What do insurers say about the level of firefighting capability in our city? How do they assess the risk and, ultimately, the premiums on homeowners' insurance? This just happens to my immediate list and isn't necessarily the &quot;right&quot; or best list. However, we, as citizens, can come up with OUR list AND answer the questions IF we stop blaming others for our problems, stop pretending that the State doesn't have major financial problems, stop pointing fingers at one group or another (labor, management, unions, etc) and agree that the problem is OURS to solve with our own resources. Reading the squabbling is like watching the Three Stooges arguing -- humorous, but it doesn't lead anywhere.

zip the cat

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 8:20 p.m.

All you whiners and complainers are the ones who voted for all those on city council and the mayor so now your getting what you voted for.

zip the cat

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

Lets blow another mil or so on a new urinal water fountian,who cares about the safety of the residents. Its out ego at stake. If were out on a major fire somewhere and all our resources are being used and another fire starts,say city hall Guess which one burns down.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 8:04 p.m.

So....did this guy stay just long enough to collect another pension and benefits? Did he receive a &quot;buy out&quot;?


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

No he did not. No pension. He left so that he could speak the truth about the City government.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 8:03 p.m.

Oh and I forgot to mention underground parking structures, transit centers for UofM, expo centers, $250,000 gps units for plow trucks....need I go on? If times are so tight for AA then why all the spending? Maybe now isn't the time for all this if you can't even keep your fire department up to the nationally recognized minimum.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 8:01 p.m.

I agree completely with AACity12 in that we are dropping city services, even those concerning safety and protection, for ugly boondoggles that we don't even need (only 2 of the 4 new courtrooms will be used, I hear). And now an unneeded downtown conference center? Research reveals that those are notorious money-losers for which we city dwellers will end up paying with our tax dollars, no matter what smoke and mirror promises are made. The Big Hole is bad enough. I myself don't know anybody who wants to park underground. It has the perception of being dangerous and possibly dirty (with the potential as serving as a public bathroom?). Let's not make matters much worse by continuing in the wrong direction. Don't elected officials have to pay any attention any more to the citizens they are supposed to represent?


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:44 p.m.

The reason we have unions and contracts and PA 312 is so Cities like AA can't build $50 million buildings with $1 million water fountains and then cry that they have no money and then make the employees take cuts. I will not pay for that building with my pension. I concede they needed a new building but not one so big and extravagant. I understand that the water fountain wasn't paid for with general fund money but that money came from somewhere and could be used for other more useful purposes. Yes, other cities are having hard times and making cuts. Those cities don't have huge brand new buildings either.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:19 p.m.

I say give them wheelbarrels full of cash.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:17 p.m.

Mr Livingston, I'm sure you meant to say: The earliest someone could retire with a full pension in the fire department is after serving 25 years with the city. The percentage is actually 68.75% of their final average compensation, but i'm sure you meant to say that too.

Tony Livingston

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 6:58 p.m.

I agree with cjenkins except that I would add to the point about doing things differently. Not only do the firefighters (and other city employees) need to pay for some of their insurance benefits, they also need to forgo their very early retirement package. City employees can take pensions at 70% of their pay starting at age 50. For firefighters, it is even younger. As a result, the city has a huge retirement burden because of the many employees (union and nonunion) who retire young, take their pension and benefits, and work elsewhere. Let them be fully vested at 50, but they should not be able to begin taking their pensions until age 62. Every day that the city continues hiring employees with this provision in their contract means lost time to begin to correct the huge burden on Ann Arbor property owners who are footing the bill. Unfortunately, no one in the city or on the council seems to have the courage to stand up and insist on real changes.


Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 12:53 a.m.

I'm sorry Tony but I don't want a 60 year old showing up when I call 911. No offense to the older and wiser but their are some jobs we just cant do. And I don't think police/fire get social security.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

Except those on a pension don't receive any social security. It's not a level playing field. What else ya got?


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 6:11 p.m.

No government employee should be able to collect a pension until they reach the age of eligibility to recieve social security like everyone else in the country. They are treated as a privileged class on our dime folks.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 8:01 p.m.

You need 25 years on the job for a full pension. Ask Mr. Fraser how his is shaping up.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:11 p.m.

Mr. Livingston, I'm sure you meant to say: The earliest someone could retire with a full pension in the fire department is after serving 25 years with the city. The percentage is actually 68.75% of their final average compenasation, but i'm sure you meant to say that too.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:03 p.m.

Great point that they should not be able to take their pensions until age 62.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 6:45 p.m.

@say it plain everyone agrees that there will be probably be less service or fewer firefighters, but some of us are saying we in these times were everything in society will be cut, fire service should be cut too. Many other communities live with far less service and response time, that does not make them &quot;dangerous places to live. Gold standards are great, but don't let the perfect be the enemy of good. If for a few years we have to go down to good from great, than so be it. What I find a scare tactic is the insinuation that Ann Arbor will have a service that is less than everywhere else or subpar than everwhere else. EVERYWHERE is cutting their service. It would be helpful for people to balance the bad economic times along with their want of a gold standard for fire service. There are risks to every decision and consequences for every action, nonetheless tough decisions need to be made during hard times.

Matt Cooper

Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 3:36 a.m.

And of course you are so much in-the-know that you can realistically call it a &quot;scare tactic&quot; and not accept what Lanza says as factually correct? If that's the case, why not you take the fire chief job, since you obviously know so much better than he does how to run a fire department.

say it plain

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 6:28 p.m.

Anybody who could believe that this is 'scare tactics' is so dangerously in the thrall of the people who hold the political cards that I find that fact even scarier... This is what whistle-blowers do, they cannot reveal their beliefs and concerns until they leave. What, might not the politicians who want to be free to do whatever they want to--or the corporate chiefs, for instance, have we *already forgotten* the BP scenario with engineers and safety-workers being told that they are wrong, or that the bosses &quot;don't care&quot; about their concerns--make it clear that such belief is *not anything for them to worry about*? What can you do at that point but threaten to quit? And then do so if they remain intractable? And then tell someone--hooray for Mr. Lanza to have the guts to stand and risk being told he's wrong or holding a grudge or too concerned about his union-benefits, or all the things people will accuse him of!


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 6 p.m.

@cjenkins, what Lanza said in his letter is NOT a scare tactic. What should be scary to you is that Lanza speaks the TRUTH.

Top Cat

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:59 p.m.

A reminder that everyone should have a fully charged fire extinguisher on each level of their home and real close to the kitchen, master bedrooom and any wood stove.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:51 p.m.

Nothing is going to change until Ann Arbor residents show up at City Council meetings, write letters and DEMAND a professional, adequately staffed fire department. cjenkins, If you want a volunteer fire department, move to Ann Arbor Township and pray your house doesn't catch on fire on a dry, windy day.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:50 p.m.

cjenkins, Ever speak out against your boss and stay in your job? Good grief.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

No Cash, I am offended that he says it now rather than when he was chief. Like I said before, it makes me think...why now? I don't like the use of scare tactics.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

No Cash, I am offended that he says it now rather than when he was chief. Like I said before, it makes me think...why now? I don't like the use of scare tactics.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

City council members unaware of substandard staffing within the fire department? Guess there is too much texting during the city council meetings or maybe they are just surfing the web for youtube videos and the latest jokes. This is deplorable.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:40 p.m.

cjenkins, So you are offended he told the truth as he sees it rather than walking the company line? Goodness.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Mar 20, 2011 : 9:03 p.m.

I'm not criticizing him BnR. How is saying he did what anyone else would do criticism in your eyes? I don't have a problem with his letter, I don't have a problem with the timing of his letter. I just think Cash's comment that &quot;He didn't take the easy way, the path a lot of folks would take.&quot; is not accurate. Obviously not writing the letter at all would be the easiest way out. But writing it after you already resigned is only slightly less easy. If he had used that letter as his resignation that would be principled and courageous.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 9:55 a.m.

Yes Craig. You're right. It's not like city management holds a grudge or anything or would have walked him out the door after getting the message. You have no idea how the attitudes operate. Don't criticize Lanza when you don't know the details behind how the mayor and the puppet master (Fraser) operate.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 11:38 p.m.

the point is he did take the easy way out. He waited till he had one foot out the door before he told the truth. There's nothing to admire in that regard. He did what anyone else would do. File his complaints with no risk.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:37 p.m.

@ Cash He walked away. If there was a fight to be had, he should have stayed and fought it. It sort of offends me that he came and did this after the fact. I think everyone agrees that more firefighters and more firehouses are good and preferred, but what do we do with these bad economic times? We can't continue the status quo.

Kai Petainen

Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 2:43 a.m.

we build multi-million $$$ parking lots in tough economic times.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:31 p.m.

cjenkins, You really think he had any power over the budget cuts with &quot;I used to drop homeless people in Ann Arbor&quot; Barnett Jones?? Please. Then there's the mayor and council. Then there are the people behind the curtain ...the finance people and law department. He knew he was powerless and be sure he was told that. He's not the first to be told that, nor the last. His resignation and letter are the most powerful things he could do for the citizens of Ann Arbor. He made public the issues. Do you think Barnett Jones and the council would have let him speak out and stay in his job?????? Please.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:23 p.m.

I don't admire his principles at all. The first thing that comes to mind is why now? Why didn't he say this when he actually had the power to do something about it. I am very pro-union, but the problem here, at least in Ann Arbor, is not unions or union busting, it is PA 312*. If this did not exist there would be more realistic negotiations and better contracts drawn up. With these unique and dire times, things need to be done differently. The fire fighters need to step up and pay more for the benefits and take an additional pay cut or staffing will have to be cut, plain and simple. This is happening in EVERY single community in Michigan. I could see their point if the city of Ann Arbor was the only place this was happening, they would feel like they are giving up too much, but it is not. This is a bigger problem that must be addressed statewide. Of course our fire response and service will go down, but can we help that in these times, NO. Everyone's service is going to go down. In isolation, yes Ann Arbor will be worse off than it used to be. But in reality we could still have better fire service than most other Michigan cities. And I might add that there are many, many communities with older homes that use all volunteer fire departments around the country especially on the east coast. My point is that this is not a novel concept and is done in many areas, so using a scare tactic saying that we will no longer be able to save you in a fire and that it is the Citiy of Ann Arbor's fault is uncalled for. *PA312 is a binding arbitration process for labor disputes involving police officers and firefighters.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 5:24 p.m.

&quot;And I might add that there are many, many communities with older homes that use all volunteer fire departments around the country especially on the east coast.&quot; Where? If 312 is the problem, why does the city of A2 continue to file for 312?


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 12:40 p.m.

Would the police or fire unions really be in a worse negotiating position if they could go on strike until the City gave in? That happened in the 70's. It forced communities to make crippling concessions in the face of chaos. PA312 was passed to ban strikes and lock outs that endagered people's lives. Arbitration was used to settle impasses. Find the truth, then decide.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:57 p.m.

If PA312 is so beneficial for the unions, then please tell me why it's the city that keeps taking the Unions to arbitration instead of negotiating? The city uses 312 as the first step in negotiations. Your theory is disolved by the facts.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:57 p.m.

If it was that emergent a situation, then I can't respect someone who quits. It is harder to change things from the outside. Going to the press with scare tactics after the fact does nothing to further his cause. I have no problem with people quitting a job because they hate it or don't get along with their boss, just don't come back and say a bunch of scare tactics weeks after quitting. And I might add that, yes, fire service will be less, that is the truth. But is that &quot;dangerous&quot;? Many communities do without our level of service while we have chosen to have better service, that does not mean it is anti-union or anti-safety. In these times it just might be acceptable especially if we are still above average compared to other Michigan communities.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:43 p.m.

cjenkins, you don't get it. Lanza and Hopkins left because city government would NOT listen to them. Why do you think Ann Arbor has such a hard time finding and retaining a fire chief? What Lanza said is not a &quot;scare tactic&quot; either, it's the truth.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:14 p.m.

&quot;Public safety, while costly, is the most important service that government must provide,&quot; Uhm, not if you are Rick Snyder and believe that government should be run like a business. That idea doesn't take into account things like public safety or public welfare, only the welfare of the corporate interests that Snyder, himself, represents. Where do you think these cuts are being generated? By what mechanism? Rick Snyder's budget proposal. It is either cutting services or risk having your local government dissolved at the hands of an Emergency Manager. Welcome to the Brave New World.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 6:58 p.m.

Mike, the point is that the city HAS the money, but makes the choice to spend in on pet projects instead of funding basic city services. If you understand how city debt works, you'll see that. It's not that the city doesn't have the money. It's that they want to spend it on what THEY (council) wants. Not what the residents want. You think residents really want another hotel? Look around at the other great flops in this city and make that decision. I use your statement back at you. &quot;use your powers of logic and reasoning&quot;.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 6:08 p.m.

we can't affrod it anymore so crying about it and criticizing isn't going to solve the problem. I don't see any alternatives in your post but I can guess it would involve raising taxes on companies. Those taxes are passed through by increasing costs of goods sold to people like you....use your powers of logic and reasoning


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:12 p.m.

Keep in mind the last fire chief (Sam Hopkins) said he wouldn't be part of what this city was doing and wasn't going to 'go along'. So the city keeps searching for top brass. 2 for 2 said they wouldn't be a part of what the Mayor and Council are doing to public safety in this city.


Sat, Mar 19, 2011 : 8:15 p.m.

Ann Arbor needs to try and hire a chief who is on board with the cities plan and one who can relate to the economic issues we all face, instead of these resume builders they keep bringing in


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:01 p.m.

Okay, whether you agree with his opinion, is it not refreshing to find a lifelong professional public official with principles? He is standing up and speaking out on what he believes is a danger to Ann Arbor residents when he doesn't have to do anything at all but walk away. How much easier would his life be if he just stayed and played the game....and got a 2nd pension perhaps, or resigned and left with a big smile, forever forgetting Ann Arbor and the politics of it all. He didn't take the easy way, the path a lot of folks would take. Mr Lanza, I admire your principles.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 8:44 p.m.

julie, Anyone who has ever been in a position where they KNOW something stinks where they work but they cannot say anything because they would be fired has to admire this guy.


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 8:44 p.m.

Bertha, hon, where have you been? I missed you!


Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 7:21 p.m.

In total agreement!

Bertha Venation

Fri, Mar 18, 2011 : 5:15 p.m.

Me too, honey.