Community Editorial: Public Safety Isn’t Just for Election Campaigns

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In the last week of May, the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association became aware of a slate mailer titled the California Public Safety Newsletter and Voter Guide.

The mailer featured a prominent image of a firefighter engaged in firefighting operations alongside prominent conservative candidates who have previously opposed organizations representing the men and women who serve in fire and emergency services.

Given the vitriol that has been directed at public employees by ideological conservatives, such as those depicted on the mailer, OC Firefighters hopes this mailer signals a tide change in the attitude Orange County’s most conservative officials display toward the men and women who serve this county in the public sector.

OC Firefighters represents the 950 men and women of the Orange County Fire Authority who protect 24 cities and the unincorporated areas of Orange County with a population of 1.7 million citizens.

We were encouraged to see that the conservative slate mailer highlights the importance of passing Assembly Bill 1245, which protects residents by ensuring high-quality public safety training and standards.

And we were also encouraged to see conservative Republicans such as county GOP Chairman Scott Baugh, former California Republican Party Executive Committee member Jon Fleischman and State Assemblyman Allan Mansoor appear on the mailer, implying their support.

To date, however, no one who appeared on this slate mailer has sent the Legislature a letter in support of this legislation. I hope this will be their next step.

I hope that this mail piece was not designed to mislead voters about the candidates’ positions on public safety and that the candidates will actually demonstrate the support implied on this slate mailer.

Additionally, there are numerous public safety issues looming in the future that are equally important.

For example, I hope that we can count on Baugh, Fleischman and Mansoor to help prevent the county from reducing current fire safety staffing levels at John Wayne Airport.

The county plans to staff the airport with half as many personnel as in 1981, when the AirCal crash occurred and firefighters stationed at the airport bravely saved lives and public property.

We also hope we can count on their support in saving the Fire Authority Handcrew Program that is slated to be curtailed at the end of the current calendar year. The Handcrew Program’s sole task is clearing brush in the wildland areas around Orange County to ensure a proper defensible space exists between the very flammable wildland areas and the homes located in near proximity.

Currently this program is slated to end because of budget challenges. This crew’s effort is potentially responsible for saving dozens if not hundreds of homes in a wildland fire, and I’m sure Mr. Baugh, Fleischman and Mansoor agree that the cost is minimal when compared to the potential loss and will help us communicate that to the Fire Authority administration.

These are only two of the many public safety issues where the support of conservatives would be greatly appreciated in the months ahead.

For us, public safety is a community issue and not a political one.

We just hope that this mailer signals real support among conservatives in Orange County, not just posturing for political gain, and that we will be able to count on them to help advance our goals of improving the public safety of all Orange County citizens.

Because you can’t have it both ways. You can’t say you support public safety and public employees on one hand, then spend all your time attacking those same people and dismantling the programs that keep the community safe.

Tony Bedolla is the Director of Government Affairs for the Orange County Professional Firefighters Association and a member of the Voice of OC Community Editorial Board.

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