Greed screed: I was not surprised at all to see the article on Rural/Metro in your paper ("Burned," Amy Silverman, February 14). Having almost been a "victim" of a career with Rural/Metro, I found your article was too compassionate in its coverage of the company.
Rural/Metro has long been the poster child of the "good old boy" way to run a company. Promotions were based on who you knew, not performance, and the organization was a means to make managers -- and especially executives -- rich. Closed-door deals? Double-talk? No questioning authority? Rural/Metro could teach classes in all of it. While Rural/Metro was paying near-minimum wage to most, top executives were pulling in six or seven figures.
The front-line employees have always been first-rate and dedicated. They have to be. For the low wages, poor conditions and lousy benefits, why else would they work for Rural/Metro? Answer: for the love of the job and the ability to help people. Rural/Metro has always known this, and it also knows that there are hundreds of other 20- to 25-year-olds waiting for the same "opportunity." Rural/Metro took the goodness of mankind and the spirit of helping and created its version of corporate greed, where a few got rich but most lost nearly everything.
When I worked for Rural/Metro in the '80s, I made just above what the Burger King cashier made, slept in an old trailer that was my "station," and often had to depend on reserves responding from home to help with calls. I loved what I did, but not who I did it for. I cashed out my employee stock ownership plan, even though I had the option of leaving it there after my resignation. I never considered that option because I felt the company would someday be a victim of its own management style.
I feel bad for my former colleagues who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars through no fault of their own. Rural/Metro knew it was bigger and stronger and wiser than the rank and file and used that power to shield its private financial dealings and make promises that it knew could never come true.
The accomplishments of firefighters, paramedics and police officers can't be measured in dollars and cents. Each of us must savor the knowledge that we affect other people's lives in a way few others get to experience. I have delivered babies, saved accident victims and now, as a police officer, taken drunken drivers off the road and captured felons. How much is that worth? There is no dollar amount you can put to that.
Oh, wait. At Rural/Metro, it's $5.75 an hour, plus no future.
Name withheld by request
I'll take Manhattan: I am a New York City firefighter located in Manhattan, assigned to Ladder Company 35. I read your article "Burned." Oh, how true it is. I left Rural/Metro in 1993 to become a firefighter with the city of New York. I was told, "You'll be begging for your job back in a year."
I never looked back; the guys I worked with are dedicated firefighters whose families will suffer in the long run. It pains me to know this since I still have friends working there. It also pains me to say the writing was on the wall. I hope the best for all of them.
Franklin Square, New York
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Spike this: Though I could argue with many of the Spiked column's points regarding the Proposition 202 campaign ("Big Bird," February 14), I am only going to focus on one: that being the lack of political defense the campaign had, and specifically your contention of "failing to put up roadside signs until just days before the election." As a volunteer for the campaign, I can personally tell you that statement is absolutely false.
I was pounding in signs all over the Phoenix metro area weeks before the election, so many that most days my hands and arms hurt. I covered all of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, and even as far north as Cave Creek! You didn't see these signs for one simple reason: They were stolen. My guess is that they were stolen by the developers, construction workers, real estate agents and others who were opposed to the campaign. I remember one specific incident where I had put a sign in at 51st Avenue and Bell Road, and two hours later as I was returning home I noticed the sign was already gone. All that was left standing were the two rebar poles, which said more about our opposition than any ads could ever do.
There were many of us who worked hard on Proposition 202, and many of us who work very hard within the environmental community on a daily basis. To suggest that we were naive in believing we could beat the developers, well, maybe. To suggest that we were idiotic, however, is offensive to all of us who worked so hard on the campaign, and more important, it's wrong.