LETTERS: Fire department’s plan no money-saver

To the editor:

Las Vegas Fire &Rescue would like to bite off a piece of American Medical Response’s patient transport business, presenting two reasons why the fire department believes that the public would be better served were this to happen. The first is that the city of Las Vegas could save up to $14 million annually if the firefighters assumed responsibility for all patient transports.

The problem is that figures lie and liars figure. It strains credulity to believe that the Las Vegas firefighters either could or even intend to save taxpayers any money at all based upon the fiscal management of their department over the past several years. The list of mismanagement includes: old fashioned featherbedding; enormous total compensation packages compared with compensation of either nonfirefighter EMTs or firefighters in other communities; high rates of real or imagined disabilities requiring early retirement; alleged scamming of schedules and sick time to provide long taxpayer-funded vacations, with co-workers benefiting from the scheme via the time-and-a-half overtime coverage required; and the huge, underfunded pension overhang that our citizens will one day be forced to address by way of increased taxes.

Does anyone think that the city fire department has either the will or the skill set to save our citizens $14 million annually? The department’s past performance suggests the answer is no.

The same question of truthfulness bears upon the second claim put forth by Chief William McDonald: that the firefighters’ rate of cardiac saves is 900 percent higher than the national average (44 percent versus 5 percent). While this claim could possibly be true, at face value it sounds like a bigger whopper than, “If you like the health plan you have, you can keep it, period.”

One simple example of why citizens should be wary of giving away the private ambulance business to the public firefighters: there has recently been a big brouhaha regarding fire trucks parked in shopping malls all over the city. The firefighters claim that while they are on duty, they go shopping for food and other supplies for their firehouses because they are on call and must be immediately available to respond to emergencies. This sounds plausible until you consider that you never see ambulances parked in shopping malls waiting to be called to medical emergencies.

AMR is a private company. Our citizens will never have to worry about whether AMR’s pension or 401K is underfunded. Our citizens will never have to worry that AMR’s employees are ridiculously overpaid, engaged in private shopping on company time, intimidating the public into increasing funding for a poorly managed public service or collecting donations for Jerry’s kids while on the clock. (Fortunately the latter abuse has finally been stopped.) And if AMR’s service is bad or overpriced, the marketplace will solve the problem by opening up an opportunity for another private ambulance company.

We all owe the firefighters respect and gratitude for what they do. The firefighters, in turn, owe the citizenry respect and gratitude for paying them. It works both ways.



Ease up on Rice

To the editor:

Much criticism has been directed toward UNLV men’s basketball coach Dave Rice. While it is true that this season fell far short of all of our expectations, there is so much good that has been overlooked.

Here are some financial facts to ponder: Because UNLV is broke and football sucks up most of the money available to the school’s athletic programs, it only had $450,000 to $550,000 to spend on a men’s basketball coach when Lon Kruger left. Never mind that the top coaches in college basketball make salaries ranging from $1.8 million to $7.2 million; UNLV only had $450,000 to $550,000 to work with, so that is what the school is paying.

So UNLV ostensibly told Mr. Rice: We are going to give you, a first-time head coach, $450,000 to $550,000 and a basketball budget that rates 87th in the country. In return, we want: a top 25-caliber program year in and year out; a regular-season conference championships; a Mountain West tournament championship (we last won one in 2008 under Mr. Kruger); an NCAA Tournament bid every year (the Rebels have made it eight times in the last 24 years, but apparently should get there every time); wins in NCAA Tournament games once you get there (UNLV has won three games since 1991); recruiting at the highest level (but you will only have a three-year contract to work with); and doing nothing to embarrass the university.

So here’s what UNLV and Rebel fans got: In Mr. Rice’s first three years, UNLV has spent time in the top 25, with no regular-season or Mountain West tournament titles, but with two NCAA appearances; no NCAA wins, but 71 total wins, three consecutive 20-plus win seasons, and seven victories came against top-25 teams; zero NCAA compliance issues; every senior has gone through graduation; one No. 1 overall draft pick; more four- and five-star recruits than in the past 23 years combined; and the fifth-best recruiting class in the entire country for 2014.

This town needs to consider more than just the negatives constantly harped on by writers at the Review-Journal. Put the facts in perspective before we judge what we have done in hiring Mr. Rice. Our future is very bright.