Veteran Miami Fire Fighter Ron Khawly, offended by my column and other coverage of the salary, health insurance and pension controversy that have arisen during the city's budget crisis, and written a rebuttal to the criticism:
Within the last several weeks, The City of Miami Commission, Mayor and the Miami Herald have continuously bashed the Miami Firefighters and their Union. One of your writers Myriam Marquez compared us to High Rise Window washers.
The Commission and The Mayor stated they have to cut salaries, reduce pension cost and revamp the Health Insurance. At a time of financial need, do you sometimes wonder why $30,000,000.00 goes to CRA’s versus the General Fund. The Fire Union President proposed they freeze the CRA’s for a year or two, but instead Commissioner Sarnoff wants to build a Skate Board park that will cost well over $2,000,000.00, a Tunnel to the port and let’s not talk about the $120,000,000.00 Marlins parking garage.
These are only the big expense we know about. No one has talked about the commissioner’s salary and pension.
The City has said they need to implement the new cut back cost in salaries (20% to 30%), pensions and insurance or they will lay off employees, but instead of negotiating with the Unions they are using bully socialism tactics.
Why are they so afraid of having the State Oversight Board come down to Miami? What they are doing is not only illegal but immoral to the employees. Sure the employees can cut salaries adjust the pension, but the Health Insurance is a major concern for employees who have children with health issues, to all of a sudden change the rules. This will create major, disastrous irreversible damage.
Do you realize, Mr. Grimm, the General Employees Union Boss Charlie Cox has stated several times he was close to settling with cuts to his employees but they didn’t want to hear it. The Police and Sanitation Unions are negotiating and the City just ignored them.
Did the City Commission and the Mayor forget last year that the Firefighters gave back 8% to save the City $15,000,000.00 per year for a 1 year extension in their contract, but yet the City is ignoring our contract?
The employees are the back bone of the city, they keep the City of Miami running without them you have no City. I really can’t speak for the other Departments, but The Miami Fire Department is one of the best in the Country, we take pride in our work to deliver the best customer service the citizens can receive, but yet The City spits on us.
The Miami Herald writes Firefighters making $300,000.00 a year, Mr. Grimm those are false numbers, if those are true numbers do you know how that came about. That is not a yearly salary. I read about Union friendly contracts, prior to our new contract in 2007 I was working in the Coconut Grove Firehouse when Marc Sarnoff came up to me and as he shook my hand he stated “ Hang in there we are going to get that contract thru”, I said thanks. I guess now he speaks in a fork tongue.
You mentioned that Firefighters leave with a lump sum of over $800,000.00. It’s not a lump sum it is their retirement that has been accumulating for 4 ½ yrs collecting with interest. These are the individuals who are in the DROP program, thousands of employee’s in the State of Florida are in the DROP program, but you chose the Firefighters to talk about. The DROP is a Differed Retirement Option Plan where the employee can retire and continue to work without having the employer contribute to his or her pension.
You see the City of Miami’s DROP plan is different than many other Cities. In the City of Miami the employees carry all the risk when they place their retirement in the DROP plan. The DROP does not guarantee money and does not cost citizens a penny. It is Miami’s employees who suffer when their DROP investments lose money.