Friday, November 03, 2006

Yelling "Fire" Over A Hundred Dollar Steak Dinner

There They Go Again: Fire Districts Misusing Taxpayer Money Under Guise Of Training, Morale

This week it was the Selden Fire District -- with trips to Vegas and lavish spending by its "elected" commissioners -- but it could have been any one of the hundreds of fire districts (or, for that matter, sanitary districts) that call Long Island home (or should it be, "daddy," as in who's pocket they'll be into when they want cash for junkets to places like Las Vegas, Florida, and the Bahamas).

In Selden, where the fire district's budget is a hefty $3.99 million, some $200,000 is set aside annually for "travel and training."

According to Newsday, the local fire commissioners are certainly traveling and training well, with $100 (per person) steak dinners and thousands in undocumented expenditures. [READ, Selden district defends its FD spending]

Its one thing to go out and buy new fire apparatus -- and even that should come under close public scrutiny, as in, "do we really need that new pumper truck?" -- but to squander the public's hard-earned money on dinners, drinks, and exotic travel, and then to attempt to defend such expenditures with a straight face, defies credulity.

True, Selden residents are raising eyebrows, after the fact, and new laws regarding fire district audits and accountability will go into effect next year. Still, isn't anybody out there watching the pot, be it in Selden, Gordon Heights, or in any of the 179 fire districts here on our island? [Read, Selden Residents questioning FD Spending]

For goodness sake, not only should we be questioning every move these commissioners make, but when the members of the local fire departments come knocking on our doors asking for "voluntary" donations (this on top of the hefty fire district taxes we already pay), we should be demanding a full acounting!

Sure, our volunteer firefighters, often called upon to put their own lives on the line to save the lives and property of others, deserve the highest level of training. Same can be, and, in fact, is afforded to them, right here on Long Island.

And we have no problem boosting morale with that occasional keg party or night out for the unsung heroes of our fire deparments, but, damn it, these $100 pp steak dinners at Mortons and Ruth Chris' for our "elected" commissioners, who appear to only watch the pot as their sticky, little fingers are pulling our money out of it, have to stop!

The special districts, the lowest common denominator operating under cover of "local government," continue to be fiefdoms unto themselves and answerable to no one. If its not patronage, its wasteful spending, and let those who foot the bill (that would be us, folks) be damned.

The day of the jackal in local government should, at long last, be brought to an end!

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