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If you thought Mayor Wally Scott of Reading, Pennsylvania was kidding when he proposed having fire hydrants face away from the street to free up more city parking spaces, you apparently don’t know Wally Scott. A reporter from the Reading Eagle asked Scott about my claim in a STATter911 post Wednesday that these were “the dumbest words to come out of a mayor’s mouth”. In response, Wally Scott doubled down. He told Jeremy Long, “It doesn’t matter if people say it won’t work or it’s a dumb plan. One thing about new ideas is people are quick to say ‘no.’ ”
While Mayor Scott believes this is something worthwhile to consider, IAFF Local 1803 president Mike Shoumlisky thought this whole thing was a joke and will oppose such a plan if it moves forward.
Mayor Scott told Long that turning hydrants around has been tried in some other cities he was unable to name. The mayor credits Bill Murray with sending him the idea. Bill Murray isn’t just some schmoe off the street pissed off that he can’t find a parking space. Bill Murray is the man in charge at both the Reading Area Water Authority and the Reading Parking Authority board. Murray says this idea was tried in Iowa (the article didn’t say where, so Iowa firefighters please let me know). While Scott wants to turn the plugs 180 degrees, Murray says the idea is to rotate them 90 degrees and claims it will both add parking and help firefighters:
“If we have an opportunity to provide the same level of safety or more and provide a thousand parking spaces throughout the city,” Murray said Thursday afternoon, “we’d be crazy not to consider it.”
Murray said turning the hydrants 90 degrees would allow firefighters to hook up to the hydrant even if a vehicle is parked in front.
“If that car is parked in front of that hydrant it is near impossible – under current configuration – to get water out of it,” Murray said, “Now you turn it to the side you can put a hose on it.”
Murray’s argument didn’t sway union president Shoumlisky and it isn’t swaying me. I don’t see how any of this improves pubic safety in Reading. Maybe I’m just some schmuck with a blog (yes, I own that url), but the words coming from the mayor and water & parking guy still seem enormously stupid to me. If they are actually serious about wanting to make the job easier for firefighters, they can start by finally making public safety a priority in Reading. Stop sending out fire trucks with just two firefighters on board. This substandard staffing deserves your brainstorming and strategic planning a lot more than adding parking spaces.
Since you’re all for new ideas Mayor Scott, try this one on for size. Show some leadership. Get in a room with all the parties involved and don’t come out until you find a solution to your fire department staffing problems. Freeing up money to hire firefighters is a lot more important than freeing up parking spaces. Before you say “no” to my new idea, think about the quote earlier in this post, “It doesn’t matter if people say it won’t work or it’s a dumb plan. One thing about new ideas is people are quick to say ‘no.'” Mayor Scott, if you look in the mirror you’ll come face to face with the guy who said those words.