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NO ALARM BELLS
MASIELLO PUTS OFF MUCH NEEDED REFORMS BY DELAYING APPOINTMENT OF FIRE COMMISSIONER

With all the critics taking shots at Mayor Anthony Masiello, one would think he'd resist handing out more ammunition. But that's exactly what he's doing by dragging his feet on appointing a new fire commissioner.

Deputy Commissioner Michael D'Orazio is currently running the department. It has been several months since Calvin Worthy stepped down because he didn't want to make the difficult decisions entailed in downsizing the department.

Thomas Baker, chairman of the state control board that oversees city finances, is pressing the mayor to find someone to run the department. He's right. The decision on whom to hire should not be made at a glacial pace. Restructuring the Fire Department is one of the largest elements in the city's four-year fiscal recovery plan.

And make no mistake, that will be no easy task. Firefighters are not a happy group -- the fire union is practically in open warfare with the city. Its members have voted to torpedo a change in insurance coverage that would deny the city $6 million to $7 million in savings. That's how bitter this dispute has grown.

We don't think any one man or woman can step into the commissioner's job and change these dynamics overnight. But delaying this decision can't possibly help. It's time to get someone in charge who is committed to carrying out Masiello's program to downsize the department to better fit a city of fewer than 300,000 people, consolidate firehouses and revamp emergency medical services.

The mayor has said he needs time to fill the position. He's had since December when Worthy stepped down rather than come up with a plan to address the need to downsize. Until the mayor installs new management in the department, it's difficult to see how he can implement needed reforms.

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