Getting a top-flight fire commissioner for Buffalo will be no easy task. Not only does the city lack the financial wherewithal to attract outstanding candidates, the new commissioner will have shaky job security if Mayor Anthony Masiello leaves office or is defeated in next year's election. In addition, a new commissioner will immediately face a department that is being forced to restructure even while the rank and file remain resistant to new ideas.
That said, Masiello needs to act soon to fill the fire commissioner's job, which has been vacant since the former commissioner, Calvin Worthy, left last December in protest of planned layoffs. Filling the job has become even more important now that Deputy Commissioner Margaret Keane has retired.
In criticizing the management coming out of City Hall, the chairman of the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority, Thomas Baker, mentioned the long delay in naming a fire commissioner. And he's not alone. North District Council Member Joseph Golombek criticized Masiello for the "unacceptable delay" in naming a new commissioner to take over the department, now being led by Deputy Commissioner Michael D'Orazio.
During a time when significant changes are in store for the department as part of a need to restructure the entire city, this vacancy becomes more untenable every day.
The position pays $102,344. A commissioner's pay for a department the size of Buffalo's, about 800, would generally range between $120,000 to $130,000.
Still, it is simply unacceptable for the city to be without a permanent fire commissioner, especially when restructuring the department is one of the largest elements in the city's four-year fiscal recovery plan.
The mayor insists the process of hiring a new fire commissioner is moving along. That's not good enough. After 10 months, he needs to make it happen, and quickly.