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TEAM FIRE
NEW COMMISSIONER AND HIS DEPUTIES DESERVE A GRACE PERIOD TO BEGIN REFORMS

The first inclination on considering the new leadership of Buffalo's Fire Department is to be unimpressed. That reaction has less to do with the new men brought into the department as deputies than it does with the decision to promote to the top spot from within.

Doesn't a department that requires radical restructuring need a commissioner with the critical eye of an outsider? How can you replace destructive, old patterns and entrenched, obsolete work rules with healthier, more efficient ones if the leader is a product of the existing system?

Yet there is reason to see the reorganization of the Fire Department leadership in more hopeful terms. Of three new deputy commissioners, two come from leadership positions in other departments from which they recently retired. The third is a highly regarded individual from within the Buffalo department. Given time for the first two to acquaint themselves with Buffalo and the other to gain more leadership experience, all look, at this point, to be plausible future commissioners.

As to the proposed new commissioner, himself, Michael D'Orazio seems to be an able man who at least has the stomach for some of the difficult decisions that must be made in his department. Now the acting commissioner, D'Orazio will succeed Calvin Worthy, who retired rather than preside over a painful period of downsizing, reorganization and layoffs needed to help bolster a financially ailing city.

Buffalo being the insular place it is, it is possible that Mayor Anthony Masiello would have had difficulty winning the Common Council's approval for an outside candidate to take the top spot in a position as sensitive and high profile as the fire commissioner. Even then, he has brought in two experienced outsiders, one from Detroit and one from Miami-Dade, who will serve in deputy positions that will have a significant influence on the department.

Still, the pressure will be on as soon as D'Orazio is confirmed, probably in about a month. With Buffalo's finances under the sway of a control board and too few dollars to keep the department operating under old and inefficient procedures, the new commissioner and his team will have to move quickly to prove that they are up to the intensely difficult job that awaits.

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