Friday, January 27, 2012

Editorial: Moral obligations outweigh logistics

CVFD: Should we stay or should we go?
In discussing the awful story of a rural house burning down while the nearest fire department refused to respond because the homeowners hadn't paid for the service, the unnamed editor seems to say that "moral obligations," as he puts it in his headline, should stand above the few bucks involved, and that's good. But he says it in such a mealy-mouthed way that the editorial seems to have a foot on either side of the fence.
   This situation has come up several times since I've lived in Prescott, it always makes the non-responding organization look bad, and nothing changes, because it's accepted that the homeowners didn't pay, therefore they accepted the risk of losing their homes. Fire resources have to be reserved for those who pay.
   But consider this: CVFD is saying that it could have responded if the homeowner had paid, so the only real logistical difference between a saved house and cinder pile is a few bucks in the district's bank account.
   The editor's sadly muffled point is that if you have the ability to help, you have the responsibility to help. That makes a lot of sense to me. Either the fire crews can or cannot reach the scene and be effective, and if they can, their own organizational mission should require that they try. People get this instinctively. When larger-scale catastrophes occur, fire crews will transport out of state to help. It makes no sense that they can't respond to a fire at this house when they can to one a quarter mile farther down the same road.
   The core problem that the editor seems afraid to touch is the subscription system, which favors those who are more able to pay. This really needs to go, and rural communities have to start thinking in more inclusive terms than who's willing to put up twenty bucks a month. The system as it stands clearly does not work.

Update, Monday:  The CVFD chief responds in this Sunday story, but the focus remains entirely on the finances and resources and off the mission. The comments add some pertinent details, such as how close the house was to the district line.

The wagging-finger story

The now-famous pic of Governor Brewer wagging her finger in the President's face is clearly overhyped on both sides of the political spectrum and another case of the media leaping on events that reinforce the preferred narrative, whether or not the facts support it. But when there are actual lies involved, we have to pay attention.
   Paul Davenport's AP story, carried in today's print edition on 9A, repeats Brewer's assertion that Obama "walked away" from her while she was in the middle of a sentence. The White House responded to this with dismissal, but no apparent denial. Not widely reported is the account of Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, who was there and says that it didn't happen that way at all.