Omaha: This Is Your Fire Department

fireBy Tristan Bonn                                                                                                                          Retraction Any statements in the August 3, 2013 blog post entitled, “This Is Your Fire Department” that may cause readers the impression that the fire union’s lawyer engaged in judge shopping is retracted.

How can anyone believe a word Mike McDonnell says –  his credibility is so trashed; his motives – after years as union president and his rigged hiring as Chief a joke – are deeply suspect. McDonnell testified that any attempt to reduce staff or rigs endangers the City of Omaha. Well, he could always say that, couldn’t he? His statement is meaningless. He has wrapped himself in his “safety” argument to justify his department’s spectacular waste for so many years, he has no other.

But, what is the truth about fire protection. Again, take a look at the Bellevue model which operates at ¼ the cost of Omaha’s fire department. Is the Bellevue Fire Department playing with fire safety? No, of course not. And what’s more – guess who came up with this cost saving model, why one of OFD’s retired, double-dipping former battalion chiefs and other retired OFD personnel. The overstaffing for fire safety canard is just a racket that McDonnell and his cronies run to keep the dollars high and the jobs for his family and friends flowing. We all know it – and it is just disgusting that McDonnell continues to insult the real hard working people in this community with his antics.

Wanna know something else? The vast majority of the Omaha Fire Department’s calls are medical. That’s right – 87%!! are medical calls. We don’t need firefighters, we just need some ambulances. About 12% of the calls are false alarms. So, if you are doing the math, then you get that OFD answers 1% fire calls!!! So, the genius McDonnell recommends that the City spend about $100 million a year on one percent of the calls his department responds to??!! Why isn’t anyone from the City Attorney’s Office asking McDonnell about those numbers? And why doesn’t McDonnell answer with this information? I seriously don’t think McDonnell has a clue who he works for, other than himself and his buddies.

You know another thing that I find disturbing? How is it that the fire union’s lawyer always manages to get his union cases in front of the most labor friendly judge in this district?  Is it just a coincidence that the union’s lawyer consistently lands in front of Judge Gleason on so many of the big fire union cases? I wonder what the statistical odds of this happening are. I don’t know the answer, but judge shopping is always a hazard for litigants and let’s just say that some parties are better at working the system than others.  Still, it is wrong and everyone knows it is wrong.

But, when you are in it to scam the system, which is the toxic union way, you don’t care a bit about who you bilk. And, that is the game McDonnell, his cronies, the internet union – loving harpies, and the like play. The biggest mystery is why? Why do you want a fire department that is bankrupting the city, why do you want to starve other services? Occasionally, some fire union supporter will whine about the rich and how they should pay more taxes, or we should all get jobs like the union firefighters. Wow, what grade level did they reach? If everyone works for the government, then there won’t be anyone making any money – you do get that, don’t you?! In fact, Rhode Island, a state riddled with its own labor scandals and fraud, has finally tipped and there are now more people working for government than there are in the private sector. How long do you think that’s going to last?

Last night, I was at a gathering of strangers. About 30 people in the room participated in one of those icebreaking exercises where you talk about your education, work, and something funny about yourself. I am always amazed what hard-working decent people there are in our community. All of these people had post-graduate degrees, honorable work histories, and were working two jobs. They are the backbone of this community and they deserve honest, hard-working public servants.

And yet, they are the people that Mike McDonnell and his fire union are only too happy to swindle.



  1. Abbie Lewis says:

    If Omaha ran its fire department the way you would have them, the city would become a burned out husk.

  2. Drew says:

    @Abbie, Gees, Ralston has a volunteer fire department. Did they burn away?

  3. B2 says:

    Not only did they not burn away…they aren’t buried in debt!!!

  4. Matt Pinkerton says:

    Well written, and yes, we’d all like to see homo-Mcdonell be sent to the unemployment line. It would cost the tax payers alot less to pay him unemployment than to keep the fat around his “program”

  5. Jim Gentile says:

    Ms Bonn’s numbers are completely in accurate, thus the thesis is also inaccurate.

    Bonn states that Bellevue “operates at ¼ the cost of Omaha’s fire department.” Bellevue FD protects 50,000 citizens as Omaha FD protects 450,000.

    Bonn states the “City spend about $100 million a year” on the OFD when in fact the Stothert contract cost is 96 million.

    Bonn states OFD’s emergency calls are “87%!!” when in fact they are 76%.

    Bonn states “About 12% of the calls are false alarms.” when in fact they are 9%.

    Everything else is non-factual personal feeling, politically motivated commentary.

  6. Just to be accurate Mr. Gentile, aren’t you a retired OFD personnel, fire union member and former Omaha/Nebraska resident now living off the taxpayers of Omaha funding your pension payments (spiked) and your health care??? So everything you write online and in the OWH editorial page are nothing more than looking out for your own very narrow but profitable self-interest??? In other words, Omaha fire union scumbag…

  7. B2 says:

    Jim. There are around 1,500 residents that claim my hometown. Of the 1,500 residents there are approximately 25 residents (0.016%) who volunteer on the fire and rescue squad and serve all 1,500 residents as well as helping all of the nearby villages when needed. You know what it costs the city and its hard working citizens? ZILCH!!!!

    Similarly, I don’t think it’s a stretch for Omaha to find 7,500 citizens willing to volunteer and serve when needed (just as my hometown or Bellevue or the majority of Nebraska cities have done). Certainly, the Volunteer Fire & Rescue Team could be supplemented with paid staff, but the numbers and cost to taxpayers would be very minimal and the city would not find itself in the situation it is in. It also wouldn’t have to deal with unions or union bullying and threats. The paid staff would be supplemental, minimal, and non-essential.

    You act like yourself and the other union cronies are the only ones who can serve and protect. It appears to me that you are more interested in serving yourself to our taxpayer dollars and protecting your crony relationship with the city’s elected officials. In short Jim…we don’t need you! You are the only one so delusional to believe that the city is actually better off because of your ilk. Simply not true! You have caused far more damage to Omaha than good, and in the process you have lost our trust and respect. Please go away!!!

  8. tristan bonn says:

    Just a quick response to the statistics post from Mr. Gentile: first, I said about a $100 million to run OFD – according to OWH and McDonnell’s own statements, he says he needs $96 million to run the department, you quibble over $4 million when you are talking $100 million?; second,if you say 76% of fire calls are medical and I said 87% and you say 9% false alarms and I said 12% – fine! Have it your way – it doesn’t change the argument one bit, in fact I am surprised you acknowledge the numbers and again, your response is to quibble. And best of all, on the Bellevue vs. Omaha cost – I compared station house to station house, not population so that it would be a 1 to 1 comparison. Bellevue runs their stations, same personnel and equipment, for $1 million per station, while Omaha bilks citizens for $4 million per station – add about another $1 million per station in Omaha for pensions and benefits, and you can see the millions – yes, millions of dollars in waste at OFD. And, that doesn’t even begin to compare OFD to Council Bluffs, where there are three men on a truck and no serious threat to safety. So, I will talk numbers with you and anyone else all day long, in fact – let’s. Let’s finally have this cost/benefit conversation once and for all.

    As I say, overstaffing at OFD is a racket and this community is done with it. Sorry, Mr. Gentile, but it was too good for you and your cronies to last – and you know it.

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