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UCR, EMS, IT
By Jim Sack
Fort Wayne Reader
While on Crete for the last month I was able to read my local newspapers online. It seemed every week there was a report of a murder and drive-by shootings. I asked a few friends on that Greek island about their murder rate. Blank stares. With a population about twice that of the Fort Wayne area they could remember only one shooting in 2012; retaliation by one young British tourist against a compatriot at a resort as a result of a drug deal gone bad back in Golly Old... When I said my beloved hometown was on its way toward 50 killings they were dumbfounded.
Fort Wayne is on a pace to equal all of the shootings in Ireland in 2012, or nearly twice those of all of Norway. Germany had less than one murder per 100k populations: Fort Wayne has nearly 20, about the same rate as Mexico, Panama or Ecuador.
So, the recent handwringing at city council during October’s Fifth Tuesday begs the question: now what? First, Council has little discretionary power to mitigate underlying problems of single-parent homes (if that), joblessness, hopelessness, multi-generational poverty, or a society that has turned from a sense of community to one of enclave. At the bottom of our economic ladder young men have nothing to lose; in fact, prison is a step up, higher education where one matriculates to more professional criminal connections, sharpened criminal skills and a diploma ensuring street “cred.”
Will council’s soulful evening change anything?
The gross number of murders are higher in the US than almost any other country in the world, as is our per capita ratio of killings per 100,000. We have become inured to murders, even of babies. Our movies, TV and games glorify violence. Instead of reducing the number of weapons that inundate our society, we have added to our personal arsenals. And our War on Drugs has become just that, but one that increasingly harms the innocent and fails to resolve anything. It is America, folks, among the most violent societies in history, and getting worse. Council was right to discuss the violence, but powerless to change things.
Years ago ambulance service in Fort Wayne was handled by funeral homes. It was an obvious conflict of interest. And, Councilman Mitch Harper recalls from his years of experience saving lives in his family’s funeral home ambulances, some services were good enough while others fell well short of the acceptable.
The question is whether our current service, TRAA, the Three Rivers Ambulance Authority, operates with a similar conflict of interest. As the director told me, there is a profit motive involved and TRAA “runs lean,” meaning that there are times when precious few ambulance are available should you feel that sharp pain in your left arm. Think “few and far between.” You see, in order to keep the emergency runs costs low TRAA makes good money transporting patients from hospital to hospital. The concern is whether TRAA runs too “thin.”
It seems that way. Frequently, a fire truck may be the first on scene. That means we taxpayers subsidize the lean-running TRAA.
So, the Firefighters Union thinks they can do an equally good job for less, and without the inherent conflict of interest that profit demands. TRAA management disagrees. They say additional FWFD staff, training and equipment will increase everyone’s tax bills. TRAA notes local politicians have opted to keep the cost of the service off the general tax roll, shifting cost, instead, of each patient. An emergency run these days will cost you, or your insurance company, $1,200 or so. TRAA does offer payment plans.
Upper level management at the city says it might be time to review the contract and to determine whether our ambulance service is doing the best job for the least amount of money. During budget hearings city councilmen asked many a question about duplicate services between TRAA and the city services, specifically about dispatch “redundancies.” It is probably a good time for them to hold another Fifth Tuesday on this topic, one that they can do something about.
Flea market junk is an apt description for much of the City’s computer system. It is 1980-90s vintage. Whoosh is the sound of the computer revolution passing city government by. Why? Because as a community we have long been penny wise and pound foolish, meaning we save a penny on our taxes, but waste thousands of dollars in lost efficiencies and productivity. When applied to local government, things that would make our community function more efficiently aren’t done because city government is operating with computer systems that barely can run a game of doubles Pong. City computer systems don’t talk to each other, many files cannot be merged, notes can’t be compared. The cost of training a newly-hired twenty-something on the old system lasts six months, or more. The efficiencies of point, click, cut, paste, merge, etc., have largely been lost to our city administration.
The responsibility for the ongoing use of disco-age technology goes to those very folk who demand that government run more like a business, our city council and their fiscal conservatives allies. They want their cake and to eat it, too.
No significant business in town is still running on green screen computers or keying in C-prompts. None. Every small business owner knows in order to run lean she needs the tools, but city council and the timid leaders in government have wasted your time and money in failing to take advantage of current (or event recent) technology. And, you, dear fellow taxpayer, have suffered the indignations in higher bills from City Utilities because the cheapskates on council prefer government with one arm tied behind its back. You voted them in, so you, too, have impaired the efficiency of your government to provide services to you and, by extension, make Fort Wayne a more globally competitive city and a nicer place to live. Sure, you saved a penny. Cool. And your councilman bows for “fighting for you,” but in reality our stinginess wastes time, energy and resources many-fold more than the pittance you save.
Thanks in part to the last tax increase, the Henry Administration — with the acquiescence of a besobered city council — will spend over $2 million to help your government employees come up to speed, but it is far short of what could be done to benefit you, promote efficiencies and make government run more “like a business.” If they want to run the city like a business they have to invest in equipment, staff and training. They can’t just demand the galley slaves row faster.