There is this punctuation thing in the English language that allows, when you are deliberately omitting text or sections of text taken from somewhere else, you to indicate to your reader that you are omitting text or sections of text. I find this highly useful in order to provide transparency to my readers when I am quoting somebody or something.
This neat little device is called an ellipsis. It looks like this:
If I were to say it outloud, “dot dot dot.” In morse code, the three dots stand in place of the letter “S.” The reason why we use an ellipsis, according to wikipedia is:
The use of ellipses can either mislead or clarify, and the reader must rely on the good intentions of the writer who uses it. An example of this ambiguity is “She went to…school.” In this sentence, “…” might represent the word “elementary.” Omission of part of a quoted sentence without indication by an ellipsis (or bracketed text); e.g., “She went to school.” as opposed to “She went to Broadmoor Elementary school.” would mislead the readers… [emphasis added]
See my three dots at the end indicate that there is more to this text than I have excerpted.
Why, you may be asking, am I going on and on about ellipses? Remember that pesky press release that indicated that:
…City leaders have refused to acknowledge the bankruptcy possibility. But an email – leaked to community leaders and sent to firefighters by the Alameda Fire Chief – confirmed last week that “the City (is) facing bankruptcy in as little as 36-48 months.” The Chief acknowledged the temporary closure of fire stations, on a rotating basis, starts Jan. 26….
More importantly, this line:
“the City (is) facing bankruptcy in as little as 36-48 months.”
Which would indicate that the line was directly excerpted from the Fire Chief’s email without any omissions or deletions, no ellipsis, except for the additional “is” which is placed in parentheses ( ) which I suppose is meant to clean up or clarify the grammar. Although, grammar nerds will note that the appropriate punctuation would have been brackets [ ].
But alas, if you thought that was the whole shabang, you would be sadly, sadly mistaken. Here is the paragraph the text was excerpted from:
…Setting aside history, the current economic situation (local, state and federal) is what is forcing this move. If the City does not adjust spending, it would be facing bankruptcy in as little as 36 – 48 months. If that were to happen the impact to the Department and its members would be much worse than temporary brownouts… [originial emphasis]
Which means that this is how Save Our City Alameda should have written that section of the press release:
“…the City… (is) [is] facing bankruptcy in as little as 36-48 months…”
Although the use of the “is” is not appropriate since the purpose of adding clarifying brackets is not to change the meaning of someone’s words, but rather to clarify. So why would you make such an omission to completely change the content and context of the initial email? After all, the email is public record, someone is bound to find a copy of it. It’s pretty unscrupulous, but I guess politics is politics? Here’s the thing though, that would be fine, but credibility is important as well. If you lose credibility with antics like this, what is left?
But putting this aside, let’s talk about the spectre of bankruptcy, as mentioned in the Fire Chief’s email. Personally, no offense to the Fire Chief, but that was a minor f-up. I get what he was trying to do, he was trying to put it in perspective for his disgruntled staff who have been apparently worked themselves up into such a tizzy that they are doing robocallsto residents. Which, considering that everyone else is cutting back, perhaps spending the ducats for robocalls maybe isn’t the best use of firefighter PAC funds, but I digress.
Anyway, I see that the Chief was probably trying to say to his staff, “Hey look, let’s just do this brownout thing because it could be worse, if we continue pressing on down this line to the point where we bankrupt the City because of our requests and lack of flexibility, we could end up like the folks up in Vallejo who are left with their contracts in jeopardy and in front of a bankruptcy court.”
More than likely, the Chief misused the term “bankruptcy” and meant something much more complex. Like draining our general fund reserves. Because when a city has reserves to tap into, you aren’t in much danger of going bankrupt. The question that the City Council was faced with: do we tap into our general fund reserves to fund on-going operating services costs such as this, or do we cut back in lean times. The answer was, cut back. We all are cutting back these days. Our businesses are cutting back, we are cutting back in our household budgets, our government is cutting back…no one is or should be exempt from the current hardships the country and the world is facing. Not even our firefighters.
Even with that minor f-up, all in all the entire email was more of a rallying cry from the captain to his crew to accept the realities and understand that these challenges are facing everyone. I’ll leave you all with the entire email. Unedited.
To All Members,
After months of waiting, it is now clear that brown outs will begin later this month. We have been anticipating that brown outs would occur ever since the 2008/09 was adopted in June of 2008. We just weren’t sure when. There was hope that Proposition P would make up the difference. It is now evident that Prop P will not generate enough money this year to make up the difference. It is helping to stave off further cuts.
I know there is a lot of disappointment that it has become necessary to implement brownouts. Some probably think it could have been avoided or should have been avoided. Those feelings are further complicated and felt more deeply by the long history of cuts and financial turmoil that always affect the Department. I know there are many factors at play and it is hard to sort it all out. However, at this point in time, the adopted budget is the budget.
Setting aside history, the current economic situation (local, state and federal) is what is forcing this move. If the City does not adjust spending, it would be facing bankruptcy in as little as 36 – 48 months. If that were to happen the impact to the Department and its members would be much worse than temporary brownouts.
By coincidence, last week just before the Council meeting, I received a phone call from a fire captain in the SAC Valley area. His department has been through this. He told me that from their experience we either do the brownouts now or face lay offs later. We are not alone in this.
While we have been making an argument for the past year to hire personnel to fill the unfunded positions, right now it is a blessing that those positions were not filled. As it is, we are able to make adjustments by reducing overtime. If those positions had been filled, we would be facing lay offs.
Brownouts are expected to begin on January 26, 2009. We are working on an implementation plan to have as little impact on our members and on service levels as possible. We intend to role this plan out later this week. In a nut shell, when staffing is at 27 or better, everything will remain staffed. When staffing is at 25 or 26, 2794 will be closed. When staffing is at 24, 2772 will be closed. There will never be more than one unit browned out at a time. We are not changing our initial response to fires. On days that the truck is closed, we will add an engine to first alarm assignments to maintain an 18 person response.
We will get through this. Looking at historical data, the impact to the citizens will be minimal. I am not saying there is “no” impact. We are requesting more data to further understand the potential impacts. There will be an impact on the Department, as well. For one, you will be busier. The same call volume is spread across one less unit. There will be impacts on an already busy schedule for training and other programs. Our challenge remains to do the best, and deliver the best service we can with the resources we have. The Alameda Fire Department has always served this community with pride and excellence. You can take even more pride in knowing you are continuing to give your best even when faced with a company closure. The community will notice and appreciate your commitment to serving them. Many of whom are having to dig deeper into their pockets to keep us all employed. I am grateful that we are able to accomplish this adjustment without any loss of jobs, pay or benefits. This is way better than many people are experiencing.
Thank you for your service in these tough times.
David A. Kapler
Alameda Fire Department
1300 Park St.
Alameda, CA 94501