South Orange FMBA Locals 40 and 240, the unions that represent the Village’s firefighters, have offered their endorsement to Deborah Davis Ford in her campaign for Village President.
The election will be held on Tuesday, May 14.
“We are invested in this community, many of us grew up here and South Orange will always be our home. To say that we are interested in seeing South Orange continue to thrive is an understatement,” said Jimmy Jennings, President of FMBA Local 40. Saying that current Village President Sheena Collum’s efforts to turnover responsibility for fire service to Maplewood weighed heavily on the decision, Jennings added that it was far from the only factor. “Overall there has been an obvious failure of the current Administration to be open and transparent on a number of issues including redevelopment, plans to replace long term municipal employees, and the oft-stated goal to fully merge South Orange with Maplewood.”
“Long Facebook posts don’t equal open government,” Jenning concluded.
This endorsement represents the first time Locals 40 and 240 have participated so fully in a local campaign, Michael Commins, Vice President of FMBA Local 240 said.
“It has been said that all politics is local, and as firefighters, when we are in the neighborhoods interacting with residents on a daily basis, we see more than just about anyone how local leaders impact the community we serve,” Commins offered, adding that in 2018 the South Orange Fire Department responded to over 2,200 calls, including house fires, car accidents, and other emergency situations. “Now, more than ever, we need a Village President who is willing to put their energy into making South Orange even better, not advancing a political agenda and career on the backs of our neighbors.”
The locals said Collum has continually touted the Manitou Study as the basis of her plan, a document that, in order to reach the savings she has said will come with the giveaway of the South Orange Fire Department, calls for the reduction of active firefighters to just three per shift stationed in South Orange and bases response times on the ability of first response vehicles to travel through both heavily trafficked municipalities at unrealistic speeds. Since kicking off her reelection campaign last month Collum has backpedalled from its findings, the labor leader said.
“The real concern is that what Ms. Collum has said in the past doesn’t jive with what she is saying now, under the microscope of an election campaign,” Commins said. “This is politics at its worst, and something that could have been largely avoided had she been more open about her plans for the future of public safety in South Orange.”
“When a leader is confident in their plan they don’t charge forward alone,” Eddie Donnelly, President of the NJ FMBA, the statewide union representing more than 5,000 firefighters, EMTs, and dispatchers, said. “Ms. Collum’s decision to largely keep key stakeholders, most notably the men and women that know firefighting best, in the dark about her plan to cede responsibility of maintaining a strong fire department for the residents she is supposed to represent is a clear indicator that she knows it’s wrong.”
Offering his disappointment that Collum “ignored his offer” to lend the union’s expertise on the delivery of lifesaving firefighting service, as they have done previously, Donnelly added that “In discussing with my members what involvement they thought was appropriate in this campaign, and then reading the distorted facts coming from Ms. Collum’s camp, it became clear that a full endorsement of Deborah Davis Ford, backed up with political action that will see our firefighters going door to door to talk to the residents they protect every day, was the only viable option.”