A different way to address the DC fire department staffing problem
The DC Fire Department has a staffing policy where firefighters work one 24-hour shift every four days. This enables the personnel to live very far away and/or to have second, full-time jobs.
The Chief of the department wants to change the staffing program to a more regular manner ("D.C. fire chief proposes big staffing cuts, 12-hour shifts," Examiner, 2011), which he says would allow for better scheduling and use of resources. The firefighters union is opposed, which of course is why they did a "no confidence" vote on the Chief.
Last week, as part of the justification for the change in personnel practices -- the firefighters union and the police officers union are big contributors to local political campaigns, making it difficult for elected officials to push forward the change -- Mayor Gray said that the fact that so many firefighters live far away reduces the ability of the city to respond to catastrophes, such as what happened in Boston. See "Mayor Vincent Gray warns D.C. can't handle Boston-like attack."
According to the Examiner:
The administration wants to change the system to 12-hour rotations, which would likely force workers to reside closer to the District. Records show 28 percent of the District's uniformed FEMS employees live 30 miles or more from D.C.
Now the city says we're safe, but concerned. See "Despite worries, Mayor Vincent Gray administration says D.C. ready for attack" from the Examiner.
2. One way to be "incremental" in the change in practice would be to move to a middle position. If the issue is just about safety, don't change the personnel scheduling practice but require all the firefighters to live in the city.
3. Alternatively, but it would be a scheduling nightmare, they could allow firefighters who live in the city to maintain the one day out of every four working schedule, but require non-resident firefighters to work on the new schedule.
That would undercut the ability of the union to oppose the change, and put them on the defensive in terms of their place of residence.
4. On the other hand, there are downsides to having more city employees living in the city, because they become a larger voting bloc that can end up supporting politicians that are great for the municipal workers (e.g., under Marion Barry, DC had far more municipal employees, even taking into account the city's "unitary government", than any other city in the US) but not so great for the city.
-- "Fire and emergency services (in DC)," March 2013
-- "Rationalizing Fire and Emergency Services," 2011
-- "Emergency Response," 2009
-- "Council ponders reserved parking for firefighters," 2007