August 19, 2008
A Questionable Question
Firefighters take offense, rightly, at the words of a potential defendant.
Was Long Beach Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske merely asking whether women firefighters were going to sue to get adequate facilities in fire stations, or was she suggesting they sue? Either way, it's weird.
After all, it's Schipske, and the other council members, they would be suing. What did she expect them to say?
The firefighters union complained in a letter to officials at City Hall that Schipske had suggested on several occasions that women firefighters take legal action as the most effective solution to the problem, but the union said it has no desire to drain city resources with a court fight. Schipske, who happens to be a lawyer for the Long Beach Unified teachers' union, denies she was promoting the idea, and says she just was inquiring (several times).
The union already was at odds with Schipske because she was the lone council holdout blocking a unanimous council vote necessary to allow majority voter approval of a parcel tax in November that would finance renovation of fire stations and other projects. Now the measure will require the much more difficult standard of two-thirds approval.
The firefighters are right about the working conditions. Some of the stations, built long ago for all-male departments, are both rundown and primitive in accommodations, or lack of them, for women firefighters. For privacy, people sometimes change clothes behind a shower curtain.City Hall has been renovating the stations gradually, but there is a long way to go and not much money to pay for it.
The firefighters are right also about resolving this problem without an expensive and needless court fight. Or even a suggestion from a potential defendant.
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