Rep. Dennis P. Williams: Local 1590's choice for mayor.
Wilmington, DE -- Following a closely watched Meet the Candidate's Night, it didn't take long for Wilmington Firefighters (IAFF Local 1590) to decide which contenders they would support in the 2012 elections. Topping the list is Mayoral candidate, Dennis P. Williams, who once worked side-by-side with Wilmington's firefighters as a law enforcement officer, but who for the past few decades has served in the State Legislature as the powerhouse Democrat from District 1, north Wilmington.
Some in the community feel that endorsements from union locals and their representatives have come too early, but the reality is that Wilmington's mayoral election will take place a full two months before the general election in November. Why? There is no substantial Republican opposition, so the Mayor will be selected during the Democratic Primary, which this year falls on September 11th. And with a little over a month until the primary, candidates are rounding the final turn and racing toward a tight finish.
In light of Mr. Williams decision to run on a public safety platform, the Firefighters' endorsement is an important one -- equally as important as that of the Fraternal Order of Police. Because some believe that for the past several years, the current administration has been misleading the citizens of Wilmington when it comes to fire-rescue protection.
The biggest rub has been that of "Rolling Bypass," more accurately known as brownouts. Each day Rolling Bypass closes one of three city engine companies, leaving the 6 Engine department (see city website) with only 5. Then, 2 years ago, the mayor and his staff (which includes mayoral candidate William Montgomery) ordered the closure of Rescue Company 1, the state's only career staffed rescue unit. (see Wilmington's Rescue-1 Disbanded) Seventeen firefighters were lost as part of that closure, and one of the state's most valued fire-rescue resources vanished. Net loss: 8 firefighters per shift and with it the inability to handle multi-alarm incidents.
When I interviewed Rep. Williams this past spring, we discussed problems related to fire-rescue at length.
"The day I become mayor,' he insisted, 'I'll order the fire chief to end this rolling bypass nonsense immediately."
When asked about Rescue-1 he was just as insistent.
"Closing Rescue-1 makes no sense at all to me...it's like telling the police department to disband their SWAT unit." He continued. "Since Rescue-1 is an important state resource, my plan is to approach the state to help us re-open that company."
When it comes to state money, Williams knows where it is and how to get it because he heads the Joint Finance Committee. Unlike the current administration, which has done a super job of alienating the Governor and Legislature, Williams connections in Dover run long and run deep.
I applaud Wilmington Firefighters for their decision to endorse Dennis P. Williams as mayor. There is no doubt in my mind that he will restore the department's capabilities and morale to where it was under Chief James Ford. Although I can't speak to the law enforcement side of his campaign, he has released a plan to stem the current rash of shootings -- a plan which is based through consultation and 20 years on the mean streets as a police officer.
As a fire service advocate, the job's been tough these past few years. I've argued positions for Los Angeles, Detroit and Scranton, PA, where firefighters are now working for minimum wage. However, as a Wilmington resident, my advocacy will remain strongest in my hometown. Dennis has my vote -- all I ask Sir, is that I can post some POSITIVE commentaries about the Wilmington Fire Department in the near future.