Schiff promises to add firefighters

Minneapolis City Council Member Gary Schiff today promised to hire more firefighters if he’s elected mayor.

“If we don’t have a well equipped, well trained, fully staffed fire department, our city can’t survive,” Schiff said as he accepted the endorsement of the city’s firefighter’s union.

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Schiff talks with firefighters union president Mark Lakosky. (MPR Photo/Curtis Gilbert)

Schiff argued hiring more firefighters wouldn’t necessarily cost more money, because new recruits come in at lower salaries than the retiring staff they replace. He also said a larger force would lead to less overtime and fewer injuries.

The Minneapolis Fire Department has shrunk significantly during current Mayor R.T. Rybak’s administration. It has about 90 fewer firefighters than it did in 2001 — a staff reduction of more than 18 percent.

The union endorsed Schiff because he fought to to block those cuts, union president Mark Lakosky said. Lakosky has clashed over past budgets with council member Betsy Hodges, who is also running for mayor.

“Under Mayor Hodges, the fire department is going to look remarkably like it looks now,” Hodges said. “Residents will continue to get great service. They will continue to get quality protection. They will continue to have excellent response times when they are in trouble.”

The city is in the process of hiring its first class of firefighters in five years. Both Hodges and Schiff supported the move to hire the firefighters, as did council member Don Samuels, who is also running for mayor.

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