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Letter: Former Mayor Says 'Minutes Matter', Advocates 'Yes' Vote on Prop. 1 Fire Station/Truck Levy

Former Mercer Island Mayor Jim Pearman writes in a letter to the editor that a 2011 near-fatal heart attack made him acutely aware of the need to improve Emergency Response services on Mercer Island.

Editor:

Minutes matter!!

When I was asked to assist with the Southend Fire Station Capital Levy, I must admit I was enjoying my new life as a recovering elected official; however, I felt very strongly there are some issues that are so important to our community that I could not step away from this request.

For over ten years the City Council has been discussing the deficiencies of the Southend Station hoping that no major event would occur that would render the station non-responsive to our community’s needs at the time of a major disaster. Was there risk in our past inaction….yes. What degree of risk, I do not know nor can I accurately speculate on the degree of that risk, but there was and is risk.  It is now for us to decide what level of risk we are willing to live with.  This levy is about taking action now, rather than living with the risk that our emergency response system could be impacted in the event of a major disaster, as well as correcting the deficiencies within the existing building that are impacting our current emergency response time.

From my work with FEMA, I can say with confidence that all disasters are different and are extremely difficult to predict.  I have come to the conclusion that the best defense for a community is an emergency response system that is well equipped and has the flexibility and capacity to respond to the unpredictable nature of emergencies.  The proposed Southend Fire Station addresses all of these elements.

Before May 31, 2011 I had a very different understanding and appreciation of our emergency response system: then I suffered a near fatal heart attack.  At the time I was 53 years old, and an avid rower.  I was in top physical shape.  After rowing practice on May 31st I experienced my heart attack.  Due to our emergency response team (a service I never thought I would ever use) I was attended to and rushed to Overlake Hospital.  Due to the excellent work by our fire fighters I survived and my heart is virtually undamaged.  Only 20% of the people who experience my form of heart attack survive and most of those who do survive live the rest of their lives with severely damaged hearts.  In my case, as in most emergencies, minutes meant everything in determining the ultimate outcome of that emergency.  Minutes do matter.

The emergency response statistics of our Island fire fighters are impressive; however, when it is you or your family in need, it is the ONE call that matters most to you.  If you are as unfortunate as I was on that spring day in 2011, and need to make your ONE call, you will understand why I chose to serve my community one more time to assist with passing this levy.

The Southend station needs your support so we can reduce the risk of losing those all-important response minutes in our time of need.  I view this levy as a measure of how we look after one another; it is all about community.  Please join me and leaders of our community, moms and dads, and your retired neighbors in support of a system that best prepares us all for that ONE call. 

Minutes do matter.

(Signed)

Jim Pearman

Ira B. Appelman October 21, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Part 1 of 2: Pearman’s illogic: former mayor Pearman reports having a heart attack while driving on the I-90 bridge. Instead of driving to Overlake, he drove to the NORTH end fire station and they got him to the hospital. THEREFORE, the SOUTH end fire station should be demolished! That’s what Pearman is claiming here. Nothing in the current levy has anything whatsoever to do with Pearman’s incident. Islanders have been having difficulty understanding why our city and school officials always turn first to demolishing our public buildings and don’t even consider less expensive remodelling and upgrades. The campaign to demolish the southend fire station (which has survived two major earthquakes without damage) based on the usual false claim of earthquake risk has fizzled, so Pearman NOW CLAIMS it’s all about response time because “minutes do matter.” To this point, no evidence whatsoever has been presented that response time is a problem OR that this levy will even address that problem. Response time IS NOT EVEN MENTIONED in the City’s all-Island mailing advocating the levy. The only real future threat to response time WAS CAUSED BY PEARMAN and strongly opposed by the firefighters’ union: See Part 2 of 2
Ira B. Appelman October 21, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Part 2 of 2: In 2010 under former mayor Pearman’s leadership, the council came up with a scheme to generate more revenue while risking longer emergency response time. The practice at that time for NON-CRITICAL 911 patients was for the first responders to call an ambulance service to transport patients to the hospital. Our emergency personnel would transport to the hospital only in CRITICAL cases. That preserved our firefighters to respond to any additional 911 calls. If our personnel transport, they may be off-Island at the hospital when a new 911 call comes in. THE FIREFIGHTERS STRONGLY OPPOSED RISKING RESPONSE TIME. According to the 12/6/10 council minutes: “ Ray Austin, Mercer Island Firefighter and President of Mercer Island Firefighter’s Association, stated that Mercer Island firefighters are unanimous, unified and uniformly opposed to the proposal for fees for transport…” Despite the “unanimous, unified, and uniform” opposition of firefighters to expanded transport to the hospital to make money but risk response time, Pearman and a council majority adopted it anyway (Resolution 1437, 12/6/10; Ordinance 11C-01; Agenda Bill 4608, 2/7/11).
Thomas Imrich October 21, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Mr. Pearman's comment and conclusion that demolishing and rebuilding of a new fire station at the south end solves anything is illogical, and seriously in error. To get serious about improving safety, response time, and robust emergency preparedness, an assessment first needs to be made of validated Island wide requirements, for equipment, personnel, and facilities. We need a current validated inventory of available emergency skills and resources, capabilities, and outside inter-governmental agreements, against a range of realistic emergency scenarios. That has never been done and been publicly vetted. So for Mr. Pearman to now simply "conclude" that an expensive and unnecessary "demolish and rebuild" of the south end fire station solves anything, is the height of fuzzy thinking and faulty logic. Further, in an environment where the City has already projected to be moving toward "red ink", and is already hinting at more tax increases, while wasting money on Road Diet, art, and "all-weather" ball-fields, while neglecting other safety needs for fighting increasing serious crime, is the height of fiscal irresponsibility. It is time to send both the Council and City a message. Force a reassessment of this entire matter. Only then should Islanders fund the real and validated requirements, in the best way, for the right amount, achieving a real improvement in safety.
Kendall Watson October 21, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Tom & Ira, what about the two consultant's reports in '91 and '09 that examined the fire station's function within the existing MIFD emergency response programming? According to both, the "replacement of the existing Fire Station 92 is recommended." (from the '09 TCA report, Executive Summary)
Marty Gale October 21, 2012 at 06:34 PM
Responding to your question, Kendall, about the consultants' reports: Isn't it the responsibility of Mr. Pearman to ask that question? Marty Gale
Kendall Watson October 21, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Hi Marty, Well, I only raise that as a question because it appears to be assumed by Pearman that citizens have already reviewed and accepted the conclusions there. I cannot tell if the critiques Tom and Ira provide are taking these reports into account. You're right, though, in the sense that the reports get no direct mention — only some of the conclusions are obliquely referred to.
Ira B. Appelman October 22, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Part 1 of 2 Hi Kendall: Since this thread concerns Pearman’s spurious claim that the levy is about “response time” which also appears in the Distorter as, “Minutes Matter,” I would like to stay on that topic. However, the short answer to your question is that (1) consultants ALWAYS “recommend” demolition and NEVER recommend remodelling because that’s what the Council and City Manager demand; and (2) consultants and senior staff who don’t do what’s demanded are terminated. The latest consultant to disagree with the Council and City Manager was employment law attorney Marcella Fleming Reed. Reed strongly criticized City Manager Conrad for his role in the scandal that led to Lindell getting a $1,000,000 settlement, but as a result, Reed was terminated!! I think Cero’s latest October 19th Patch Blog debunks safety issues (http://mercerisland.patch.com/blog_posts/prop-1-south-end-fire-stationrescue-truck-risk-vs-benefit). Getting back to the letter Pearman actually wrote, the City’s latest survey shows that Islanders reserve their highest ratings for quickness of emergency response. No one has even raised a problem with response time; the City's advocacy sheet sent to all postal customers doesn’t even mention response time. And Pearman doesn’t even hint at how nearly doubling the size of the south end fire station and adding a lobby and 4th sleeping area for only 3 firefighters will improve response time. See Part 2 of 2
Ira B. Appelman October 22, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Part 2 of 2 The only response time issue raised recently concerns a Council scheme to raise funds BY RISKING EMERGENCY RESPONSE TIME. Under the old system for NON-CRITICAL 911 patients, the first responders called an ambulance to take them to the hospital, and our emergency personnel remained on the Island ready for the next emergency call. But then the ambulance company billed insurance for transport. The Council majority coveted that transport fee. So at the risk of response time, the Council adopted a $770 transport fee and expanded the use of our emergency personnel to transport non-critical 911 patients to the hospital and then bill the insurance company $770. Since our emergency personnel are spending more time in transport, it is more likely that they won’t be available when multiple 911 calls come in, risking response time. In an unprecedented move, the firefighters union strongly objected, claiming that firefighters were “unanimous, unified, and uniformly opposed” to the scheme. The fire chief supported the scheme saying that the risk could be “managed,” which is true. But response time is in jeopardy because of the Council majority’s vote. If some of our emergency personnel are transporting when multiple 911 calls come in, we may have to rely on help from Bellevue, which takes much longer. Pearman was the mayor and supported this scheme; Cero opposed it (see above citations to council meetings).
Jerry Gropp Architect AIA October 29, 2012 at 04:25 PM
. Tom and Ira have already said what needs saying about Mayor Pearman's heartfelt letter. The things that undoubtedly need doing can be better done without an unwise, unneeded "TearDown". Jerry-

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