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Principle over Politics

By Frank Ricci (episode 208 Politics & Tactics Fire Engineering Radio)

The bravery needed most in the new era of austerity politics is the courage to stand up for what is right. Bobby Halton has demonstrated to all of us that principle and personal sacrifice must trump what is politically expedient. This resolve is what makes us Americans.

This month we had the honor to sit down with Connecticut State Chairman of the Republican Party Jerry Labriola. Mr. Labriola is a leader who projects a consistent set of values and is a friend to the fire service. His team is committed to efficient government and conservative values that have made this country great.

On March 5th 1770 the Boston Massacre occurred when quartered British troops fired on a mob of unarmed colonist killing five. The British troops were held and charged with murder. Finding an attorney to take up the defense of the troops was a trying endeavor. Any lawyer who stepped up knew they would be viewed as a loyalist and a trader to the cause of freedom.

One patriot stood up knowing his reputation and ability to earn a living could suffer. His wife was shunned in the market and his devotion to freedom was questioned. This attorney was a man of principle. He represented the troops despite the risks to career and family. Remember this was a time when it was common for the mob to tar and feather those who aided the crown.

His argument was not based off rhetoric, it was based on the truth that an unruly mob with clubs surrounded and instigated the out numbered troops. The attorney stated, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” The result was just, seven soldiers were acquitted and two were charged with manslaughter avoiding the death penalty.

Firefighters have this same courage to stand out front. We will strive to do what is right even when there is a political cost. Our democracy only works when we participate in it. Our membership is made up of Libertarians, Democrats, Republicans and the disenchanted. More than anything else firefighters as a constituency are issue advocates for our service. Simply put, issues that affect our service touch the community and we will back those who back us!

When talking to Jerry I was blown away to learn that our state lobbyist did not have an established relationship with him. Relationships are key to political survival and when you reach out before issues arise you will find common ground on many of our values and principles. The fact is most of our members are conservatives and despite ones politics the fire services actions transcend partisan politics.

We talked about how we could all do a better job at reaching out and educating our political leaders. We accomplish more when we work with management and our elected leaders. However make no mistake about it we should never allow politicians or management to place our members in harms way or break their promises. Our service must hold them accountable.

Republicans do not view the fire service as the same as other labor. Even in anti Labor states like Wisconsin, Governor Walker cut firefighters and cops out of his anti collective bargaining law. When Ohio Republicans took on collective bargaining they learned the hard way that the public understands that the fire service is different. Almost every citizen has had a loved one touched by our service.

Be it a heart attack, motor vehicle accident, medical emergency, rescue or fire our members get there first with only one goal, to help. No other service can compare to the work of our members. Ohio’s initiative was shot down. Charles Krauthammer from FOX News and the Washington Post commented that it was a “Hugh tactical error to include firefighters.”

Connecticut State Chairman of the Republican Party Jerry Labriola made it clear that firefighters, cops and the military are different and should be treated as such. Under Jerry’s leadership I see state relationships improving helping firefighters and Republicans. Our members need to see that the party tent is big enough for us all. This does not mean we will always agree, however open dialog breeds respect and understanding.

While Democrats say they are the party of labor. A closer look will make you question this line of thinking. Firefighters have been on the front line against attacks on individual liberty by this administration. Liberals continue to promote social engineering in our profession and society with a blatant disregard of merit. We have witnessed English becoming a second language in the inner cities leading to the exploitation of hard working families. Failed trade policies and over regulations have severed as a catalyst resulting in loss of tax base and manufacturing jobs.

Mr. Labriola pointed to the struggling economy and failed policies under President Obama as the source of pressure on our pensions and way of life as Americans. When the economy and markets improve the effect on city budgets is directly impacted. Our role is to get involved. We cannot sit on the sidelines and hope for the best. We must stand with our values and principles the same way the attorney for the soldiers did. He new that if he sat it out and allowed an injustice to go forward it would be a greater tragedy.

This lawyer became the second President of the United States John Adams. He wrote in his diary about his decision to defend the soldiers “procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough. It was, however, one of the most gallant, generous, manly, and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Execution of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right."

Next Time on Politics and Tactics: Initial Radio Reports and SCBA confidence training. Call in and be apart of the show.

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