Editorial: What’s proper?

This week’s cov­er story on the deep frac­ture between Phil­adelphia fire­fight­ers and May­or Nut­ter ori­gin­ally was sched­uled to be pub­lished on April 10. But the week­end be­fore, Fire Capt. Mi­chael Good­win of North­east Phil­adelphia lost his life when a roof col­lapsed be­neath his feet as he battled a blaze in Queen Vil­lage.

We did not think it was ap­pro­pri­ate to pub­lish an in-depth art­icle about the four-year con­tract battle over wages, health­care and oth­er be­ne­fits when the whole city was in mourn­ing. In­stead, we turned our fo­cus to re­call­ing Good­win’s life and cov­er­ing his fu­ner­al.

It turns out that Bill Gault, the head of the fire­fight­ers’ uni­on, also stepped away from the fray for a few days to con­cen­trate solely on mak­ing sure every­one knew that his boy­hood friend, Mike Good­win, had died a hero. And in the days lead­ing up to Good­win’s fu­ner­al, his pas­tor, the Rev. Mar­jor­ie Neal, talked of his abid­ing faith, his love for fam­ily and his will­ing­ness to quietly help oth­ers in need.

But when she de­livered the homily at his ser­vice, the pas­tor boldly brought up the con­tract fight, and urged May­or Nut­ter, sit­ting in a front pew, to settle the dis­pute. Stung by Neal’s re­marks and the ap­plause that fol­lowed, the may­or later said her words were “in­ap­pro­pri­ate.”

We couldn’t dis­agree more.

What’s in­ap­pro­pri­ate is the way the may­or has con­tin­ued to deny the city’s 1,900 fire­fight­ers and para­med­ics a new con­tract and raises for four years.

He can’t ex­pect to show up at fire­house open­ings, budget speeches or even fu­ner­als and think he will be treated with more re­spect than he has shown oth­ers.

We re­cog­nize there is deep frus­tra­tion on both sides of this dis­pute, and have some­times wondered wheth­er the uni­on chief’s fiery rhet­or­ic was hurt­ing or help­ing his cause. At the same time we have seen the may­or stand at a po­di­um and stub­bornly de­liv­er his budget speech des­pite the pan­de­moni­um erupt­ing around him.

Our series today is the first art­icle on what we hope will be a  com­pre­hens­ive look throughout the year at the an­im­os­ity between the fire­fight­ers and the may­or.  

The may­or has re­peatedly said the city can’t af­ford the awards handed down by an ar­bit­ra­tion pan­el. What the cit­izens of our city shouldn’t abide is a may­or who won’t hon­or a “bind­ing ar­bit­ra­tion” award, and con­tin­ues to use tax­pay­er dol­lars on a costly leg­al chal­lenge.

At the very least, the may­or should hon­or the terms of the award, like pre­vi­ous may­ors have done, while he con­tin­ues his fight in the courts. 

That’s what’s ap­pro­pri­ate. ••

You can reach at lswanson@bsmphilly.com.

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