Letters 09-07-2000

Burned by City Hall, Leon and Joe, Muzzle This Mirth

Burned by City Hall

Firefighters' dilemma: As a former Austin firefighter and emergency medical technician, I read the article about Chief Tyra and the Houston Fire Department with some interest ["In the Hot Seat," by Steve McVicker, August 17]. The emphasis on HFD policy and personnel, in terms of neighborhood health care, is at least partly misplaced. It is the responsibility of City Council and the mayor's office to resist the temptation to allow fire stations to evolve into walk-in medical clinics. These structures are expressly designed for the rapid transport of emergency service personnel and equipment to the victims, not the other way around.

Every time an ill citizen approaches a fire company at the station for help, firefighters take on secondary responsibilities that may or may not be superseded by their primary obligation: responding to fire alarms. And that's the dilemma. If the engine company responds to a fire after medical evaluation has been initiated, then continuity of care is broken, which could reasonably be judged medically unethical (and legally, who knows?). If the firefighters take themselves out of service to render medical care, can they justify a house burning down? The failure of City Council and the mayor's office to establish and/or publicize clear-cut guidelines puts HFD firefighters in an untenable and patently unfair position. And it is of great concern to me that this failure may represent a deliberate strategy by some elected representatives to avoid responsibility. In other words, it is council and the mayor who belong "on the hot seat."

Bayousphere: The man's about to throw some bones with the twos on top at the Julia C. Hester House day-care program in the Fifth Ward.
Deron Neblett
Bayousphere: The man's about to throw some bones with the twos on top at the Julia C. Hester House day-care program in the Fifth Ward.

Geoffrey M. Palter, M.D.

Les is best: As a Houston Fire Department veteran, I read your article on Chief Lester Tyra with great interest. While the facts in your article are true, I think there are several points that need clarification.

If there were a survey among the 3,200 HFD members concerning support for Chief Tyra, the results would be represented in the classic bell curve. Some are adamant supporters, a large group is neutral, and there's a group just as adamantly against the chief. As in most cases, the members against the chief are the most outspoken and receive the most press.

Chief Tyra's changes are requiring members to work more doing "non-emergency" activities such as apartment surveys, prefire planning and training. Coupled with an ever increasing number of emergency responses, it makes more work for the employee. Firefighters are not happy about that, but I challenge you to walk into any Houston fire station at any time during the workday and not find at least one member watching TV. We do have more work to do, but we also have ample downtime.

Donald Clark's rank was dispatcher. This rank is laterally equivalent to captain but requires an entirely different promotional test. If he developed a hearing loss as dispatcher, perhaps he should have taken a disability retirement, since it would seem to me to have affected his ability to do that job.

You can probably tell I am a supporter of Chief Tyra's. I am not in favor of every decision he has made, but he's the best fire chief in my 20 years with HFD. He's certainly the most knowledgeable and the most well spoken of the chiefs I've served under.

Name withheld by request

Leon and Joe

That balding goateed dude: Thank you for Tom Curtis's portrait of a wonderful and provocative colleague, Bill Simon, who will be very much missed at UH, and in Houston ["The Accidental Sexologist," August 24]. Not to complain, but who does the Houston Press take its readers for these days? Do we really need to be told that Joseph Stalin was a "Soviet dictator"? Or that Trotsky was his "more democratic, intellectual and internationalist adversary"? (The first of those three adjectives is highly debatable, by the way.)

David Mikics, associate English professor
University of Houston

Making a difference: I feel blessed to have known Bill Simon, even for the short time that I did. When I went to KPFT for the first radio show with him and professor George Reiter, as a guest on Class Notes, I was somewhat scared by the idea that I was to be in the company of such learned men.

They not only made me feel instantly at ease, but made me think I was more intelligent than I had given myself credit for. Simon encouraged and seemed to love the idea of HOUSNITCH, and for that I will always be grateful. My heart goes out to his lovely wife and family. He is one of the people who has truly earned the "He made a difference" epithet. He is sorely missed.

Brenda Flynn Flores

Muzzle This Mirth

OD on doggerel: Now just a doggone minute. Anyone who criticizes state Representative Debra Danburg for using a telephone database of supporters to help find her beloved pet is a Luna-tic [The Insider, by Tim Fleck, August 17]. That aghast critic mentioned in The Insider should quit hounding Deb and give her credit for doing everything possible to find her loose pooch. If Luna has landed with another family, let's just hope they're yellow-dog Dems and not rabid Rs.

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