Citizens crowd Calexico City Hall to save firefighters from budget cuts

Mark Donahue, a financial consultant hired by the Calexico Fire Department, stood before the concerned Calexico citizens to lay out his findings concerning Calexico budgetary matters. Photo by Anna Espinoza

Special to the newspaper
by Anna Espinoza  

CALEXICO — Hundreds of Calexico citizens showed their presence Wednesday evening during the city council meeting to advocate against the fire department’s layoffs and closing any fire station.

Mark Donahue, a financial consultant hired by the Calexico Fire Department, analyzed and shared his findings of the city’s budget allocations. He began the meeting with a slide show presentation, in which he showcased economic data from the past few years. He declared the city’s currently claimed financial crisis was invalid because of the lack of financial receipts and documents which depict incomplete information of the city’s budget spending from the last 21 months.

Therefore, he advocated the firefighters’ retention and the threatened layoff be repealed.
Many Calexico citizens voiced concerns about the town’s public safety citing dangerous scenarios which could result as consequences to the closure of the fire department.

“We are here as citizens with fear, fear for our lives,” said Letty Vizcarra. “We are here to urge, to plead, and demand that you [city council] reset the layoff notices to the six firefighters and paramedics. We demand that fire station number two on the far east side of Calexico remain open and operational.”
Firefighters alleged the lay-offs were a result of their refusal to take a 30 percent cut with the city of Calexico from their check.

“If they were to take the cut, they would not lay off those six [firemen],” said Maribel Padilla, Calexico resident. “They would not close that station.”

This claim was counter-argued by the people in defense of the firemen and their desire to keep all fire stations open. Citizens questioned the choice of the fire station closure as a means of restoring the declining finances of the city.

“Closing down station two is irresponsible and unwise,” argued Eva Rosa Rodriguez to the board members. “I’m not insulting you or disrespecting you,” she explained. “I’m just stating this as pure logic.”

The City Council board members agreed to meet with the Heffernan Medical Board for potential funding assistance. This would possibly avoid the need of laying off the six firemen and closing any fire station.