Blue Island to require sprinklers in ...

Blue Island to require sprinklers in new construction

There are 6 comments on the The Business Ledger story from Aug 15, 2012, titled Blue Island to require sprinklers in new construction. In it, The Business Ledger reports that:

PRNewswire BLUE ISLAND - Officials recently updated the city's fire and building codes to require fire sprinkler protection in all new construction one- and two-family homes and townhouses effective immediately.

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Eustis, FL

#1 Aug 17, 2012
What is the campaign donation from this. So existing buildings are grandfathered in right???

Chicago, IL

#2 Aug 17, 2012

Chicago, IL

#3 Aug 17, 2012

Blue Island, IL

#4 Aug 18, 2012
What is the campaign donation from this. So existing buildings are grandfathered in right???
This is long over due for all buildings everywhere.

Chicago, IL

#5 Aug 18, 2012
In the rest of the world, those ignorant of history may be doomed to repeat it. In acadème, those ignoring history often just misrepresent it.
Following last September's horrifying events, polymath Paul Krugman informed readers of the New York Times that he had "identified a government agency that, by the usual criteria, should be a prime target for downsizing—maybe even abolition." That agency's work could be outsourced to private companies, with "no question" that the costs of using private companies would be lower. "In fact, many of the agency's employees are paid considerably more than people with equivalent qualifications in the private sector." That agency? The New York City Fire Department.

In short, good old-fashioned rent seeking accounts for the rise of public fire-fighting. It explains as well the survival of an entity that, more and more, is losing its raison d'être. Modern building materials are relatively fire-proof, while clothing and other fabrics are flame-retardant. Municipal codes increasingly require sprinkler systems, smoke detectors and other devices to reduce the incidence and costs of fire. So today's fireman has much less to do.4 The number of home and building fires has plunged 40 percent in the past two decades.

Chicago, IL

#6 Aug 18, 2012
With fewer fires to fight, one would expect to find fewer fire-fighters—in a private firm, anyway. But not in a public agency. Despite the 40-percent decline in fires, in the past twenty years the number of paid city fire-fighters has increased by 20 percent. Only in government firms does employment go up as demand and output decline.

Swelling the paid union ranks as fires decrease does create a problem for firemen, though. Taxpayers are unlikely to support budget increases for fire departments if they see firemen lolling about the firehouse. So cities have created new, highly visible jobs for their firemen. The Wall Street Journal reported recently, "In Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, for example, 90% of the emergency calls to firehouses are to accompany ambulances to the scene of auto accidents and other medical emergencies. Elsewhere, to keep their employees busy, fire departments have expanded into neighborhood beautification, gang intervention, substitute-teaching and other downtime pursuits." In the Illinois township where I live, the fire department drives its trucks to accompany all medical emergency vehicles, then directs traffic around the ambulance—a task which, however valuable, seemingly does not require a hook-and-ladder.

And my town is typical, apparently. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Over the years, firefighters have been designated as the emergency 'first responders' in about 60% of U.S. communities, a niche that many fire departments have carved out for themselves as the incidence of fires has declined." Firemen unions are currently working hard for a mandatory four-fireman minimum any time a truck is sent out.

To get those kinds of rules, firemen must be active politically, and they are. The International Association of Fire Fighters is among the twenty largest labor unions in the country. Through its political action committee (FIREPAC), it has given millions to political candidates, and millions more in soft-money dollars to political parties.

Fire-fighter feather-bedding is no more surprising here than it would be in any other union. But those shenanigans are hard to square with Krugman's claims about "public service," and why we need the current municipal system of paid union men. His explanation of public fire-fighting as avoiding "penny pinching" by private firms rings especially hollow. Penny pinching is not the problem, but the solution to unionized public fire-fighting.

Eventually John Q. Public will understand this, the same way he now sees what motivates other city "public servants" like the teacher unions. But special pleaders can delay the day of reckoning by blowing smoke in taxpayers' faces about what the real issues are. Social scientists trained to examine human behavior in terms of rational advancement of personal interest should see through this, though. More particularly, they should understand the nirvana fallacy. Arguments along the lines of "government should supplant private firms because those firms are imperfect" are indefensible.

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