A last-minute compromise Friday between Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and the City Council spared four of the 10 firefighters facing layoffs as the result of the strained city budget.
The surprise deal capped a week of vocal lobbying over hiring priorities, in which the city’s search for a bicycle and pedestrian coordinator took center stage. Following Friday’s deal, six firefighters are still set to lose their jobs as a result of frozen state aid, after the city already used contingency funds to keep 31 of their colleagues on the job.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN – Fire Chief Alex Jackson has warned the layoffs will result in longer response times, but said Friday he expects the compromise to mitigate those effects. Several firefighters are also expected to retire, making room for some laid-off employees to be recalled.
“We did something today you didn’t see at the Capitol or in Washington — we compromised,” Rybak said after the meeting. “And that compromise saved some firefighters’ jobs. It didn’t put more pressure on property taxpayers.”
The council had tried to save all 10 firefighter jobs using one-time funds, but its attempt to override Rybak’s veto of its proposal fell one vote short Friday.
The final compromise package, which passed unanimously, found more permanent savings to spare the layoffs through 2012 by eliminating 12 vacant positions in other areas of city government.
The firefighters union has campaigned aggressively this week to protect all of the threatened jobs. They distributed fliers in Council Member Robert Lilligren’s district Monday and showed up en masse at Friday’s hearing wearing yellow shirts.
Union president Mark Lakosky said the deal still leaves the city shorthanded. “It’s a compromise on the backs of the citizens as far as public safety,” Lakosky said.
Some of the vacant positions that will not be filled include a deputy police chief and police captain, as well as two city planners and a city attorney. Rybak said he had already planned to cut the positions in his 2012 budget proposal, expected later this month.