MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Just days after the county faced criticism for not having its fireboats available during the July Fourth boating tragedy that left four people dead and a dozen injured, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez proposed a budget that takes $3.3 from the fire department and transfers it to the libraries.
After the mayor announced his plans, CBS4 Investigator Jim DeFede met with the mayor to ask why he would propose such a move when that money would be more than enough to restart the fireboat program.
The conversation quickly grew heated.
GIMENEZ: I can pay for the fireboat right now with the millage that we are proposing by cross utilizing personnel.
DEFEDE: But the union…
GIMENEZ: Excuse me that is your opinion and I don’t think that you are a firefighter and I don’t think you’re a fire chief and you never were
Gimenez, a former firefighter and fire chief in the City of Miami, blames the union for the fireboat being out of service. After the county cut the $2.5 million program three years ago, Gimenez proposed last year that the fire crew at PortMiami staff the fireboat.
GIMENEZ: We could have had our fireboat in service had the union allowed us to cross-utilize the members that are at that port station.
DEFEDE: So rather than blaming it all on the union, why aren’t you coming up with another proposal?
GIMENEZ: Why should I have to? That is a very good proposal. What is wrong with that proposal? Because you don’t like it, is that it, is that the reason, you don’t like it?
Union leaders say the port is required to have a full-time crew on site. They say while the Port fire truck averages only 1.6 calls a day that number is deceiving. On the days around the weekends, when the cruise ships are in the port, they are running on calls all day long. The weekend would also be the most likely time when the fire boat would be needed for rescues and calls on the water.
DEFEDE: It just seems you come up with a lot of ways to fix problems when it comes to things like the American Airlines Arena, when it comes to trying to find a place for Beckham’s stadium, when it comes to the Dolphin stadium, but why aren’t you coming up with some leadership…
GIMENEZ: I did. I have
DEFEDE: You told the union it was this or nothing.
GIMENEZ: No because it’s very viable. You can’t just buckle to whatever the union wants.
DEFEDE: And in the meantime people are dying on the water.
GIMENEZ: Excuse me, you can’t blame this on the fireboat, you can’t. There are people dying all over this town.
DEFEDE: Do you know for sure that nobody else would have been saved if the Miami-Dade fireboat was out there?
GIMENEZ: Oh I can say with 99 percent certainty.
When asked if as Mayor it was his responsibility to lead on this issue and find workable solutions, Gimenez dug in.
DEFEDE: And is that the problem? You think you know what’s right in this case, so you are going to be stubborn on it, rather than trying to find a solution to a problem.
GIMENEZ: I’m being just as stubborn…
DEFEDE: This is a problem that needs to be solved.
GIMENEZ: I’m being just as stubborn as you are.
Gimenez noted that several years ago the library transferred several million dollars to the fire department when the fire department had a budget shortfall. Now that the library is in trouble, they are returning the favor.
The final decision on the budget will be made by Miami-Dade County commissioners. The Commission will set the millage rate next week and then begin holding hearings on the overall budget later this summer.
Click here to watch Jim DeFede’s report.