Thursday, July 05, 2012

Firing of Hallandale Beach lifeguard prompts outcry and review - South Florida

Firing of Hallandale Beach lifeguard prompts outcry and review - South Florida

Executives of an aquatics company will review whether the firm was justified in firing a Hallandale Beach lifeguard earlier this week for leaving his zone to help rescue a nearby swimmer. The dismissal prompted a media firestorm and an outpouring of public support for the guard, 21-year-old Tomas Lopez of Davie. Jeff Ellis Management, the Orlando-area company under contract with Hallandale Beach since 2003 to provide lifeguards at two public beaches, announced Wednesday that it would immediately interview the managers and workers involved in the incident to determine whether any safety protocols were violated...The city said it would await the results of the company's inquiry, which Ellis said should be complete by Friday. City spokesman Peter Dobens said the agreement for the protected areas of the beach calls for four lifeguards and one supervisor to be on duty simultaneously, per shift. "The city doesn't provide lifeguards in front of the condominiums up and down the beach," Dobens said. Emergency service personnel, however, respond whenever summoned.
For those who still don't understand the difference between public provision of local services and privatization, read this.  The City of Hallandale Beach has contracted out lifeguard services (or some contractually-defined simulacrum thereof) to Jeff Ellis Management. One of their lifeguards did CPR (or otherwise rendered aid) on a man who had already been pulled from the water by others after apparently getting in trouble outside the area that the contract covers. His company fired him. The city is mumbling PR nonsense about awaiting the results of the grand investigation by the company, which translates into "Wait and see how bad the media firestorm is and act accordingly."  This young man knew what needed to be done and he did it, because he is a lifeguard. Unfortunately, he works for a private company instead of a government.

This underscores a very important point about privatization.  Sometimes privatization works just fine in terms of cost-effectiveness.  But some services should not be privatized at all, ever, because they require split-second decisions, dedication to the welfare of others, and tasks that can't be clearly specified in advance.  It seems to me that most jobs that involve risking your own life to save the lives of others are in that category. There's no reason you need to have public employees on staff to paint city hall, because contracting it out is easy and will work just fine.  But how about contracting out police services to a private security company?  Maybe that's fine for checking IDs at the front gate of the condo development, but when it comes to serious police work, I want a dedicated public servant between me and the real bad guys.  I'd say the same thing about lifeguards.  These are people who might have to dive into a rip tide to pull a drowning swimmer ashore and keep him alive until the paramedics arrive. I don't want them to be reading the fine print in their contract before they decide what to do.

And of course there is a great irony here. The city's private contractor fired Lopez for rendering aid to somebody who was drowning at a private beach in front of a condominium project, where it was "swim at your own risk."  Apparently the condo association didn't pay for its own private lifeguard services.  If you want the services of a Jeff Ellis lifeguard, condo dwellers, you have to pay for them. Those are the rules in privatopia.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A lifeguard fired for saving a life.

Maybe they should change the job title to area of limited exclusive use area guard - meaning that the people swimming in that area have limited exclusive use of the guard. Sort of like condo-land.

The types of "services" that should not be privatized include governance of a populace. The comment regarding the dangers of privatizing police forces is spot on. However, some cities (e.g., Houston, Texas) have decided that your taxes are not enough to pay for services. Nope, they expect HOA corporations to pay for a patrol of the subdivision. So the homeowners pay taxes plus the city is trying to grab a portion of the assessments.

There is competition between different law enforcement groups to see which one becomes the subdivision mercenaries. Many "neighborhoods" are paying several HUNDRED THOUSAND per year for the city police to actually make an appearance in the subdivision. Who is the real client and where are the officers' loyalties? Do they worry more about keeping their job or keeping the "contract" at any cost (to citizens) instead of performing their police function?

This is similar to the Monroe Township situation where the city is responsible for these services in non-HOA subdivisions. However, Houston doesn't want to provide the services there either. Instead the city planning department is attempting to force every subdivision into an HOA long after they are built.

The privatization does not stop there. The city is further disenfranchising the citizens by imposing "super neighborhood" rule. Instead of talking to citizens, the city council will only talk to their "representatives". The city council deems the representative to be directors/officers of the HOA corporation OR directors of the "super neighborhood" depending upon what the issue is. In other words, citizens are being shut out of city hall in favor of "representatives" they did not ask for and who do not represent them.

Super Neighborhood Alliance

This is a good one to look at to understand how citizens have been disenfranchised. Look at the council membership. One can be on a "committee" as a citizen but not necessarily be on the "Council" for the specific super neighborhood. Oh no, your HOA board decides who "represents" the entire populace of the subdivision. Here is another example where the HOA corporation is used to disenfranchise the citizen residents. Check out the members list. Instead of "citizens" control is by "stakeholders" - mostly HOA corporations.
Super Neighborhood - MemorialSN membership