Even though she knew she was dying, my mother’s last year was one of her happiest. She lived in a small apartment on Downing Street with tall windows. She slept a lot that last year. Many times I came to visit and found her snoring peacefully across her bed in the living room, bathed in sunlight. One of the things that added significantly to her sense of security was the knowledge that the police and fire stations were just a few blocks away. Although she always phoned me for medical emergencies, I often redirected her to call the 911 guys because their response time was quicker than mine would have been. They were stronger than me, too. When she became so weak that she slid down onto the the floor, they treated her with respect when they helped her back up, often joking with her and flattering her as if she were their mother. When her oxygen condenser shut off late one night during a power outage, she called me in a wheezing panic, too frightened to remember how to hook up her portable oxygen tank. I called 911 for her, and within a very few minutes she was back to normal. More than once a police officer willingly went to do a safety check on her at my request when I was unable to drop by.
Although she had friends, caregivers, and family, there was no one on this earth who could have done for her what they did that last year of her life, and I will be grateful till the end of mine.
Unfortunately, budget cuts now threaten the ability of these members of public safety services to provide this kind of personalized attention. State funding reductions have left police officer and firefighter positions unfilled and equipment replacement delayed. Although a few years ago the city received a non-renewable SAFER grant – Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response – it is due to expire early next year, and Piqua will likely lose six of its firefighters. Statistics show that communities with a decrease in crew size experience an increase in loss of life and property. Few people are aware that Piqua has the highest rate of forcible rape in the nation for a city our size, according to City Manager Gary Huff, and ranks abnormally low in police staffing. Having more police officers patrolling the streets would mean higher visibility and greater availability to protect citizens against crime. Adequate staffing also improves a department’s ability to conduct timely investigations and lessens the demand for overtime. Strong police presence improves the local economy because people feel safer going out.
Tuesday is Election Day. Piqua citizens will have the opportunity to vote FOR the Police and Fire Public Safety Levy, improving emergency services to the community. The levy asks for a 0.25% increase: one fourth of one percent, equal to twenty-five cents out of every hundred dollars, to be collected only from citizens earning at least $30,000 annually; social security, pensions, military pay, and public assistance will remain unaffected. Voting for the Public Safety Levy means that for less than the cost of a Netflix or Hulu subscription, you can count on getting life-saving help when you really need it the most.
And make your mother happy, too.
To learn more, check out City Manager Gary Huff’s blog at http://piquaohcm.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/police-and-fire-public-safety-levy/