Half of the title of this column could be "Your Government at Work" instead of "Taxes" and the other half could be "You Finally Got Your Last Nickel from Me" instead of "Death." Either way, the inevitability of dealing with our multiple-level government is an extremely important part of our jobs as leaders in the fire service.
We have had a very successful year on Capitol Hill. As part of the Public Safety Alliance (PSA), the IAFC helped obtain the D block of broadband spectrum to build a nationwide broadband network for public-safety communications. As part of the passage of Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, the 10 megahertz of broadband spectrum and $7 billion was allocated to build the system.
The incredible amount of time, energy, negotiations, willpower, determination and serious battering about the head and shoulders it took to accomplish this daunting task may never be fully understood or appreciated by those who’ll benefit from the success, including those in public safety and those that we serve. This victory is just the first step of the long journey to actually have the system designed and built.
The IAFC and the PSA will continue to work to make sure we’re represented in the governance of the system design and build and that we’re represented in the governance of the administration and operation of the system once it is built. While these phases will probably take years, our diligence and perseverance is as important now as it was in obtaining the D block.
Just this one victory was possible because of the long-term relationships we’ve developed with our federal elected officials. By being able to pick up a phone, stop by an office, testify in front of a congressional committee or call the White House, we were able to accomplish what many said could never happen.
And while those who represented the IAFC on the Hill were major players in making this happen, it’s only part of the story. With our network of fire chiefs from around the United States, we were able to contact local fire service leaders and have them contact their specific representatives and senators and state the importance of the D block to their communities.
It can’t be overstated how important those local chiefs were in making this heavy lift successful.
We still have a number of legislative issues on our plate: the reauthorization of the AFG and SAFER grant programs, the funding for the National Fire Academy, several tax and volunteer issues and any new issues that arise.
We’re fast approaching the annual Congressional Fire Service Institutes dinner and the time when we, the leaders of the fire service, visit the Hill and spend time with our congressional leaders. The IAFC will have a list of issues we think those chiefs making those visits should address, but also check and see how your members voted on the D block and please thank them if they supported our efforts.
Chief Al H. Gillespie, EFO, CFO, MIFireE
President and Chairman of the Board