Kansas City Strip

Thanks Dave, back to you, Dave: When KCTV Channel 5 anointed Dave Helling to replace Wendall Anschutz as anchor of its 10 p.m. newscasts — allegedly a promotion — we worried that the Truthwatcher’s investigative skills would be wasted on blabber like “Sure was a hot one today, wasn’t it Katie Horner?” But Helling demanded that he be allowed time to report the news as well as read it. And as he’s done during past campaigns, Helling has so far provided television’s most devastating — and entertaining — reports leading up to the August 7 election.

On July 18, Helling revealed that firefighters hadn’t bothered to cut costs before asking voters to open up a $276 million sales-tax hydrant. Firefighters want to add 135 new employees so they don’t have to send emergency vehicles out with fewer than four people aboard.

But Helling dug out an old city audit in which Mark Funkhouser explained how to do that without hiring more firefighters. “We recommended specific reallocations of equipment and crews,” Funkhouser says. The city auditor noted that the fire department and the firefighters’ union could also help the staffing problem and save $2 million every year by increasing the non-overtime workweek from 49.5 to 53 hours, as allowed by federal law — which considers the fact that firefighters sleep during parts of their shifts.

At a press conference announcing the city’s support for the tax increase, Helling asked Mayor Kay Barnes why the city doesn’t accept the federal standard of a 53-hour workweek. Instead of answering the question, Barnes blew a bunch of smoke: “I have no comment on that…I have no comment on that…You’re trying to pin me down by getting your sound bite, and I’m not going to bite. I have no comment at this point.”

Chief Richard “Smokey” Dyer and union president Louie Wright did not return the Pitch‘s calls. We wanted to know why they’ve dodged some of Funkhouser’s other recommendations, too. Why, for example, does the fire department burn up so much tax money on sick leave during summer weekends, when a high number of “sick” firefighters are replaced by workers who get overtime pay?

Obviously, Jet Ski saddle sores hurt.

Kansas City firefighters pound dead hearts back to life, walk into flaming buildings, mop up toxic spills and sleep with cockroaches. All of that takes balls. So does asking for $276 million while calling in sick from Lake Jacomo.

Categories: News