After being in office for almost a year you would think that Executive Rushern Baker would have nominated his entire new administration. He hasn’t. Baker who was sworn into office on December 6th has faced repeated delays in not getting his nominees confirmed by the council but in just getting them appointed from his own office. Now to add additional work to the load the executive and new Fire Chief are proposing to amend the county charter to take over the Fire Commission.
The Prince George’s Fire Commission is currently made up of elected members from the various volunteer fire houses. The commission only oversees the volunteers but in a new campaign being waged by Baker supporters you could be confused to believe they oversee the entire department. For forty years these volunteers have elected their own commissioners who oversee their budget and manage training and qualifications. Under an executive order signed by Rushern Baker that would change and he would appoint all nine members, three volunteers, three career firefighters, and three citizens. The budget they have overseen for forty years without concern, that would be placed under the fire chief and the commission would no longer control volunteer training or qualifications because the chief would do that too. The commission would be turned into an advisory body to the chief and the volunteers are not too happy about it. “We are the only part of the county government that has come in under budget year after year,” said a commissioner. “We are one of the only agencies who have no marks on our record. We don’t do this for the money, we’re volunteers, we do this out of a love for the people of this community.”
The County Council plans to host an emergency meeting on Monday to consider the situation. If the council fails to act on Baker’s order it will automatically go into effect but that could be the problem. Councilwoman Mary Lehman who has backed Baker on other issues called the proposal “overly aggressive” and wasn’t sure how she’d vote. Baker is not giving up and is pulling out all of the stops. Members of his inner-circle have been emailing appeals to the community asking them to back the legislation before the council. Some have went so far to say that the new legislation will get rid of the all-white commission and allow Baker to name a more diverse group. Another supporter said the commission has members on it who don’t live in the county despite the fact they volunteer to fight our fires. The backer failed to mention that a majority of county career firefighters also don’t live in the county and they are paid.
The final resolution is expected to be decided sometime this weekend.