Baltimore Press

Fire Fighters Endorse Bell

Both of the city’s fire fight­er’s unions endorsed the Mayoral campaign of City Council President Lawrence A. Bell, III, yesterday in a joint press conference held at a Southwest Baltimore union hall.

Captain Stephan Fugate, president of the Baltimore City Fire Officers Association – Local 964 made the official announcement at a press con­ference yesterday at the Ridgley Street headquarters of Baltimore Fire Fighters Local 734. Fugate spoke for both organizations.

Referring to the other mayoral candidates, Fugate said “none of them measure up, or have the track record of
Lawrence Bell.”

Pointing out that the fire­fighters were making their endorsement weeks before the July 6th deadline for mayoral candidates to file, Fugate said the union leaders had decided not to hedge their bets or court other candidates, because they expected Bell to win.

Fugate continued by saying that Bell had helped the local unions, and that it was “time for labor to step for­ward and do the right thing.” When asked to explain, Fugate noted that the seven major unions in Baltimore had agreed to support Bell back in February, but that the “Mfume deba­cle” and “other concerns” had so far kept the others unions from commit­ting to Bell.

Before the conference, Bell said he expected the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police to endorse him by Wednesday of next week.

Fugate then added to some con­spiracy theories swirling around Bell’s candidacy, saying that Bell had been given “certain opportunities” to “sell out”, but had refiised. Bell recently spoke of a meeting where a group of leaders offered to support him if he would do their bidding as Mayor. He has declined to name those leaders.
Former City Council President Mary Pat Clarke stepped to the podi­um to introduce Bell as “Mr. Public Safety.” The fire fighters endorsed Clarke in the last mayoral race.

Bell continued on the “Mr. Public Safety” theme, stating he had spon­sored and passed more safety legisla­tion than any other council member. “The most important thing we do is provide public safety,” he said.
Bell made one of his first cam­paign promises yesterday, saying that all fire engines would have four-man crews and that he would not close any more fire stations, if he was elected Mayor. The reduction of staff had caused friction in past years between Mayor Kurt Schmoke and the fire fighters.

Bell then stated that Baltimore would have a higher homicide rate, if not for the care given to the wounded by fire fighters and police on the scene.

After the conference, Fugate talked about an issue which he feels will need to be addressed by the next Mayor’s administration, whoever it may be. An estimated half of the fires in the city are in vacant or delapidated buildings, he said, which are extreme­ly hazardous to the fire fighters. “We can’t even assume they’re empty,” he said “often the homeless are living in there.” He noted that Daniel Henson, the Housing Authority Director, was having a number of the condemned buildings tom down, but that the cur­rent policy was “about paying con­tractors, not about neighborhoods.”

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