html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: There are better reasons.

Monday, October 15, 2007

There are better reasons.

I actually don't get attacking Giuliani about the firefighters' radios. I have no love for him and don't want him to be president. But it doesn't strike me that a mayor is responsible for getting the right brand of radios for the fire department. That's what the Fire Department logistics engineer or communications chief or department chief should do. I understand that Giuliani had a report saying that some makes of radios weren't adequate for the WTC buildings and that you better get different ones. But why would a mayor know about comparative signal strengths of different brands of radios? That isn't what I want my mayor spending time on.

(If you tell me that Giuliani kept an incompetent person in charge of the Fire Department for political reasons, that is a better link. Or if he hogged that decision to himself and then made it wrong, that is another reason to blame him. Did he override the purchase of the good radios because they were expensive? Those would make him responsible for the radios. If he believed what his engineering staff told him about radios and approved their purchasing choice, that seems about right for a mayor.)


Blogger ptm said...

The critique's I've read are typically that different departments weren't compatible. That's not a failing of the Fire Department or Police Department, it's a failing of the coordinating staff above department level. And that means mayoral office.

Of course, your point still applies - that sounds like staff work to me.

11:15 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

I confess that I only watched half the video, where they emphasized that Giuliani knew that the old radios didn't work. That far in, they were still talking about intra-FD communications.

If this is what convinces people that Giuliani is a bad manager (rather than fucking barking mad), that is fine. I just think it is a job for the radio communications bureaucrat, who is not the mayor.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you, M, on this one, adding on top ptm's point about where his staff might've overseen the whole thing. And he should be on the hook for failures of his staff to some degree, even when it was a mundane staff decision, not something he'd directly oversee.

I'd be temped to like any RG criticism, because I think he's an ass, but unlike some (see how I refrained form saying Republicans?) people, I don't favor distracting off-issue smear campaigns.

12:04 PM  
Blogger John said...

For a discussion of the radio issue and whether Rudy had any role, I recommend 102 Minutes, which details minute by minute what happened between when the first plan struck and when the final tower fell.

Shortly before the second tower fell, police were running out of the building, warned that the other tower had collapsed. As they raced down the stairs they passed groups of firefighters taking a break in the hallways. No one could get word to the firefighters that they were in imminent danger.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I completely understand that there was a failure, and even some of how it happened. But why was the problem something that the mayor's office was responsible for? I'm not being snide. I'm happy if there is a reason to hold Giuliani responsible. But technical failures of equipment isn't really a mayor's office level failure. I don't think that is what the mayor's office does.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the mayor was, at any point, informed that there was something doing with radios that meant police and firefighters and EMTs could not communicate to each other in an emergency situation, and the mayor failed to act in any way, then the mayor should be held to some level of accountability for that.

So, I guess the question isn't what happened, but how it happened and why, and to what extent the mayor was (not should have been, but maybe could have been) involved/aware of that.

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The man's major, maybe sole, qualification for the presidency, if one can call it that, is that he was mayor during the attack. In this context, it's perfectly appropriate to say 'yeah, and what's so special about the job you did in the time leading up to, and indeed during, the attack?'


2:20 PM  
Anonymous Ennis said...

technical failures of equipment isn't really a mayor's office level failure. I don't think that is what the mayor's office does.

Who is in charge of making sure that various agencies can play well together? There was no radio communication czar in NYC at that time, there would not have been one unless Rudy had created such a post.

The backdrop here is that Rudy is taking credit for all sorts of matters relating to how collapse of the towers were handled. And Rudy was a micro-manager (although many of his decisions ended up poor, voters outside of NYC don't know this). So the counter attack is to say, look if you want to take credit for all sorts of details of the logistical response to 9-11, why not take the blame for something that only the mayors office could have addressed, the fact that there was no decent intercommunication between cops and fdny, something that cost lives.

8:15 PM  
Anonymous Peter said...

Long before 9/11 New York was noteworthy among cities for the lack of cooperation between the police and fire departments. It wasn't unheard-of for NYPD and FDNY members to get into shouting matches or even physical fights at emergency scenes as they argued over which department was in charge.

While the issue of radio compatibility is something that ordinarily is resolved at levels below that of the Mayor, it could be argued that Giuliani should have been aware of possible problems along that line given the shaky state of NYPD/FDNY cooperation.

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to consult for a company that sold major communications systems for public safety to governments. It would surprise me if the mayor's office was NOT involved in the process to choose communications systems. They would, of course, be supported by staff work, but the process and decisions are very political, there is a lot of lobbying, and the mayor would have significant influence on the process and timing of such a major expenditure.

Some of the key choices: one common infrastructure for public safety, or separate for each agency? Shared with general public services (e.g. cell phone) or private? Both of these have big implications for overall cost, but also for who pays what, how many vendors get a piece of the action, and how long the city is locked in to a particular approach.

--- PJB

7:37 AM  

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