Oak Brook resident: Fire firefighters 'one by one'

September 28, 2010 4:41:29 AM PDT
A budget battle in one western suburb has turned personal after a resident suggested the village begin firing firefighters one by one.

On Monday night, that resident, Constantine Xinos, defended his comments, while firefighters were fighting back.

In a suburb of gated communities, golf courses and manicured lawns, referring to firefighters as "street people" is bound to cause some backlash.

Xinos said he was merely illustrating in vivid detail the choices Oak Brook and many other communities must face as they tackle unbalanced budgets.

"I like the firemen, they do a great job - and I'm not blowing smoke," said Xinos.

Xinos may "like" firefighters, but he also may not be making a lot of friends among them.

Last week at a meeting on the village's finances, he took to the microphone for a fiery speech.

"Firemen, like cops, are street people. They only understand civilized force. That's what they understand. You fire 'em!" said Xinos.

He went on to argue that Oak Brook can no longer afford the firefighters' existing paychecks and pensions.

The village says 27 of the department's 28 firefighters earn more than $100,000 a year in total compensation. Pension payments are passed from the firefighter to their spouse for life.

Xinos said at the meeting that the village should start firing firefighters one by one until pressure at home causes them to make concessions.

"Maybe they'll sue us. Maybe they'll win something three years from now. She'll leave him. He'll be out of the house. The dog will be dead and the kids will be out on the streets. That's the way you get through life. You don't get through life being a namby pamby," he said.

Xinos said he did not regret his statements.

"I regret nothing," said Xinos. "You have to get people's attention."

It's working. Just ask 17-year Oak Brook fire veteran and local union president George Grodek.

"We've dedicated our lives to the village of Oak Brook," said Grodek. "To hear someone say because they don't want to pay a property tax they'd like to ruin my livelihood and family's wellbeing is just shocking."

"I think what you heard at that meeting was frustration with a union contract that doesn't give us a lot of flexibility," said Oak Brook Village Manager Dave Niemeyer.

In Oak Brook, sales tax revenue from the shopping center means residents don't have to pay property taxes for village services.

Village firefighters feel like residents have been getting their services essentially for free, so why should they make concessions?


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