The Future of Emergency Dispatch Services in Lakewood
Last week I published a commitment to advocate for local emergency dispatch services in Lakewood, and to oppose the prospect of regionalizing this service. (https://patch.com/ohio/lakewood-oh/regionalizing-emergency-dispatch-wrong-lakewood)
Three public officials have since objected to my statement. Lakewood’s mayor and our Ward 1 city council representative both e-mailed me asserting their opposition to regionalized dispatch. They also charged that in stating “There is talk of regionalizing Lakewood’s emergency dispatch,” I spread misinformation, and called for me to respond publicly. Lakewood’s finance director has also taken these charges to a public forum.
My very first response was and is thanks for the statements against regionalized dispatch. I believe such a course would be wrong for Lakewood, and I appreciate any current or aspiring elected official also committed to protecting this local service.
My second response was that there is nonetheless talk, and more than talk, from sources which indicate we should not take this policy for granted, given the approaching retirements of both Lakewood’s mayor and Ward 1’s council representative.
Focusing on policy, and on positive advocacy for Lakewood residents, should be the priority in all discussions of this issue. I sought to prioritize that, and will continue doing so. My goal is to work with people on solutions, and for that reason I addressed my original statement toward advocacy of good policy, rather than on pointing fingers at anyone for calling it into question.
I am also committed to transparent and responsive leadership, however, and after direct calls to elaborate publicly, I am obligated to provide details of the “talk” which cautions us against taking local emergency dispatch for granted.
In July of this year, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) directly asked candidates about our view on regionalizing Lakewood’s emergency dispatch services. Based on my own understanding of the risks this would pose for residents’ health and safety, I stated firm support for keeping dispatch local in our community.
I was surprised, then, when I heard the president of city council tell the FOP that he would be open to partnering with other communities on a regional dispatch service, and that it is hard for Lakewood to justify the cost of a local service.
I was concerned, by this statement on public policy, from a current elected official who is running to be the city’s next mayor. My practice is however to study things first, and this rather than any kind of public statement was my first thought.
A study of this issue indicated that the interviews with FOP were by no means the only instance of talk about regionalizing dispatch.
Beginning six years ago, the Cuyahoga County executive (Lakewood’s previous mayor) made firm public statements calling for regionalized emergency dispatch.
County government proceeded to draw up plans for regionalizing dispatch, including multiple maps drawing Lakewood into proposed systems. Click here for plan.
Participation in this plan has been left up to individual communities, but the plan has been drawn up and available publicly for some time. Combined with the quite understandable direct questions about this issue, from FOP, and with favorable statements from the president of city council who is a candidate for mayor, it is not only accurate but an understatement to acknowledge that “There is talk of regionalizing Lakewood's emergency dispatch.” There is indeed talk, and was already talk before I made a very simple and honest statement of my own commitment to local service.
My only intention was and is to give residents a clear statement about where I stand on a critical service. This is essential transparency we should all be able to expect from elected leaders or candidates.
It was not and is not my intention to speak for other candidates or officeholders. Disagreement is not inherently a controversy or a scandal, it’s a part of life; I hope that we can have good faith debate in Lakewood, with space for reasonable people to have different views and still seek good policy together.
Additionally, disclosing my observations during the FOP endorsement interviews was something I hoped would not be necessary. The president of council is a public official, and was discussing public business with a union of public employees, and expressing himself volubly. No one asked candidates to keep the interviews in confidence. Nonetheless these were not part of a public meeting, and I preferred simply to speak for myself about an issue which is after all not new or secret.
But multiple public officials have charged me with making false claims, and called on me in public-record correspondence to reply publicly.
Therefore, upon due consideration, I have provided the facts of this matter for residents to examine directly. References follow.
Candidate for Lakewood City Council, Ward 1