Open letter to Mayor Art Ward from Regina Van Gootkin:
October 5, 2012
Mayor Ward Unreasonably Wields Power; Firefighters Can’t Wear Pink
As I’m sure you know by now, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month; pink goes viral and the serious issue of breast cancer is front and center in the eyes of the public for 31 days. My grandmother suffered from breast cancer and passed away several years ago, so this has always been an important cause to me and my family. As a Bristol resident, I was happy to see the teal ribbons pop up around town in September in order to raise awareness for Ovarian Cancer (there were even some tied around the trees at City Hall). I was also pleased to hear that the Bristol Firefighters had taken the initiative to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer.
Our Bristol firefighters planned to sell pink shirts for $20 to fellow firefighters who wanted to participate; they would then wear the shirt to work each Thursday in October and the proceeds would be donated. The pink shirt was to be the same as the navy shirt regularly worn by the firefighters. The International Association of Fire Fighters urges firefights across the nation to take part in this campaign. Instead of embracing this cause, when Fire Chief Jon Pose called for permission to go forward with the initiative, Mayor Art Ward declared it would be an act of “insubordination” should any Bristol firefighters wear their pink shirt to work. Really? Insubordination? For wearing a breast cancer t-shirt? Seems a little outrageous to me, no?
I can’t for the life of me come up with a valid, logical or practical explanation for the Mayor’s response to this initiative. Last time I checked, you can’t see what firefighters are wearing underneath their gear, so it can’t be that the pink shirt would be distracting to anyone or cause a safety issue (I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that wearing pink instead of navy blue does not make you more flammable). I’m also guessing that it doesn’t violate any union contracts since union president Sean Lennon is in favor of the measure and believes the fundraiser is in line with the mission statement of the Bristol firefighters. Mr. Lennon sent a letter to the Mayor on September 12 asking him to reconsider his decision; apparently Ward finally responded with a letter (which was received by the firefighters yesterday 10/4/12) saying he can’t “extend on-duty fund raising efforts, in any manner, by city groups beyond the current organizations at this time.” Where’s the logic in this position? Is Ward saying that all Bristol city groups are locked in to whatever fundraising activities they’ve done in the past? What could possibly be the reasoning behind this position?
I am not a firefighter and am not affiliated with the firefighters in any way; I only heard this tale through fellow Bristol residents. The absurdity of Mayor Ward’s response prompted me to try and share the story with the general public, who certainly deserve to know what their Mayor is (and isn’t) doing for us while he’s on the job.
I’d like to remind Mayor Ward that he failed to garner even half of the popular vote in the last election. He should keep that fact in mind the next time he decides to arbitrarily and inequitably wield the power the people of Bristol did not vote to give him.
A Pink Supporter & Bristol Resident
Regina von Gootkin