Excerpts from a long message to Chicago firefighters from Chicago mayoral hopeful Paul Vallas

I recognize the overriding issue of firefighter staff reductions and fire station closings creates anxiety among Chicago Fire Department members. While no mayoral candidate can in good conscience guarantee he/she will never close another station or recommend changes in staffing levels, it will be my priority to accomplish savings without jeopardizing firefighter health or safety.

With this in mind, my comprehensive long-term plans DO NOT include fire station closings or firefighter staff reductions. I will instead work with CFD to find ways to improve efficiencies, secure public and private funding to which CFD is entitled and monetize the department by extending income-generating services to private entities.

The issue of protecting the pensions of current and future retirees is also of utmost importance. Fulfilling pension obligations is a constitutional mandate, which means funding retirement takes precedence in any financial crisis. I have a plan that enables the city to meet the pension obligations of ALL our current and future retirees and meets the Stateā€™s pension funding mandate.

Of all the issues facing CFD, none are more important than the issue of firefighter and paramedic health and safety. Concern over the occurrence of occupational cancer has been mounting for several years. The incidence of certain cancers in firefighters is well documented in literature and recently a federal mandate was passed to maintain accurate records countywide.

As mayor of the City of Chicago I will ensure that CFD fully adheres to all National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and other national standards regarding cancer prevention for firefighters and paramedics. This will include instituting serious steps to minimize cancer in firefighters.

The CFD has yet to implement many of these steps. The fact that firefighters have only one set of bunker gear and paramedics have none places CFD employees at risk. Once gear is contaminated, the process of having a vendor take it off site for cleaning is time-consuming and laborious. The result is that most members wind up working with dirty gear. It is unacceptable that this situation persists.

This will change under my watch.

thanks Dennis