For decades, the City of Peoria consistently seems to battle financial shortfall year in and year out, threatening to reduce public safety services, or face a tax increase. For those of you who are not familiar with who I am, my name is Ryan Brady and am fortunate to have the opportunity to advocate for the hard working, dedicated men and women of Peoria Firefighters Local 50 as union president. Prior to becoming a firefighter, I had the opportunity to work as a police officer for the City of Peoria for two years before being laid off as a result of a financial shortfall related to the 2009-2010 recession. It truly has been and still is an honor to work in public safety and help out those who need it most in their time of need.

While sitting at my kitchen table paying monthly bills, I received two envelopes from the City of Peoria for a “Stormwater Run Off” and a “Public Safety Pension Fee.” Like most city residents, my expectation is such that in the event my family or I need the police or fire department that they respond in a timely fashion and are well trained and well equipped to handle the emergency they are tasked with. The same expectation also applies to a storm event with a response from the public works department. To be crystal clear, I have no issue with paying the property or sales taxes for these services. In fact, it is one of the many reasons why I choose to reside in the City of Peoria and have full-time, professional public safety services. However, most notably in the last five years, some of the elected officials at city hall have used these issues and the dedicated hard working city employees as the reason for our financial shortcomings. While these issues have been discussed at numerous council meetings, I refuse to sit idly by while individuals and organizations trade punches with my family, friends, and those who give it their all for strangers during their most troubling times. For the record, police officers and firefighters are not looking for a “pat on the back” for professions we knowingly chose to do to help others. The “framework” being used by elected officials and organizations to demonize police officers and firefighters is blatantly wrong and hypocrisy at its finest! One must look no further than to other Central Illinois municipalities and their elected officials to see, they are not reducing police officers or firefighters and diminishing public safety, relying on the threat to raise property taxes astronomically, or going on a statewide campaign for pension reform like the City of Peoria has.
These same individuals, who are being allowed to place the blame on public employee pensions, are the same individuals who will be recipients of pensions as well, yet their narrative doesn’t allow your average citizen or small business owner to know these details nor will they openly discuss how in ten years they will be the ones receiving a six, figure plus pension from taxpayer dollars. Furthermore, police officers and firefighters are not eligible for Social Security benefits and have not been since its inception. While our elected officials like to publish the total compensation packages for police officers and firefighters to support these reductions, please take a moment to look at who the top recipients of pensions really are and I promise you will not find you’re your dedicated, hardworking police officers, firefighters, or public works employee on those lists period.

I simply ask everyone to inform yourselves, not only because we are approaching the municipal election cycle, but because this rhetoric has been allowed to be the subject matter expert from its short, one sided perspective. Your tax dollars should be used to fund CORE, BASIC CITY SERVICES like police, fire, and roads. Hotels and other public/private business adventures are NOT core, basic city services. Do not be fooled by this narrative that’s been working around the clock to place the blame on your basic, core services for their decades of misuse and back door business deals. Firefighters, from Peoria and across the state of Illinois, have always and will always have those we serve and their best interest at heart no matter when the alarm sounds or to help solve our financial shortfalls. City Council district and the mayoral elections are right around the corner and now, no more time than ever, is the time to demand the best and hold those accountable who do not value your safety or the safety of your family when it comes to where our hard, earned tax dollars are spent!

Ryan Brady, President
Peoria Firefighters Local 50