Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ambulance Ambiguity

What's the connection between Mayor Duffy and Monroe Ambulance?

That's the question that practically screams itself aloud from the epic saga of the selection of an ambulance service for the City of Rochester.

What influence is strong enough to cause a once-in-two-decades rift between the executive and legislative branches of an otherwise uniformly cohesive one-party City government?  What is it that would cause the Mayor to put himself in the position of loser in a tug of war with the Council?   What is the tie that binds sufficiently tightly for the Mayor to veto City Council's choice even without the votes to sustain that veto?   Why would he put himself in the position of being bested by Council (by a unanimous vote, no less) when merely doing nothing at all -- neither signing Council's approval of Rural Metro Ambulance nor vetoing it -- would have effected precisely the same result produced by City Council's override vote yesterday?

It was the veto that finally drew our attention to the ambulance story.

In vetoing Council's choice, the Mayor deliberately invited publicity about his inability to carry the day on this issue.   He knew he didn't have the votes to sustain the veto.   As it turned out, he had no votes whatsoever.

A political figure of even limited astuteness would have done his vote-counting before deciding whether or not to veto.   Without the votes to sustain, he wouldn't have vetoed at all, since it wouldn't change the outcome and would only cast the Mayor in the role of loser.   That's the point where the reasonable mayor would have gone to the Monroe Ambulance people and said, "Sorry, guys. You know I tried, but the votes just aren't there..."   He wouldn't have paraded his failure in public.

But Mayor Duffy didn't act in the manner of our hypothetical reasonable Mayor.   Instead he intentionally made a point of demonstrating that he himself had done every single thing within his power to give the contract to Monroe.

For whom was this demonstration performed?   And why?

We may never know the answer.   The Mayor's ostensible explanations, about "process" concerns, and worrying about the City being sued, would be instantly derided by the press and the opposition party as a joke, if made by Maggie Brooks in a similar situation.   But as the Democrat and Chronicle's fair-haired boy, Duffy gets a pass on serious scrutiny.   And the City government, of course, is a single-party regime.   There's no opposition party to even ask questions, much less hold anyone to account.

Campaign contributions don't explain it.   "Monroe Ambulance" is the trade name of Monroe Medi-Trans, Inc.   Campaign contributions under both names disclose nothing out of the ordinary.   The State Board of Elections reports no campaign contributions whatsoever by Monroe's principals:   Eileen Coyle, President, Timothy S. Coyle, Vice President, Tom Coyle, Vice President; and Cheryl Fowler, Chief Financial Officer.

We learned that earlier this year Monroe obtained a multimillion dollar line of credit to finance more ambulances to perform the contract they were sure they'd get.  A business doesn't do this unless it believes that the deal's been wired.   Somebody made, if not promises, then at least certain affirmative representations to Monroe Ambulance.

We're big fans of Mayor Duffy.   And we don't care who provides ambulance service as long as they're competent and can find their way to Mustard Street should it ever be necessary.   Whether it's Monroe or Rural-Metro or anyone else who's competent is a matter of indifference to us.

It was the Mayor who suddenly made this story interesting, by intentionally incurring a public defeat, through a veto he knew to be futile, in order to show someone, somewhere, that he has stood by Monroe all the way.

For reasons that, to date, remain private.

No comments: