A powerful union in Troy is backing a challenger to the mayor.
Ahead of June's Democratic primary, the Troy Uniformed Firefighters Association gave its endorsement Wednesday to Rodney Wiltshire for mayor. Wiltshire announced a challenge to first-term Mayor Patrick Madden in March.
The nod comes two weeks after the city was hit by two major fires in one day.
New York State Professional Fire Fighters Association President Sam Fresina: "Troy firefighters are in desperate need right now of better living conditions, they're in desperate need of proper tools so they can go out and do the job that they're here to do. You saw a fire recently in the bowling alley where they had to fight like heck to be able to do the job that they're here to do. They were behind the ball with not only how they have to run, but the equipment, the safety equipment that they are missing and that they have to do the job without, and it's just wrong."
The union recently vocalized concerns about staffing, gear and repairs it says are needed at firehouses.
Candidate Wiltshire: "Five months ago I understand that there was an inventory. A description of all of the deteriorations that are being faced by the firefighters in their firehouses. This was presented to the administration, the administration had time to react, the administration had time to respond to that and even to be proactive and handle that in a timely matter. It wasn't until the last two weeks when those deplorable conditions came to light and put the safety and the health of the firefighters in jeopardy, and then also called by me and by others to have the administration react that we saw three bathrooms fixed within an eight hour period. That's something that could have been handled well in advance. And all the while, while battling the two blazes two weeks ago, the firefighters had to wear the same turnout gear, had no ability to conveniently shower and were putting their own lives and their own health in jeopardy. The Madden administration and the last minute type of political maneuvering has to stop."
Troy Uniformed Firefighters Association President Eric Wisher: "Well, as the mayor said at the finance meeting last week, the fire department's been neglected for 20 years, and he's right. The last three and a half years he's been at the helm though, and nothing's changed. Not until the finance meeting last week. Three hours before that we got a letter from them that they were gonna try and address things, but it's a smoke and mirrors letter. There's no hard fact of stuff they're gonna address in there. They have made some repairs to the firehouses in a timely fashion, but they should've been done months and years ago."
Wisher tells WAMC the union decided to endorse Wiltshire after Madden failed to respond to their concerns. Firefighters did not endorse a candidate in the 2015 election.
Mayor Madden’s campaign responded to a request for comment via email, writing: “We’re proud of the hard working members of the Troy Fire Department. In support of the department’s efforts, we have made a historic $1.73M investment in our fire service, including the purchase of two new fire trucks, two new ambulances, and replacement of nearly 50 percent of protective turnout gear. Additionally, we secured over $1.8M in federal assistance for additional staffing, air packs and a new fire boat. This $3.5M total investment bolsters the firefighting capacity of the department, and strengthens our firefighters’ ability to respond to emergencies in our community and keep Troy residents and families safe.”