This past week, a congressional hearing in a House Judiciary subcommittee gained public attention after former late-night comedian Jon Stewart lambasted Congress during the hearing for not showing enough support for 9/11 victims and first responders — specifically for a bill providing ongoing funding to treat first responders injured or caused sick by their immediate response to the site.
Stewart, a 9/11 Memorial & Museum Board member, emphasized how Congress’ dawdling and indifference to approve funding was costing 9/11 responders time and suffering from their various ailments.
“Why does it take so damn long to fund? They responded in five seconds. They did their jobs. Courage. Grace. Tenacity. Humility. Eighteen years later, do yours,” Stewart said in the Capitol.
The New York Times reported the following day the committee voted to send the bill to the House floor for consideration. The Never Forget the Heroes Act would provide money for the Victim Compensation Fund through 2090. It must pass the House, and then the Senate. We encourage Utah’s delegates to support this bill and show appropriate respect afforded to these 9/11 first responders now maimed with illness and cancer. For the American people, it seems bewildering only 18 years later that our government would deny and put off help to those who selflessly provided their skills and lives in our country’s greatest moment of need. We said we’d never forget, and yet our representatives surely don’t need such a strong reminder and national chastising in order to act quickly to take care of the individuals who took care of thousands.
Not unlike the first responders to 9/11, our local fire departments and EMS teams need our support, both in a vocal but also financially.
We cannot expect services for which we do not properly fund. In coming weeks, Cedar Hills will officially no longer be serviced by the Lone Peak Fire Department, requiring that Highland and Alpine readjust fees for their residents in order to properly fund the department to respond to daily emergencies.
As reported, both Highland and Alpine will have to pay more to share the costs between the two remaining cities. Highland presented the option to its residents of raising property taxes, or adding a public safety bill to utility fees. The property tax option would require a 35% increase, equaling out to an extra $11.18 per month per average Highland home, whereas the fee would amount to $12.57 per month, per home. Alpine has proposed the funds come from a property tax increase. It was suggested approximately 75% of Highland residents supported the city’s budget and raising a monthly fee. However, 25% of residents opposed a fee or property tax, instead feeling — quite foolishly — that the city should find the extra $701,000 per year in the existing budget or forgo the “extra” public safety services. As if those same 25% wouldn’t run complaining when an ambulance came an hour too late after a heart attack, or when their garage catches fire and needs to be put out, or a critical crash occurs requiring immediate response to save a life.
Such is the case all over Utah, and not just in Utah County. To the north, smaller cities in Weber County struggle under the weight of funding a fire department, and yet these emergency services are needed and part of a basic function of local government to oversee.
What person will volunteer that they desire to live in an unpatrolled city with little to no emergency response services? Emergencies we cannot yet comprehend will surely happen in Utah, and all over the country, just as they have in the past.
Americans are fortunate to have citizens willing to take on those risks and work these grueling jobs as first responders, though perhaps we do not deserve them, because they deserve much more than we offer.