Governor attends firefighter service

first_img Schwarzenegger was sent letters in July and September inviting him to the service, Wills said. “We had no confirmation as to whether or not he was coming,” he said. “We just proceeded with the program.” Attorney General Bill Lockyer delivered a tribute from the people of California as part of the service. Schwarzenegger’s press secretary, Margita Thompson, said the governor’s schedule has been in flux because of his campaign for four measures on the Nov. 8 special election ballot, including Proposition 75, which would make it tougher for public employee unions to raise campaign money. But he decided at the last minute to cancel a private event and attend the service in person instead of sending a representative, she said. Making a last-minute schedule change, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Saturday took time out from a bitter campaign fight with unions representing firefighters and other public employees to attend an annual memorial service for fallen firefighters. The Republican governor sat in the audience as firefighters honored colleagues who died in the line of duty or from illnesses related to their jobs. He wasn’t one of the speakers on the program and left without mingling with the dozens of uniformed firefighters who attended the service at the firefighters’ memorial in Capitol Park. Schwarzenegger’s predecessor, former Gov. Gray Davis, spoke at memorial services in 2002 and 2003, but a spokesman for California Professional Firefighters, Carroll Wills, said the service’s organizers weren’t told until late Friday afternoon that Schwarzenegger would attend. Les Weidman, a former Stanislaus County sheriff and Schwarzenegger’s liaison to police and firefighters, said the governor decided to attend because it was “the right thing to do,” not because he was looking for some favorable news coverage. Weidman said firefighters were “very appreciative” that the governor attended the service. But Dave Lopez, a captain with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said most firefighters weren’t happy to see the governor. “If it were anywhere else, these guys would turn their backs on him,” Lopez said. “But this is about the families” of fallen firefighters. Firefighters have become increasingly critical of the governor because of his now-dormant proposal to alter public employee pension benefits and his support for Proposition 75, which would require public employee unions to get annual written permission from their members to use dues for campaign donations. The measure is widely seen as an attempt to reduce the political clout of those unions and to weaken Democratic candidates who get most of the union’s campaign donations. Earlier this month, a group of firefighters complained they were forced by superiors to participate in a news conference where Schwarzenegger congratulated firefighters who battled the recent wildfires in Southern California. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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