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Los Angeles Mayor Appoints New Director after LAFD Response Time Shakeup

Retooling the embattled Los Angeles Fire Department, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa on Thursday appointed a new data director, recruited a veteran commissioner and requested six new ambulances to ease worries about emergency response times.

Villaraigosa appointed Jeff Godown as interim director of statistical analysis and review at the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Godown starts work on Monday in what the Mayor's Office considers a temporary position, although a specific time frame for his work was not announced.

The former interim chief of the San Francisco Police Department, Godown will analyze and verify LAFD's statistical data, including emergency response times, Villaraigosa wrote in a letter to the City Council.

"In the last few weeks, the LAFD has endeavored to provide more accurate information about its response times, but unfortunately this has raised more questions than answers. Instead of the needed clarity, there has been confusion."

The department shake-up comes after the LAFD was hammered by City Council members and the firefighters union this week - first for failing to correctly report response times during last year's budget meetings, and then for suddenly refusing to release public information about emergencies.

Villaraigosa also asked the council to approve adding six ambulances at a cost of $2 million a year taken from the city's reserve fund, normally saved for emergencies.

Godown's salary or how it would be funded has not been disclosed.

"We are still working it out," said Peter Sanders, spokesman for Mayor Villaraigosa.

Meanwhile, in a move widely seen as a way to steady the department, Villaraigosa also nominated Alan Skobin, currently a well-regarded Police Commission member, to join the Fire Commission.

Skobin, appointed to the commission by Mayor James Hahn in 2003, was the only member of the board to be retained when Villaraigosa took office in 2005. As a police commission member, Skobin - who is also a reserve cop - spearheaded programs to replace outdated portable radios and prevent officer-involved car crashes. He is expected to leave the Police Commission if confirmed to the Fire Commission.

"There are certainly issues at the (LAFD)," Skobin said in a telephone interview. "Many of them are accountability, transparency, civilian oversight. And these are all issues we've dealt with at LAPD."

The mayor's announcements come against the backdrop of a controversial deployment plan approved last year, a move which cut $53 million from the LAFD by eliminating trucks and ambulances from fire stations across the city.

While the department predicted it would see a slight rise in response times of first responders under the new deployment plan - as it has - numerous City Council members expressed worries this week about the methodology used by the LAFD to calculate those times.

They've also expressed concern about the numbers themselves.

While the National Fire Protection Association's guidelines say departments should reach emergencies within five minutes 90 percent of the time, LAFD officials say they meet that goal about 60 percent of the time, according to the LAFD.

Pat McOsker, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, said the addition of six new ambulances is a "knee-jerk reaction."

"(The mayor) should restore the services to the people that's he taken them away from," McOsker said.

 



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