The District has released the Grade D.C. results, giving an A- for the city this past month. But the report includes a surprising grade for Fire and Emergency Management Services, which ended up with an A+ despite problems within the department.
Fire Chief Kenneth Ellerbe and his department have come under fire because of delays in response times and with female cadets accusing male instructors of harassment. Also, union officials say critical staffing, like hiring paramedics, is not happening, and that deteriorating fire equipment is not being replaced fast enough.
Before the D.C. Council last week, an apologetic Ellerbe admitted half the District's ambulances are not in service. But looking at the March Grade D.C. report, you would think everything is fine.
In January, D.C. Fire and EMS received an A+. In February, it received an A. In March, it got another A+.
At his bi-weekly press briefing, Mayor Vincent Gray defended the report, saying it's not produced by his administration but by an outside firm. He says his staff does the best it can to get the word out about the program so the public can participate.
"We don't do this ourselves," says Gray. "New Brand Analytics is the one that does the mining of the data on various social media and then they do the analysis of the data so they are analyzing the data that have been expressed through a variety of social media and those are results that they've concluded. What I find interesting is there are a lot of people out there who are dissatisfied but apparently they're not expressing it."
The mayor also faced more questions about the embattled fire chief. He says he still supports Ellerbe. When asked if he had any concern about last week's council hearing or the limited number of operational ambulances, Gray says "Deputy Mayor Paul Quander has spent an enormous amount of time working with the chief and FEMS to make sure we have full and complete information."
The mayor also said his administration will continue to work to improve those conditions and to improve relationships among the firefighters and FEMS leadership.
Gray also pointed out that his proposed 2014 budget includes money for new FEMS equipment.