News & Views » Columns

Stein’s nine


Mayor Dennis Archer took office in 1994, promising to make a brighter future for Detroiters. No doubt this is true for stadium- and casino-lovers, but for those who prefer basic city services, things are still looking much as the did in the previous century. The list reflecting Archer’s lackluster performance is a long one, including faulty streetlights, rundown parks, long-neglected neighborhoods and a Police Department that has attracted the scrutiny of everyone from the U.S. Justice Department to Amnesty International. Then there’s the city’s Emergency Medical Services …

In a 1996 memo written by the then-Deputy Fire Commissioner Richard Stein to one of the mayor’s assistants, Stein listed nine ways to “better serve” citizens requesting an ambulance. After obtaining a copy of said memo, News Hits last week contacted Stein, who now oversees public safety under Archer. According to Stein, there’s been little improvement in eight of the nine areas addressed in his memo.

“We do have an adequate number of ambulances now. … At peak demand times (4 p.m. to 3 a.m.) we have up to 29 ambulances on the street,” said Stein regarding his 1996 criticism that the 22-ambulance fleet was “insufficient” to serve the public.

What the city has not done — to name just a few of Stein’s nine — is hire enough staff to repair the rundown fleet, establish a nonemergency number (the Police Department is currently testing this) and make firefighters first responders, requiring them to respond to EMS calls (which the fire fighters union is hotly contesting in contract negotiations with the city).

As dismal as that one-for-nine batting average sounds, the reality is even worse, says Al Kirkland, who heads the EMS union, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 547. Kirkland, who has been with EMS since 1989, contends that not one of the EMS improvements Stein called for has been implemented.

“It’s true that there are 29 ambulances for peak times, (but) that’s only peak time,” explains Kirkland. “There are still regular occurrences where there are no units (ambulances) available when people call for them.”

Kirkland says that the overburdened fleet’s average response time is about 12 minutes, when it should be about nine minutes.

Stein also wrote in his 1996 memo that “we cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand” when it comes to EMS and the 130,000 runs the small fleet handles annually. Asked if he thought the city was continuing to bury its head in the sand, Stein said, “Absolutely not.”

But Kirkland says, “I think the city has a history of doing that.”

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.