EMS Group Rescinds Eckhardt Endorsement

Eckhardt loses backers over support of response-time study

EMS Group Rescinds Eckhardt Endorsement
Photo by John Anderson

Travis County Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt's (r) support of an outside review of emergency response times has cost her the endorsement of the union representing workers of Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services. Steve Stewart, president of the EMS employees association and chairman of its political committee, notified Eckhardt last week of the group's decision to rescind its endorsement because of the commissioner's support of hiring third-party consultants to review disparities in response times to different areas of the county. Such a move, Stewart said, could lead to privatization of an award-winning public system that's been in place for more than 30 years. Stewart also cited a lack of communication and support from the commissioner and claimed Eckhardt has failed to make "the health and safety of our citizens" a priority during her re-election campaign. "I'm really kind of flummoxed," Eckhardt said in response to Stewart's letter. She said she doesn't favor privatizing EMS and that the Commissioners Court has a strong record of being a "privatization-averse body." An independent study would be useful, she said, to determine why response times are faster in urban and rural areas than in suburban areas, such as Oak Hill. Eckhardt said the review could result in the county providing more facilities or hiring additional personnel. While the union's decision is disappointing, she added, "It's not going to change the way I'm approaching the issue."

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