NO, REALLY. It's not often that I'm a fan of Tualatin and SUVs, but this week at city hall, I thought fondly of both the 'burbs and big cars. Council approved an amendment to purchase macho Toyota FJ Cruisers for the fire department as part of a debate over whether to send a $72.4 million fire and rescue bond to voters this fall.

Not that there was much of a debate. There was only one "no" vote against the bond, which would pay for new fire equipment, a fire station, and an emergency response center. The improvements will come along with a tax increase of $23.88 annually for the average Portland home ("Roughly the cost of one latte per month," quipped Commissioner Randy Leonard's chief of staff, Ty Kovatch).

So who was the "no" vote? Amanda Fritz, of course. Fritz often finds herself the lone no on shoe-in policies like this, which basically ask voters, "Do you want to diiieeee?! NO?! Well, then give us $23."

Fritz was the only person who pointed out that, uh, shouldn't money for essential stuff like repairing firefighters' radios have been in the city budget to begin with? Rather than balancing the budget, the city could start just regularly using the oh-crap-we-forgot method and forwarding basic services to the ballot for specific tax increases.

Okay, so the SUVs. The bond is pitched by Leonard's office, but Commissioner Dan Saltzman had a smart money-saving amendment. He looked to Tualatin for an idea on how to improve fire response time and came back with the answer: Buy four SUVs.

See, as discussed last week ["What in the Blazes," Hall Monitor, June 15], firefighters are now health-care providers, with medical emergencies accounting for nearly 70 percent of fire department calls. Since firefighters are trained as emergency medical technicians, whenever some grandpa has a heart attack on the Lloyd Center ice rink, both ambulances and fire trucks respond.

Tualatin recently tested having Toyota FJ Cruisers manned by one or two firefighters respond to medical emergencies instead of full fire trucks, freeing up resources for firefighters to respond to, you know, actual fires.

Seems like a good idea for Portland, especially since a city audit revealed last week that Portland Fire and Rescue falls short of its time response goal in 15 percent of emergencies. Whoops.