Our City is undergoing a renaissance that is being recognized by the rest of the country. We’re growing again after five decades of losing population to the suburbs. There are new homes and new opportunities in almost every City neighborhood. By most measures, we are better than we have been in years. We are a diverse City that has begun to celebrate the rich cultures and traditions of our neighbors.
I am convinced, though, that not everyone likes that good news.
There are people who want to reverse that progress, apparently for their own political gains. To do so, they say things that are simply not true. So, every couple of months, I have to correct the inflammatory statements of some of the members of F.I.R.E.
Here goes, again:
I do not want to fire Chief Sherman George. If I wanted to, I would have already. What I do want is for every City employee from department head to receptionist to work better, safer, and more efficiently. Chief George has worked hard since I’ve been mayor to meet those expectations. His effort has my respect.
I did not end the long-standing City personnel practice of hiring the same numbers of African American and white firefighters. A federal judge did and the City is appealing the judge’s decision.
There is a fundamental difference in the positions of Chief George and Police Chief Joe Mokwa. Chief Mokwa reports to the Police Board which is appointed by the Governor. I am only one vote on that Board and my relationship with the two chiefs always has to reflect that difference.
Some members of F.I.R.E. and others would have people believe that the most important challenges facing the Fire Department are about race. While prejudice in any work place is a serious matter and will not be tolerated here, it is important that both black and white firefighters realize that they have some very important challenges in common. Modern building codes, new firefighting technologies and techniques, and smarter, fitter firefighters combined with skyrocketing health and pension costs have led to smaller departments in many US cities. Instead of distracting themselves with their bickering, it would be more prudent for all City firefighters to recall their mission and rededicate themselves to it