I applaud Mayor Daley for once again recognizing the value that Fire Commissioner Cortez Trotter brings to the City of Chicago. He recognized it when former Fire Commissioner James Joyce promoted Trotter to be his 1st Deputy in the fire department, and again when the mayor promoted Trotter to the very important position of executive director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. And it did not stop there.

The mayor named Cortez Trotter as the first African-American fire commissioner, where he distinguished himself as a consummate professional. During his tenure as fire commissioner, Cortez Trotter revolutionized the way high-rise fires are fought, and brought additional training and technology to the Chicago Fire Department?”so much so that Chicago is now revered by other major U.S. cities. He also has made the fire department the most diverse department in its exempt ranks than any other big city. His commitment to diversity is evidenced by the promotion of the first female to be a battalion chief, who happened to be African American.

Now the mayor again recognizes Trotter by creating and appointing him to the new position of Chief Emergency Officer, responsible for long-range planning and coordination of the police and fire departments and the Office of Emergency Communications.

It is unfortunate that John Chwarzynski, the president of the Local 2 union, would use this opportunity to make a disparaging remark about the first African-American fire commissioner who is respected by not only the African-American community, but also the community at large. This comes at a time when we are trying to make gains in the diversity of the fire department, which in previous years has not been known for its racial tolerance in hiring and practices. The infamous party at Engine 100 and Engine 117 with the ethnic epithets on the radio, not to mention the Lewis case where a judge determined that the 1995 fire exam deprived African Americans of the opportunity to be firefighters, are unfortunate examples.

To have the leader of the firefighter union, Local 2, make such reckless statements serves only to widen the gap between the Chicago Fire Department and the African-American community that we have all worked very hard to close.

There is an old truism that says, “If you don’t have anything good to say about someone, it’s better to say nothing at all.” This would have been an excellent time for John Chwarzynski, the president of Local 2, to say nothing.

Isaac S. Carothers
29th Ward alderman