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Firebird Leader Blisters Ganim For ‘Plantation Mentality’ In Fire Department

June 1st, 2016 · 40 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Politics, Civil Service, Firefighters, News and Events

Darrien Penix, president of the Firebird Society that fights for the rights of minority firefighters, uses Joe Ganim’s words on the campaign trail against him asserting the Fire Department looks “all white at the top,” a declaration the mayor made when challenging incumbent Bill Finch last year. Penix asserts nothing has changed in the six months of JG2. Ganim, who powered to a historic comeback on the strength of African American support, is receiving heat for the lack of blacks and Latinos in high level Fire Department positions, what Penix wonders is “an anomaly in a city with a 70% minority population?” Who’ll replace the retired Brian Rooney at the top? Penix says it’s already Richard Thode who is white, although Ganim has made no public announcement.

Commentary from Penix:

The Firebird Society is outraged with the fact that Mayor Ganim has lied to the community about the selection of the new fire chief. David Dunn, the Acting Civil Service Director, sent out letters suspending the hiring process for Fire Chief last month; however, Mayor Ganim recently made the statement that the process is continuing. The retirement of the former Fire Chief gave Mayor Ganim the opportunity to select an interim Acting Fire Chief. Two qualified minority Assistant Chiefs were on the short list of candidates to serve in this capacity. A report (Transition Task Force Report) designed to determine issues in the various departments of the city, created by Mayor Ganim’s Office, stated “lack of diversity in the hiring and promotion processes for minorities within the City’s Fire Department is a significant issue.” The recommendation that came out of the report was to implement hiring and promotion practices that will ensure personnel adequately reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the community. At the highest level of the Department, Mayor Ganim chose a non-minority Acting Chief which runs contrary to the recommendation of the report.

This was a unique opportunity to do the right thing: address the issue of minority representation in the upper levels of the Fire Department and appoint the first African American Chief in the history of the City of Bridgeport. While running for office, Candidate Ganim was big on diversity, stating “I don’t know what the numbers are, but the Finch Administration looks all white at the top.” During his first six months in office, the Fire Department has become just that–”all white at the top,” thus reaffirming a glass ceiling being in place for Blacks and Hispanics. Thirty six years after a landmark lawsuit opened the doors of the Fire Department to minority applicants, the fight is ongoing for inclusion.

The two African American Assistant Chiefs being considered were never contacted for interviews with Mayor Ganim, or any other Department Heads. The only Hispanic Assistant Chief in the Department was in a position which, by department rules, assumes administration of the Department upon absence of the Fire Chief. He was relieved of his position prior to the retirement of the Fire Chief. This allowed the Mayor to use white privilege to promote the only Assistant Chief that was given consideration all along. The Firebird Society has no idea what criteria were used by Mayor Ganim to select the Acting Fire Chief. It was not seniority as an Assistant Chief. It was not a review of secondary education. It was not residency in the City of Bridgeport. It was not depth of community involvement. We would like to know what the criterion was, if any, that Mayor Ganim based this decision on.

Nationally, the Fire Department has been called the last bastion of segregation. In many respects things have not changed. Currently, the only minority working on the third floor (upper management) of the Bridgeport Fire Department is the custodian. A minority has never held a permanent position above the level of Assistant Chief in this Department. This is the reality that is/has been the Bridgeport Fire Department. In stark contrast, the City of New Haven has had multiple minority Fire Chiefs. The City of Hartford has had multiple minority Fire Chiefs. Why is this still an anomaly in a city with a 70% minority population? How long is this plantation mentality going to plague the Fire Department, where minorities can do everything except lead the Department?

Mayor Ganim had the opportunity to turn a new page within the Fire Department. He did not take advantage of this opportunity and his Civil Service Commission has effectively stopped the process for testing for the permanent position of Fire Chief. The Acting Chief is in place now and without a test being given will be there until the City of Bridgeport decides otherwise. This is altogether unacceptable. Nothing short of an African American having the opportunity to lead the Fire Department will be acceptable. Until then we will keep the fires burning for justice.

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40 Comments so far ↓

  • Bob Walsh

    Sad but true.
    Another example of where Mayor Ganim could have made a difference, could have taken the city in a new direction but failed to do so.

  • John Marshall Lee

    What evaluation mechanism was used to set aside the Hispanic then-Assistant Chief leaving the way open for Mayor Ganim’s pre-chosen candidate?
    Was it more corrupt for the Finch administration to ignore the Charter and Ordinances when convenient, provide little info on City matters, stall for lengthy FOI process, and co-opt the City Council to eliminate any real sense of “check and balance” in the City? Or is it more corrupt for Mayor Ganim and his team to spout OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT during the campaign and resort to old-time HYPOCRISY, HALF-TRUTHS, and REFUSAL TO DISCUSS PUBLIC MATTERS in person?

    Six months in to “public integrity?” NOT. Second Chances are not second comings. “TRUST BUT VERIFY” is an important concept, and is not clearly understood. What does it mean to any OIB readers who were “open” to the chance G2 might be different from the excesses and criminal errors that caused the downfall of G1? What have you looked for and not seen in view at the 180-day mark? Time will tell.

  • Donald Day

    Let me preface my remarks by saying I know Ritchie Thode very well and he is a great firefighter and I believe he would make a great chief. Having said that, Batt. Chief James Cook is a great firefighter and would make a great chief and he lives in Bridgeport and he came out number one on his Batt. Chief’s exam, the 1st non-white to ever do so.

    JML, they removed the Puerto Rican who was in the Asst. Chief’s position after a year and a half to put Thode into his position to justify the move to make him chief. Joe has turned his back on the Black community one more time. Ron Mackey and I told our president this was going to happen after meeting with the Mayor’s puppet blacks, Charles Stallworth and Wilbur Chapman who were brought in to placate the Black community, which they do very well. Until Mayor Ganim puts in blacks who care more about the blacks of Bridgeport than they do a paycheck then it will be business as usual for the Black community. Let it be known and let it be said, Joe Ganim doesn’t give a damn about our black asses, Bridgeport.

    • Ron Mackey

      Don, as you know the National Football League (NFL) has in place the Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule is a National Football League policy that requires league teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. It is sometimes cited as an example of affirmative action, though there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates. It came into effect in 2003. The rule is named after Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, because the NFL was not hiring blacks and in fact they wouldn’t bring a black in for an interview.

      This is America so why wouldn’t the same thing happen here in Bridgeport? Here you have two black battalion chiefs who don’t even get an interview. I’m not surprised at all, Joe Ganim used Emancipation Day (the day in 1863, Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation) at Rev. Stallworth’s church and made his come to Jesus speech to kind of say he was sorry for his crimes. This was the launching of the new Joe Ganim for mayor. He traveled the City going and speaking in some black churches and it was the black voter who put him back into office. Ganim is doing for blacks the same thing Finch did, nothing. He has two black ministers he has hired, Janene Hawkins, JD, and Pastor of the Walters AME Zion Church, as Labor Relations for the City and Stallwoth and Ganim thinks he has done something and the community should be happy. Ganim thinks he can just pimp the black voter.

  • Frank Gyure

    SURPRISE!!! Ganim fooled the black population of Bridgeport about his redemption. Now we find out Ganim’s agenda is his own power story.

  • Godiva2011

    Note to the African American voters in Bridgeport: Joe Ganim underestimated your intelligence, played on your trust and willingness to forgive, and ultimately lied to you so he could garner your votes. If you’re surprised, you shouldn’t be. He took advantage of you for his own benefit, and now that he got his “second chance,” nothing or nobody else matters. He is not a man of his word and now Bridgeport is saddled with him for the next four years.

  • Donald Day

    Godiva, I publicly supported Mary-Jane and privately told everyone black who would listen, Joe would do this should he be elected. My hope is the Black community can look beyond the crumbs he threw to the Black community in the form of Rev. Stallworth and a couple of other do-nothing blacks and remember while he’s throwing crumbs to the Black community there’s a whole damned cake out there.

    At what point do those blacks in leadership capacity say Mayor Ganim to hell with you if you can’t or won’t help my people? Blacks in Bridgeport don’t need him, but the same can’t be said about him.

    • Ron Mackey

      Don, as we have often talked about you won’t find any blacks in Bridgeport critical of Joe Ganim and the Democratic Party who will speak publicly against except you and myself. They will in a club or at social setting but they won’t go public. Now we know Ed Gomes will get into anybody’s ass but Ed is different. Bridgeport is like a city up south, meaning its politics and way of living is like what blacks live under in the south.

    • Godiva2011

      Donald Day–It’s unfortunate the majority of the Black community fell for his campaign rhetoric, but face facts. He’s very convincing when he’s after something that will benefit him. Plain and simple, he announced his candidacy in a church, which of course he felt would give him more credibility. Strategically, he knew the Black community would be more sympathetic to his appeal for forgiveness and an opportunity for a second chance to prove himself. That in itself made him more believable, because as we all know there is a disproportionate number of black men who have prior arrest records and served time. That was his ace in the hole and he played the card very well. Now that he is elected, he quickly forgets who his largest support base was because he no longer needs them. Did he or will he give jobs to ordinary black citizens who aren’t “politically involved?” Highly unlikely, so much for his platform on second chances. Very disappointing scenario indeed.

      • Hector A. Diaz

        Godiva and Don (good day my friend), there were a good amount of Anglo Saxons at the meetings I attended, in fact they were better represented than any of the “minority” groups. Godiva if you aren’t black, you probably should know the support for Mayor Ganim from the “minority” community was MOSTLY based on his opponent and his track record with us. If you are black then you should already know this.

        • Godiva2011

          Hector Diaz, when you say Anglo-Saxons, are you referring to Caucasians? An Anglo-Saxon refers to a particular nationality comprised of mostly British with some German descent. That particular group of Caucasions opted to attend?

  • Tom White

    I carefully read Mr. Penix’s letter, trying to see his point of view. I did so until he used the expression ‘white privilege.’ I stopped at that point. Anyone who uses such an expression, in my view, should not expect to be taken seriously.

    • John Marshall Lee

      Tom my friend, we should talk about this subject a little more. Perhaps I had such a reaction the first time I read the phrase “white privilege.” But I began to research the subject and my learning curve continues.
      Peggy McIntosh’s revelation of “white privilege” followed her outing “male privilege” which at its base looks at the world and identifies positives of being male relative to those of being female. When it comes to race and the history of black and white people in this country is reviewed, the effects of slavery on humans of any color are such as to note continuing injustice.
      Since most of us had no choice in our birth situation, our racial or gender or “economic or national” identity, it is reasonable to “seriously” understand what is meant most basically and proceed from there in our pursuit of equality under the law. Time will tell.

  • Donald Day

    Tom White, The term “White Privilege” has been knocking about for decades, gaining prominence in academic circles with Peggy McIntosh’s 1987 essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” before entering the mainstream via social media and Black Lives Matter to describe the unearned advantages white people enjoy today. Notice I didn’t primly insert an “allegedly” into that definition: I am more than willing to concede White Privilege exists.

    White Americans swear high and low white privilege does not exist, they’re the victims of reverse racism and affirmative action has made it impossible for them to make a living in the country. They’re tired of hearing about slavery and how black people are still suffering. In fact, they’re happy to tell black people to just “get over it,” like the subjugation of segment of the population is something people can overcome with little or no effort.

    You must remember when the white privilege term comes at you, the intention is not to make you feel guilty. You’re not guilty of simply being born into the life you have. The point is to recognize it because you will hopefully have more understanding and empathy for those who have less, then as a nation we will make greater strides in reconciling.

    • Jennifer Buchanan

      Very well done, nicely stated Donald Day.

    • Godiva2011

      Donald Day–if you want an example of white privilege, all you have to do is look at that article with those “entitled” Sacred Heart students who were arrested for having phony ID’s and used them to be served alcoholic beverages, knowing full well it is illegal to do so. What would happen if it were a bunch of underage black kids who get caught buying beer at a local bodega? I assure you, I know for a fact the outcome would have been different for them, they would probably have had to post bond.

  • Mojo

    *** Isn’t the new provisional Fire Chief picked by Joe “black” during these last six months? How quickly does the Mayor need to act to fulfill some of his political campaign talk and not be branded a plantation racist already? I must say, bringing up the point about something said by the now-Mayor in reference about actually doing something is priceless and a good wake-up call. As long as some folk don’t start over using the race card too soon over minor political campaign blank statements that don’t really qualify or hold water, no? *** Orale ***

    • Ron Mackey

      Mojo, think about this. Mayor Ganim and Chief Rooney didn’t even give the two black Battalion Chiefs an interview and one of them, James Cook Jr. came out number one on the Battalion Chief exam. Affirmative Action is alive and well for white males. Like I’ve said before, Rooney placed second on the fire chief exam, 6 points behind the man who placed first who has two masters degrees and four bachelor degrees compared to Rooney’s high school diploma. You tell me.

    • Mojo

      *** To make my blog straight to the point, I feel it’s still much too early to make the “Black Wolf” yell concerning any political campaign remarks or half-hearted promises by Ganim at this time! As JML would say, “Time Will Tell,” No? ***

      • Donald Day

        Mojo, what constitutes a political promise or a half-hearted promise? Mayor Ganim rode the backs of black folk back to city hall and in the six months of his return and the appointments he has made, how many blacks have been inserted into leadership positions? How many months does it take to realize you were hoodwinked, bamboozled or bullshited or are blacks too slow, not smart enough or unintelligent that they need another three and a half years to realize it had been?

        I know why you said what Joe said was just political speak and half-hearted promises because I remember when you were on the council and followed the DTC code with a vengeance. My President Darrien Penix is just saying Mayor Ganim, do what you said you would do for the Black community and quit giving us half-hearted promises. Here’s a concept Mojo, just do what you said you would, just keep your promise or is your word just political speak?

        • Mojo

          *** Again, pulling the Mayor’s coat on undone political promises is one thing and insinuating him a racist for not acting yet on some of his political do’s & don’ts talk is another, no? ***

          • Ron Mackey

            Mojo, who’s “insinuating” Ganim is “a racist?” We’re saying he is a “liar,” and his actions have racist results.

          • Mojo

            *** What racist results have come about from the Mayor’s actions and so-called lies you claim, I wonder? ***

          • Ron Mackey

            Mojo, this is what Darrien Penix, president of the Firebird Society said, “A report (Transition Task Force Report) designed to determine issues in the various departments of the city, created by Mayor Ganim’s Office, stated “lack of diversity in the hiring and promotion processes for minorities within the City’s Fire Department is a significant issue.” The recommendation that came out of the report was to implement hiring and promotion practices that will ensure personnel adequately reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the community. At the highest level of the Department, Mayor Ganim chose a non-minority Acting Chief which runs contrary to the recommendation of the report. Mojo, Joe Ganim is a laiar, that’s what he made public and then he goes ahead and selects a white male.

  • Tom White

    I respect people who do not make excuses for their behavior or hide behind slogans they are told are from ‘academic circles,’ as if that makes them valid. Donald, those who profess ‘white privilege’ or ‘black lives matter’ have little credibility outside the segment of the population too naive or simply unable to accept society is tired of hearing excuses (unless you are a Democrat running for office).

    So Jennifer, when is the next meeting of CW4BB?

    • Jennifer Buchanan

      Hello Tom, I no longer live in CT and am not active in CW4BB.

    • Ron Mackey

      Tom White, at what point in America did black lives matter? Tell me at what point in American history did this happen and in fact I’ve listed a few historical facts so please let me know when did ‘black lives matter?’

      1619 The first African slaves arrive in Virginia.

      1857 The Dred Scott case holds that Congress does not have the right to ban slavery in states and, furthermore, that slaves are not citizens.

      1863 President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the Confederate states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

      1865 Black codes are passed by Southern states, drastically restricting the rights of newly freed slaves.

      1868 Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, defining citizenship. Individuals born or naturalized in the United States are American citizens, including those born as slaves. This nullifies the Dred Scott Case (1857), which had ruled that blacks were not citizens.

      1870 Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, giving blacks the right to vote.

      1896 Plessy v. Ferguson: This landmark Supreme Court decision holds that racial segregation is constitutional, paving the way for the repressive Jim Crow laws in the South.

      1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans. declares that racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional (May 17).

      1964 President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. It prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin (July 2).

      1968 President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing (April 11).

      • Andrew C Fardy

        How can Black Lives Matter when black on black violence is at an all-time high and no one is talking about it?

        • Ron Mackey

          So is white on white crime.

          • Andrew C Fardy

            No such thing, at least not on the scale it’s happening around the country. Is it the fact it’s black on black crime? You are not talking about it and again refer me to something white. Really.

        • Ron Mackey

          Andy, do you really want the answer or are you just up to being Andy Fardy keeping shit going and letting whites know you don’t back down to what blacks say? I’m sure you remember that old Andy Fardy back in the day.

          • Andrew C Fardy

            Instead of analyzing me why not have an opinion of Black on Black crime? It’s not a case of standing up or backing down it’s a case of reading the same stuff from you and your running mate. It’s a case of it’s always the white people’s fault and not ours. It goes on and on in this topic. I am too old to remember back in the day. I thought I was a sweet person.

          • Donald Day

            There’s no such thing as ‘black-on-black’ crime. Yes, from 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black victims were killed by black offenders, but that racial exclusivity was also true for white victims of violent crime, 86 percent were killed by white offenders. Indeed, for the large majority of crimes, you’ll find victims and offenders share a racial identity, or have some prior relationship to each other. Nor are African Americans especially criminal. If they were, you would still see high rates of crime among blacks, even as the nation sees a historic decline in criminal offenses. Instead, crime rates among African Americans, and black youth in particular, have taken a sharp drop. Facts Andy, not hyperbole.

        • Ron Mackey

          Andy, have you ever heard anybody talk about white on white crime? Have you ever seen any white folk march about white crime, have conferences or gatherings focused on white on white crime? Don’t lie, you know you haven’t.

          Almost all crime in America is committed intraracially. That is to say, the overwhelming majority of crimes are committed by a racial group against that same group.

          Yet the only race-based phrase to ever describe crime is black on black.

          Whites are six times as likely to be murdered by another white person as by a black person; and overall, the percentage of white Americans who will be murdered by a black offender in a given year is only 2/10,000ths of 1 percent (0.0002). This means only 1 in every 500,000 white people will be murdered by a black person in a given year. Although the numbers of black-on-white homicides are higher than the reverse (447 to 218 in 2010), the 218 black victims of white murderers is actually a higher percentage of the black population interracially killed than the 447 white victims of black murderers as a percentage of the white population.
          In fact, any given black person is 2.75 times as likely to be murdered by a white person as any given white person is to be murdered by an African American.

          • Andrew C Fardy

            What’s the percentage for black on black crime? Here is one for you. How many whites have been murdered in this city over the last three years? None.

        • Ron Mackey

          Andy, this should help you, these numbers are from 2013.

          New DOJ Statistics on Race and Violent Crime

          Jared Taylor, American Renaissance, July 1, 2015

          We can also calculate how often criminals of each group choose victims of other races. As indicated below, when whites commit violence they choose fellow whites as victims 82.4 percent of the time, and almost never attack blacks. Blacks attack whites almost as often as they attack blacks, and Hispanics attack whites more often than they attack any other group, including their own.

          There is much media agonizing over black-on-black violence, but these figures show that only 40.1 percent of the victims of black violence are black, while people of other races account for nearly 60 percent of the victims of black violence.

  • DonTito

    The Pig finished 4th or 5th, and was given 2nd place because of National Guard points added. Not for his brains.

    The real issue is access, and what I mean is this.

    Bridgeport Firefighters for Merit Employment (BFME) with the assistance of David Dunn and others have controlled the fire department for years.

    They along with the City administration will never allow anyone of color within the BFD to have access to personnel records, computer hard-drives, documents written by the PIG or emails between the PIG, city officials or attorneys. This is were the liability lies. You know they have written interior notes/documents on anyone thought to be a threat to the “White Privilege.”

    The reasons are much deeper than just what we see at the surface.

  • Donald Day

    Point well taken, Don Tito. I can remember when a Puerto Rican won the presidency of BFD local 834 and three blacks were elected to the executive board, we found out numerous grievances filed by people of color were never filed on their behalf. I think a black as the chief would open a treasure trove of illegal activity against people of color found in the BFD files.

    • Ron Mackey

      Brother Day, I was one of those blacks and when we came to office myself and the Puerto Rican President looked at every folder and file and as you stated there were numerous grievances not filed for people of color and when we questioned that were told the membership voted not to go forward with them.

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