Monday, August 3, 2009

Bloomberg Burned In Fire Department Scandals

Two Fire Department scandals ignited recently and threaten to undermine the ability of Mayor Bloomberg to continue to lead New York City.

Deutsche Bank Building Deaths

Two FDNY firefighters died two years ago in a fire at the vacant Deutsche Bank Building, and we now know that the Bloomberg Administration was the proximate cause of the deaths of these civil servants. What we don't know is whether the Bloomberg Administration will truly be held accountable for these deaths.

There was a "15-day rule" in place at the time of the tragedy. All construction sites must be inspected every 15 days by the FDNY, but the Deutsche Bank building was not inspected for six months prior to the tragedy. Yet, none of the senior leadership of the FDNY have been disciplined or terminated. Mayor Bloomberg has supported the cover-up strategy that places the blame on FDNY personnel who were simply following the policies set for them by their superiors. Bloomberg's team adopted a policy of ignoring the 15-day rule, and that policy killed two heroes. Bloomberg's team seems to have no interest in taking any responsibility for their role in the tragedy.

At Manhattan Viewpoint, we hope that the Mayor is held accountable for his role in these deaths. Of all possible scandals, the death of these firefighters that resulted from the Mayor's failed leadership is exactly the type that should cause New Yorkers to wonder whether he is as indispensable as Mayor as he claims that he is.
"Our billionaire mayor will never be tarnished by the traditional pay-to-play and influence-peddling schemes that compromise politicians with ordinary bank accounts. Instead, his defining debacle is a failure of leadership, accountability, and transparency, revealed in one law enforcement report or news story after another, ever since Beddia and Graffagnino succumbed to smoke on the 14th floor of the city's most toxic building, just 118 feet from where 343 of their brothers perished six years earlier."

Racial Discrimination at the FDNY That Even George W. Bush Would Not Tolerate

When a city discriminates against people of color so horribly that George W. Bush takes legal action against the city, those that led the discrimination should be forced resign their official posts.

In New York City, where more than 93% of Fire Department personnel are white (the FDNY is 2.6% Black) but where white residents are a minority of residents, the Mayor led an effort to prevent persons of color from becoming members of the Fire Department of New York. Then, he defended it when it came under attack from the George W. Bush Justice Department.

For all of Bloomberg's defense of his discrimination against people of color, the Judge in the law suit that resulted from that discrimination was very clear how unacceptable Bloomberg's approach had been.
"From 1999 to 2007, the New York City Fire Department used written examinations with discriminatory effects and little relationship to the job of a firefighter. These examinations unfairly excluded hundreds of qualified people of color from the opportunity to serve as New York City firefighters. . . I recognize that it is natural to assume that the best performers on an employment test must be the best people for the job, but the significance of these principles is undermined when an examination is not fair . . . the city did not take sufficient measures to ensure that better performers on its examinations would actually be better firefighters."

Errol Lewis of the Daily News made the key point in a recent column. Bloomberg invested heavily in defending the racial discrimination that made the FDNY a more than 93% white institution. Now, we need to see if he'll be held accountable for that focus on defending discrimination rather than eliminating it. As Errol Lewis wrote:

"Many credible institutions tried, with zero success, to convince Bloomberg and Scoppetta that the fire exam needed a reworking. The city's own Equal Employment Practices Commission, an independent watchdog, presented City Hall with a long account of nearly a decade's worth of complaints about the fire test and a plea to re-examine it. They were ignored. The federal Justice Department under the Bush administration sued the city after issuing strong warnings about the need to desegregate the FDNY. Bloomberg fought the feds in court. Why Bloomberg's high-profile Black and Latino supporters don't call him on the carpet and demand an end to the spin and denial, I have no idea."


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