7.13.2009

Developing Blog: Houston community leaders, politicians, and more delivers statements regarding the on-going issues at the Houston Fire Department!

(Blogger's Note: Support from around the city of Houston and throughout the country is steadily increasing as the Houston Black Firefighters Association prepares to host the July 28 Flames of Racism Rally at City Hall. I will be updating this particular blog post weekly with statements from those who oppose the racism being exhibited in the HFD)

Kofi Taharka--Chairman of the National Black United Front Houston Chapter:
"Mayor Bill White has shown a severe lack of leadership in his timid response to the multiple white supremacist/racist and sexist incidents publicly exposed at the Houston Fire Department. The noose hagging and racist/sexist death threats come as no surprise to those who understand the structural nature of white supremacy/racism and sexism in city government. After months of urging from community members, fire fighters and police officers to address these issues finally the Mayor has been forced to provide a response which is less than adequate. It is crystal clear that the people of this city are the only force that can bring forth the necessary changes. Given these facts we ask is Houston really a world class city that should host national and international events?"



Houston Mayoral Candidate Gene Locke:
“I am shocked and outraged by the recent sexist and racist individual acts involving two female firefighters. I strongly support the men and women of the Houston Fire Department and the recent events are in no way a reflection on these great public servants who risk their lives for us every day. However, these cowardly acts by a few reckless individuals are deplorable and cannot be tolerated. I encourage the chief and the mayor to continue their investigation until the perpetrators are found. These individuals should be punished to the fullest extent of fire department policy and if applicable, to the fullest extent of the law.

Going forward we need to make sure that the fire department and every other department in the city is a place of opportunity and promotion for women, minorities and all deserving employees.”



HOUSTON CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS RELEASED THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS:

Toni Lawrence, District A:
"In order to comment on that, I would like to talk to the fire department and be sure that everything I've seen is true. I have not talked to a fire department person who says there is a problem. I'm anxious to do that this week. We should not be a city that is known for that kind of thing. Absolutely not. But I don't really want to come out and comment on a remark or something somebody said without talking to the people there at that station. These are some very serious remarks that have been made, and we want to be sure they're accurate."



Jarvis Johnson, District B:
"I'm very concerned. Anytime you have incidents like this that threaten, intimidate any employee, it's unacceptable. I'm offended and hope we do find the culprit and hand down the most harsh possible punishment. This is a very clear indication of why we need to have a zero tolerance policy in place. An isolated incident is one isolated incident, but when an isolated incident becomes a pattern, you may have an inherent problem in the department."


Anne Clutterbuck, District C:
"It's absolutely horrible. I feel disgust, frustration and sadness. It tears you up. I know so many outstanding firefighters and I'm sure they feel the same way. No one should have to work in an environment like that. I urge that we bring in, swiftly, someone who is an outside investigator with top investigative skills, to get to the bottom of this ... It's essential we bring in an outside investigator to get to the bottom of it and to restore public confidence in our fire department."


Wanda Adams, District D:
"My first reaction when I heard about this at 6:30 in the morning Tuesday was, 'Not again.' The other feeling I had was, 'I hope we do it right this time.' First of all, you don't want any discrimination to occur to anybody, whether female, male, whatever nationality. I think that hate, racism should not be tolerated anywhere. And once a person feels that they have been discriminated against, they need to just bring it forward, so we can do something about it and make our policies better.



Mike Sullivan, District E:
"Categorically, I am totally supportive of the men and women of the Houston Fire Department. To show my support, I'm going to spend the next 14 days having breakfast and dinner at fire stations in my district to tell these men and women that we care about them, we support them and that we appreciate the job that they do for us."





M.J. Khan, District F:
"I don't think, in this day and age, that anybody should have these type of attitudes towards any group. I am not pleased with what's going on. We have some issues in the fire department. I believe they are more management issues, not systematic problems in the fire department. These are isolated incidents and they need to be corrected.''




Pam Holm, District G:
"The allegations are serious. It's my understanding there is a full criminal investigation under way, which I think has to happen. We have to get to the bottom of this. I'm focused on getting the results and getting the investigation done and taking serious action whenever we do find out who has done it. And we will find out.''




Ed Gonzalez, District H:
"I'm deeply concerned. I'm confident in the abilities of the Houston Police Department, but my recommendation would be for an external investigation to be conducted. We need an independent group to conduct that investigation, just to be sure we have a different perspective. Without a doubt, I feel that the majority of our firefighters are true professionals. The same holds true for our police department. In any area you're always going to have a few bad apples. That's just human nature. But based on the seriousness of events, I have to consider the possibility that there are some deep, systemic problems that need to be looked at.''



James Rodriguez, District I
:
"I was really shocked and just disappointed that it happened. I don't know who did this, but whoever did this, the message they left was horrible. I feel badly for the two firefighters who had to endure that. I support the mayor's position. We need to have a thorough investigation, get to the bottom of this crime and deal with these people accordingly. It's unacceptable. This can't be tolerated in any city workplace.''




Peter Brown, At-Large Position 1
:
"Tuesday's events within the Houston Fire Department were entirely unacceptable. The city must take immediate action to find those responsible and should hold those persons accountable whether they are employees of HFD or not. The city must protect those who protect our communities. On City Council, I recently supported sensitivity training for the Fire Department in an attempt to eradicate just this type of racist and sexist activity. But we need to go a step further a zero tolerance policy. Those who serve our community deserve it. And those of us on City Council should demand it."


Sue Lovell, At-Large Position 2:
"We're all just appalled by the recent incident. As a mature leader, and I think mature leadership is really required right now, we have to make sure we don't say anything that will impede an investigation in any way. There is a criminal investigation going on and we need to find out the results of that. We want to find out, we're going to find out, and when we do, we want them punished to the fullest extent of the law. We need to wait and find out the facts. Then we can take care of why it happened."



Melissa Noriega, At-Large Position 3:
"These allegations are troubling. At the same time, we need to allow the staff of the Office of Inspector General to do their work. There is an active investigation going on and it needs to be completed."






Ronald Green, At-Large Position 4 :
"There are still some very good firefighters out there, and they're all being affected by this. We should not be afraid to open up our doors and have any organization come in and investigate us. There's no question that there is a racial divide right now in the fire department. And if this event does not help us raise the flag and say look, we need some help, I think it's going to be a problem."



Jolanda Jones, At-Large Position 5
"I'm disappointed at how they were treated, and I'm angry at how they are being just flat-out disrespected and vilified and anyone who fights for them, they are attempting to marginalize them. We need to use this as an opportunity to fix what's broken. We need to take an honest look at what's going on and deal with it. We have an obligation to not further victimize those two women. All they did was work to save us and do their jobs."